Taking My Dad to Baseball Spring Training — Reader Success Story
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Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Matt, who got great value on hotel awards for two separate trips to Florida. Here’s what he had to say:
My dad is a huge Washington Nationals fan, so in the fall of 2016 when I was trying to figure out what to get him for Christmas, I knew I wanted to do something baseball-related. The team had a new spring training facility in West Palm Beach opening in 2017, so I decided to look into booking a trip for us to check it out.
I’ve had the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from Amex for years, so I had a significant balance of Starpoints. I started researching Starwood hotels in West Palm Beach and ran into a roadblock: there were none. The closest one I could find was over 40 miles away from the ballpark, so I decided to hold off on booking anything.
Right around the same time, the merger between SPG and Marriott was finalized, and they started allowing members to transfer points between the two programs. I did a quick search on the Marriott website and found a nice Residence Inn less than 10 miles from the ballpark for 25,000 Marriott Rewards points per night. I transferred 34,000 Starpoints to Marriott at a 1:3 ratio, and then booked five nights for 100,000 points thanks to the fifth night free benefit. Marriott also matched my Starwood Gold status, so we were upgraded from a studio to a two-bedroom suite. It was perfect! The normal rate for the room was over $350 per night, so I was able to get a value of over 5 cents per Starpoint.
Fast forward to this past Christmas, when my Mom decided to take my Dad on a return trip to spring training. The same Residence Inn we stayed in before was going for over $2,400, so I looked into it to see how I could reduce the cost. I didn’t have as many Starpoints saved up, but I had just received an email offer to buy them at a 35% discount. I bought the maximum of 30,000 points for $683, and then transferred them to Marriott with 4,000 of my own points to book another five night stay. My mom was ecstatic that I saved her over $1,700 on the hotel, and she’s using some of that savings to buy better tickets and a new jersey for my dad.
The ability to transfer points between Marriott and SPG is one of the best benefits to come out of the merger between the two companies. I hope they don’t get rid of it anytime soon!
The integration of Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest has been a boon for award travelers. Since the two programs merged in 2016, members have been able to match elite status and transfer points freely between them, but unique benefits (like Marriott’s Hotel + Air packages and Starwood’s airline transfer partners) have remained intact. I’m with Matt in wanting those opportunities last, and after Marriott recently signed co-branded card agreements with both Chase and Amex, I think we have good reasons to be hopeful.
Matt’s story is a good example of why the Starwood Amex cards are a good option for everyday spending. If Matt had been using the Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card over the years, his balance might not have been sufficient to book that initial five-night stay. Marriott has announced plans to offer new co-branded cards for both programs in 2018; we don’t yet know what the benefits on those cards will look like, but higher earning rates should be a priority.
I love this story and I want to hear more like it! To thank Matt for sharing his experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending him a $200 airline gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you. Please email your own award travel success stories to firstname.lastname@example.org; be sure to include details about how you earned and redeemed your rewards, and put “Reader Success Story” in the subject line. Feel free to also submit your most woeful travel mistakes. If your story is published in either case, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure.
Safe and happy travels to all, and I look forward to hearing from you!
Feature photo of Washington Nationals manager Dusty Baker greeting fans during batting practice. (Photo by Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post via Getty Images)
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