I have just quickly looked around to see rooms in cities being offered from 7500 points to 40000 points;
since I am planning a vacation in 2017, I am wondering how to maximize using my account points with good choices of cities and room types
Let's say, by the time I will go on this trip, I will have 300k points to spend;
What would be the best way to find best location/price-deals?
The hotel categories are typically set once per year. I think all the changes have already been put in place for 2015... so that means what your are seeing on line now, will stay that way 'til May, 2016 or so. Marriott will announce on here any category changes for the rest of 2016-17..that announcement normally comes in March, I believe. Therefore, any hotels that you are looking at may be affected by the annual change. Keep that in mind and book as early as possible to avoid a bump in points needed.
Now, as far as which hotels to choose to maximize your points...that's sort of relative to the type and location that you prefer. If you're looking for a beach vacation or a mountain climbing vacation then obviously that will narrow your search.
Lastly, "Pointsavers", is a way to snag hotels at a discount. You'll need to search for these in Marriott Rewards. They're are normally off season type rates, but still may work for you.
The first thing to understand about Marriott Rewards is that the hotels are franchised and corporate mints the points. Corporate tries to drive redemptions to those hotels it pays least to redeem at. Note this is not necessarily those hotels with cheapest rates. However since most points are earned on business and redeemed on leisure stays there are some places that are going to attract considerable redemption interest, New York, Orlando, Vegas, London and Paris and others that aren't, such as interstate motels and properties on industrial estates.
Essentially you'll find the lowest Cat1 hotels to be mostly FFI and CYs on roadside stops in the middle of nowhere or unsightly Industrial Estates. People don't want to vacation at these venues so Marriott lowers the point price there to categories 1 & 2 (7,500 or 10,000 points/night) whilst keeping gateway city and popular destinations very expensive at categories 8 & 9 (40,000 or 45,000 points/night) to try and make leisure travellers think "45,000 points for that weekend night there! No way, that's too much! But, hmmm, I could stay there, it's only 7,500 points and only a short drive to ***"
Category 1, 2 and 3 hotels will usually show high point to cash values, 1UScent or more per point is pretty usual. Categories 4, 5, 6 & 7 generally hove in below 1UScent per point, though seasonal demand can effect that. Category 8s and especially 9s can be astonishing value, simply due to the huge cash prices these hotels can charge. I've seen 2, 3 or even 4 UScents per point when looking at the right hotels at the right time. Step forward London, Paris, Cannes, Monaco and Moscow. Hotel rates at these destinations can be insane, but remember, when rates are high, the hotel will be packed, don't expect great upgrades or instant service!
Undoubtably an easy value maximiser is the 5th redemption night free offer that applies right across the board at all Marriott properties. So a Cat 2 hotel for 5 nights is only 40,000 points, a Cat 7 only 140,000 points. Taking a typical Cat 2 at $100/nt, redeeming 4 nights costs 40,000 points saving $400, 1UScent/pt, redeeming 5 gives you the 5th night free but since on cash rates the hotel would charge for that fifth night you save $500, 1.2UScent/pt. This also illustrates the issues with categories 4-7 which are typically more like $150-$250/nt. A typical Cat 7 at $200/nt redeeming 4 nights costs 140,000 points saving $800, that's 0.6UScent/pt. Yes, the 5th night free does work to up the redemption value to 0.7UScent/pt but you're just not getting the same value per point as redeemed against the Cat 2. The problem still remains however, do you, and your family, want to vacation for 5 nights at a Fairfield Inn on an industrial estate with views of the bolt making factory that supplies Chrysler? Really?
There are 2 other maximisers, namely pointsavers, offered for typically unpopular hotels at unpopular times. They can be combined with the 5 for 4, thus delivering even more value to places you don't want to go at times you don't want to go there!
The final maximiser for redemptions is Marriotts very highly regarded Travel Plans where you redeem points for a combination of a 7-night hotel certificate and your choice of 50,000, 70,000, 100,000 or 120,000 miles to be credited to the frequent flyer scheme of your choice at 1:1. This is a very good deal.
So firstly you have to choose your 7 night hotel certificate, namely:
Cat 6 180,000
Cat 7 210,000
Cat 8 240,000
Cat 9 270,000
Once you've chosen your category certificate you then choose your airline, most of which Marriott allows you to purchase miles at par, 1:1 (note not all, UA converts slightly better, a few somewhat worse). 1:1 Par exchange is great value, and depending on how you redeem it can be madness! You can exchange up to 120,000 MR points in this way! I'm doing this and have chosen to redeem a Cat6 certificate to stay at the Vegas JW (the stay would cost $1,500 cash) with 100,000 miles to Virgin for a first class return UK-Vegas redemption worth over $9,000. So that's 280,000MR redeemed for almost $11,000 worth of flights and hotel stay, a return of almost 4UScents/pt. Of course I wouldn't actually pay $9,000 for a return ticket to Vegas, but we are doing it as a once in a lifetime experience as the wife found £300 of Tesco vouchers that were about to expire which she converted to Virgin Miles as this experience is on her bucket list. So now it's on mine!
Make no mistake, it's easy to convert Marriott points for terrible value, for my forthcoming Roadtrip I could have used 160,000 points to redeem 2 rooms for 2 nights at The Marriott Niagara Fallsview worth only $800, a miserable 0.5UScents/pt. Then again I have used 40,000 to redeem 5 nights near the in-laws at a Cat2 FFI saving $600, a very creditable 1.5UScents/pt. I've done even better in Moscow at over 2UScent/pt and last year at the Champs Élysées Marriott redeemed 180,000MR for a $3000 stay, almost 3UScents/pt.
The main points to note here are to have some flexibility about your dates and precise location, but to ensure you end up going where you want to be at the kind of time you want to be there. You'll find no real value going somewhere just because it's making 5UScents/pt if you have absolutely no wish to be there at that time. Then you're just wasting your precious vacation time!
Wow, great answers Brightlybob and PainedPlatinum (though I'm not surprised)! Thank you both for your responses. And thank you ramoneur for starting this thread. Let us know if you have any more questions!
this is a really, really helpful reply;
thank you so much for this
I have only one question left:
do I have to redeem the "7-night hotel certificate" at the same hotel, or can I use it to hop from hotel to hotel, for example:
1/7 + 2/7 in Nanjing, 3/7 in Suzhou, 4/7 + 5/7 + 6/7 in Hangzhou and then 7/7 in Shanghai?
The 7 night hotel certificate has to be redeemed for 7 consecutive nights at 1 hotel only. No switching, no breaking. The certificate is the weaker part of the deal as Marriotts redemption "sweet spot" is 5 nights, but the miles at par more than make up for that slight weakness...
Hard to improve anything on this post, but for those that have access to Southwest Airlines, you can leverage the 120,000 miles in the package (or 100,000, adding your own 10k miles) at the very first of a calendar year to wind up with a Companion Pass - so your +1 could fly with you for free all across the US and a couple spots in the Caribbean. Depending on your travel schedule, that could add up to some serious $$$. If still valid, I'll probably take advantage of this in Jan 2017.
The transfer from Marriott doesn't count towards A-list, unfortunately.
TThank you for your kind words! But I do agree, I missed a trick when failing to mention the Southwest Companion Pass. Do a TP now with 120k transferred to Southwest and qualify for a free companion pass that lasts till Jan 2018. That has to be one of the top redemption values available, though alas not much use to a European like me!
Outside of points... when I plan a trip (no matter the size) I try to book multiple cities and Marriott's when there is a special (stay twice, earn a night FREE!) I knew I had a trip coming up to Winnipeg in August 2014. When traveling to visit family 6-8 months earlier, I was able to book 1 night halfway to my destination and then several near family. This gave me my 2 qualifying stays to earn the hotel FREE in Winnipeg. The Winnipeg stay would have been $350/night, although clean and the staff was great, the quality of the hotel was not what we find in the states for that price.
one other point the redeeming points are not seasonally adjusted but rooms available maybe. for example the mesa az marroitt is a level five so in summer the rack rate can be 80 while in spring 300 so you may have trouble getting a free room in march but you can in February so use your points in the on season as it will give you a better return
Top catch, jerryl... because room nights are dynamic a hotel like Edinburgh can be £64 ($100) for a night in May, but £250 ($400) during the Fringe (August). Redeeming in May can result in only 0.3 UScent per point, in August 1.2UScent per point. Another example, I am staying 3 nights at the Marriott Marquis NYC and the Friday rate is $500, Saturday is $550, well over 1UScent per point. The Sunday night is only $220, so I've not redeemed that night, paid cash instead.
Of course whether it's a good idea to redeem only at packed hotels in peak season is a different question!!!
You didn't say where you were planning on going. That always helps the conversation.
I find the "travel package, i.e., hotel stay and air miles is the best use of points.
I just saw the AA is offering a 20% bonus to the miles you transfer from your MR points.
(United only is offering a 10% bonus)