December 12, 2012
Three stackable deals for buying Marriott gift cards come to an end on December 31st 2012.
Sometimes hotel gift cards are better than points. With gift cards you can take advantage of discount codes and hotel sales (except for prepaid rates). With gift cards, you can earn points and progress towards elite qualification with each stay. With gift cards, you never have to worry about seeing that the hotel where you want to stay has no rooms available for point redemptions. And, gift cards are gift-able.
Currently, there are three stackable deals that can be used to save money and earn points when buying Marriott gift cards. In total, you can save over 17%!
Step 1: TopCashBack
Just until the end of this year, TopCashBack is offering 5% cash back when you click through their site to Marriott to buy gift cards.
- Sign up for TopCashBack (if you use this link, I’ll earn a small referral bonus)
- Go to TopCashBack.com and search for Marriott
- Click through the button that says Marriott Gift Card 5% Cashback (as shown below)
Step 2: Amtrak Bonus
Until the end of the year, you can get 10% more value added to any Marriott gift card you buy simply by entering the Amtrak promotion code AMT. Terms & Conditions can be found here.
- Select a gift card. After going through the TopCashBack steps listed above, you will end up at the Marriott gift card site where you can pick out the gift card you want to buy. For this promotion, gift cards with value between $25 and $1500 are eligible.
- Check out. Enter code AMT in the box titled “APPLY PROMOTION CODE“. Loyalty Lobby shows the steps here.
Step 3: Pay with Freedom or Discover
This quarter’s Chase Freedom 5X category includes “hotels”. Since the gift card purchase is processed by Marriott.com, it counts towards the 5X category.
If you don’t have the Freedom card, or you’ve already maxed out the category bonus, another great option is to use a Discover card which offers 5% cash back for Online merchants this quarter.
Pay with either of the cards listed above to get 5X points or 5% cash back. Both cards cap the quarterly bonus at $1500 in spend, so make sure you do not go over that amount.
Add it up
Suppose you buy a $1000 Marriott gift card. Here is how the costs and rebates add up:
- Cost: $1008.50 (Marriott charges $8.50 for express shipping or $1 for regular shipping with smaller orders).
- TopCashBack rebate: $50
- Freedom / Discover card rebate: $50
- Note: If you have the Freedom card and an Ultimate Rewards card that allows transfers to loyalty programs then you can transfer the points to the other card and then use those points to transfer to airline miles, hotel points, or Amtrak points, all of which can be more valuable than straight up cash back. Good examples of cards with this capability include: Sapphire Preferred, Ink Bold, and Ink Plus.
- Amtrak bonus increases card value to: $1100
- Total cost after rebates: $908.50
- Total card value: $1100
- Total discount as % of card value: 17.4%
I went through the steps listed above and was pleased to receive confirmation of pending cash back from TopCashBack within a few hours. Nice! Of course, I’m not done earning points, free nights, & cash back from Marriott. When using Marriott gift cards, you can stack promotions too…
- Make sure to sign up for the latest Marriott promotions. Marriott regularly runs MegaBonus promotions. For most people, this means that for every two Marriott stays, you’ll receive a free night certificate for a category 1 through 4 hotel. Some people get a different offer: after 3 stays, receive a 1 night certificate for a category 1 through 5 hotel. Either way, make sure to sign up!
- If you plan to stay at several Marriott properties within a few months of each other, consider going for their Gold or Platinum challenge. See “Pursuing Platinum @ Marriott.” This way you’ll be treated better as an elite and you’ll earn more points with each stay!
- When booking your stay, make sure to start in a point earning or cash back portal. I use CashBackHolic to find the best option since it consistently delivers the most accurate results (see “Portal finder fight! Round 2“).
- When comparing rates, make sure to look at AAA and other rates you may qualify for. In my experience, stays booked with AAA discounts do still earn portal points / cash, but stays booked on a government rate do not. Your mileage may vary. FYI, thanks to my wife’s job at a public University, we do qualify for government rates.
- If you have some time on your hands, use Kayak or other aggregators to search for a site that offers a better rate than Marriott does directly. If you find a price discrepancy, you can take advantage of Marriott’s “Look No Further Room Rate Guarantee” to save 25% off the lower rate. Loyalty Traveler offers details here.
- When you check-out of your hotel, don’t forget to pay with your Marriott gift card!
VACATION NOTICE: I am currently on vacation until January 5th. In the meanwhile, I might not answer comments or emails. Happy New Years everyone!