Keeping an SPG card after all…

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Last week, I wrote about plans to dump all of my Marriot and SPG credit cards (See: Sending the Marriott and SPG cards off into the sunset). This morning, in my post about why I think there is no hurry to sign up for the Marriott Premier Plus before the 100K offer ends tomorrow (See: Is there a hurry for the Marriott card? (Answer: No.), I noted that one group of people who might want to consider applying for that card are those who can maximize the free night award benefit. After saying last week that I would dump these cards despite that benefit, it turns out I’m going to keep one for the free night benefit after all.

I said last week that the free night benefit doesn’t excite me because Marriott tacks on resort / destination fees to free night awards. That annoys me to no end. It’s like a tax for choosing Marriott over Hilton or Hyatt, and it’s insulting to the consumer to pretend that the room rate is the price of the room only to add an additional mandatory hotel fee that goes into the same pot of profit for the hotel as the rest of your money. I say either itemize the entire bill — with a fee of three cents for laundry soap to clean the bedsheets, two bucks for electricity, eighteen cents for water usage, two hundred dollars for shareholder profits, and so on — or just charge one price that earns you the profit you need without trying to convince me that I should have to pay separately for the convenience of having a towel available next to the pool that you used pictures of to lure me into paying for your resort over someone else’s. /rant.

I did also note that I’m sure there are times when it is possible to get better-than-$95 in value out of a free night certificate, but it would require more time and focus to make sure you’re getting a deal. Further, as Greg has shown (See: Manufacturing free nights (Hyatt, Hilton, Marriott), it’s possible to manufacture nights at average Hyatt and Hilton properties for reasonable spend — using manufactured spending techniques, it is possible in many cases to manufacture free nights at comparable Hyatt and Hilton hotels for less than $95.

Of course, almost immediately after taking that stance, I ran into an exception. Early next year, I have a trip booked with an overnight stopover in San Jose on the way, and rooms are expensive right now for our date. While there are some motels in the area in the $150-$200 per night range, I recently noted in another post that even the La Quinta Inn near the airport is pretty spendy the night we need.

As you move up to the Hilton and Marriott properties, prices get kind of ridiculous. More than $400 after tax for a night at a Courtyard, Residence Inn, SpringHill Suites, or Fairfield Inn near an airport seems ludicrous.

The nearby SPG options don’t look much more reasonable for a quick overnight before an early morning flight out.

But wouldn’t you know it….all of the above properties will be 35,000 points or less under the new chart. In fact, the Fairfield, Four Points, and Residence Inn will all cost just 25,000 points — meaning those are even bookable with the old Cat 1-5 cert that comes with the old (and no longer available) Marriott Rewards Premier card (not “Plus”).

As fate would have it, I have an available Cat 1-5 certificate, but we need 2 rooms. Fate further pushing things along: my SPG personal anniversary date is in August, and Amex has said that the free 35K award night will post with your next anniversary date after August 1st. Considering the fact that Hyatt doesn’t have a hotel with a shuttle and Hilton is charging enough points as to make it less desirable to MS a free night at one of the Hilton properties, paying that $95 annual fee is looking like a good idea after all. I’ll end up using my “up to 35K” certificate at a property that only charges 25K in order to keep both rooms together at the same hotel, but between two annual fees, I’ll have spent less than the cash cost of one room.

And so it looks like I’m already going back on my promise to cancel as soon as the fees hit. This is exactly the type of situation where this type of free night benefit comes in handy — I’m just surprised it came around so fast as to make me retract my threat to cancel almost instantly. That’s better that than realizing I needed the stay right after I had cancelled….

Anyone have a recommendation between the Fairfield, Four Points, and Residence Inn? 🙂

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