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Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Jane, who missed an important stipulation when buying hotel points:

I was on vacation in Japan with my boyfriend, and we decided to spend an extra night in Hiroshima. Our initial plan was to go back to Tokyo to meet a friend, but she canceled the day before, so we didn’t have a hotel for that night and needed to book one immediately. The hotel we were staying in was full, so I looked frantically for a place online, but everything seemed over our budget and most hotels were full.

Finally, I saw that the Sheraton Hiroshima was available for 35,000 Marriott points. The hotel got amazing ratings, so I really wanted to book it. I had 5,000 Marriott points already in my account. I transferred 28,000 Amex points, which gave me a total of 33,000. I also knew I could buy 2,000 Marriott points online for $25, which I thought would give me the 35,000 points I needed to immediately book the hotel for the next day.

I received an email with the receipt for my purchase, and happily went to the Marriott website to book my award night, but my points didn’t arrive! After anxiously waiting an hour (and refreshing the website every 10 minutes), I re-read the receipt email and saw it said “points may take 24-48 hours to show up in your account.” In the end, the points didn’t arrive in time. We had to book a different hotel, and I had converted my valuable Amex points to Marriott points that I couldn’t use.

Don’t make my mistake of buying points too late. If you ever buy Marriott points, remember that they can take 48 hours to show up in your account!

I generally don’t recommend buying points, because the retail price of rewards tends to be inflated, and in most cases you won’t get enough value from them to justify the cost. Buying sometimes makes sense if you need to top off your balance for a valuable award, but as Jane learned, it’s not a good strategy for last-minute bookings. Marriott specifies a wait of 24-48 hours for points to reach your account (this is noted before you complete the purchase), while Hilton and Hyatt specify waits of 24 and 48 hours, respectively. Your points may be deposited more quickly, but you shouldn’t bank on it.

I think Jane also erred by transferring her Amex points to Marriott. Rooms at the Sheraton Grand Hiroshima Hotel rarely top $300 per night even at the last minute, and there are less expensive options in the vicinity. That means she was almost certainly getting a redemption value of less than one cent per point, which is low for Membership Rewards. A better move would have been to transfer 8,000 points to Choice Privileges for a night at the Comfort Hotel Hiroshima Otemachi, or to just pay cash unless minimizing out-of-pocket costs was a priority.

When you’re booking further in advance, keep in mind that Marriott lets you book awards even if you don’t have enough points in your account using the Points Advance. Once your reservation is confirmed, you have until 14 days before your stay to earn or transfer in the requisite number of points. This approach wouldn’t have worked for Jane — aside from the 14-day requirement, Sheraton and other former SPG properties are currently excluded — but it’s helpful if you want to nail down your itinerary while you wait for points to show up.

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 Jane 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 info@thepointsguy.com, 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. I look forward to hearing from you, and until then, I wish you a safe and mistake-free journey!

Featured photo courtesy of Sheraton Grand Hiroshima Hotel.

The Business Platinum® Card from American Express

Aside from the 75,000 points welcome bonus, Amex recently made huge improvements to the Business Platinum Card, including the fact that you will now earn 50% more points on purchases of $5,000 or more, earn 5x on flights and eligible hotels at Amextravel.com and cardholders will receive a $200 airline fee credit each year.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Welcome Offer: Earn up to 75,000 Membership Rewards® points.
  • Earn 50,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $10,000 and an extra 25,000 points after you spend an additional $10,000 all on qualifying purchases within your first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com.
  • Get 50% more Membership Rewards® points. That's 1.5 points per dollar, on each eligible purchase of $5,000 or more. You can get up to 1 million additional points per year.
  • 35% Airline Bonus: Use Membership Rewards® Pay with Points for all or part of a flight with your selected qualifying airline, and you can get 35% of the points back, up to 500,000 bonus points per calendar year.
  • Enroll to get up to $200 in statement credits annually by getting up to $100 semi-annually for U.S. purchases with Dell. Terms apply.
  • Get one year of Platinum Global Access from WeWork. With this membership, you can access 300+ premium, inspiring workspaces in 75+ cities. To get this exclusive offer, enroll between 2/15/2019 and 12/31/2019.
  • Terms Apply
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
N/A
Annual Fee
$595
Balance Transfer Fee
See Terms
Recommended Credit
Excellent Credit
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.