I’ve posted about the usefulness of Marriott Gift Cheques before. Marriott Platinum members can get $1000 in $50 increments for 135,000 Marriott Rewards points. It’s a great value for hotels that have a high rewards category (i.e. require a large amount of points) but have relatively low paid rates. Good examples would be Caribbean resorts during low season or some Eastern European places.
We decided to use Gift Cheques at the Budapest Marriott and Prague Marriott. In Budapest, it was no issue. I did the math before I arrived, converting my dollars into Hungarian Forint, in order to estimate how many cheques I would need to check out. While we there, the exchange rate actually improved, and I had even less leftover on my bill than I expected.
My dad went to check out of the Prague Marriott before I did, and he sent me a note after he left:
Here’s one for your blog: Went down to check out this AM–showed my award cheques and they said I would owe like $450 which seemed high. (That included our tour and taxi). I asked for calculator and my figure came out around $340. I questioned them and was told that they converted at 14 to the dollar. What BS! I paid on my credit card and will use the cheques during business travel.
14 to the dollar!??! As of today, the CZK currency converts at 18.4 to the dollar (it wasn’t much different last week when we were there). And they wanted to give us 14? That’s a swindle by over 20%.
That really annoyed me. After reading that, of course I decided to use my credit card as well. I did need just a bit of local currency more before leaving so I went to convert $60 USD to CZK at the hotel on the same day, and I got the receipt with the conversion rate: 15.9 CZK to the dollar.
Okay so WTF? First of all, at 15.9, they are taking a cut of over 10%, which I find high for most hotels, but according to Marriott policy, gift cheques are supposed to be treated like cash. And if the Prague Marriott is converting gift cheques at a different rate than what they’re converting cash to, then they’re trying to double screw users of Gift Cheques.
So basically the Marriott in Prague is trying to take over 20% of gift cheques users’ money for themselves and bury it in an awful exchange rate, one that they don’t even apply to cash transactions. It seems very unethical to me, and I’ve written a letter to Marriott Rewards. If hotels are going to try and screw us on conversion rates, how can we be sure that $1000 in Marriott Gift Cheques is actually worth $1000? According to the Prague Marriott, $1000 USD in Gift Cheques is only worth $760.