Today is the final day of the Marriott MegaBonus offer that ran September 15, 2013 to January 15, 2014. One of my favorite hotel bonus promotions the past few years is Marriott MegaBonus.
The deal is simple. Stay twice and earn a free night certificate.
The main limitation is the free night certificate offer for most base member guests was limited to category 1-4 hotels and there was a limit of two earned certificates per promotion period. Each Marriott Rewards MegaBonus promotion period covers about 3 to 4 months.
Still, earning six free night certificates per year for Marriott brand hotels on as few as 12 nights of paid stays was a fantastic deal in the hotel loyalty world.
Then, last year’s shift of hundreds of hotels from Marriott Rewards category 4 to category 5 resulted in the MegaBonus certificates losing some of their appeal. Marriott Rewards May 16, 2013 hotel category reassignment: An Overview (February 13, 2013).
In response, Marriott Rewards bumped the offer to category 1-5 certificates for the past two MegaBonus promotions in summer and fall 2013. The limit of two earned certificates per member remained.
I stayed one night at the Courtyard Detroit Airport last Saturday night and earned my second Marriott Rewards category 1-5 free night certificate.
Next Marriott MegaBonus 2014 February 1-April 30
The next MegaBonus starts February 1 through April 30, 2014. Unfortunately, Marriott Rewards shifted the standard offer back down to category 1-4 hotels.
Sure some members have different offers for points, but those are truly Marriott frequent guests. I drop into Marriott hotels primarily to earn the MegaBonus certificates and then move on to other hotel program offers.
Four Marriott brand hotels stays from February to April 2013 for five nights earned two Marriott Rewards category 1-4 free night certificates. These are the two certificates I redeemed last week for two nights at The Henry, Dearborn, Michigan. The Henry is a category 4 Autograph Collection hotel that was a Ritz-Carlton until 2010.
As a Marriott Rewards Silver elite, I registered for the 2014 MegaBonus category 1-4 offer last month. I tweeted about my disappointment at the downgraded offer after having the category 5 certificate offer the past two promotions. Marriott Rewards on Twitter suggested I call customer service and ask about upgrading to the Marriott Rewards Category 1-5 offer.
The result of my phone call is my account has been noted and when I call them in May 2014, after the promotion ends, my certificates will supposedly be changed from category 4 to category 5 certificates. That is what I was told by Marriott Rewards customer service last month.
The reason Marriott Rewards Category 4 certificates are far less useful in 2014
The standard offer for the past few years was a free reward night certificate for a category 1-4 hotel. Marriott Rewards had one of the best distributions among hotel loyalty programs for hotels in the lower categories.
One year ago, there were 82% of all Marriott brand hotels worldwide in categories 1-4. After May 15, 2013 that distribution dropped to 72% of all hotels. About half of all category 4 hotels moved up to category 5 in May 2013.
The result is a Marriott category 1-4 certificate one year ago would put you in all but some 700 hotels worldwide. Today, the category 4 certificates are not valid for around 1,100 hotels.
The Henry in Dearborn, Michigan was a good use for my two category 4 hotel certificates last week that were set to expire in April 2014.
Looks like I spent about $500 for five Marriott brand hotel nights after tax based on the points earned from these four hotel stays in February and April 2013. The two free nights at The Henry last week had a published rate around $350 after tax. My four paid stays in 2013, all hotel rooms that I needed for travel, offered a 70% rebate on the money I spent to stay at four Marriott brand hotels last year.
Or this could be viewed as staying 7 hotel nights with Marriott for $500 including two nights at the upper-upscale The Henry, Marriott Autograph Collection. That is an average of $71.50 per hotel night after tax.
This could be the time for you to try Marriott Rewards if you haven’t yet.
Once again, as I so often find, hotel loyalty programs offer room rates as low as Priceline or Hotwire when planning hotel stays strategically to maximize high value promotion offers.
Check your Marriott Rewards account and register for the upcoming MegaBonus offer running February 1-April 30, 2014. You can also try to get upgraded to the category 1-5 certificate offer, if that is not posted for your account. The advice I received from Marriott Rewards customer service when I called was next time to call before registering for MegaBonus and the change might be possible in advance of the promotion. Your results may vary.
I’ll find out in May 2014 if my certificates are changed to category 5.
I certainly hope so. Marriott Rewards Category 5 opens up hundreds more hotels for free nights.
Ric Garrido of Monterey, California is writer and owner of Loyalty Traveler.
Loyalty Traveler shares news and views on hotels, hotel loyalty programs and vacation destinations for frequent guests.