My Hotel Stay Only Earned 600 Points — Reader Mistake Story

Apr 3, 2019

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Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Zac, who didn’t get the rewards payday he expected on a recent trip:

I don’t often stay at Marriott hotels, and it had been a few years since I checked my Marriott Rewards account (now Bonvoy). However, I recently took a work trip to China for a few weeks, and we were booked to stay in a Marriott property. I was pretty excited to rack up points from a longer stay, so I made sure the hotel had my membership number at check-in and checkout, and assumed everything would be okay.

After I got home, however, I logged in to Marriott and saw I had zero new points. It took me a while to realize my error. It turns out that I had previously configured my Marriott account to earn Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards points instead of Marriott points. It was probably for a short-term reward I was trying to earn years ago, but I didn’t change my earning preference back to Marriott points afterwards, and I didn’t verify my account preferences before my recent stay. Instead of earning 30,000 or more Marriott points, I ended up with only 600 Southwest points total. That hurts.

The lesson I learned is to check your account preferences on hotels and car rentals beforehand. If you don’t set your preferred rewards in the most beneficial way, you can forego a lot of value!

Hotel programs often give you the option to earn airline miles in lieu of their own rewards. That’s an easy way to boost your frequent flyer account if you need to top off for an upcoming award redemption, but on average, you’ll get a better return from earning hotel points for your stays. Unless you’re taking advantage of a promotional bonus, the earning rates tend to be unfavorable when you credit to an airline program: for example, Marriott offers just 600 Rapid Rewards points per stay. That’s not bad if you book a single, inexpensive night, but it’s downright brutal on a longer stay like Zac’s. He would have been far better off earning Marriott points and then transferring at 3:1 from Bonvoy to Southwest.

In addition to checking your earning preferences, I recommend auditing your loyalty accounts from time to time. Monitoring your rewards activity will make you aware of points and miles that haven’t posted, but may also help you detect fraud or avoid recurring issues if your account isn’t set up correctly. It was too late for Zac to do anything about his stay in China, since his points had already been credited to Southwest. However, checking his account at least made him aware of the mistake, and will keep him from repeating it in the future.

I appreciate this story, and I hope it can help other readers avoid making the same mistake. In appreciation for sharing this experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending Zac a $200 airline gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you. Please email your own travel mistake stories to, and put “Reader Mistake Story” in the subject line. Tell us how things went wrong, and (where applicable) how you made them right. Offer any wisdom you gained from the experience, and explain what the rest of us can do to avoid the same pitfalls.

Feel free to also submit your best travel success stories. If your story is published in either case, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure. Due to the volume of submissions, we can’t respond to each story individually, but we’ll be in touch if yours is selected. I look forward to hearing from you, and until then, I wish you a safe and mistake-free journey!

Featured photo courtesy of JW Marriott Beijing.

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