When I previously wrote about four exciting changes to the Marriott Rewards program, we still didn’t have details on what Cash + Points awards would look like. We only knew that they would be coming in 2016. Under the current award chart, “cash and points” just means using cash for some nights and points for others. This is rarely a good deal as it means the cash portion fluctuates.
My number one rule of good award redemptions is booking an award at a fixed cost for what would otherwise be an expensive trip. Many other hotel chains have cash and points awards that include a fixed number of points and a fixed amount of cash. Now Marriott will, too.
Here’s the published award chart for Cash + Points awards when redeeming at Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels. Note that for each award level you can choose to redeem all points, or a mix of points and cash at fixed levels.
Because “Points + Cash” is equivalent to “Points Only,” you are effectively buying the extra miles that you save by redeeming fewer points. Always remember this as it means that some awards will be a better value than others. Here are the effective purchase rates for miles under the new Points + Cash award chart.
|Award Category||Points Only||Points + Cash||Cost Per Point|
|Category 1||7,500||3,000 + $45||1.00 cent|
|Category 2||10,000||5,000 + $50||1.00 cent|
|Category 3||15,000||8,000 + $55||0.79 cents|
|Category 4||20,000||11,000 + $60||0.67 cents|
|Category 5||25,000||14,000 + $65||0.59 cents|
|Category 6||30,000||17,500 + $75||0.60 cents|
|Category 7||35,000||21,000 + $90||0.64 cents|
|Category 8||40,000||24,500 + $145||0.94 cents|
|Category 9||45,000||28,000 + $220||1.29 cents|
|Tier 1||30,000||15,000 + $115||0.77 cents|
|Tier 2||40,000||20,500 + $145||0.74 cents|
|Tier 3||50,000||26,000 + $170||0.71 cents|
|Tier 4||60,000||32,000 + $260||0.93 cents|
|Tier 5||70,000||38,000 + $335||1.05 cents|
Wow, that’s a big range in price! If you want to book a Category 5 award, the extra points will cost less than 6 tenths of a cent. If you want book a Category 9 award, the extra points will cost more than double. It may be worth continuing to use all points for the most expensive awards. (The cheapest awards charge a lot of points, too.) Such patterns are common, and I’ve discussed them before when Hyatt released its own Points + Cash awards.
What I find most interesting is how these values compare between Marriott and Ritz-Carlton. You can use Marriott Rewards points for both, and in at least two cases the award chart aligns perfectly: Category 6 and Tier 1 both cost 30,000 points, and Category 8 and Tier 2 both cost 40,000 points.
So why are the Points + Cash award prices different?
You’ll pay a higher price for the missing points when you book a Points + Cash award for Tier 1 properties — roughly 30% more than for Category 6. However, you’ll pay a lower price when you book an award for Tier 2 properties — roughly 20% less than for Category 8.
Even when we’re talking about tenths of a cent, those differences add up quickly over the course of several nights when you need to “buy” tens of thousands.
Which Points + Cash Awards Are the Best Value?
For now I would focus on Ritz Carlton properties at Tier 2 and Tier 3. These seem to offer excellent value at what should be very luxurious properties.
Tier 1 is also a fine redemption, as are Categories 3-7. However, I expect that these will often have lower cash rates that aren’t worth redeeming points. You’ll always want to maximize the value of your points for what would otherwise be expensive stays. Sometimes that means paying cash to use fewer points if the amount you pay is less than the value of the points.
Let’s look at a three-night stay in London for an example of finding good redemption opportunities with Points + Cash.
The London Marriott Hotel Park Lane and the London Marriott Hotel Grosvenor Square have different rates but charge the same award price. Excluding the effect of taxes, you would obtain 0.87 cents per point in value from staying at Grosvenor Square and 1.17 cents per point in value from staying at Park Lane. Both are Category 9 hotels, which means a Points + Cash award, if available, would charge 1.29 cents per point for the cash substitute. Bad deal. Why pay more for the points when you’re getting less value? Book a normal points award for either one.
The London EDITION is a Tier 3 Ritz-Carlton property. Excluding the effect of taxes, you would obtain 0.98 cents per point in value by staying at this hotel. However, it’s an even better deal if you book a Points + Cash award. Tier 3 properties charge 0.71 cents per point for the cash substitute. So if your points are “worth” 0.98 cents and you can “buy” them for 0.71 cents, then you’re getting a good deal, perhaps saving the extra points for a longer stay at the same hotel or a future stay at a similarly valuable property.
Use Caution When Valuing Points
Valuing your points is always a subjective exercise. I use the published rates to provide an example, but if you don’t think that the hotel is worth that, use a different number. Would you only pay $200 a night if you couldn’t use points at all? (Some people would stay at a nice hotel anyway, and others would find a cheap budget motel.) Then the EDITION is giving you just 0.04 cents per point in perceived value. Don’t book a Points + Cash award because the points simply aren’t valuable enough — to you — to pay extra in order to save them for a future use.
What’s your take on these changes? Are there any properties where you look forward to redeeming Points + Cash?