A recent Newsweek article comments:
More than ever, travelers are looking for a bargain. In a recent survey conducted by the travel-research company Global Market Insite (and commissioned by Visa), 53 percent of respondents said they would travel during the off-season to save money, 33 percent said they would journey to a country with a lower cost of living than their own and 29 percent said they were looking for a favorable exchange rate. But savvy travelers are also recognizing that now is the perfect time to use all those points they've accumulated and take advantage of special offers from credit-card companies, hotels and airlines.
Know when to hold 'em: Before spending points in a hotel program, check to see if you can get a room for a low rate. There are so many good deals that it's the perfect time to start gathering hotel points, saving for the post-crash world when room rates shoot up again. The best bargains are in the upper-level chains, where the Marriott and the Hilton are locked in a price war. Hilton hotels are drastically slashing prices, while Marriott is trying to attract travelers by offering more services, like free spa treatments and breakfasts. Travelers can now find real steals in New York, where many rooms have dropped to more than half what they were a year ago. And in Hawaii, a night on the beach at a high-end Hilton can be had for $170—down from $350 last year. Even luxury chains like the Ritz-Carlton and the Four Seasons are getting into the price-cutting game, and you can now get three nights for what two used to cost.
The tide seems to be turning in favor of the savvy traveler--and we will benefit.
The maxim, "spend em if you've got em" definitely applies to Marriott Rewards points. Points are NOT inflation proof, don't appreciate over time and don't get interest - so redeeming points as they are earned delivers better value.
To add to the good advice Stepping offers, when redeeming awards with Marriott, "stretch em if you've got em" that is, look for Pointsavers so that you can s-t-r-e-t-c-h the value of your points and get m-o-r-e nights for the points being redeemed. For example, under the Marriott Rewards 2009 schedule*, redeeming 4 nights gets the 5th night free:
* Marriott Vacation Club is not participating in this special offer.