A great way to double dip when staying at hotels is to buy hotel gift cards before you stay at the hotel. You can either earn miles/points for your purchase, or buy the gift cards at a 10-20% discount at a store like Costco. Right now you can earn Southwest Rapid Rewards points for buying $100 – $500 worth of Marriott Gift Cards by following this link. You can earn the following amount of points for the purchase levels below:
$100 Gift Card = 1,200 RR Points
$250 Gift Card = 3,000 RR Points
$500 Gift Card = 6,000 RR Points
Obviously, it really doesn’t matter what level you buy as the points earnings per dollar are the same for each level.
How Much are 6,000 Southwest points worth?
Rapid Rewards points are worth 1.67 cents/point toward “Wanna Get Away” fares, and 1 cent/point for all other fare types. I typically only redeem for Wanna Get Away fares, since it’s relatively easy to find these if you plan far enough in advance, and Southwest awards can be canceled free of charge, even at the last minute. In fact, their system is so good, you get the points credited back to your account almost instantaneously. So 6,000 points is worth $100 at 1.67 cents/point, or essentially a 20% rebate. Now, some people would rather drive to Costco and buy these gift cards for 20% off, but for those who hate the crowds at Costco, or don’t have a membership, this is a great opportunity to get 20% off your next Marriott stay.
Marriott Mega Bonus
Remember that you should also sign up for the Marriott Rewards Mega Bonus before your stay. You must register by October 31, 2012. You can earn up to 3 free nights by staying only 6 times between September 15, 2012 and January 15, 2013. According to the T&Cs, the only issue with these nights is that they are only valid for category 1-4 hotels, so forget about using these for higher end properties. However, there are still some more than acceptable properties at the category 4 level. I’ve successfully redeemed these free night certificates in the past at the Courtyard by the Marriott Downtown Portland when the lowest rate that weekend was $149, and at the Courtyard Hong Kong when the lowest rate was $225+.
The best part about this particular Mega Bonus is that these certificates expire 1 year from date of issue. Usually they expire a few months after issue, but one year gives you plenty of time to use these for a favorable redemption.
If you have hotel stays coming up, this is a great way to maximize your return. I’m not a Marriott guy, but the earning potential here is almost too much to pass up. By doubling up both bonuses, you could essentially get over a 50% discount between the Southwest points, Mega Bonus free certs, and points earned for your stay. This about it this way, for two $100 single night stays you would get…
2,400 Southwest points = $40
1 free night certificate = ~$100
2,000 Marriott points for your stay (10 points/$1) = $20
Total = $40 + $100 + $20 = $160
You just received $160 back on $200 of spend, which equates to an 80% discount! Not bad at all, and I didn’t even include the bonus points you would get if you were elite, or the cash back you could receive from booking your stay through a site like Top Cash Back.