Marriott has announced it’s fall promo. They’re bringing back Mega Bonus, which will likely offer most members a chance at a couple free nights during the promo period.
The promo period is a long one, running from September 15, 2013 all the way to January 15, 2014. Since you only need 4 stays to max out this bonus (assuming you get the 2 free nights) it shouldn’t be too hard to achieve over the course of 4 months.
Marriott has traditionally allowed people to change to different version of their promos, and according to this Milepoint thread it seems the same is true for this current promo. One person on the thread reported being able to change from 2 nights at a category 5 to 3 nights at a category 4.
I’m not a huge fan of the Marriott program, but I think the 3 nights at a category 4 is likely a better deal for most people than 2 at a category 5. There aren’t a ton of premium properties in category 5, though you can judge for yourself by pulling up the full list here. A few examples of more aspirational properties in category 5 are:
Renaissance Boca Raton
Residence Inn Amelia Island
Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa
Courtyard King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel
Renaissance Wein Hotel, Vienna (Austria)
Renaissance Naples Hotel Mediterraneo
I can’t vouch for any of these properties but they are in some of the more desirable locations for travel. But, there are plenty of destinations in category 4, so you might be able to find better value in 3 free nights at a property that may be very similar to a lot of the category 5 offerings.
A couple of notes about the promo. First, the positive. Your free nights are valid for one year from the date you earn them. While I would always prefer to earn points so I can spend them any way I darn well please, giving customers a year to use up the nights is pretty reasonable.
On the down side, you can’t lump these nights into a 4-night award reservation and qualify for the Marriott benefit of a 5th night free on a 4-night award redemption.
Is this better than Starwood Preferred Guest’s Take Two Promotion? I think it depends on your stay pattern. For only 4 stays you pick up the equivalent of 50,000 Marriott Rewards points in 2 free nights. But, then you’re done for earning during the promo period. So, if you had a ton of stays, you might be better off with Take Two. For that matter, if you weren’t chasing status, you could drop 4 one-night stays on Marriott and then go hang out at some Starwood Properties for Take Two.
We haven’t seen a fall promo from Hyatt yet but I don’t expect anything earth shattering. Occupancy and average rate are up, and it shows with the Starwood and Marriott promos. I wouldn’t expect Hyatt to put something in the market that’s significantly more compelling than the competition as they look like they’re having a good year financially as well. More heads in beds means less promos, but that’s the way things go.