I love Marriott Rewards, but certainly have my opinion on how to use your points. Hopefully this is a timely post to many as my post You Could Have Free Marriott Platinum Status Tomorrow seems to be more popular. There are many ways to save Marriott points, use them for upgrades and you’ll hear my opinion on how the Ritz Carlton is a waste… but if you don’t read anything else scroll down and read about the Points + Air option – it costs a lot of points but provides a phenomenal value.
One way to save points is the Point Savers list (if the name didn’t already give that away). These are hotels that listed at a 33% discount. Unfortunately I have never been in the right place at the right time and have never been able to use this discount but 33% is a fair amount and it’s certainly worth checking out. Although, it’s automatically built into the price, so your hotel will show it if it has it. (Marriott does have the option to view the rates as a calendar to check availability Just check the box above the search box that says “my dates are flexible”).
Marriott also has a Seasonal Award option. It’s a very similar discount with different motivations I guess. But they’re just trying to fill the place in their off seasons by offering a discount list, “using at least 25% fewer points.”
Personally, I don’t value the 5,000 point room upgrades too much as we’ve had decent luck getting upgrades from status alone (like suites at the Renaissance Saigon and Guam Marriott) and don’t need upgrades as a couple. For some 5,000 points is a good deal to secure an upgrade.
If you’ve earned a category 1-4 certificate by completing their quarterly promotions, the best use is obviously a category 4 hotel. Personally, I’ve used them at Category 4 hotels like the Renaissance Bangkok and Courtyard Hong Kong – both typically run $200 a night and so it seems to be a great value. I just search the category 4 list to decide where I burn my certs.
The most important thing you have to know and spending Marriott points: If you have a fair amount of points you should check out the Points + Air option. Basically, it’s a package to get airfare and a week at a hotel. So for example; for 270,000 points you could get 7 nights at a hotel (category 1 – 5) and 120,000 miles added to your United account or another frequent flyer program (like Air Canada, Alaska, British Airways, etc…). This is a great deal! 120,000 miles and a week at a hotel! If you have it spend it. The options start at 200,000 Marriott points and go up to 540,000 (for a top tier Ritz). If you can find a category 4 or 5 and have 270,000 and value United miles – this is a killer option.
Let me put it like this. A category 5 hotel costs 25,000 points and a week would run 175,000 points. Let’s just assume that that hotel costs $200 a night – it’s a value of $1,400. But 120,000 United miles could be worth so much more! It’s at least two round trips to Europe in Economy. This will be of at least another $1,400 in value. But as I’ve said before, there are ways to get 25 cents per miles with United. This increases the value of Marriott points by 50 to 1,000 percent, in my opinion.
Although, many things may not be surprising about my opinions on Marriott, this may shock you – I do not think redeeming Marriott Points for Ritz Carlton properties is a good value. This seems crazy when you realize that Ritz Carlton’s make up 36 of Travel and Leisure’s Top 500 Hotels in the world! (Also stay tuned for my 2013 complete comparative guide on hotel programs and my analysis of T&L’s top 500 for points collectors!). Why don’t I believe in using Marriott points for Ritz stays?
- The top Marriott hotel costs 40,000 points and top Ritz Carlton hotels cost 70,000. So what… isn’t it worth it? Well, not in value. Many JW Marriott hotels are often as expensive and as nice as Ritz Carlton hotels. Plus, it can take a while to earn that many points.
- The real reason is Ritz Carlton does not honor Marriott Platinum Status (which we all know is free) at their hotels. I mean, they do but they don’t. They come behind the counter, tell me how special I am and then send me to my room with no upgrade and no club lounge access!
In all fairness, it’s pretty easy to find a counter-argument Why am I wrong? Because 36 of the nicest 500 hotels in the world are Ritz Carlton hotels! No other brand has that many hotels on this list except for Four Seasons and they’re tied with the greater Marriott umbrella. There are only 8 Marriott hotels on the list that aren’t Ritz Carlton hotels. But still, the JW Marriott Bangkok (which is an awesome hotel) is on the list and is only 25,000 points a night. Meanwhile the Ritz Carlton Central Park is an awesome hotel but is 70,000 points a night. I would however be very willing to stay at a Ritz that is both on the top hotels list and only 30,000 points a night (like both in Bejing, and Atlanta, or the one in Kuala Lumpur, etc…). We’ll see how long I practice what I preach about this whole “not staying at Ritz Carltons” thing.