Can You Pay With Cash At A Hotel – Regular followers of this blog will know that I try to buy points for my hotel stays whenever I can, to reduce my extraordinary expenses during my travels.
However, lately I’ve found myself paying more cash rates for hotel stays, which is something I found incomprehensible when I started collecting SPG Starpoints and Marriott Rewards points back then.
Can You Pay With Cash At A Hotel
While just a few years ago I would have said that 75-90% of my hotel nights were paid for with points, today it’s probably more of a 50/50 split in terms of when I buy points and when I pay cash
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What happened here? What kind of person have I become, plunking down a large sum of cash for a hotel stay when just a few years ago I was paying $50/night for a dorm bed? I think it’s time for some introspection to tease out the many factors at play here.
While all major hotel loyalty programs are open to Canadian residents, Marriott Bonvoy is the only major program that offers an easy way for Canadian residents to earn points through a co-branded credit card. And let’s face it: the value you get from the Marriott Bonvoy program today is less than the old Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) and Marriott Rewards programs.
While the two programs used to exist separately, each had its own sweet spot compared to the other, and each would let you earn points through their own credit card and transfer partners.
SPG is an easy program for Canadians to join, with two Amex-issued credit cards offering a bonus 20,000 Starpoints (equivalent to today’s 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points on the same card) as a sign-up bonus. Another important way to earn points is the refer-a-friend bonus of 10,000 Starpoints at its peak (equivalent to 30,000 Bonvoy points, which has now been drastically reduced to just 10,000 Bonvoy points).
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A separate Chase Marriott Visa on the market that comes with 50,000 Marriott Rewards points, a first-year fee waiver and no FX fees (the card was completely discontinued in March 2018). Together, these two programs offer Canadian travelers a fairly wide selection of hotel accommodations.
Additionally, the period between 2017 and 2018 when SPG Starpoints and Marriott Rewards points were freely exchangeable with each other at a 1:3 ratio may have been the heyday of hotel loyalty programs for Canadians. Suddenly, the relative ease of earning Starpoints was paired with the sweet spot for Marriott Rewards redemptions, effectively combining the powers of both programs into one very powerful program.
Then the merger took place in August 2018, and it brought with it a series of devaluations in several aspects. Transfer report from Amex MR? Cut by 20%. Earning rate on the Amex Bonvoy card? Cut by 33%. Hotel category chart? Swollen. The value of a tour package? Finished.
Together, these changes have made it a little harder to extract value from your Marriott Bonvoy points, and with the value proposition affecting both the earning and redemption sides of the game, I now face more situations where I’m hesitant to part with points. me and prefer to pay the cash rate instead.
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Take the example of a mid-range hotel in a major North American city, such as the Marriott Portland Downtown Waterfront. In the past, this hotel was in the former Category 6 (out of 9), and would have cost 30,000 Marriott Rewards points. This is not a bad deal for a hotel that can cost US$300 a night plus tax. But now the hotel has moved there
Category 6 (out of 8) and cost 50,000 Bonvoy points yesterday? The value is less clear.
These points are harder to come by, I’m going to be tight with these points and only want to redeem them when I can find a really great value.
Now let me be clear: this drop in value is not surprising in the slightest, because the landscape of the game we play is changing all the time, and every time they can get too much too much value (and some contracts and strategies during this 2017. -18 golden age is
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Meanwhile, there aren’t many alternatives open to us Canadians. Aside from the limited-value MBNA Best Western Rewards MasterCard, our remaining options are to look south of the border at programs like Hilton Honors (via Amex US), World of Hyatt or IHG Rewards (via Chase). That, or start paying cash for accommodations, whether Marriott hotels or otherwise. Which brings me to my next point…
There are some added benefits to paying cash rates for hotels that you won’t get if you buy points, and these are useful things to keep in mind because they can often tip the balance in one direction or another if you . faced with the problem of deciding between the two.
First, just because you pay the cash rate for a hotel doesn’t mean the money actually has to come out of your pocket. Indeed, we have many fixed-value travel rewards programs in Canada, such as Scotia Rewards from the Scotia Passport Card, HSBC Rewards from the HSBC World Elite, or even Amex MR Select points from the Cobalt Card.
In fact, in a previous article, I explained how booking hotels with cash can often be a better use of your Cobalt points than transferring them to Marriott Bonvoy at a 1:1.2 ratio. It goes back to the value proposition for buying points I mentioned above: if the value isn’t there when compared to the cash rate, book a hotel with your Cobalt Card and use your MR Select points to offset the charge. 1 cent. for each point could be a better deal.
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How would you rate this value proposition? Here’s a comparison chart between cash rates and points requirements for each Marriott Bonvoy hotel category, taking into account a 1:1.2 transfer ratio from Amex MR.
(Remember, this comparison only works if you transferred MR or MR Select points to Marriott Bonvoy for your hotel booking. If you earned your Bonvoy points from another source, such as a Bonvoy credit card, then the comparison doesn’t necessarily make sense.)
Points the next time you feel it’s worth redeeming points for a stay – both on the credit card you use to make the purchase (for example, the Bonvoy credit card earns 5x points on Marriott and SPG hotels), as well as . points you earn from the loyalty program itself. Marriott Bonvoy members earn 5-10 points per US dollar spent at most properties, and elite members benefit from bonus multipliers depending on their elite level.
Also, paid rates are often eligible for point promotions like Marriott’s seasonal MegaBonus event or the current Double Take promotion, while point refunds are not. Those bonus points, earned from hotel stays you’ll make during your trip, can add up quickly.
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And take advantage of the regular opportunity to get 10% cash back on your checkout rate when you go through Ebates, and it’s not uncommon to get 10-15% off your entire hotel stay when you consider all these deals and promotions. If you’re ready to pay cash over redemption points, then stacking up as many money-saving techniques as you can can really help sweeten the deal.
When I started focusing on hotel points, I had just graduated from university, so the prospect of staying in a nice hotel for free was very attractive.
I remember my first hotel redemption: a night at the Seattle Renaissance during Valentine’s Day when I used some points I earned from my first Chase Marriott Visa. I received a small upgrade to a corner room as a Silver Elite member, as well as complimentary chocolate covered strawberries and wine service on Valentine’s Day. I have BUYED.
Keep in mind, almost four years ago I was traveling around Europe as a penniless university student scrambling to get a hostel bed for as little as €20 a night. Shared bathrooms, bunk beds and ham and cheese sandwiches for breakfast – that sort of thing. It’s far from a glamorous existence, but it’s worth it to see the world at a reasonable price.
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At that time, when I realized the possibilities offered by hotel loyalty programs, my thought process was as follows: “I’d better take advantage of this opportunity to stay at a nice hotel for free while it lasts. I mean, I will
Find it worth paying full price for a hotel when I can pay $50 a night for a cheap hostel or Airbnb.
Well, I was wrong. Granted, the creep lifestyle is a very real thing, and now that I have some discretionary income, my tastes seem to have evolved to a point where
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