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Why Marriott Rewards may now be your best bet for high-end New York redemptions

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I try to find an excuse to head over to New York once a year.  This year I decided that it was time we reviewed the well-regarded American Airlines Boeing 77W business class seat.  This is the product that finally confirmed that the US carriers are no longer a laughing stock when it comes to long-haul business class seating – the AA seat appears far superior to Club World.  We will see, however ….

Needing a New York hotel for May, I took a look at my usual ‘luxury with points’ suspects.  I wanted to see how the recent increase in the cost of top InterContinental hotels shaped my thinking.

Conrad New York

The Hilton option:

Using Hilton Honors points, the best luxury option is Conrad New York in Battery Park where I have now stayed three times.  I reviewed it hereThis is an ‘all suite’ hotel so you are getting a lot of space for your points.  Add in the fact that the hotel is only a few years old and so in excellent condition and you have a great place to spend a couple of days.

Conrad New York is 80,000 Hilton Honors points per night when I am there in May.  The cash price is $705 (£504) per night including taxes, so I’d be getting 0.63p per Hilton point.  This is double my usual 0.33p valuation.  Not bad.

I would receive free breakfast (from a restricted la carte menu, the hotel has no buffet) as I am a Hilton Diamond, or indeed if I was Gold.  There is no guarantee of late check-out before my 10pm flight home.

Intercontinental Barclay lobby

The IHG Rewards Club option:

Using IHG Rewards Club points, the best two luxury options I have tried are the two InterContinental hotels, either Times Square or BarclayI reviewed Times Square here and I have stayed here three times – the plus point is the good views from the higher floors, the downside is the total lack of public space in the hotel.  I reviewed the newly renovated Barclay here where I have only stayed once since it reopened (and once when it was scruffy!) – the plus side is the large amount of public space (lobby pictured above) and new rooms, the downside is that they are not very big.

Following the recent increases, both hotels are 70,000 IHG Rewards Club points per night.  Times Square is $575 (£411) per night and Barclay is $500 (£357) so I’d be getting 0.59p or 0.51p per point.  These are both above my typical 0.4p valuation for an IHG point.

As I am an InterContinental Ambassador (see here for more on this) I would get a guaranteed 4pm check-out.

I did not look at Hyatt options because I do not have enough World of Hyatt points.  I did not look at Starwood options because Starwood luxury redemptions are almost always bad value at 35,000 points per night – I could convert those into 40,000 airline miles instead.  That left Marriott Rewards.

The Marriott Rewards option:

Historically I have never been ‘a Marriott person’.  The footprint is relatively light in Europe compared to the US and it has never been easy to pick up their points without doing the stays.  Marriott Rewards was not an American Express Membership Rewards hotel partner and you could not get status via American Express Platinum.  The UK credit card only earned a weak 1 point per £1.

Frankly there was no reason to bother with Marriott when IHG and Hilton offered easy routes to status, generous bonus promotions, better hotels and Amex transfer options.

However …. Marriott bought Starwood in 2015.  From 2016 you could convert your Starwood Preferred Guest status (Amex Platinum cardholders get SPG Gold) into the same Marriott Rewards status.  You could convert your Starwood points into Marriott Rewards points at 1:3.  Marriott Rewards suddenly became interesting to me:

We used points and a cash co-pay to stay at the JW Marriott in Venice (reviewed here)

In October, I stayed at the new The Ritz-Carlton desert resort in Ras Al-Khaimah (reviewed here) at an exceptionally cheap points rate compared to the prevailing cash price

Two weeks ago I used points to stay at the excellent Berlin Marriott (reviewed here) at a time when hotel prices were inflated due to the ITB travel show, and got free lounge access and a guaranteed late check-out due to my Marriott Gold status

I thought I would take a look at what was available in New York.  Because Marriott redemptions cap at 45,000 points (The Ritz-Carlton brand has a separate higher pricing chart) they seemed excellent value in an expensive city.

JW Marriott Essex House

I settled on the JW Marriott Essex House which overlooks Central Park.  This was a Jumeirah for a while and has also operated under other brands.  JW Marriott is the most luxurious Marriott brand before you get to The Ritz-Carlton, which is more expensive in terms of points due to its separate pricing chart.  Importantly for me:

it has just had a full refurbishment, and

the Executive Lounge, which I get guaranteed access to via my Marriott Gold status, is well regarded, and for breakfast you get to eat for free in a cordoned off section of the main restaurant with roughly the same food selection as paying guests, and

I would get guaranteed 4pm check-out which is key as my flight home departs at 10pm

I normally value a Marriott Rewards point at 0.5p.  In pricey cities such as New York you can do far, far better.

For the dates I am there, the JW Marriott Essex House is an astonishing $958 (£685) per night.  This means that I am getting a huge 1.52p per Marriott Rewards point based on 45,000 points per night.

I have booked myself in, and will do a full review in mid May when I get back.

JW Marriott Essex House

Conclusion

Let’s look at the value here:

  • Hilton Honors at the Conrad gets me 0.63p per point compared to the usual 0.33p
  • IHG Rewards Club at the Barclay gets me 0.51p per point compared to the usual 0.4p
  • Marriott Rewards at the JW Marriott gets me 1.52p per point compared to the usual 0.5p

…. which makes Marriott Rewards the clear winner in terms of maximising the value of the points I have.  The recent 15%+ points rise in the cost of the two InterContinental properties has made them uncompetitive compared to Marriott Rewards in this example.   The Conrad remains a decent alternative – especially as it is ‘all suite’.

The Marriott advantage is inflated by the high cash rate at the Essex House of course, but Essex House also has the ‘best’ location by classic New York standards.  (That doesn’t mean it is necessarily the best location for you.)

Remember too that as a Marriott Gold Essex House will give me lounge access and a 4pm check-out.  The InterContinental Barclay would give me a guaranteed 4pm check-out as an Ambassador but no breakfast.  Conrad New York would give me breakfast as a Hilton Diamond but not a guaranteed 4pm check-out.

If you have not historically been ‘a Marriott person’ either, it is worth focusing on the chain a little more closely.  This is especially true if:

you are Starwood Gold via Amex Platinum and can match to Marriott Rewards Gold, which guarantees you lounge access and 4pm check-out at most hotels, and

you have Starwood points or American Express Membership Rewards points which can be transferred to Starwood, and then moved to Marriott Rewards at 1:3

If you collect Marriott Rewards or SPG points, remember that the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express credit card has a sign-up bonus of 10,000 SPG points which converts in 30,000 Marriott Rewards points.  My full review of that credit card is here and we also discuss it in our other article today.

(Want to earn more hotel points?  Click here to see our complete list of promotions from the major hotel chains or use the ‘Hotel Promos’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

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Comments

  1. Stayed at the Essex House twice when it was Jumeirah for several days each time. I liked the telescopes in the park view junior suites!!
    I was saddened when Mariott took over the management but at the points price you really cant go wrong as the lication is A1 for general downtown Manhatten. The RC is a couple of buildings down and you can always walk to their bar if you want an RC experience, but its an atrium style – very open- and frankly not my scene. Both the bar and restuarant were excellent at the EH in Jumeirah days…..

  2. AA Business on 77W is better than anything BA has, even food and drinks are better as well as entertainment. Just the staff are older but thats it.

    • Yes I agree. BA crew better generally. Also AA lounge situation at JFK better now than before.

    • Doug M says:

      This is so subjective and so many just trot out the AA is better line. To my mind if I had no status and a random seat I agree, but if I can get 62/64 window seats upstairs on the 747 I prefer that to AA. BA’s problem is too many poor seats, which people without status or refusing to pay the seat selection fee are likely to find themselves in. I understand it can be slow service, but there’s pretty much universal agreement the BA CW food has improved enormously with Do & Co on the London New York flights.

  3. MAY LEE LIM says:

    Can you feed back whether all the hotels you listed above would be subject to Resort fee? Especially after your stay. Thanks

    • Essex House DOES has a resort fee, the others do not. However, the $25 Essex House fee converts into a $25 daily food and beverage credit so that doesn’t concern me too much. It isn’t great, of course, since it removes some of my flexibility over what I do if I am to avoid being worse off, but with no free drinks in the lounge (as per US norms) I would probably end up in the bar anyway in the evening!

  4. I’m intrigued, does anyone actually pay the cash prices with their own money for these hotels? I know New York is an expensive place to stay but £1500+ for a long weekend just on the hotel? Especially in a city where you won’t spend much time in the hotel.

    I suppose it would increase the value of the hotels.com free night somewhat 🙂

    • On the last set of stats I could find (2015) HMRC stated that 15,000 people in the UK earn £1m+ and plenty of people further down the tree than that would happily pay £500+ per night.

      Conrad is actually worth the money, because it is all suite, for a special occasion. Essex House less so, given the rooms are not as big and some have appalling views from what I can tell.

      Quantcast https://www.quantcast.com/measure/wd:com.headforpoints#trafficCard claims that the average HFP readers is 4.2x more likely than the average UK person to earn £70k+ and 70% less likely to earn under £30k.

      • I just find it fascinating to be honest. Then again, after my first transatlantic business class trip thanks to this site, I stayed in a hostel dorm in Chicago. Which I’m guessing most (everyone else) who read this site wouldn’t entertain.

        • Never underestimate people’s ability, whatever their income level, to p!ss most of it away each year.

        • Michael Jennings says:

          I’d guess that there are lots of people on this group who would stay in a hostel dorm, honestly. Most people here like to travel a lot. People here have a very wide range of incomes and like bargains. The site is very useful if you are a backpacker who likes a little bit of luxury once in a while.

          And I’d say there are quite a lot of people who don’t stay in hostel dorms any more, but who have stayed in plenty at one time or another in the past. I’ll definitely put my hand up there. (In fact, once upon a time I spent two nights in a city and in the middle I checked out of a hostel, walked down the street, and checked directly into a Waldorf-Astoria. I’d guess I am not alone here in things like that, too).

        • xmenlongshot says:

          Agree with Michael – have done plenty of hostels in the past but now do like a nice hotel, particularly if my wife is travelling with me.

          Compared to £3k business class tickets, I’d rather spend £500 per night on a top class hotel. Personal preference.

        • Thanks all, I was just generally curious. I suppose it makes a big difference if you’re travelling alone, like I usually do, or going with a partner. A couple of years ago I won one of the Geneva hotel nights in the competition that this site promoted and a had a night in the Mandarin Oriental on my own and just thought I couldn’t see myself paying the cash price for such a stay, even if I had money to burn.

          I suppose 2 people staying in a hotel room doesn’t actually increase the cost, whereas 2 people flying in business does greatly.

        • Michael Jennings says:

          Well, my one friend who does have ridiculous amounts of money (to the extent that he could stay in £500 a night hotels every day for the rest of his life and barely notice the cost) always stays in comfortable hotels. If he is on his own, as long as it is comfortable, he is not fussed much beyond that. The location is the most important thing. (It the hotel that is in the best location does cost £500 a night, though, that’s the one he stays in).

          His family holidays are in very expensive resorts indeed, however. So yes, the question of whether you are travelling alone makes a big difference.

          He *never* travels economy on flights over a couple of hours, though. Long haul economy is not comfortable, so he doesn’t use it. Full stop. If he is travelling with friends who are much poorer than he is – me, say – then he happily stays in the same accommodation as everyone else. However, when we fly, he is at the front of the plane, regardless of where we are.

        • And the Vanderbilt YMC hostel building is one of the nicest in NYC. We stayed there, really nice room. Lovely staff. Then moved to the Helmsley hotel in mid town, an old apartment block they just took over. Cheap and cheerful, with lobby breakfast offered to all, and all day coffee etc. So some of us do slum it, and shopped with what we saved!

    • Lady London says:

      Except that the hotels.com free night is capped relative to value of the qualifying nights you paid for?

      • That’s what I meant. 4 days @ £500 would make the next free night more valuable

      • ankomonkey says:

        My last hostel “stay” was a hotels.com rewards mattress run in Mexico City. I slept in the Crowne Plaza that I was also booked into though…

        • Did that it Bangladesh once where I was tipped off about a £5 hostel owner who checks in everyone, show or no-show. Lost the info now and it was about 3 years ago.

    • I would pay high cash prices for a hotel IF I want to stay there so yes. I put my hand up to being someone who likes to spend time in a hotel and not rush about too much – but that comes with age. Nightlife is definitely a thing of the past. I might pay that sum for a NYC hotel but I’d try not to. If I did I’d be using redemption flights to even out the cost. As a rule of thumb I’m not in this hobby for “free” trips – I just try and make comfortable travel more affordable if that makes sense.

  5. OT: I am fairly new to this, so after some advice. Had an Amex Gold Rewards last year and cancelled six months ago (having recommended my wife before doing so). Is it possible for my wife to now refer me in return? And so on and so forth going forward?

    Out of interest, what are the current points for recommending somebody for a gold rewards card.

    Thanks!

    • yep she can now recommend you and bag 9K MR points by doing so. However, I would consider getting your wife to upgrade to plat first (by using the link thats been around a while. This way when she refers you, she’ll get 18k MR points. Also if she can hit the 1k spend bonus she’ll get a bonus 20k MR points.

      • Great – thanks!

        • Platinum has a £450 fee though!

        • yes it has a pro-rata fee of £450, but you can be in and out pretty quickly hitting a 1k spend and a referral before the fee hits and even if it takes a month you will have paid £37.50 in fees but for this you should have upgraded your status for hilton, SPG/marriott and raddison plus bagged 38k MR points. It is what works for you but I’d be happy at those numbers.

      • Nigel Williams says:

        Which link is that?

  6. Thanks for the reminder of the 5th night free rule at Marriott, I had a 3 night stay booked with a night somewhere else (traditional Japanese hotel) and then back for a night, using the 5th night free means we can keep our bags etc in the room and not worry about checking out and its costing me the same number of points. Plus as you don’t need the points to complete a Marriott booking I could book my 5 nights before cancelling the other bookings ensuring there was reward availability! Thanks Rob.

  7. Just had an IHG Flash 100% bonus buy points offer if more than 5k. Valid till 22/3 only.

  8. Does anyone know please what benefits my nephew can expect as Marriott Gold at an AC hotel in Italy? The T&C are a bit vague, but suggest no breakfast.

    • Peter K says:

      Definitely no breakfast. That is not an AC chain benefit. Not much beyond that either. Maybe a “better” room? They seem quite down the order in quality so it seems they don’t offer much/have much to offer.

    • Nothing, same as ac in Barcelona last week. Very disappointing experience. Staff not inclined to welcome nor recognise status.

  9. Nigel Williams says:

    No Accor option? (Mecure / Sofitel / etc)

    • Accor points have a fixed cash value so there is no ‘outsized’ value using them in NY, which makes it a very bad place to use them.

  10. Anthony Dunn says:

    Having just returned from a week in NYC, what amazed me was the cost of EVERYTHING. This starts with the hotels and applies equally to food and entertainments. We, stupidly, also paid an arm and a leg to get from the Lower East side to the Lower West side – we’d have been better off walking in the Friday afternoon traffic around lower Manhattan. If you are there for any period of time, get yourself an MTA time-period card, in our case 7 days. This saves a fortune and offers great value for money.

    But, reading the postings above, what amazes me most of all is that most posters are ignoring THE best service across the Atlantic by a country mile: BA001 from LCY via SNN to JFK (and return). The A318 has a capacity of 36 seats. The calm of US Customs and Immigration clearance at Shannon rather than the godawful queues at JFK is a godsend. The service onboard the service is as personal as you could possibly wish for short of First Class and gave me a hint of how things wold have been back in the days of Imperial Airways and the flying boats.

  11. dhammer53 says:

    We ate at the Conrad for free (I have Hilton status). If that’s a limited menu, I wish all hotels would offer the same menu. Multiple gourmet offerings, and they didn’t cheap out.

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