April is Financial Literacy Month! This week we would like to share with you an insightful guest post from our friend Barbara Jones of PointSavvy.com. This week, Barbara shows us how to make the most of your Marriott Rewards points (as a result, helping YOU to save money while enjoying the luxuries of first class airfare and lodging without pulling a dime out of your pocket). We hope you enjoy the helpful advice that she provides. Cheers!
-Cassandra & Shaun
Best Wedding Gift Ever
How Does A FREE Marriott 10 Day/9 Night Honeymoon In Hawaii With Round Trip First Class Flights Sound?
When my cousin announced his engagement last Spring, with an October wedding date, my mind immediately began to reel with possible wedding gift ideas that would express to him just how much he meant to me and my family. We were very close, so no ordinary wedding registry gift would do.
My cousin’s father had recently passed away leaving 500,000 Marriott Rewards® points. These points had accrued through his loyalty to the Marriott family of hotels and resorts, and by using his Marriott credit card on a regular basis. Wow – 500,000 points – but they actually belonged to my cousin’s stepmother. I immediately called her to see if she would like to partner her points with my travel planning skills to give this extraordinary gift jointly. She was thrilled with the idea, so it was up to me to make it happen.
So here’s how I did it, step by step:
Step One – Find out the couple’s dream honeymoon destination. Hawaii? No problem. Marriott has 17 locations throughout the Hawaiian Islands.
Step Two – Research and familiarize myself with Marriott’s redemption policies. In order to combine the points from both the Marriott Rewards and United MileagePlus® programs, we had to book a minimum stay of 7 nights. There were several hotel + air packages that were described on the Marriott Rewards website through the use of information tables that organized the level of accommodations and point requirements by categories and tiers. I know that this sounds a little intimidating, but it’s quite clear when you get to that page on the website. The fluidity of point exchanges and other benefits that are offered through the partnership between Marriott and United Airlines was pretty amazing. It made my job easy.
Step Three – Decide what level of luxury would be appropriate for the stockpile of points that we had to use. Hmm, let’s see now, honeymoon quality … What would constitute the proper balance of beauty with practicality? Honeymoon or not, these kids weren’t going to stay inside the hotel the entire time. The search was on for the perfect Marriott experience. Seventeen choices required a little bit of exploring. This task took longer than I expected, not because the website was unclear, but because the photos and travel destination descriptions were so vast and exciting that I found it challenging to focus on a trip for someone else. Ok kiddo, get your head out of the clouds and back to planning this gift. We determined that the best value for our points would be Marriott’s Category 6 Maui resort.
Step Four – We needed to commit to a date so we could begin to assemble their itinerary, and lock-in the flights and reservations. Once that decision was made, I began to play the juggling game of weighing flight options from Washington, D.C to Hawaii: Direct flight? First-class seating? Best-case scenario was going to have them in the air for 10 hours, so comfort was a serious consideration. Since there isn’t a direct flight from D.C. to Maui, I called United Airlines and put a hold on two first-class seats to Honolulu using my cousin’s United MileagePlus account number. We’d have to worry about transportation to Maui a little later. Once the flights had been reserved and the necessary flight points calculated, it was time to call in a real professional.
Step Five – I called and consulted with a Marriott Rewards specialist. The specialist who helped me couldn’t have been friendlier, more helpful or more patient. His assistance was critical to the successful coordination of this entire event. I explained that I had reserved the flights with United, and gave him the reservation numbers. He needed this information to transfer the Marriott points to United in a timely fashion, because the United reservation would expire soon, and it takes 3 days for the transferred points to clear for redemption.
He made all the necessary transfers while I was still on the call with him. Now that all of the purchases could be made through the Marriott program, every additional plan became easier to manage. The Marriott Rewards specialist and I performed a quick review of the total points expended and realized that we still had more points available to sweeten the gift. Since the only direct flight was to Honolulu, we began to browse the Marriott hotels in that area. We were able to add 2 extra nights at the Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa as a prelude to their 7-night stay at the Wailea Beach Marriott Resort & Spa in Maui. By the end of the call, every detail had been addressed and the process with the Marriott specialist was complete. Perfect!
Step Six – Book the final flight from Honolulu to Maui. This was the only out-of-pocket expenditure to complete the gift, and it was quite nominal. Now, with all of the travel plans locked in, I was able to send all the reservation information along to my cousin.
Upon their return, my cousin and his wife expressed their overwhelming gratitude for the amazing gift. Thanks to his dad being a Marriott enthusiast, we were able to bequeath them a gift of memories that would last a lifetime.
Oh yes, and….
If you are a Marriott Rewards member and love to stay in their hotels, I would highly recommend applying for the Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card from Chase. They are currently offering 80,000 bonus points after the qualifying spend in the first 3 months. Plus earn 7,500 bonus points when you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from your account opening. This could work out to 11 free nights if you were to stay at one of their Category 1 hotels with 7,500-reward point redemption. Plus, you get a free night at a category 1-4 hotel once you are approved. On top of earning points with the credit card and your stays, you then are entitled to a free night each year after your account anniversary.
Earning Marriott points is accelerated with 5 points earned for every $1 spent at a Marriott location worldwide including the Ritz Carlton. You can also earn 2 points per $1 spent on airline tickets, car rentals and restaurants. And for the stuff you buy everyday, you earn 1 point per $1 spent. You also are guaranteed elite status with the Marriott Rewards program as a cardholder, taking the stress off of how many stays you need to reach each year.
Try it for a year and see if you love this card, as there is no annual fee the first year. As you can see, my cousin’s father didn’t take that long to earn 500,000 points as he always stayed at Marriott hotels and he loved using his card for everyday spending. He thought that Marriott was phenomenal when it came to getting something back for staying at hotels that were located at all of his favorite places to vacation or visit family.