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When it comes to redeeming your hard-earned points and miles, you’ll generally get the best value by booking award flights or free hotel stays. However, there are exceptions to this rule, especially when it comes to one-of-a-kind events. We’ve written about many of these options in the past, including the Hilton HHonors Auction Platform and IHG Auctions. Today I want to take a refreshed look at two in particular and highlight some crazy redemption options you currently have available in both the SPG Moments and Marriott Experiences programs.
This is especially applicable given that as of September, you can link your SPG and Marriott accounts and freely transfer points back and forth between the two. This means that SPG members can now redeem points for Marriott Experiences (and vice versa). If you’re a loyal customer of either SPG or Marriott, you may never have looked closely at the other’s program, but with this new transfer option, now’s a great time!
A few things to note about the packages available on both of these platforms:
- Some are fixed price items, while others are auctions. Be sure to identify which is which when you’re going to redeem, as a live auction carries no guarantee that you’ll be able to score the experience.
- Auction prices below are based on the lowest bid you’d need to submit at the time of writing. This doesn’t mean that you can definitely purchase it at that price, since the auction isn’t over and the current high bidder may have an even higher maximum. For example, let’s say an auction has a bid increment of 500 points and a current top bid of 50,000 points. That bidder may have actually bid 60,000 points, so if you bid 50,500, he will automatically jump back ahead at 51,000.
- The “values” are based on TPG’s valuations. In his most recent version, he pegged Marriott points at 0.9 cents apiece and SPG points at 2.7 cents apiece, so I’ve identified how much value you’d be giving up by redeeming points in this fashion.
With that out of the way, here’s a look at some of the craziest redemptions in both programs at the time of writing:
Dine in a life-sized gingerbread house
If you’ve ever dreamed of living in a land of sugary deliciousness, the Marriott Experiences Marketplace has you covered. This December, you and five guests can dine in a life-sized gingerbread house at the Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain in Tucson, AZ. The giant abode was built with 400 pounds of honey, 856 pounds of sugar, 350 pounds of flour, 100 pounds of ginger powder and 50 pounds of cinnamon. It features a family-sized table and even a working fireplace! The package includes a four-course menu, mini gingerbread houses for children to decorate and a family photo with Santa.
Date(s): December 3, 10, 14 or 21
Points Required: 90,000 Marriott points
Value of Points Required: $810
John Legend at Atlantis
Another intriguing package could appeal to music lovers who are looking to getaway for New Years. The Marriott Experiences Marketplace is currently offering an auction for a three-night package to see John Legend at the legendary (pun intended) Atlantis Paradise Island Resort in the Bahamas. The package includes two VIP tickets to the concert on December 30, two hours of unlimited beer, wine and Champagne during the concert, two private shallow-water dolphin encounters and three nights in a terrace view room from December 29 – January 1 (including taxes, resort fees and daily housekeeping gratuities). You even have the possibility of an upgrade (based on availability) to allow you and your guest to ring in the New Year in style.
Date(s): December 29 – January 1
Points Required (at time of writing): 155,000 Marriott points
Value of Points Required: $1,395
End of Auction: November 16
2017 Presidential Inauguration
If you’re a politics buff and have never visited Washington, D.C. during a presidential inauguration, now’s your chance! The Newseum, an “interactive museum of free expression” right on Pennsylvania Avenue, is offering a full-day celebration on January 20 as the next president of the United States takes the oath of office, and you can score two tickets by redeeming Marriott points! You and your guest will enjoy complimentary food and drinks throughout the day, exclusive programming with journalists discussing the election, views of the city and US Capitol as the inaugural parade passes by the museum and complete access to all of the exhibits and galleries beginning at 8am, including special games and activities to recognize the historic day.
Date: January 20, 2017
Points Required: 175,000 Marriott points
Value of Points Required: $1,575
Other option: There’s also another package for the inauguration that includes the same access to the Newseum but also throws in two nights at the Marriott Marquis, Washington, D.C. (including MClub Lounge access, complimentary valet parking and Wi-Fi, and a keepsake gift). However, this is an auction and bids are already up to 250,000 Marriott points, so you may be better off with the above option.
While the list of packages available through the Marriott Experiences Marketplace may not intrigue you, the site is already building anticipation for Super Bowl LI experiences, so be sure to check back for these and other new offers as they are added.
Private Dinner at l’Arpege
Dining at a Michelin three-star restaurant can be a one-in-a-lifetime experience, but what if that was a private dinner with the chef? Well, SPG Moments is offering just that at the renowned l’Arpege with Chef Alain Passard. You and a guest will start off by enjoying a welcome champagne reception with Passard, followed by a kitchen tour led by Passard himself. You’ll then enjoy a multi-course tasting menu with wine pairings, and you’ll leave with a signed copy of his book, The Art of Cooking with Vegetables. If you’re a foodie and will be in Paris in mid-November, this is an experience you don’t want to miss!
Date: November 17, 2016
Points Required (at time of writing): 9,501 Starpoints
Value of Points Required: $256.53
End of Auction: November 3
Note: There’s also an auction for the same package plus a one-night stay in a junior suite at the Westin Paris Vendôme including breakfast. However, the current price of that package is 67,500 points, and you could book a standard award room for just 25,000 points, so you’d probably be better off booking the dinner-only package and an award stay separately.
The Hangover Suite in Las Vegas
If you love the original Hangover movie and have always wanted to check out the Wolf Pack’s infamous suite first-hand, now’s your chance. SPG Moments is offering a two-night stay in that suite at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas for you and up to seven guests. The package includes accommodations, a limo ride from the airport, a $500 on-property dining credit and bottle service and a table at Omnia to see Calvin Harris on Friday November 11 (gratuity not included). This is a perfect chance to live it up in Sin City for a bachelor/bachelorette party or simply a VIP weekend on the town.
Dates: November 11 – 13
Points Required (at time of writing): 100,292 Starpoints
Value of Points Required: $2,707.88
End of Auction: November 4
Explore Cuba with Lindblad Expeditions and National Geographic
Cuba has become the destination of 2016 thanks to the new ease on travel restrictions and numerous commercial flights now operating. If you aren’t interested in planning your own itinerary and have a ton of Starpoints to spare, you can book an 11-day Cuba tour in December through SPG Moments. The land and sea combination package starts on December 14 and includes three days in Havana (with accommodations at the historic Hotel Nacional) followed by a seven-night cruise around the island nation.
Dates: December 14 – 24
Points Required (at time of writing): 201,500 Starpoints
Value of Points Required: $5,440.50
Boosting your Marriott and SPG Accounts
These packages are just a sampling of the items available through the Marriott Experiences Marketplace and SPG Moments, and while many will be gone within a few months (or even a few days), new ones are being added all the time. If you want to boost either your Marriott or SPG accounts, the fastest way to do that is through the programs’ co-branded credit cards:
- Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card ($85 annual fee): Currently offering a sign-up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in your first three months. You can earn an additional 7,500 points when you add an authorized user and they make a purchase in the first three months.
- Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express ($95 annual fee that’s waived the first year): Currently offering a sign-up bonus of 25,000 Starpoints after you use your new card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first three months
Remember that both of these cards now offer bonus points at both Marriott and Starwood properties, making either one a great option for your stays.
You also have the option of transferring Ultimate Rewards points to Marriott, but I personally find that I can get much better value out of other partners like Hyatt and United. Nevertheless, if you’re eying a specific package and need to top off your Marriott account, this could be a good option.
Programs like the Marriott Experiences Marketplace and SPG Moments can offer some tremendous value for your hard-earned points and miles, as TPG himself discovered back in 2014. Both of these platforms give their members access to premier culinary experiences, sporting events and entertainment performances that may not be possible to recreate on your own. While the six I identify above may fall into the “crazy” category, it’s truly up to you to identify when it makes sense to redeem your points in this way.
Have you redeemed points through Marriott Experiences or SPG Moments?
Featured image of the Panorama II yacht courtesy of Lindblad Expeditions.
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