Signing up for credit cards through partner links earns us a commission. Here’s our full Advertising Policy.
Update: One or more card offers in this post are no longer available. Check our Hot Deals for the latest offers.
INSIDER SECRET: Hotel rooms for major events sell out quickly. If you don’t book early, hotels will run out of rooms that can be booked with hotel awards points!
Sporting events, conventions, ski season, concerts, holidays.
There are endless reasons why hotels will jack up their room rates throughout the year. Demand breeds price gouging and there is nothing you can do about it.
Just kidding, all you need is a small stash of points. My Marriott Bonvoy points saved me an unbelievable dollar amount for lodging during the Indy 500. I’ll show you why, and how you can use your points in this same strategic manner for whatever mega-popular event you’re planning to attend in the future! All you need is one of these cards:
- Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card – 75,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three months
- Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card – 100,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months (ends May 16, 2019)
- Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card – 75,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three months
How Marriott Points Helped Me Beat Price Gouging at the Indy 500
Most hotel chains charge a set room rate at each of their hotels. You can find out how much you’ll pay for hotels by figuring out which hotel “category” they’re in. Usually, the higher the category, the more expensive the room rate.
For example, here’s a look at the Marriott award chart:
These numbers stay the same no matter what the hotel’s cash price is for that particular night. Whether the hotel costs $100 or $1,000, you’ll pay the same amount of points. That’s awesome.
I recently booked a Category 4 hotel, the Delta Hotels Indianapolis East. There’s nothing particularly outstanding about this hotel. It’s not a wish list destination. It’s solid but not five-star worthy and not even that expensive. By all accounts, this hotel doesn’t seem like a great value for 25,000 points.
Once a year, this hotel is wildly popular for a few nights when the Indianapolis 500 is in town over Memorial Day weekend.
My family and I volunteer at the Indy 500 each year (I don’t get the allure of the sport), so we always stay at a nearby hotel the night before. As expected, this Category 4 hotel costs 25,000 Marriott points per night. Below is my reservation.
Now really take note of the following screenshots.
The normal rate for this hotel is ~$114 after taxes. Here’s a snippet of the hotel one night before the Indy 500 weekend.
And here’s a screenshot of the hotel during the Indy 500 weekend:
HOLY CROW! That’s nearly 10x the normal room rate. Same room (Guest room 2 Queen), but vastly different price tag. Marriott points saved me $1,111 on this hotel stay.
The Immense Power of Hotel Credit Cards
I booked the Delta Indianapolis hotel with something called an annual free-night certificate. You can get these certificates by opening Marriott credit cards.
For example, the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless credit card comes with a free-night certificate after each account anniversary to use at participating Marriott hotels costing 35,000 Marriott points or less. Because my family travels to the Indy 500 every year, I can use my free-night certificate for this event and save hundreds in up charges. The free-night benefit alone makes the card worth keeping forever!
Several other hotel credit cards have annual free nights, as well. You can read our best hotel credit card picks here!
It’s maddening that hotels can get away with such outrageous up charges. In summer 2017, hotels located in the solar eclipse “path of totality” engaged in the same exorbitant practice. I traveled to Charleston, South Carolina, for the event, and the Hyatt hotel I booked was charging $500+ per night. I booked it for 12,000 Hyatt points!
If ever you think you can’t afford to travel to an event, remember the value of hotel points. They’re game changers.
Let me know if you’ve used your points to save tons during an event! And subscribe to our newsletter for more miles and points strategies and advice!