Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Owen, who locked in a lower award rate for his honeymoon:
My fiancée and I are getting married this summer, and I’m in charge of planning our honeymoon trip. We wanted to travel to Europe, because she has never been before, and to spend time both at the beach and in a major city. After researching where to stay, I landed on the Domes of Elounda on the beach in Crete and the St. Regis in Rome — two outstanding luxury hotels in the Marriott program. Both were Category 7 hotels costing 60,000 points per night, but I knew they’d cost 85,000 points per night after moving into the new Category 8 in March, so I wanted to book them before the price went up.
Unfortunately, when I looked to book our rooms a few months ago, I realized I didn’t have enough Marriott points. However, I knew I was going to earn a lot more points over the next few months through travel for work and the 100,000 point sign-up bonus I was set to earn from the SPG Amex Luxury Card [now the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express® Card]. So, I used Marriot’s Points Advance program to reserve five nights at both hotels (with the fifth night free). Now I could simply accumulate the 240,000 points needed for each stay, so long as I had them one week before our reservation date. I was still allowed to reserve our rooms, guaranteeing availability ahead of time.
In the end, I earned enough to redeem for our full stay at the Domes of Elounda, but decided to drop the St. Regis Rome (with no cancellation charge!) to reserve a new Small Luxury Hotel through Hyatt. I transferred points over from Chase Ultimate Rewards and took advantage of this awesome new partnership. So there you have it: 10 nights in two fantastic five-star hotels in Europe for no cash, just points!
Loyalty programs occasionally raise award prices or alter program rules with little or no warning, but more commonly there’s a window between when a devaluation is announced and when it goes into effect. That doesn’t take away the sting of prices going up, but it at least gives you a chance to lock in the lower rates, even for dates beyond when they change. This is especially useful for booking hotels, which tend to offer more flexible cancellation policies than airlines, so you can afford to book speculatively even if your plans are uncertain.
One of the best aspects of Marriott’s Points Advance is that you can apply it to stays through the end of the booking calendar, so you should have plenty of time to earn the points you need to cover the remaining balance. However, note that you’ll need to pay for your award in advance of your check-in date. Points Advance reservations specify that you should pay for your stay at least seven days in advance, as Owen mentioned. But the Marriott Bonvoy terms and conditions indicate that points should be in your account 14 days prior to your scheduled arrival; that’s the timeline you should follow to make sure your award stays intact. If not, your reservation could be cancelled or converted to a cash rate.
Note that Marriott has confirmed it will honor Points Advance reservations booked prior to March 5, 2019 at properties that increased in price, so Owen shouldn’t freak out if his booking displays the new (higher) award rate. Once he has enough points, he’ll simply need to call and have an agent manually apply a certificate and honor the price he was quoted at the time of booking.
I love this story and I want to hear more like it! In appreciation for sharing this experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending Owen a $200 airline gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you. Please email your own award travel success stories to email@example.com; be sure to include details about how you earned and redeemed your rewards, and put “Reader Success Story” in the subject line. Feel free to also submit your most woeful travel mistakes, or to contribute to our new award redemption series. If your story is published, we’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure. Due to the volume of submissions, we can’t respond to each story individually, but we’ll be in touch if yours is selected.
Safe and happy travels to all, and I look forward to hearing from you!
Featured photo courtesy of Domes of Elounda Hotel