I made a mistake that has been killing me on the inside. It only cost us 5,000 or 15,000 points (depending on how you look at it), but I am obsessive about getting the most value out of our points as possible.
Marriott Flight and Hotel Packages
For a while, you could get 5 night Marriott hotel and flight packages. These were only meant to be available for Marriott timeshare owners, but for a while they would give them to anyone. We ordered the base package, which was 235,000 points for 5 nights at a category 1-5 Marriott and a huge chunk of airline miles.
The hard part is finding a property that represents a good value using the free nights certificate. Brit is a Marriott Platinum member, thus gets free breakfast and executive lounge access at some Marriott properties. This is a description of the benefit:
Lounge Access/Free Breakfast
Daily continental breakfast, light snacks and beverages for the Platinum Elite member and one guest in the Executive Lounge at JW Marriott®, Autograph Collection®, Renaissance® and Marriott Hotels®, Delta Hotels®, (resorts excluded).
That means we were looking for one of these properties to use the certificate at. We found that Marriott has both a Renaissance and a Marriott property in Santiago, Chile. The problem was that both of these properties were category 6 properties. Without doing some work, we could not redeem our certificate at these hotels.
Upgrading the Certificate
We had previously upgraded a 7 night, category 1-5 certificate to a 7 night, category 6 certificate to stay at the Marriott Brisbane, so I thought the process would be similar. It was similar for the most part. The only difference was a lengthy lecture from the agent. He explained that they got a big memo from corporate saying not to give the 5 night packages out to non-timeshare owners.
The agent said he could alter our 5 night certificate once, and after that, Marriott would no longer alter the certificate. He also got into the super nitty gritty details. He told us that even if two people are co-signers on a Marriott timeshare, they have to pick which person is eligible for the benefit of being able to redeem 5 night travel packages.
After the lengthy conversation, we had finally upgraded the certificate! It only cost 15,000 Marriott points to upgrade the certificate (or 5,000 SPG points). A few days later, we booked our 5 nights at the Renaissance Santiago using the certificate.
Hotel Category Downgrade
I noticed about a month later the Renaissance Santiago had dropped from a Category 6 hotel to a Category 5 hotel. Furthermore, I noticed that this change had happened about a week after I made my reservation. The most painful part was that Marriott had posted their list of hotels changing categories well before I made my booking.
I could’ve saved us the hassle of upgrading the certificate and saved us some points if I had seen this list. I could’ve simply waited another week before making my booking and I would’ve been able to use the 5 night category 1-5 certificate without having to upgrade it first.
Before you make a hotel award reservation, always check to see if the hotel chain has posted a list of hotels changing categories soon. For example, if I had googled “Marriott hotel category changes” prior to booking, I would’ve found the list and known that I could’ve waited a week to make my reservation to save us both time and points.
In the end, this wasn’t the end of the world for us. 15,000 (or 5,000) points is not that much. Plus we got to learn a lot more about the now-almost-extinct Marriott 5 night hotel and flight packages!
Have any questions? Have you been caught booking before an award decreases in value before?