That is probably a question best answered by yourself! Do you want to spend the money for the nights or week and get points as well as elite nights if you're close to the next level or do you want to keep the cash and use your points if it is available?
For myself it has to do with the amount of points for the stay and as I'm using more points than I am gaining these days, yet I really don't have a defined cutoff number in mind.
Or, you could attempt the point/cash mixture!!!
IAH is right, there are so many individual specifics to consider that a 'one size fits all' strategy doesn't necessarily apply, but with some thoughts from others as you requested, you can craft a worthwhile strategy based on; your points earning rate, your incremental elite level, your cash flow interest, your travel needs etc etc.
Since I am downsizing my Marriott travel (not travel overall) I don't earn points as rapidly as I used to, so points are dear. I've also slid all of my non-Marriott credit card charges to an airline card. I set a minimum threshhold of a $10 including tax which is significant, per 1000 point (so for example a $100 rate or higher for a level 2, 10,000 points redemption). I also look to use the points on 5 point properties like Residence Inn (as opposed to full service 10 points per $ earners). As a leisure traveler I can pick and choose my trips, so I almost never use points for a 3 day stay when I can get five days for a 4 day rate. I use my five for four deals internationally or 'big time' properties where the rates easily exceed my $10 guideline (I have found that property dollar rate increases often as a %, far exceed the incremental 5,000 point category increase) and I use my single stay point redemptions for strategic use that not only exceeds my guideline but also adds an incremental value, like a $115 Cat. 1 Town Place on a road trip (where it provides 2-3 more hours travel time) or at an airport property where, by flying a different day I either get a reduced airfare or gain a day where I can redeemed airline points for travel.
Ok, that's a start. Others will kick in good ideas and we'll all upgrade our strategies in this ongoing battle to optimize travel experiences.
Those are excellent thoughts erc and I'm about to swap my Marriott CC for an airline, but guess which one I will need to pick due to where I live.......yep, you got it!
It is really great advice to pick the 5 for 4 rate and staying at a RI one can grill, except when I was in was in NJ the grill can be filled with snow.
For me, it's a "no brainer" in that I'm not paying out of pocket for my stays when I'm working, so I gather points then use them when I'm going on vacation or other personal use. But I agree totally that it depends on a lot of factors, including my scenario. If I were paying my own way, I'd rather use points when I have them. If I were on a per diem expense, I'd try to use points enough to make a net gain or stay in a better category using cash plus points.
Then again, you want to consider if and what it will take to maintain or gain status. Correct me if I'm wrong, but if you are staying on points, that does not count toward any status. So, if I'm at 70 nights in December and want to get my Platinum, I would vote cash over points for the 5 nights. If that's not a concern, then use those points. Of course, rollover comes into play as well...
Now... to get my credit rating up enough to get one of those Marriott cards... (Let's just say "Love is grand... Divorce is one-hundred grand..." and leave it at that.)
I read that when Marriott increased the categories on a lot of hotels, it devalued the # of points we all had saved up. In other words, for a majority of properties, it now took 5000 more points per night stay. Marriott won't be increasing the categories again soon I suppose, but it is something to consider if you are trying to save up your points & pay with cash. I have Marriott gift cards that I bought during a promotion for Southwest points so I have some of those to use up.
We also just cancelled our Marriott CC since the annual fee was not worth the free night for a category 1-5 hotel due to the category tier changes. Since cat. 5 was really a cat. 4 hotel, we didn't think it was worth it. We also mentioned this to the Chase bank rep when we cancelled the card but he didn't mention whether they would increase it to a category 6. Oh well, we will now use our Starwoods CC.
We still like Marriott properties because of the locations & choices, but just not exclusively anymore.
Simple Math. One point is ~equal to 1 cent.
Example 1: Room 10,000 points or $149 then use points
Example 2: Room 10,000 points or $79 then pay cash
Example 3: Room 20,000 points or $149 then pay cash
Remember, If you are Platinum elite then:
Example 4: $79 room equals 1600 points plus 500 bonus which effectively reduces the rate to $58
For me, I think it is best to use points when (1) hotel rates are above that hotel's norm for the time you are visiting, (2) you are staying in a business area during the week for personal travel or (3) you are staying at an area with typically expensive hotel room rates.
(1) I will be heading to the Kentucky Derby next year and it is going to be 15,000 points/night or $500/night. This is definitely a no brainer to use the points though I had to book right at 50 weeks ahead.
(2) I was at the Philadelphia Downtown Marriott for a monday night. I think the room rate was $350/night (maybe even more), but it was only 25,000 points/night.
(3) New York rooms (even Courtyards) can often be $300+/night. Points definitely make sense here especially if you are staying 5 nights so that you get the free redemption night.