Early on in the blog, I wrote about the Marriott/SPG Merger and a pretty lucrative arbitrage opportunity. I won’t rehash that here but suffice it to say, I have taken advantage of the opportunity …
While I didn’t have a specific redemption in mind when I purchased these Travel Packages (I was really more after the points), I knew at some point I would have to deal with the certificates sitting in my account.
Knowing that I eventually had to do something with my certificates, I’ve been weighing my options. Here’s what I could do with the certificates.
Use The Certificates For A Stay
The most obvious use for the certificate is to use them towards a stay. I wrote about the fact that I don’t find a lot of value with a 7-night certificate because I almost never stay 7 nights in any one city because if I’m redeeming points for a trip, I’m typically doing something like a mini-RTW, where I get to a few different cities over a 2 – 2.5 week period. For me, a 5-night certificate is much more likely to be used to its fullest extent.
But what if you can’t use the certificate within the year?
Well, you can wait until the certificate is about to expire and then call Marriott and ask them to extend the validity of the certificates by another year. This is a common request and always granted, in fact, it was suggested by more than one agent when I was inquiring about what I could do with them. Hopefully, you can find a good redemption within 2 years of the certificate being issued.
Cash The Certificate for Points
Now, this is a YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary) situation because it is Marriott’s official policy NOT to allow the redeeming of certificates for Marriott points. This was common and authorized use of the certificate prior to the Marriott/SPG merger but since the merger, it is against policy to allow for the redeeming of certificates for points.
That being said, I’m a pretty determined guy and called back multiple times and found an agent that would allow for the exchange.
It’s a TERRIBLE redemption.
For a 5-night Category 1-5 certificate, you would get 10,000 Marriott points, and with a 7-night certificate, you would receive 15,000 Marriott points.
I would argue that even cashing in the certificate at a local hotel, checking in and then not staying, would at least get you a 5 or 7-night stay towards earning Marriott Gold or Platinum status. To me, that’s worth more than 10,000/15,000 Marriott points.
Upgrade the Certificate For A Stay
I advised my readers to only purchase the Category 1-5 Travel Package because you can always upgrade the certificate later if you want to stay at a nicer category hotel.
I chatted with a Marriott Agent and confirmed that the upgrade cost to each higher category was the exact same price as if you had asked for that category when you purchased your Travel Package originally … at least for a 7-night certificate.
As you can see, the upgrade cost and the point differential between the original Category 1-5 package is exactly the same.
This is why I strongly recommend that you DO NOT purchase anything higher than a Category 1-5 Travel Package. You can always upgrade the package later and you don’t have the large outlay of points when you make the original purchase.
This added bonus only applies to the folks that were able to secure 5-night package AND want to stay in a Category 9 hotel. I realize that this is going to be a very small percentage of people BUT, here at PointsNerd, we are always looking for angles, and this is certainly one of those situations.
Let’s look at the same chart as above but for a 5-night stay.
See how the upgrade cost is the same as the original differential if you had originally asked for the package for all Categories … except Category 9?
This means that if you purchased a 5-Night Category 1-5 Travel Package and UPGRADED your package to a Category 9 certificate, you would only pay 330,000 Marriott points. If you had originally asked for a Category 9 Travel Package, you would spend 345.000, which is an additional 15,000 Marriott points.
This is why you NEVER book for more than a Category 1-5 Travel Package.
When I redeemed for four Travel Packages, I was really only after the points. The hotel certificates were an added bonus. In fact, even if I didn’t use them, I would still be ahead of the game.
In my first redemption, I got 120,000 Alaska Miles and the hotel certificate for 235,000 Marriott Points, which I got by converting 78,333 SPG points because SPG converts to Marriott at a 1:3 ratio. Had I normally just transferred SPG to Alaska Miles, I would have only received 93,333 miles. Using the Marriott Travel Package, I picked up an additional 26,667 miles!
In my 2nd through 4th redemptions, I received 150,000 American Airlines Miles and the hotel certificate for the same 78,333 SPG points because there was a 25% bonus American Airlines had that gave you a bonus if you transferred miles from a hotel program. Again, if I had transferred 78,333 SPG to American Miles, I would have received 93,333. In this particular instance, I received a whopping 56,667 American Airlines Miles as a bonus … PER PACKAGE!
In either case, I was already WAY ahead.
Long story short, ANY value that I could extract from the hotel certificates was just gravy.
As you probably know, I will be taking a round the world trip in December/January and will need some hotel stays. One of the places I will be visiting will be Dubai. We will be there for 4 nights, so the use of the certificate is probably a good idea. The nice thing about Dubai is that because everything is so extravagant, hotels that are normally in a Category 9 in most places, is only considered a Category 7 in Dubai.
Here we see that the JW Marriott Marquis Dubai is listed as a Category 7 Hotel. For 5 nights, it would run 140,000 Marriott Points or a cash rate of $2,549.87 CAD ($509.97 per night … on an Advanced Purchase Rate)!
Rather than cash in using either of those methods, I can simply pay the upgrade cost of 35,000 Marriott Points (11,667 SPG Points) and receive excellent value for my certificate.
Cashing in your certificates for points is the equivalent of using points to pay for toasters … just don’t do it. You have the luxury of time in that you can ask for an extension to use your certificate for up to an additional year, so don’t rush to judgment and cash out. You are much better off redeeming the certificate as is or using points to upgrade the certificate for use at nicer properties.