Travel Pony Hotel Booking – $35 Off Your First Stay

Travel Pony

$35 Off your Hotel Stay

Travel Pony is a newer site that’s trying to get a name for itself through referrals. Currently they are giving a $35 credit to anyone who signs up if they are referred by an existing member. If you sign up your friends you can get $25 for each one. Your friends need to spend one night at a hotel booked on Travel Pony for you to get the $25. If you manage to get a couple of friends to sign up you might even get a free hotel night.

Travel Pony does not have a broad a selection of hotels and tends to focus on urban areas. It does however offer deeper discounts on some properties with comparisons to other leading sites. I did a quick compare and they managed to beat Kayak on a couple of properties. In at least one case the difference was quite a bit. The price for other hotels was about the same or worse. I’m certainly going to add them to the list of sites I refer to when looking for an interesting deal.

One thing to note – because they are a members only site you can’t get a Best Rate Guarantee from any hotel based on the price that Travel Pony offers. You probably won’t be able to collect hotel reward points either but that shouldn’t matter with a deep discount.

There have been a few similar offers from start-ups which have good initial referral offers that soon taper off. Hopefully they keep this one going for a while. At the best this will be another great resource for finding good hotel deals. At worst you can get a nice discount for one of your stays.

If you’re looking for a referral to get you started you can use mine and then start referring your friends to Travel Pony.

Marriott Rewards – Calculating Value

Marriott Rewards – Calculating Value

Lately I’ve been thinking of how to best apply my Marriott Rewards points.There seem to be two ways of maximizing value: maximizing number of nights or maximizing point value.

So I decided to decided to look at how it all made sense. I checked out all of Canada and every state in the US for each category for a given day in April. I then looked at the more expensive hotels over a period of months to see what their highest rates were, and verified that you could use points on those nights. I did the same with China, India, Egypt, Australia … and started to realize the numbers weren’t changing much and got bored!

After that I tried to make sense of it all … this is the result.

Earning Marriott Rewards Points

You get 10 Marriott Rewards points per US dollar spent at most Marriott hotels (for some this is only on room spending). At Residence Inn and Towneplace Suites you only get 5 points per US $. In the Marriott Executive Apartments and Execustay it’s only 2.5 points per US $. If you have the Marriott Premier Visa card you can add on another 5 points per $.

You could be earning 10-15 points per US $ spent at a Marriott hotel. This is worth from 5 to 45% of your spending depending on the points earned and how you will use them.

Maximizing Number of Nights

Maximizing the number of nights with Marriott Rewards points is quite straightforward. You simply look for the lowest category hotel you would ever stay in – preferably with a sale. At current rates a category 1 hotel is 7500 points but I’ve seen sales as low as 6000 points. If you ever spend time in a category 1 then you can’t do better than this. Spend cash on your higher category hotels and use the points for the lower category ones.

Maximizing Point Value

The other way to consider the best use of points is how many cents you will save per Marriott Rewards point. This is the standard way that most evaluations are done for points programs. There are approximations of the value of a point (such as 0.84 cents per Marriott Rewards point by nerdwallet) but that is simply an average. An average works if you collect lots of points and use them in an average way. Points get their best value from using them selectively.

Of course, like all rewards points, it’s a bit more complicated than that. You can’t say that you’ll get $300 in value for a hotel if you never spend more than $150 for instance. But if you would regularly get a hotel for $150 on Hotwire would you be willing to pay $180 – $200 – $230 for a much nicer hotel than you would normally get? That’s what you need to value your points at. And don’t forget you won’t be collecting Marriott Rewards points if you’re collecting a reward. Marriott does not have a system where you can split paying for a single night with points and cash.

If you have a free hotel night in a Category 1-4 or 1-5 hotel that comes with the Chase Marriott card then get the highest category, most expensive hotel you can and enjoy! There are no cents per points on those.

Marriott Rewards for Different Categories

You can use your Marriott Rewards points for hotels that are under $100 per night but what’s the purpose. It makes much more sense to save those points for when you need a hotel when prices are high and you can’t get a good cash deal. Let’s look at some of the best deals for your points. This is a snapshot taken in March of 2014. I looked at all the category 1-5 hotels in the US and Canada as well as a few in other countries to get an idea of the maximum value you could ever get from Marriott Rewards points. You will only get this value if you need to stay in one of these hotels at an expensive time and there are no comparable hotels around for less.

In most categories you aren’t going to do much better than 1.5 cents per point. Even those are exceptions. You’re best value is going to come if you want to stay in Baton Rouge in July … you can get over 3 cents per point in value, but don’t go out of your way to do it.

In general, if you find you can get close to 1.5 cents per point and there are no better comparable deals from other hotels or online travel agents then go for it. I didn’t take taxes into consideration nor did I take into account that you won’t be collecting points for your reward – these partially cancel each other out.

Category 1 – 7.5K per night normal rate

The TownePlace Suites Baton Rouge Gonzales tops out at $229 in July with only 7500 points required. That’s slightly over 3 cents per point in value. The regular weekend rate of $119 only has a value of 1.6 cents per point. I’ve seen a discounted 6000 point reward for the Fairfield Inn & Suites South Hill I-85 with a $119 rate. This works out to very close to 2 cents per point.

In Canada only the Fairfield Inn & Suites in Guelph is a Category 1 hotel. It has several dates at $120 (1.6 cents per point) and a last minute price of $139 (1.87 cents per point).

Elsewhere you’re looking at top rates of $80 in India.

Category 2 – 10K per night normal rate

The TownePlace Suites Milpitas Silicon Valley tops out at $319 weekdays but you can’t use points on those nights. Sunday and Thursday nights are normally $269 with only 10000 points required. That’s about 2.7 cents per point in value. The regular weekend rate of $109 only has a value of 1.1 cents per point. Most hotels are about the same value. This property is exceptionally expensive in terms of a Category 2, but you will find other hotels at about $200 per night or a value of 2.0 cents per point.

In Canada the Courtyard Waterloo St. Jacobs can charge as much as $199 which is close to 2 cents per point.

Elsewhere you’re looking at rates of $160 in China, $75-$150 in India so no more than 1.6 cents per point.

Category 3 – 15K per night normal rate

The Residence Inn Sacramento tops out at $309 which is 2.07 cents per point. The regular weekend rate $184 is only about 0.98 cents per point.

There are quite a few for hotels that charge as much as $200 per night. That works out to about 1.3 cents per point.

In Canada the Courtyard Ottawa East and Courtyard Hamilton can run $200 per night for 1.3 cents per Marriott Rewards point. You’ll get slightly better sometimes at the Residence Inn Toronto Mississauga/Meadowvale which lists prices up to $209 (1.4 cents per point).

Elsewhere you’re looking at top rates of $80-$240 in China $45-$240 in Egypt so around 1.6 cents per point.

Category 4 – 20K per night normal rate

SpringHill Suites Denver Downtown has a high rate of about $309, which is a value of a bit over 1.5 cents per point. Most of their rates are far below this.

The Residence Inn Hartford Downtown has some of the highest regular weekday/weekend prices of $229/$199 peaking at $279. This translates to 1.1/1.0 and 1.4 cents per point respectively. The Residence Inn New Rochelle and The Courtyard Fort Worth Downtown/Blackstone have comparable high average rates. SpringHill Suites San Angelo has even higher regular weekday rate of $269 which still only produces a 1.35 cent per point value.

For the most part though, Category 4 hotels are of similar price to Category 3 for a lot more points. In many cases the price per night is under $100 giving a cent per point value of less than 0.5.

In Canada the Courtyard Montreal Airport can have nights as much as $199 yielding about 1 cent per Marriott Rewards point.

Elsewhere you’re looking at top rates of $175-$290 in China, $150-$200 in Egypt, $100-$260 in Australia. You won’t be getting better than 1.45 cents per point in China or 1.3 cents per point in Australia. Egypt maxes out at 1 cent per point.

Category 5 – 25K per night normal rate

Several Category 5 hotels have daily rates that go up to $279 at the wrong time of year provide a value of 1.12 cents per Marriott Rewards point. The Residence Inn Palo Alto Mountain View, Raleigh Marriott City Center, Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center and the Residence Inn Dana Point San Juan Capistrano have several days at $299, providing a 1.2 cent per point value. Marriott’s Villas at Doral don’t book with points so those $399 nights are cash only. You can find the occasional room at the Residence Inn National Harbor Washington DC for $369 which is almost the 1.5 cents per Marriott Rewards point you get with the best Category 4 deal.

There are still many Category 5 hotels with nights under $100 which would be a terrible use of Marriott Rewards points.

In Canada the Vancouver Airport Marriott Hotel will charge as much as $250 (1 cent per mile). The Residence Inn Kingston Water’s Edge regularly charges $236 (0.94 cents per point) but can go up to $296 (1.18 cents per point).

Elsewhere you’re looking at top rates of $120-$320 in China, $60-$260 in Japan. China maxes out at 1.28 cents per point and Japan barely goes over 1 cent per point.

 Summing Up

While on average Marriott Rewards points are worth less than 1 cent per point, you can still get better value than this. Spend cash on the more expensive hotels, earning on average 5-15% (but up to 45%) of that value in points for future stays. Unless you have more points than you know what to do with, save your points for when you’ll get over 1 cent per point. If you are getting 1.5 cents per point or better, and there are no comparable competing hotels with better value, then use your points.

Scotiabank Gold Amex Bonus Extended to June

Scotiabank Gold Amex Bonus Extended

The Scoop

The March 31st deadline for the Scotiabank Gold Amex card has been bumped. Scotiabank wasn’t on the ball the morning of April 1st and continued to have their 15K point, first year free offer with the date of March 31st. What would normally have been thought of as an April Fools joke appeared that afternoon. The deadline was extended to June 31st 2014. Seriously! I’m not certain what calendar they are using but here’s the screenshot:

ScotiaBank Gold Amex Date Error

The competition amongst travel cards in Canada is certainly the strongest it’s been. BMO extended their deadline recently and CIBC removed the deadline for their Aventura based cards.

The ScotiaBank Gold Amex Bonus

The current bonus is 15 000 points with the first year fee waived. ScotiaBank points have a straightforward value of 1 cent per point. They function just like the points from the TD First Class Infinite and the Capital One Aspire in that you buy travel and your card and redeem points afterwards for a fixed value. If you are just hunting for bonuses there are far better offers and this one is probably not worth the credit hit.

Targeted Offers for the ScotiaBank Gold Amex

A number of people have received pre-approvals from ScotiaBank with an added $300 bonus. If you get one of these offers you should jump on it. A $450 sign up bonus with the first year free is huge.

Worth Holding On To?

With 4x points on gas, groceries, dining and entertainment this is a strong card if your grocery store accepts Amex and/or you spend enough in those areas to justify the $99 annual fee. The competition is the TD First Class Infinite and the Capital One Aspire. The TD First Class Infinite offers a 1.5% return on all purchases and 3%/4.5% on phone/internet booked travel with TD. That card has a slightly higher fee at $120 which is waived if you have an All Inclusive account. The Capital One Aspire also has a $120 fee but with 10K points awarded every year you are only paying $20. It provides a 2% return in the form of points on all purchases.

From a points perspective the ScotiaBank Gold Amex card is great if your grocery store takes Amex, if you eat out a lot, use a lot of gas and go out to shows frequently. The additional features, especially the travel insurance, are excellent.

Should You Get The ScotiaBank Gold Amex Card?

If you can get this card with the $300 pre-approval then without question you should sign up for the card. If you spend a lot on gas, restaurants and entertainment and your grocery store takes Amex then you should sign up even if you don’t get the pre-approval bonus.