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Marriott Rewards Program!  If you started at the beginning, hopefully you have gained a basic idea as to how a Hotel Program works.  Marriott’s is not that different than Hilton in its fundamentals.

Both have credit cards available, both give you points for staying and have similar websites that allow you to use points alone, pay or use points and miles.  They both have Elite Programs and have a global presence.  After that things start to get interesting…

My first thought about Hilton…Puppies and Butterflies.  Why yes, a walk through the garden sounds nice.

My first thought about Marriott…Briefcases and leather shoes.  A scotch at the bar? Yes, neat please.

When I interact with Marriott, I have my gameface on.  Their customer service is polite but firm.  No Elite Status Match For You!  We do Challenges.  A challenge is where you agree to stay X number of nights during a period of X time.  I absolutely Love Marriott Hotels and with the recent acquisition of Starwood Hotels (Westin, Sheraton etc…) and the third leg of their stool, Ritz-Carlton, Wow, they are a force in this business and they know it.

Their rewards program is still separated for now.  Which is fantastic and this is why, Marriott and Ritz points are valued at ~.009 (10,000 pts ~$90).  Starwood points are the most valued in the business at ~.027 (10,000pts~$270.00).  You can convert SPG (Starwood) to Marriott at…1-3 (10,000 SPG convert to 30,000 Marriott)  This borders on Magical!

To put this in perspective, a $100 room at Hilton should cost about 20k in hhonors points (20,000x.005), the same $100.00 room at a Marriott, about 10-15,000 points (10,000x.009). 

Earning points at Marriott sounds like a no-brainer right?  Remember the gameface?  Marriott is not nearly as generous as Hilton with promotions or points and if they disagree…well good luck.  You’ll most likely earn less at Marriott so it’s all kind of relative.  Unless…you are sitting on a load of SPG points, which you then convert, in that case its all Sherry and Giggles.

I just booked 4 nights in Beijing at a JW Marriott for 60,000 points.  Lets do the math.  60k points has an approximate value of ~$540.00 (60,000x.009 ~$540.00).  The cash price with tax is about $1051.00.  I am getting a value of .0175 using points~valued at .009) ($1051 / 60,000=.0175).  Definitely a time to pay with points.

I spend 80% of my Hotel stays at either a Hilton or a Marriott, with IHG (Holiday Inn) and Hyatt filling in the balance. 

Next Blog ,we’ll cover the available Marriott Credit Cards

Jenny has a goal. Save money by traveling smart and enhance her experience at each Hotel property. In the prior post, I listed two websites that provide the details of their respective Credit Cards.  Look the sites over and become familiar with the two types of Hilton cards they offer.  Each offers a no-fee card with fewer points/perks and a fee card with enhanced features.

To save time, I like the American Express Hilton Surpass Card.  American Express is great to work with and the card is awesome.  Stay at Hilton and pay the bill with the card get 12 pts per dollar. Restaurants, gas stations and supermarkets get 6 and everywhere else gets 3 pts per dollar. It comes with Gold Elite status for as long as you have the card.  Hilton status is, Blue, Silver, Gold and Diamond.  It also gives you access to many airport lounges for $27.00.  But the best part, do the minimum spend ($3000.00) and earn 75,000 Hilton Honors points.  Annual fee is $75.00.

So you pay $75.00 for the year.  The points are worth about $375.00 or more if you catch deals and you’re now Gold which means free room upgrades if space is available and free wifi.

Jenny, armed with her new Amex Surpass card, completes the minimum spend by paying her utility bills, groceries, fuel and everything else that takes a credit card.  In addition, she used a company called Plastiq ( to pay her mortgage/rent, taxes and car payment (anything legitimate that won’t normally take credit cards as payment).(Plastiq charges a fee of approximately 2.5 percent but has occasional promos that reduce that fee).

Jenny now has 78,000 or more Hilton Honors points, Gold Elite Status and a Hilton app on her IPhone that is loaded with places to go where she can now Book free with Points or mix Points and Cash. 

This Matters:  Hilton hates that you would even think about staying anywhere else.  So if you have Platinum status elsewhere, they will usually “Match” that status.  Holiday Inn has their own card called the IHG Platinum card by Chase.  Its similar to Hiltons except that it comes with Platinum status, 60-80,000 points and a FREE night at any IHG hotel anywhere once a year.  Minimum spend, wait for it, $1000.00 and the annual fee…$49.00.  And the best part, Hilton has been matching the status.  You would be Hilton Top Tier Diamond…for $49.00. 

Get the Hilton card first, satisfy the minimum spend as suggested above, then get an IHG account (, then the IHG credit card from Chase (, complete the minimum spend ($1000) and then after the points hit (by next statement date usually) get out of town.  Always book through each Hotel’s app (for bonus points) and now you are a Points and Miles Traveler, it’s really that easy.

So where is Jenny now?  On a beach at a Hilton in Florida (20k pts/day) for 3 nights (Diamond).  She needs her rest as her boss was recently terminated (shocker) and she has been promoted to Manager (with an excellent salary) starting Monday.

Next blog, Hilton Wrap up

I was just talking to Lilly about why I was writing a blog.  Everybody seems to have a blog covering some subject or another.  Travel blogs are loaded with tips, links and references to every aspect of Travel including Points and Miles.  I’m doing this because I just don’t remember one that helped you get started.  I should have called it “An Idiots Guide to PMs”.  In the beginning, as you search for information, its like drinking from a firehose, totally overwhelming.   I’m hoping to fill a niche. I am a niche filler. That’s all I have to say about that (Forrest G.)

I’m on Hilton’s Gloriously easy-to-use web page (IPhone).  I’m thinking St. Louis, Missouri, February 24-25th (apparently I’ve decided to freeze to death), Two adults, Use Hilton Honors Points…Yes (toggle on) and I’ve checked the AAA circle.  Engage!

And there it is, a list of hotels.  Most offer two ways to reserve your stay, dollars or points and at least one of them, has three! Dollars, Points AND Dollars+Points.  Like it wasn’t complicated enough.

Here’s what matters:  You need to know the value of a Hilton Point and do some math.  I love this part, it’s now me against Hilton.  I do enjoy a challenge.  All points and miles have a subjective value and every month publishes them.  This site is great source of information.

Since, apparently I have no life, I know them all by heart.  Hilton points are valued at one half of one cent (.005).  As we go forward you will see that .005 is rather pathetic at best, but it is what it is.  Hyatt, for example is valued at .019 (almost two cents each).

Looking at Hilton again, I see Hilton St. Louis at the Ballpark (I hear they have a baseball team).  The rate is listed at $177.00 or 40,000 points (AAA rate).  Which is better?

This matters:  When you use Points to book a Hotel room, taxes are included.  This can be a huge value if you stay in an expensive city (NYC, New Orleans, St. Louis etc…).

Doing the math, 40,000 points has a dollar value of $200.00, (40,000x.005).  At Hilton, just cut the points required in half and lose a few zeros.  I then go through the motion of checking the Dollar rate, 1 King City View at $177, yes, next screen AAA Hot Deals, Yes and then finally on the next screen, Total for Stay $209.50. (Don’t go forward in the process as you will book the room. (which are very easy to cancel and usually will have no penalties this far out).

Ok, this deal is meh…I could go either way.  Most likely I would just pay the dollar rate, earn more points and save them for a better deal, like a $350.00 room for 40,000 points. 

What about the room with Three Options? Mathtime with Michael again… St. Louis Union Station, Hmmmm, $126.00/40,000 hhpoints/ $65+16,000 hhpoints. Wow! 

$126.00 with tax = $144.58
40,000 points = $200.00 in value
$65.00 + 16,000 points (16,000x.005=$80.00) $65.00+$80.00= $145.00

Which is better?  Definitely NOT the 40k points!  Whether you use Cash and Points or just pay Cash is a toss up.  Or is it?  In my next post I will show you why though they may seem to appear almost equal in value, often times they are miles apart.


I first dipped my toe into PMs (we’re going to be using the words “Points and Miles” a lot, so for my typing sanity, lets abbreviate) with Choice Hotels.  Choice Hotels consists of many brands, for example, Sleep Inn, Econo Lodge, Clarion and Quality Inn to name a few. You can see the complete list at  I checked-in at a Quality Inn, signed up for something and they sent me a membership card in the mail.  Apparently,  I earned points.  Now I’m curious, mildly.  Let’s see, I got this many points for staying and I need HOW many more for a free night! seriously!? and into the junk drawer the card went (you keep them because they are excellent for opening doors that don’t have a deadbolt lock).  And so it goes…

Jump ahead a couple of years, I have one credit card and very little debt.  I’m still traveling, a lot, and putting it all on this…one…card.  The card was simple, a MasterCard, no Fee and 1 point per dollar spent, wherever, whenever.  The points could then be used at their on-line shopping mall.  Ignorance is bliss.  Such a waste.

So here we are!  Now that I have tortured you with the backstory, let’s move forward to today.  My world consists of at least a Bakers Dozen in various credit cards and about two million +- miscellaneous Hotel and Airline PMs.  How did I get here?  Well, the hard way.

My first mistake was to take an adversarial position with the Hotels and Airlines.  They had Points and Air miles and I wanted them.  My teachers were Sun Tzu (The Art of War) and Machiavelli (The Prince).  So with that in mind, I pounced, without a plan of course, you know, Half a League, Half a League, into the Valley of…and so on. The result, countless phone calls and a huge amount of well…whining.  So much for my master plan.

Lesson One:  Both the Hotel and Airlines WANT you to have their PMs and will go to great lengths to help you obtain them.  Hilton Hotels called one day and simply wanted to give me 10,000 pts just because I was a Hilton Honors member and I answered the phone. I literally interrogated that poor soul as to his motives and was dumfounded when I found nothing amiss.  I almost talked myself out of the points.  I clearly had a great deal to learn and an attitude change was definately in order (don’t think that it escaped my attention in the abbreviation I used for Points and Miles).  I’m a real peach now.

My first post, My first blog…should be called “I can’t believe we actually made it here” but that is far too long of a name for a blog.  We have traveled around the world over the last 14 years (we being my kindawife Lilly and me/I, whatever), filled boxes with this and that (crap) from each trip and collected slippers from each hotel that would give me the opportunity to “keep” them (they are actually for the Grandkids…really)

Why the blog? To discuss what we have seen (blah blah) and…to provide an outlet for my recent interest (obsession, actually) with the “Points and Miles” way to travel.  Just discussing the topic gives me goosebumps (yes, I know…and on my next visit to the Therapist…ugh).  In all seriousness, if you love to travel, its definitely worth your time and effort to become familiar with Points and Miles opportunities and through this medium, you’ll see why I do love it so.  My intentions are to start at the beginning…but, as such is my way, bounce around from time to time depending on my mood and whimsy.  So, to paraphrase Shreck, Ogres are like onions, they have many layers.  And with that bit of wisdom, we’ll begin…