You are currently viewing March Travel Rewards Roundup: 10 Promos & News Stories

Here is our regular travel rewards roundup post, with 10 recent news stories and promotions that are noteworthy in the world of travel rewards. We share an overview to remind you to take advantage of them before it is too late if they suit your situation, and we provide links to more detailed posts if you want to level up and learn more!

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Here are the 10 promos & news stories.

 

1. New Bali 17 free nights hotel deal

How about 17 free hotel nights in beautiful Bali? That will now be a very easy thing to get thanks to Marriott Bonvoy, by far the best hotel rewards program for Canadians.

This was already the best deal out there for Canadian travelers, and it just got better (well, it will soon be: these new hotels will be bookable starting March 3rd).

You already had 300+ options, with many amazing destinations around which to plan an epic trip. But Bali is a pretty popular and enjoyable destination (and for good reason; we loved it there), and there will now be 2 very nice hotels on the beautiful Indonesian island (and a total of 9 new options for your 17 free nights).

Simply get the Marriott Bonvoy Card with a travel buddy… and with the welcome bonus alone, you’ll get 17 completely free hotel nights in Bali (or still 8 free nights if you don’t have a travel buddy). Points won’t expire, so you’ll have the points for whenever you are ready to travel.

9 new Marriott hotels where you can easily get 17 free nights

 

2. Marriott category changes

This is actually the same news as above: Marriott’s 2021 hotel category changes. What is this? Prices for hotels booked with points depend on a hotel’s category classification. And every year, some Marriott hotels go down one category and others go up one category. This year, changes are mostly minor: only 200 hotels (out of 7,000+) are changing, and 75% of those changing are going down, so it’s great news.

And for those of us who want to maximize the number of free nights, category 1 hotels are the key. Apart from the 9 new hotels coming as explained in #1 above, there are also 7 category 1 hotels moving up. But the 7 are far less appealing than the new ones, to be honest… so even this is still positive overall.

But if you might need those 7 from now to February 2022, you should book them before the price goes up (it’s always fully-refundable for any reason anyway). You can check out all hotels in other categories that are going up in case you might need one of those too. Book before March 3rd.

7 Marriott hotels to book before March 3rd (fully-refundable)

 

3. Marriott bonus on point purchases (up to 50% bonus)

There are 5 credit cards that can easily give you thousands of Marriott points as welcome bonuses (and 3 are available to all) so that really should be your first course of action if you want free hotel stays.

We rarely recommend buying points, because even with bonuses, the rate is not ideal. But of course, these are variable-value rewards, so depending on how you use them, you could possibly save a lot of money by purchasing points.

A few examples would be for those category 1 hotels (where you can get many nights for few points), extremely luxurious hotels (you should always pay for luxury with points to save money), or just for any hotel that is expensive in cash (the best value with any variable-value rewards is when prices are high since the price in points is fixed).

But either way, never buy points speculatively: make sure you have a very specific use planned (and make sure you’ve done the math—something that is always very important in the world of travel rewards). The current bonus is targeted, with 40% or 50% depending on the member.

Marriott points purchase (up to 50% bonus)

 

4. Marriott bonus Elite night credits deposited

You may already be an Elite member: all Canadians who have the card that every traveler should have get automatic Silver Elite status with Marriott.

And due to the pandemic, Marriott has made it easier for Elite members to requalify—and even qualify for a higher elite status. These bonus Elite night credits have now been deposited.

Elite night credits are what you need to accumulate to reach Elite status; usually, you just get 1 Elite night credit for every night you spend in a Marriott hotel. This year Marriott has gifted bonus Elite night credits equivalent to 50% of the nights required for the status you earned in 2020.

With the spring promo (#5 below) and this bonus, you could easily reach Gold Elite status with just a few hotel nights for even more VIP benefits until February 2023.

Marriott’s Elite guarantees have also been reinstated.

Marriott bonus elite night credits for 2021

 

5. Marriott seasonal promotion now live

Major hotel chains almost always have lucrative seasonal global promos that help you earn a lot more points for your hotel stays. If you plan on staying in a hotel from now to April, this one from Marriott is pretty good (#6 below is another good one too).

Even for a staycation in your city, this could give you a pretty good return, like ≈ 18% back for example (or obviously a lot more if you use your points well).

The seasonal Marriott global promotion that just started offers double points and double elite night credits but unlike the usual Marriott promos, it requires a 2-night minimum stay. As always, you should register for the promo just in case.

Marriott double points promo 2021

 

6. New Best Western seasonal promotion

Best Western might not be quite on par with Marriott on other aspects, but their seasonal promos are often very good—especially for those of us who enjoy more affordable stays.

This one can be pretty valuable: you’ll get a $25 Best Western gift card for every night. Not every stay; every night. They need to be used by August 31st, so it’s still pretty far away. You can earn a maximum of 4 gift cards (per account, so 8 if you have a travel buddy of course). You can also get double the points if you stay 5 nights (cumulative; no need for them to be consecutive) during the promo.

When booking any hotel stay, all travelers should consider the potential return with the available hotel promos.

Even if the Best Western option is $15 more per night than other hotels where you are going, you’re still better off booking the Best Western to get $25 back—again, math is important—at least assuming you’ll need at least one other future hotel night before August in a spot where Best Westerns are competitively-priced (which is very often the case given their market positioning).

Best Western seasonal promo

 

7. Aeroplan free cancelation policy extended

Aeroplan has a very generous free cancelation policy right now, and they’ve recently extended it once again. We’ve talked about this before, but here’s a reminder that you should book any Aeroplan redemption that you have even the slightest chance of needing.

Any flight you book by the April 30th deadline will be fully-refundable no matter when (or why) you decide to refund it.

So you could book for January 2022 to lock-in available seat space in the fixed-price pricing system (on the 30+ partner airlines) or lock-in lower prices in the dynamic-price pricing system (on Air Canada only).

Better seat space opens up on partner airlines? Refund and rebook. Lower prices show up on Air Canada? Refund and rebook.

We’ll also remind you to check for spring 2022 before the deadline if you subscribe to our free travel rewards newsletter.

Aeroplan free cancelation policy

 

8. TV ads for the new BMO eclipse Visa Infinite* Card

We told you recently about the American Express Cobalt Card, Canada’s best card for groceries with 5X the points (that is in fact 6X the points if you transfer to Marriott points for maximum value). It currently has by far the best welcome bonus, at least for those who spend a bit more (it’s one of the best cards in Canada, and this is its best-ever offer, worth ≈ $706).

It’s my favorite card, because that 5X is a simply phenomenal earn rate.

Well, you might have recently seen one of the many TV ads for the brand-new BMO eclipse Visa Infinite* Card, one that also earns 5X the points on groceries.

But be careful with this common travel rewards beginners’ mistake. Many don’t understand that each point currency is worth a different amount. It’s like Canadian dollars and Zimbabwean dollars… the word “dollar” is just a word, like the word “point”. Not the same value at all.

Yes, 5X sounds great. But those 5 BMO points are worth only 3.55 Amex points, so the American Express Cobalt Card earns 41% more on groceries (!!!) even if both earn the same “5X the points.”

Even the Scotiabank Gold American Express® Card, also with 5X the points on groceries, has rewards worth the same amount as Amex points (but without the potential for outsized value and unlimited value that the American Express Cobalt Card has, since Scotia points have a fixed value only and can’t be transferred to Marriott or maximized).

Don’t get me wrong: the new BMO eclipse Visa Infinite* Card is still great. With a welcome bonus worth $342, it’s actually one of the best offers in Canada too (for those who earn $60,000 per year only though, unlike the two other best credit cards in Canada for groceries that are available to all). It’s a great alternative if you don’t spend as much.

But the takeaway is that even if it earns 5X the points, they aren’t worth the same. So the earn rate on groceries is not as high as with the 2 other cards. And as you’ll see in the next point, BMO points are actually going to be worth even less very soon.

BMO eclipse Visa Infinite* card page

 

9. Major changes coming to many BMO cards

  • What: earn rate changes and BMO Rewards points devaluation
  • When: May 5th
  • Where: BMO cards
  • Learn more: detailed article

Our detailed post lists all the changes to 6 BMO cards, but also a lot of very good-to-know basics for travel rewards beginners too (including for those who call their card “the World Elite”).

The cards affected by earning structure changes (and lounge access changes for the first) are the :

And all BMO Rewards points are being devalued, but only starting in June. If you read #8 above, you know that while this doesn’t change the actual earn rate in terms of points per dollars, it still changes how much you earn per dollar.

This will affect the:

Major changes coming to many BMO credit cards

 

10. New Walmart gift cards in convenience stores

  • What: new gift card opportunity
  • When: now
  • Where: your local Circle K/Couche-Tard
  • Learn more: detailed article

Travel rewards pros know that buying gift cards at the grocery store will often double (or quintuple with the American Express Cobalt Card‘s 5X earn rate) your rewards thanks to the accelerated earn rates for purchases at grocery stores on many cards.

And one of the most frequently asked questions is: will I get the 5X earn rate on groceries if I buy groceries at Walmart? No! It’s the merchant that matters. Whoever is selling you what you are buying. How that merchant is coded. Grocery stores are coded as groceries. So Walmart is not coded as a grocery store, even if you buy groceries there.

And unlike the many retailer gift cards you could find at the grocery store, in Quebec at least, Walmart gift cards were not available.

Well, good news if you shop at Walmart: now Couche-Tard (Circle K/Mac’s outside of Quebec) now sells Walmart gift cards. Couche-Tard & Circle K code at 5X as a grocery store so you can buy Walmart gift cards there and then use the gift cards at Walmart. That way you effectively earn 5X at Walmart too! Rinse and repeat for all retailers who sell gift cards elsewhere!

Gift card trick for more rewards

 

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Summary

A key part of getting the most of your travel rewards points is maximizing the various promos that are regularly offered throughout the year. These 10 have some potential for many travelers. Don’t hesitate to ask us anything in the comments if you want more details.

What would you like to know about these promos? Ask us in the comments below.

 

Explore awesome destinations: travel inspiration

Learn pro tricks: travel tips

Discover free travel: travel rewards

 

Featured image: Fairfield Bali Legian (photo credit: Marriott)

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Andrew D'Amours

Andrew is the co-founder of Flytrippers. He is passionate about traveling the world but also, as a former management consultant, about the travel industry itself. He shares his experiences to help you save money on travel. As a very cost-conscious traveler, he loves finding deals and getting free travel thanks to travel rewards points... to help him visit every country in the world (current count: 62/193 Countries, 46/50 US States & 9/10 Canadian Provinces).

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