Five Strategies to Use Marriott Hotel Points for a Cheap Vacation

Marriott Hotel in Baltimore

It doesn’t matter whether you use up all your points for one night in a swank hotel or stretch them out in a more budget-friendly location. Either way, you can cut the cost of your vacation by using hotel rewards. Photo: m01229

In a lot of ways, vacations can be as cheap or as expensive as you make them.

If you want to stay only in high-end resorts, for example, you should expect to shell out a ton of cash for the experience. Meanwhile, if you’ll stay almost anywhere, you can save a ton by shopping around for the best hotel rates and booking something cheap.

If you’re willing to think outside of the box, that’s even better. Truth be told, there are a ton of ways you can whittle down your vacation tab – and even get part of it for free.

One of the easiest ways to score free hotel nights is, and always has been, taking advantage of hotel loyalty programs. And one of the most popular programs for domestic and overseas stays is Marriott Rewards and its partner program – Ritz Carlton Rewards. Although these programs stand on their own, the points you earn in either program are redeemable for travel in both. Since this post is focused on frugal travel, let’s talk about how Marriott Rewards points work.

How to Earn Marriott Rewards points

You can earn Marriott points for completing paid stays at Marriott properties worldwide — or you can take the easy route. With the Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card, you can start building a stash of points without completing any hotel stays at all. Here are the details:

Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card

Highlights:

Whether you earn points on paid stays or take the easy way out — or both – Marriott points are pretty easy to stretch. This chart summarizes how many points you will need for each free hotel stay:

Hotel Category Points Per Night PointSavers Reward
1 7,500 6,000
2 10,000 7,500
3 15,000 10,000
4 20,000 15,000
5 25,000 20,000
6 30,000 25,000
7 35,000 30,000
8 40,000 35,000
9 45,000 40,000

As you can see, Marriott offers a “PointSavers” option that may be available for certain hotels on certain dates. It is never guaranteed, but it is always good to check to see if it’s available before you book your free nights.

And don’t forget, with Marriott Rewards, your fifth consecutive night paid with points is free. In other words, you only need to fork over enough points for four nights in order to stay five. If you want to browse through various Marriott properties to see which category your favorites fall into, you can do so here.

How to Use Marriott Points for a Cheap Vacation

Now that you know what Marriott points are worth and how to earn them, it’s time to explore how to get the most out of them. Here are five easy ways:

Strategy No. 1: Stick to Category 1 or 2 Properties

If you want to stretch your Marriott points as far as they can go, you’re better off sticking to the lowest-tier properties. Spending six nights in a Category 2 property, for example, would only cost you 50,000 Marriott points after you get your fifth night free. Lower-category properties are generally farther away from big tourist destinations and cities, but driving a few extra miles each day could be worth it for several free nights near your favorite spot.

Strategy No. 2: Talk Your Spouse Into a Card

What’s better than one sign-up bonus? Two, of course. If you want to earn as many points as possible, you and your spouse can sign up and pool your points for either a long stay or a shorter stay at a higher-end property. The choice is yours.

Strategy No. 3: Opt for a Shorter, Fancier Stay

If you’re not looking for a weeklong vacation, it will be much easier to rack up enough points for a weekend (or even a long weekend) at a mid-tier property. For example, one signup bonus is enough for three nights at a Category 3 property … and almost three nights at a Category 4 property.

Strategy No. 4: Tack Your Free Stays on the End of Your Regular Vacation

Already going somewhere? Check the area for Marriott properties and consider tacking your free nights onto the beginning or end of the stay you already have planned. Since simply getting somewhere is often a major chunk of your vacation expense, I can’t think of a better way to prolong your trip than by earning a few more free nights.

Strategy No. 5: Wait 12 Months to Redeem Your Free Night

The Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card comes with a free night at a Category 1-5 property after your first year of card ownership. If you accrue points for 12 months and wait it out, you could score yet another free night to use in conjunction with the nights you book with points.

The bottom line: It’s easy to earn Marriott Rewards points and even easier to use them to cut down on the costs of your trip. And if you can get part of your trip for free, that just leaves more money to spend on the things that matter most.

Have you ever earned or used Marriott points? What is your favorite Marriott property?

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