This 15% discount on Marriott gift cards (or 18% bonus if you prefer the math the other way) can be a good deal if you have the cash flow right now, especially with the current 10X promo: it gives you an effective discount of 28% if you’re a Marriott cardholder. It’s interesting for those who planned on staying in Marriott hotels and also planned on paying in cash instead of points (which often makes sense since Marriott points are variable-value points that you need to use well to maximize).
Marriott is by far the best hotel rewards program for Canadians because it’s so easy to earn many many points for free hotel nights thanks to the Marriott Bonvoy Card and the American Express Cobalt Card.
So this Cyber Monday Marriott gift card deal that gives you a 15% discount for future stays at Marriott is very good… much better than paying full price anyway.
And it ends tonight already.
The Marriott gift card deal
You can take advantage of the deal on the Marriott gift card sale page.
Here are the details:
- for 2 days only (Nov. 30 & Dec. 1)
- ends at 11:59 PM Eastern
- 15% discount / 18% bonus
- gift cards don’t expire
- can’t be used for “pre-paid” rates (see below)
- codes as a Marriott purchase for card category bonuses
- gift cards are in US$ but can be used in any country
- limit of US$5,000 per day
- for gift card purchases made online only
- a few luxury brands among Marriott’s 30+ don’t accept gift cards
Here’s how the Marriott gift card discount/bonus works:
- you buy a US$100 gift card, but it costs you just US$85 (a 15% discount)
- you pay US$85, but you get a US$100 gift card (an 18% bonus)
Here are the available gift card increments:
- US$50 for US$45 (≈ C$55)
- US$100 for US$85 (≈ C$110)
- US$250 for US$212.50 (≈ C$275)
- US$500 for US$450 (≈ C$550)
- US$1,000 for US$850 (≈ C$1,100)
Is the Marriott gift card deal a good one?
It’s a pretty good deal, especially since the gift cards do not expire. For many of you, it makes a lot of sense to take advantage of this deal. Especially if you normally book the “regular” refundable rates, not prepaid non-flexible rates.
Especially with the double-dipping by stacking this deal with the current 10X promo on the Marriott Bonvoy Card. Buying US$500 in gift cards would not only cost you just C$550 (giving you a C$97 discount on future stays), you’d also earn 5,500 points with the 10X, which is more than the cost of a free night in Category 1 hotels on Off-Peak dates, or almost enough for one night on standard dates.
You get a total effective discount of 28% with that 10X, which is huge (see the stunning math below).
And unlike with flights, deals on hotels are usually pretty rare.
Gift cards can be used in almost all Marriott hotels: in 28 hotel brands that add up to over 7,000 hotels worldwide. Many hotels are currently offering discounts for future stays, but this one is among the most flexible given how many hotels are eligible.
- save your points for better uses
- earn even more points (unlike with flights, it’s still possible to earn significant amounts of points by staying in hotels—not just with credit cards)
- maybe reach Marriott Bonvoy Elite Status
It’s true that the 20% discount back in May was better, but it’s impossible to predict whether that will return (it was pretty exceptional during the pandemic when no one was traveling, which really isn’t the case anymore, at least outside of Canada).
53 of my 60 nights in Marriott hotels in 2019 were paid with points, but I’ll still buy a few gift cards to cover my upcoming cash stays and lock-in this great discount.
Marriott is also having a sale on point purchases; we’ll cover that separately.
By the way, we’ll soon have a complete guide to the Marriott program with many pro tips. Subscribe for free to get it first:
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Pros and cons of the Marriott gift card deal
Soon, we’ll cover whether hotels (or flights) will be more expensive or less expensive in the future (it’s not as obvious as many seem to think it is), but no matter your opinion, getting a 15% discount is great in both case:
- If hotels become cheaper, it’ll just be even cheaper for you; it changes nothing
- If hotels become more expensive, it’ll lessen the blow since you’ll have saved 15%
Of course, you need to be in a financial position to “prepay” a hotel purchase now for future travel and each traveler has their own opinion on the most important topic: when to start traveling again.
If that’s your case and you can prepay, getting an 18% return on your money in a few months is a rate that just can’t be beaten in these current times.
Who should take advantage of the Marriott gift card deal
To summarize, here’s who should take advantage of this Marriott gift card deal:
- those who were going to spend money on Marriott hotels anyway in the future
- those who usually avoid pre-paid rates that cannot be changed
- those who have the cash flow to have money invested in travel right now
- those who believe the Canadian dollar won’t go up significantly
Details about the Marriott gift card deal
Here are more details.
Pre-paid rates excluded
The only major caveat is that the gift card cannot be used for pre-paid rates (or “advance purchase” rates).
What does this mean?
If you’ve booked hotels with the hotel directly, you’ll already have noticed that there are almost always two available prices when you book:
- a lower “pre-paid” rate that you pay upfront online, which is a booking that cannot be changed
- a higher regular rate that you pay once you’re at the hotel, which is a booking that can be changed for free
The gift cards won’t apply to pre-paid rates, so if you normally take advantage of these because you want the lower price and your travel plans never change, this is not a good deal for you. Not at all.
But if you normally book the flexible “regular” rates to be able to change, then this gift card deal is great. It’s the exact same as paying with your credit card, just with an automatic 15% discount.
With almost all Canadian cards, you’ll pay foreign transaction fees (the “FX fees”) of 2.5% because the gift card is in US$… but you’d also pay that anyway when booking with the hotel directly without the gift cards. Like on all foreign currency purchases.
(The HSBC World Elite Mastercard has Canada’s best offer: you currently get ≈ $790 in free travel and it’s one of the rare cards in Canada with no FX fees, although it requires an income of $80,000.)
The only caveat would be mostly for hotels in Canada, because then by paying is US$, you’ll pay the FX fees twice. That said, a 15% discount more than compensates for the ≈ 5% fee…
One last consideration is that if you believe the value of the Canadian dollar will get a lot better by the time you need to travel, then the 15% discount might not be as appealing because you’re essentially buying a US$ equivalent at today’s price.
Card category bonus (or category multiplier)
If you have the Marriott Bonvoy Card: the purchase will code as a Marriott purchase on your credit card, meaning that you’ll get the category bonus multiplier: you’ll earn 5X Marriott Points per Canadian dollar, just like you would if you would pay the hotel with the card directly. And you’d earn an extra 5X with the current promo (up to C$5,000 spent).
Despite the FX fees in the previous section, using the Marriott Bonvoy Card for Marriott purchases anywhere in the world is a no-brainer: the 5X more than makes up for the FX fees (especially with the 10X).
Here’s the detailed math with a US$100 gift card purchase as an example.
It costs you:
- US$85 (15% discount)
- that’s C$112.80 (US$85 in C$ + 2.5% FX fees)
It gives you:
- C$19.43 in savings on hotels (US$15 in C$)
- C$10.08 in points earned (C$112 * 10 pts at 0.09¢/pt)
That gives you an effective discount of over 21%.
But that’s not all. You’ll also earn at least 11 points per US$ as a Marriott Silver Elite member (automatic as a Marriott Bonvoy cardholder), for an additional 1,100 points earned (US$100 * 11). That’s worth an extra C$9.90.
That gives you a total effective discount of 28% (okay… 34.9%)!
Not bad. Especially compared to most travelers who don’t take advantage of promos and will just earn a standard 1% on a lousy card (which will actually be minus 1.5% because they likely don’t have a card with no FX fees and don’t even know that the 2.5% fee is negating their rewards completely and actually losing them money overall…)
+28% instead of –1.5%. For the same purchase.
That’s why travel rewards are so valuable when you actually know how to maximize them!
And it can be even more than 28% if the points you earned are used better and you get more than our Flytrippers Valuation of 0.09¢/pt (for example in Marriott Category 1 hotels or for hotels that are expensive in cash). That’s the beauty of variable-value points and their outsized value!
And it will almost certainly be more than 28% thanks to special promos when you earn more Marriott points for stays paid with cash, which are often offered and likely will be when you’ll use your gift cards. That’s the beauty of taking advantage of valuable promos to maximize value!
In short, it’s a great discount.
If you don’t have the Marriott Bonvoy Card (you really should—it’s arguably the best deal in Canada): to purchase the Marriott gift card, use a card that has a good category bonus for travel expenses (Marriott gift cards code as Marriott purchases meaning they code as travel purchases on other cards) or one that has no foreign transaction fee — but there aren’t many in Canada (detailed article to come).
Brands that don’t accept Marriott gift cards
The only minor exclusion is that some luxury brands don’t accept gift cards:
- Design Hotels
- Ritz-Carlton Destination Club
- Homes & Villas by Marriott
That still leaves about 30 eligible brands.
Marriott gift card sales history
For your information, we’ll list previous Marriott gift card sales here:
- Nov. 30 – Dec. 1, 2020: 15% discount (18% bonus)
- July 20 – 24, 2020: 15% discount (18% bonus)
- May 11 – 17, 2020: 20% discount (25% bonus)
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Marriott’s gift card deal is very good for those who have the cash flow and were going to spend the money anyway (on regular rates, not pre-paid rates). Hotel deals are rare, unlike flight deals, so a 15% discount is a pretty great promo.
Have any questions about the Marriott program? Ask us in the comments below.
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Featured image: Moxy Bandung Marriott Category 1 hotel (photo credit: Marriott website)
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