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Buy Marriott Gift Cards for 20% Off! Ricky May 11, 2020

Buy Marriott Gift Cards for 20% Off!

As travellers around the world begin to chart out their future trips, travel brands are starting to think about the best ways to drive future business while recognizing that this is a time when consumers value flexibility more than anything else.

To that end, Marriott is launching a series of new travel offers aimed at those who would like to travel this summer and beyond, the most compelling of which is 20% off Marriott gift cards from today until May 17.

20% Off Marriott Gift Cards

During the promotion period, you can buy Marriott gift cards, denominated in US dollars, at a 20% discount directly from the Marriott website. The gift cards are available in the following denominations:

  • US$50 gift card for US$40

  • US$100 gift card for US$80

  • US$250 gift card for US$200

  • US$500 gift card for US$400

  • US$1,000 gift card for US$800

These gift cards do not expire, so they’re potentially useful for as much future travel as you’d anticipate, subject to a maximum limit of US$5,000 worth of gift cards per person per credit card per day. As the promotion runs for seven days, that means that each individual can buy up to US$35,000 worth of gift cards under the promotion, which should give you plenty of latitude for purchasing however much you’d need.

Note that the promotion is only valid on online purchases of electronic gift cards, rather than in-person purchases from any Marriott hotel that sells physical gift cards. 

Moreover, they can only be used to settle bills for room rates and incidental charges at the end of a stay, so cannot be applied towards prepaid hotel rates; furthermore, Bulgari, Design Hotels, Homes & Villas by Marriott International, and The Ritz-Carlton Destination Club are four Marriott brands that do not accept gift cards as a payment method.

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Should You Buy Marriott Gift Cards at 20% Off?

Marriott is the world’s largest hotel chain with a notable presence in the vast majority of destinations around the world, and I’m sure that many Canadian travellers are bound to frequent their properties at some point. Indeed, in Miles & Points circles, Marriott has been far and away the most popular choice for Canadians because of their popular Amex Bonvoy co-branded credit cards.

If you can see yourself staying with Marriott in the near future once it’s safe to travel again, then this is a fantastic opportunity to score a 20% discount on your stay, so I imagine many of us will be interested in making a sizeable purchase. 

In many cases, getting a 20% discount on the cash rate can be a better deal than redeeming Marriott Bonvoy points, which helps you save your points for more valuable redemptions in the future.

Indeed, these days I aim for a target valuation of 0.9cpp (CAD) or 0.6cpp (USD) against the cash rate when I redeem points. With a 20% discount on the cash rate in play, I’d instead be aiming for a value that’s higher by 20% – thus, 1.08cpp (CAD) or 0.72cpp (USD) – when considering a points redemption.

Even though it’s clearly in the best interest of anyone who might stay with Marriott to make a gift card purchase, the question remains as to what amount of gift cards would make for a wise purchase.

Consider that cashflow is relatively tight for all individuals and businesses at this juncture. Marriott’s promotion is clearly designed to bring in some much-needed cash in the short term, so how much of your own cash are you willing to put up to cover your future accommodation expenses at a 20% discount, keeping in mind that there may still a great deal of uncertainty about the nature and timing of your future trips?

That’s something that only every traveller can decide for themselves, but I’ll share some of my reasoning in deciding how much in gift cards I’ll be buying. 

My average annual spending figures with Marriott over the past few years have fallen in the range of US$3,000 to US$5,000 (leaving me hopelessly off-course from the top-tier Ambassador Elite status, unfortunately). I also generally shy away from prepaid rates, opting for the flexible rate on most of my trips even if it’s slightly more expensive.

While I’d love to buy enough gift cards to cover a whole year’s worth of hotel stays at 20% off, I think it’s also important to heavily discount that amount thanks to the overall uncertainty surrounding many of my trips. After all, there’s always a fair chance that even as someone who’s itching to hit the road as soon as it’s safe to do so, I may not end up being able to take some of the trips that I’ve planned at the moment.

Therefore, I’ll probably end up purchasing roughly US$1,000 to US$1,500 worth of gift cards, for an out-of-pocket spending of US800 to US$1,200. I’d be pretty happy with the savings there (especially when considering the favourable return when buying with the right credit card, as we’ll discuss below), while also avoiding putting up too much upfront cash at this time of uncertainty.

Which Credit Card Should You Use to Buy Points?

One Mile at a Time confirms that Marriott gift cards purchased at 20% off will count as a direct Marriott purchase, which codes under the travel category. This opens up some opportunities for additional savings by making your purchase with the right credit card.

Since the purchase is denominated in USD, a US-issued Marriott co-branded card like the Amex US Bonvoy Brilliant or the Amex US Bonvoy Business would maximize your return while also avoiding any foreign transaction fees. Both of these cards would earn you 6 Bonvoy points per USD spent on the purchase; if we value those points at 0.6cpp (USD) each, then that translates into an additional 3.6% savings.

By using the Bonvoy Brilliant, the purchase would count towards the card’s US$300 annual Marriott credit as well. Even if a Bonvoy Brilliant cardholder didn’t intend to purchase any gift cards for future stays, they’d do well to buy US$400 worth of gift cards for US$320, thus scoring them an extra US$80’s worth of Marriott credit compared to if they had simply redeemed the card’s US$300 annual credit directly at a future date.

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If you don’t have any US credit cards on hand, then a Canadian-issued Amex Bonvoy card, like the Amex Bonvoy Card or the Amex Bonvoy Business Card, might be an appealing option as well.

You’d earn 5 Bonvoy points per CAD spent, which translates into around 7 Bonvoy points per USD spent at the current exchange rates. This would then be offset by the 2.5% foreign transaction fee, as well as the fact that the FX rates could always fluctuate by the time you redeem the gift card in the future.

However, with the gift cards coding as a Marriott purchase, there’s one clear winner in terms of the best Canadian credit card to use for this promotion: the Amex Platinum Card with its Double Rewards promotion. As a travel purchase, your Marriott gift cards will earn 4 MR points per CAD spent under Double Rewards (which equates to about 5.6 MR points per US dollar spent)! 

Under Double Rewards, you could then redeem those MR points against statement purchases (potentially against the gift card purchase itself) at a rate of 1,000 MR points = $20. That means that you could score a further 8% return on your purchase; factor in the 2.5% foreign transaction fee, and we arrive at a total discount of 25.5% on your future Marriott hotel stays. 

The above assumes, of course, that the gift cards code under the travel category. Since it’s been confirmed that the gift cards will be a direct Marriott purchase, I don’t see how they could code as anything else, but we’ll probably need to see a few actual data points in order to say for sure.

Later: Buy Marriott Bonvoy Points with a 60% Bonus

After the gift card promotion ends on May 18, Marriott will begin selling Bonvoy points with a 60% bonus until June 30.

That’s equivalent to a value of 0.78cpp (USD) when buying Bonvoy points, which I don’t personally find worthwhile given that my valuation of Bonvoy points is lower at 0.6cpp (USD). 

Moreover, these purchases would be customarily processed through Points.com rather than through Marriott directly, which means that the above-mentioned credit card optimizations aren’t available ether. Nevertheless, there’s still value to be extracted here if you have a plan to redeem the Bonvoy points for exceptionally high value, such as a stay at a high-end property like the St. Regis Bali or the Al Maha Desert Resort Dubai

Conclusion

Marriott is offering a 20% sale on gift cards until May 17, which is a great opportunity of those of us who are planning some upcoming trips in the future to get a blanket discount on our upcoming hotel stays.

If you stay frequently with Marriott, generally book flexible hotel rates, and don’t mind dropping a bit of cash right now in exchange for cheaper hotels in the future, then this is certainly a tempting opportunity, especially when combined with the bonus multipliers on the Amex Platinum Card under Double Rewards.

Top Offers

American Express Marriott Bonvoy Card

51,000 Marriott Bonvoy points
upon spending $3,000 in the first three months

  • Enough points for up to 10 free nights
  • 5x points at Marriott hotels
  • 15 elite qualifying nights
  • Anniversary free night certificate worth up to 35,000 points
Signup bonus
51,000 Marriott Bonvoy points
Annual fee
$120
18 Comments
  1. Avatar
    Leah

    Worth it for Australia Marriott stays. As they charge a credit card fee of 2-3%!

  2. Avatar
    Jason

    I made the mistake by accidentally clicking on the wrong eGiftcard without the banner. Customer service mentioned a lot of people have made this same mistake. That means you can’t set your amount you want to purchase but have to buy the predenominated ones. If you do not have a USD credit card, I got hit with exchange rate when I had to ask them to cancel my initial order so FYI. I used CAD Amex Bonvoy card. I plan to use this card not in the US so I’ll see how much I end up actually saving but I know it won’t be 20%. Better than nothing.

  3. Avatar
    BC

    Can gift cards be used to pay for the seaplane transfers and upgrade costs at the St. Regis Maldives?

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      Yes, as these are charged to your final room bill and settled upon checkout.

  4. Avatar
    Santiago

    Can we use the $200 Travel credit in Personal Amex Platinum for this purchase?

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      I don’t believe so, as that travel purchase needs to be made via Amex Travel Services.

  5. Avatar
    Dhiraj

    Ricky,

    A couple of questions –

    1. Do stays booked with gift cards (especially these) accumulate Bonvoy points at the regular rate (i.e. 10x + whatever elite status bonus one is entitled to)? I know these stays will count towards elite night count, but was curious on points part.

    2. I also read that from next week (and until June 30, 2020) Marriott will offer 60% bonus on purchased Bonvoy points, effectively making the purchase at 0.78USD per Bonvoy point. Would you recommend opting for that promotion rather than the Gift card one? For USD1,400, we are looking at USD 1,750 GC vs. 180,000 Bonvoy points (or 75,000 miles in almost any valuable FF airline program, including Alaska! – that can essentially get a very generous first class flight!)? While I know Bonvoy loyalists can get a great value out of 20% discount GC, I feel that points redemption with Bonvoy (despite their regular devaluation), almost always get more than USD 0.1 per Bonvoy point. In that sense, buying points gives me both flexibility to use wherever I want to use it (hotel/flights), great value during this promotion, while also earning elite nights (if I chose to redeem on hotel stays).

    Curious to know everyone’s thoughts!

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      The method of payment doesn’t affect the points earned, so you should still earn Bonvoy points as normal.

      I’ve addressed the 60% bonus on points purchases at the end of this post. I don’t think it’s quite as good a deal, since the general value in Bonvoy points has deteriorated significantly in recent years. It would only be a better deal if you’re mainly looking for high-value stays at luxury properties, where the points rate is a higher-than-20% discount compared to the cash price.

    2. Avatar
      Dhiraj

      Sorry, I obviously got my currency denomination wrong here. The purchase promotion will effectively cost you 0.78 (US) cent per Bonvoy. Also, the Bonvoy points usually yield 1 US (cent) per point redemption value!

  6. Avatar
    Robert

    Can these be used against any currency in which the hotel is booked in?

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      Yes, but see my reply to Mehrdad’s comment below. Individual hotels may impose an arbitrary premium when converting from the local currency to USD, which would cost you more than if you simply paid with a No FX Fee credit card in the local currency.

      1. Avatar
        Frank M

        That has not been my experience. I have used Bonvoy gift cards (in $US) at non-US$ properties and it always swipes at the current exchange rate almost exactly. I don’t believe local hotels have any control over this transaction. Obviously as a Canadian buying in US$ imposes a level of risk/reward (depending on the value of the US$), I have never encountered a "premium" set by any hotel.

  7. Avatar
    Jane

    Also not a bad way to start meeting the MSR on a new Amex Personal Platinum.

  8. Avatar
    les dorgo

    What about using the AMEX USA plat for 5X points and transferring them to Canada.

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      Come to think of it, the Amex US Green Card should earn 3x US MR points, which would convert to 4.2 Canadian MR points (higher than the Platinum Card).

      You only get to make this transfer once per year, however, so it’s debatable if that incremental gain is worthwhile.

    2. Avatar
      Ricky

      The Amex US Platinum doesn’t give 5x on general travel, only airfare and prepaid hotels.

  9. Avatar
    Mehrdad

    Considering the arbitrary exchange premium that each hotel has, would you recommend this promo if my hotel stays are not at a hotel billed in USD?

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      Good point, as the exchange premium can often be a few percentage points, which eats into your 20% savings. I’d recommend thinking carefully about which hotel stays you’re likely to make (remember that some overseas hotels still bill in USD) and buy gift cards with the expectation of getting 20% off any USD-denominated hotel stays, and potentially 15–20% off hotel stays in other countries.

Ricky

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