Maximizing Discover rewards: Universal Orlando Resorts

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Is this deal too good to be true? 

This is the third post in a series in which I will analyze options for maximizing Discover Card rewards.  With Discover cash back rewards, card holders have the option of redeeming for partner gift certificates rather than cash.  Upon first glance, these certificates appear to be great deals, but when we look closer we find that some are not as good as they appear.

Previous posts in this series:

 

Universal Orlando Resorts

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When I previously looked into the details of Discover’s car rental and Hyatt certificates I was underwhelmed.  Both have limits and restrictions that make the certificates nearly worthless.  With the Universal Orlando Resorts certificate, though, I thought I had found a winner.

Universal Studios Florida has three on-site resort hotels: Loews Royal Pacific Resort, Hard Rock Hotel, and Loews Portofino Bay Hotel.

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Last year, I took my family for two days to Universal Studios and decided to splurge on on on-site hotel.  Never mind that there were great (and low-cost) options within walking distance outside of the park.  I had it in my mind that gosh darn it we were going to stay on-site.  It was the only way, after all, to get into the new Harry Potter section an hour before everyone else.  So, I searched and searched for deals and discounts, but came up virtually empty handed.  There were deals for longer stays, but those didn’t work for our circumstances.  And, there were deals for other Loews hotels, but these three were specifically excluded.  In the end, I paid nearly full price (I may have received a small Travelocity discount or something – I don’t really remember).  We had a great time and, yes, the hour early entrance made a positive difference. 

When I saw this Discover certificate, I thought I had finally found a solution for people looking to spend a Harry Potter weekend at Universal Studios.  Could one get multiple certificates so as to make any stay a half price stay?

After clicking on the offer, a page came up with the following information:

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Wow, this looked even better than I thought.  No black out dates!  Certificate may be combined with all special promotions!  The certificates can be used, not just at Universal Studios resorts, but from your choice of over 200 Florida 3, 4, or 5 star resort properties!

What’s not to love?  Plenty…

Terms & Conditions

Your certificate will only be applied to new reservations made through the Cruise and Vacation Desk at 1-877-835-8738 – www.cruiseandvacationdesk.com/dcbb.

  • Your certificate will be applied towards resort only or air-inclusive packages. Subject to availability, some restrictions may apply, please call for details.
  • Your certificate may be combined with all promotional sales featured by Cruise and Vacation Desk including free night stays, room upgrades, free in room amenities, etc.
  • Certificate is not combinable with any other program offer or discount.
  • You may apply one certificate per room booked.
  • Certificates have NO CASH value.
  • Payment must be made with your Discover® Card.

$40 certificate is valid towards a consecutive 3 night stay or longer.
$80 certificate is valid towards a consecutive 5 night stay or longer.
$160 certificate is valid towards a consecutive 7 night stay or longer.
$240 certificate is valid towards a consecutive 9 night stay or longer.

OK, so the first paragraph above makes it clear that you need to book through the Cruise and Vacation Desk.  Well, that couldn’t be too bad right?

Then, the first bullet-point got me even more excited.  It said that the certificate could be applied to air-inclusive packages.  Wow.  Could we use these certificates to get half priced flights to Florida too?

The next bullet was good too.  You may combine the certificate with all promotional sales featured by Cruise and Vacation Desk.  Nice.

“Certificate is not combinable with any other program offer or discount.”  That’s OK.  Half price is reward enough!

“You may apply one certificate per room booked.”  Wait. What?  OK, that’s not too bad since there is a certificate worth $240.  Maybe this won’t help with airfare after all, though.

“Certificates have NO CASH value.”  Fine.  “Payment must be made with your Discover Card.”  Oh well, no 2X from my Sapphire Preferred, not a big deal.

Then the bombshell:

    • $40 certificate is valid towards a consecutive 3 night stay or longer.
    • $80 certificate is valid towards a consecutive 5 night stay or longer.
    • $160 certificate is valid towards a consecutive 7 night stay or longer.
    • $240 certificate is valid towards a consecutive 9 night stay or longer.

What?  Are you kidding me?  With these restrictions, the certificates are worth only $13.3 to $26.7 per night.  And, since you have to pay half price to get each certificate, the savings are only to $6.7 to $13.4 per night!  There’s no way its worth bothering with that!

It gets worse

I picked a random 3-day weekend to price out one of the Universal Studios Resorts.  Via the required Cruise and Vacation Desk, I was quoted a total price of $1036 for the weekend:

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I then tried Travelocity where I was quoted a total price of $720.12 (thanks to a 10% discount) or a regular price of $800.15.

Travelocity:

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I’m sure (maybe) that there are some good deals at the Cruise and Vacation Desk, but this clearly wasn’t one of them.  By paying $20 for a Discover Rewards certificate I could save $40 off a rate that is about $300 too high.  What a deal.

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