For those of you who love to travel and don’t need your egos massaged with vanity loyalty perks, free nights is the best hotel loyalty perk. In my opinion. Therefore I think Marriott (and IHG when worked) is the best hotel loyalty program. With $100 in paid stays you can earn $200 in free nights. It’s just true. Even if, maybe especially if you’re like me and don’t get a lot of paid stays in a year, it’s a great loyalty program. Marriott is one of the only hotel chains to build an actual loyalty program, the rest are being had. Giving vain “gifts” that are unsold upgrades.
Marriott is simply the best. I’ll show you how you can maximize your stay with 6 easy steps.
<Ignorable rant> Forgive me, but I feel as though reading this first point would best be read while playing the you’ve got a friend in me song by Randy Newman. Please, click here.</Ignorable rant>
1) Use my refer-a-friend link. 🙂 Through the refer a friend link, both parties receive 2,000 points per paid stay by the person who signs up with that link. You can earn up to 10,000 points in 5 stays. At one point, you could create an account in your spouse’s name (using my link (not that it will matter in this case)) and then refer yourself, thus earning 4,000 extra points per stay (2,000 each). But I can’t seem to create a successful new referral. I can find the link to refer a friend, but it doesn’t send me an email or give me a valid link. No idea why; it could be a dead promo. But my old referral link still works… Thus, you’ve got a friend in me (and I in you). Sign up here and it’s an easy extra 2,000 points per stay.
<Ignorable rant> You may now close the song, if you wish. But you probably don’t want to. Unless you’re a really slow reader and it’s done already. </Ignorable rant>
2) Register for the MegaBonus promotion. Once you log into your Marriott account, go to your promotions and enroll in the MegaBonus. Most people see the promotion where you get a free night certificate (for hotels category 1-5) after two paid stays. For this reason I only stay one night at a time. This means I either switch hotels, even if it’s on the same street, or I alternate who checks in between the two of us. This way I can split a two night stay into two stays, thus completing the promotion and earning a free night certificate in two nights.
3) Use the “Look No Further” best rate guarantee. If you book on Marriott.com and find a lower rate elsewhere, you’ll get a 25% discount on the lower rate found. I don’t slave over this but I might check every once in a while and rebook if found. I talked at length how to find a better rate in a post about IHG (since they give a free night), but the same concept applies. I go to Kayak and search my desired city and dates. Then under the “Hotel Name” search bar I type in and select “Marriott brand hotels”. If I see a decent option that has a lower rate on a competitor site, I’ll book on Marriott and then submit a claim right away. If I don’t see it right away, I’ll move on and try a different rate like AAA.
4) Get to Marriott.com via Chase Ultimate Rewards’ shopping portal. You can use whatever portal you want but I tend to value Ultimate Rewards points the most. By clicking their link first you can earn an extra 2 points per dollar currently, sometimes more.
5) Do a Platinum Status Challenge. I talked about this before, but you can call Marriott and do a challenge that gives you Platinum Status starting the day after your call. Very simple and very rewarding. Not only do you get 50% more points but you get a welcome gift (I choose points) and lounge access. It’s supposed to last 90 days, but it will finish the month it ends the 90 days in. So you essentially get 4 months if you start at the beginning of the month. Just call and ask to do the “Taste of Platinum” challenge. They’ll give you a challenge as follows: if you stay “x” amount of nights, you get to keep the status for the rest of the year. If the challenge is done in your spouse’s name but the reservation is in your name, just simply add their rewards number to the reservation at check in to get their perks.
6) The Marriott credit card. <Cue the Randy Newman song and referral links!></Just kidding>. The Marriott card is not really the best credit card for newbies or people who don’t stay at Marriott hotels often but it will give 5 points per dollar on Marriott hotels. So it could be an added value. Plus, using the free nights that come with it are better used during your Platinum Challenge.
$100 stay with $200 value.
With my current travel habits and Marriott strategy I get more value from the points earned on a one night stay than the hotel I’m paying for is worth. For example, I just had a stay at an airport hotel that cost about $55 (with AAA). This is what I got out of it:
– 2,000 point bonus from the refer-a-friend bonus.
– 1,350 point bonus from paying. (Thats 15 points per dollar earned (10 as a regular member, 15 as a platinum), 250 (sometimes 500) as a Platinum welcome gift and 5 points per dollar on my credit card).
– Half of a free night certificate.
Do that twice (which I will later) and you’ve got a little less than 7,000 points for $110 and a free night certificate. So I pay for the hotels when they have cheap options and redeem the free nights when it gives the most value and/or saves the most money. My average free night certificate redemption is at hotels that are worth a little less than $200 (after taxes and all). It might not save me $200 but I get double the value. Plus the points add up too. 7,500 points is enough for a free stay at category 1 hotels.
Marriott get’s downed on a little by a few bloggers who feel the “best” hotel loyalty perk is free upgrades. Um… what about a free room? You know what I often do with a two bed room, 4 room suite? I go in one room; the bedroom. Sometimes I sit in the “living room” couch and pretend that it’s more comfortable and that I actually use a suite. But I don’t. When I travel, the reason is almost never the hotel (although I do love hotels in skyscrapers). All that to say that with a few simple promotions Marriott can be very rewarding in terms of free nights, which is the most important aspect of a loyalty program for those who love to travel and don’t need to feed the “Platinum” ego.
I also seem to mind the category 1-5 restriction less than others. When I’m in a city that has a $200 category 5, I use it. If not I’ll use another program’s points. No I’m not redeeming this for Ritz Carlton hotels, but it’s still a free stay. A free Renaissance is good enough for me (duh).
Marriott Rewards has been very good to me but I guess it does depend on your perspective. You can obviously see what I value. To be honest, I don’t have kids and have never done the business travel lifestyle, so there are other perspectives to consider (although why would business men who travel alone need a suite of all people?). But I think for most people, Marriott is the best program for paid stays. If Club Carlson does the 50,000 point promotion again, I’d encourage everyone to complete a paid stay. But in terms of everyday promotions, it can’t be beat.