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Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Jeremy, who got a great redemption value from Marriott Rewards points. Here’s what he had to say:

My wife and I were planning a trip around Africa, and one of the highlights was to be Victoria Falls on the Zambia/Zimbabwe border. I knew my wife and I would stay for a few nights in Livingstone on the Zambian side. Rooms at the Protea Hotel Livingstone (part of the Marriott brand) were $245 per night, but award nights were just 10,000 points per night.

I signed up for the Marriott Rewards credit card from Chase earlier this year, just before the new Premier Plus card was announced. At the time, it offered a bonus of 75,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first three months. I already have Marriott Gold Elite status through my existing United Premier Gold status, so I didn’t need the complimentary Silver Elite status or elite night credits offered by the card, but I knew the bonus would help for the big trip we had coming up.

We took advantage of the fifth night free benefit and ended up booking five nights for just 40,000 points. The cash rate for our stay would have came to $1,229.17, so we got over 3 cents per point with this redemption by simply signing up for a credit card and maximizing the value of our points.

Jeremy did a great job identifying the points he needed and giving himself enough time to earn them before his trip. If you’re counting on a credit card bonus to pay for upcoming travel plans, I recommend a buffer of three or four months from when you first apply to when you depart. You can shorten that if you’re able to meet spending requirements quickly or if you’re confident award space will still be available at the last minute. On the other hand, you should give yourself even longer if you’re booking an award that’s in high demand.

When a new version of a rewards card hits the market, existing cardholders often have to decide whether to upgrade or keep the card they have. You won’t be eligible to earn a sign-up bonus on the new Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card if you already have the older version, so unless you receive an upgrade offer, then the decision boils down to which benefits will serve you best. The Premier Plus card comes with a better anniversary free night certificate and higher earning rates, so I think upgrading makes sense. However, you might prefer to hang on to the Premier card if you earn a lot of elite night credits through spending, since that benefit is absent from the new card, though you can earn Gold status by spending $35,000 on the card in an account year.

I love this story and I want to hear more like it! To thank Jeremy 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 info@thepointsguy.com; 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 image by prasit_chansareekorn / Getty Images. 

American Express® Gold Card

With some great bonus categories, the American Express Gold Card has a lot going for it. The card offers 4x points at US restaurants, at US supermarkets (up to $25,000; then 1x), and 3x points on flights booked directly with airlines or through amextravel.com. It is currently offering a welcome bonus of 35,000 bonus points after you spend $2,000 in the first three months.

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More Things to Know
  • Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $2,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 3 months.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. restaurants. Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • Earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with The Gold Card at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Shake Shack, and Ruth's Chris Steak House. This is an annual savings of up to $120. Enrollment required.
  • $100 Airline Fee Credit: up to $100 in statement credits per calendar year for incidental fees at one selected qualifying airline.
  • Choose to carry a balance with interest on eligible charges of $100 or more.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
See Rates & Fees
Annual Fee
$250
Balance Transfer Fee
See Terms
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
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.