Yesterday, Southwest Airlines launched its new Hawaii routes with a massive sale. I chose to pass on this deal. There was no weekend or summer availability, and I have most of my vacation time planned out for this year. However, when American launched its counter sale with summer and weekend availability I could not say no to a weekend in Maui for $275 R/T. That left me with a need to book a hotel.
Hotels in Hawaii are absurdly expensive. Even if you move away from the major chains, a boutique hotel or AirBnB will run you about $150/night when taxes and fees are included. I despise paying that much for hotels, because I am barely there anyways. Normally, in this situation I would turn to points. However, we just got back from our European Vacation. My points banks are pretty low.
Surprisingly I do not currently have a hotel branded credit card. U ditched my Starwood card over a year ago. The benefits just didn’t justify the annual fee. My plan was to refill my hotel points bank by signing up for either the IHG Card (currently offering a 120k sign up bonus) or one of the new Marriott Bonvoy Cards (offering a 100k bonus), but was not certain which card I wanted. Naturally, I reasoned that I could use the sign bonuses from the card ose to pay for the hotels in hawaii. But with our trips being peak season, it is a big risk to wait and hope there is availability in two months when I get my bonus.
What is a budget traveler to do?
Marriott Bonvoy Points Advance
One unique, and way underutilized benefit of Marriott’s rewards program is Points Advance. This benefit allows you to reserve hotel rooms for before you earn the points necessary to pay. Even better you can easily do it online.
All you need to do is go on www.Marriott.com long into your Bonvoy account and make search for your hotel with the option to use points selected. Once you find your hotel it will let you know that you do not have sufficient points.
Most people stop here, not realizing they can still book you room despite the insufficient points. If you continue to the next page the site will let you know you can book it with Points Advance
When should I use it?
The Marriott Bonvoy Points Advance is an extremely useful tool if you know you will earn a large number of points in the near future. In my case it is because I know that I will be getting a sign up bonus in Mid-May. However, in other cases it could be that you have a lot of trips coming up and you will earn the points you need through those stays. It is great to allow you to ensure you have a room so you aren’t stuck with a sold out hotel by the time you have the points you need.
Another potential way to utilize it is when you have the points, but you want to keep your points liquid in your account. An example of this situation is if your first choice hotel is sold out and you want to lock down your second choice, but keep the points incase space opens in your first choice.
What if I don’t earn my points in time?
The great thing about the Marriott Bonvoy Points advance is there is very little risk. Cancellation is determined by the individual hotels cancellation policy. Most often you have up until 3 days prior to your stay to get a full refund. However, you have to pay your points balance 15 days prior to your stay. Short at the deadline Marriott can either cancel your reservation or convert it to a cash booking. If you are in that situation call Marriott. Their policy is to call you to discuss your options, but that may not always happen.
Marriott Bonvoy’s Points Advance benefit is extremely useful and vastly underutilized. It gives you the ability to lock in a room during peak season even if you don’t have the points.