Debate night: are Marriott certs keepers? Getting a true 4th night free, and more


This week on Frequent Miler on the Air, Greg and Nick discuss whether or not the Marriott free night certificates are worth more than the price of admission — though, truth be told, the real question is whether or not you should be a buyer at the cost of the annual fee. I think the majority of readers shouldn’t be buyers – see if I convince Greg to join you in dumping his Marriott cards (and more) in our chat below.

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This week:

The great Marriott free night certificate debate:

What are Marriott 50K certificates worth?

What are Marriott 35K certificates worth?

My room at The Notary Hotel last week. This Autograph Collection property would normally be a horrible value for a 50K certificate.

Greg did some top-quality research to prove me wrong for being skeptical about whether or not it’s possible to get good value out of the Marriott credit card free night certificates (see both posts above — one about 35K certs and the other about 50K certs). As mentioned in Frequent Miler on the Air, I think this boils down to a few key points: First, since Greg’s research shows we will generally have to accept a lesser-category and/or lesser-quality hotel, there is a disappointment cost that makes the free night less fun to use. Second, by having a Marriott free night cert, you are locking yourself in to having to book a room with a resort or destination fee in many places. Third, if you MS at all you have to ask yourself how much you’re willing to pay for a restricted free night certificate rather than just MSing (infinitely more flexible) points. I’m leaning more and more toward that final option and farther away from free night certificates and Greg’s analysis is helping push me there.

In lesser-known credit card benefits:

Chase Sapphire Reserve benefits: 4th night free at select sbe hotels

This is a benefit that’s been around for almost a year but has gotten very little coverage; it could save you a bundle of money if the stars align on a high-demand night that you can position as your fourth night and/or when you want to book a large suite at a nice discount. Because of the very limited number of properties, this is still a very niche play, but if the hotels fit your needs it could be a great deal.

In other Marriott news & reviews:

Necker vs North Island Luxury

Richard Branson chokes Frequent Miler

I couldn’t be less excited about the North Island Seychelles if I tried. I love islands and all, but nothing about this place screams “deal” to me. When Greg contrasts it to Necker Island in this post, my interest in North Island Seychelles plummets somewhere into the abyss. I just don’t think I’d spend the points on this. Necker Island still looks awesome.

Marriott portal experiments: Which rates qualify for cash back or rewards?

Having booked a number of Marriott cash stays in 2019 and early 2020, I thought it was time to post some results in terms of which special rates stacked with portal rewards. The short story is that I’ve found things like the AAA rate and government rate usually stack with portal rewards, making for opportunities to save even more. See the post for full details.

The Notary Hotel Philadelphia, Autograph Collection (Marriott). Bottom Line Review.

My take on this hotel was actually slightly more favorable than Greg’s — perhaps because I did get a free upgrade from the standard room to something with a bit more space. For a former Courtyard, I thought this place was decorated really and felt nicer than its $145 price tag. It’s won’t be worth the points price when it goes up in category in less than two weeks, but for cash stays it can be a relative bargain.

In updated resources:

Bonvoy Success: Marriott Free Night Certificate Extended Another Year

Stephen Pepper updates a previous post with his recent data point. I ran the same play back in January on the day before my certificate was due to expire and it was a simple call to get it extended for a year. Greg even found recently that in some cases a 7-night certificate can be extended a second time. It’s always worth calling to ask — sometimes twice.

Buy points for less: When does it make sense to jump on a deal?

This week, sales were added for United, Marriott, and Radisson. There’s a small part of me considering buying some Marrriott points just because I’ve been able to use them for decent value lately, but in reality I’ll probably give these a miss. Still, if you’re topping off for a near-term redemption at good value, buying points could be worth it.

That’s it for this week at Frequent Miler. Check back soon for our week in review around the web and this week’s last chance deals.

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