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Yeah. It’s good to be back folks!



It’s time for my summer holiday, but this time it’s not 3 hotels in 3 cities plus a sleeper train in China. Nor is it 12 hotels in 4 weeks around East Canada and USA. Nor is it 3 hotels in 10 days in Florida, and definitely not 13 hotels in 17 days (inc original TIPPLE-The-First) combined civil war and research trip. It’s not even 3 hotels in 4 nights for DoubleTIPPLE.


Nope, this is simply one hotel for 2 weeks. Namely the Sharaton Dolphin at Walt Disney World.



Just me and MrsBrightlyBob. And it’s our wedding anniversary too! Our first ever fortnight holiday together, just the two of us - well plus a mystery guest on Friday!


So, what’s my plan? Lots of Pandora, lots of Epcot, Magic Kingdom and a bit of Toy Story Land with a hefty side of pool time and plenty of good eats


Oh, and enjoying my utterly terrific $150 BRG to Premium Studio Suite upgrade! Loads of space, and two wardrobes, which I’m really needing for my Hawaiian Shirt Collection. Yup, it’s going to be a bright vacation! Seriously fab upgrade, SPG is taking its Platinum recognition ethos up to the finishing line here! Aaah, the spglife

Well, MRI has become a depressing lot as of late. And that’s not surprising, the final changes to the new scheme have been announced in the form of the redemption table and it’s been crushing on the Travel Packages, gateway-city properties and Beach hotels and resorts. And that has unleashed a loud chorus of teeth gnashing and complaining by those who have lost on the changes. That’s always the way, people are much more likely to hand out the brickbats than the bouquets. All the same, I’m putting my head above the parapet. This merger has added one after another of small improvements - each one a little Winner-Winner-Chicken-Dinner! And you know what it all adds up to a lot, lots of chicken dinners add up to a really big improvement from where I’m sat as a decade long Marriotteer and recently qualified Lifetime Platinum this merger has been hugely beneficial and I’m delighted it happened! 


Get me another - I’m celebrating!


So, this merger has been hugely beneficial - for me! All good improvements and no downsides at all, not one! Now that might sound selfish, but all the complainers expressing how rotten it is and how they’ve been hosed could equally be said to be selfish. They’re not of course, they’re just complaining how bad it’s been for them. And this is me from the viewpoint of a British Lifetime Marriott Platinum member - all great chicken, no bull!


Positives since merger:


01. 4pm guaranteed late checkout - WWCD!

02. Suite upgrades return to the Platinum benefits - WWCD!

03. Free breakfasts added at Protea and, very significantly, Resort properties - WWCD!

04. Addition of 1,500+ new hotels to earn and get elite benefits, inc many aspirational properties - WWCD!

05. $10pppn F&B voucher at AC, Moxys and most significantly, Courtyards - WWCD!

06. Welcome Points at Select Service properties double from 250 to 500 points - WWCD!

07. Welcome Points at Full Service properties double from 500 to 1,000 points - WWCD!

08. Here in the UK, SPG AMEX doubles general earnings compared to the Marriott MasterCard - WWCD!

09. Here in the UK, SPG AMEX triples Marriott earnings compared to the Marriott MasterCard - WWCD!!

10. Addition of choice benefits at 50 nights introduces 5 SNAs - WWCD!

11. Grandfathered to Lifetime Titanium, point-earning increases by 17% - WWCD!

12. New redemption table cuts points at thousands of properties I’d use around the world - WWCD!

13. Earn points on F&B Spending across all brands - WWCD!

14. Addition of 75-night choice benefit brings a free night certificate - WWCD!


That’s 2 weeks of Chicken Dinners from one merger! That’s a lot of chicken! Added together its a big win for me, a very big win! For me personally as a Marriotteer against what we had prior to the merger Marriott Rewards has become considerably more rewarding both on in-stay benefits and, as a “road less travelled” kinda guy, redemptions too! Here’s what it means in Pounds and Points on a low travel 40-night year. Some years are much higher.



Personally I reckon I’m up £100pa on the new breakfast and CY F&B benefit (I don’t stay at select service properties very often) and another £100 on resort breakfasts (this year I’m £250pa up, most years it’s nothing though), plus the suite upgrades, SNAs, and 4pm checkouts.


Under the pre-merger program my minimum annual 40 paid nights brought in 100,000 points inc Plat bonus, 10,000 checkin amenity, and 20,000 on the credit card. Now my 40 nights at the same annual cost see’s me receive 115,000 points inc Titanium bonus, 20,000 points on the checkin amenity and 55,000 extra points on the AMEX (after deducting 10k points for the annual fee). So my annual pointearning has increased from 130,000 to 190,000, a 50% increase!


My road less travelled redeeming methodogy will not necessarily see me gain any greater value than my 1UScent valuation. But it will be far easier to redeem with so many properties I’d redeem at reducing in points. And of course all those lovely Starwood choices too. Mmmmmm...


So, wow. Yes. Way better than expected, a downside-free zone. It’s a thumbs-up from me, Marriott.


Let the flaming commence!

We point enthusiasts don’t like Dynamic redemptions because they set a fixed price on the value our points represent as rebates. We prefer to battle Marriott/IHG/Hilton’s matrix to seek out value when we redeem. Indeed every time I arrange a leisure stay I always, always, always search for redemptions. At all times when I redeem I could pay, but if the redemption makes good value, above 1c per point, then I will consider redeeming, at 1.5c per point I will always redeem. The most telling example of this behaviour was a few years ago when I stayed at the Marriott Marquis on Times Sq for 3 nights, redeeming the first two $500 nights at 45k points per night and paying for the last one as the cash rate was $200.


But it does now seem that we will to a great extent have near-dynamic redemption pricing with 8 categories, each with 3 options, off-peak, standard and peak but in the thicket of new information are pointsavers that apply to each option. So that’s actually 6 different rates for each category. So a Cat 1 off-peak point-saver starts at 4,000 points moving to a peak category 8 at 100,000 points through a total of 34 - yes, you read that right - 34 different price levels. 



So, our old Marriott redemption table was 

6,000, 7,500, 10,000, 15,000, 20,000, 25,000, 30,000, 35,000, 40,000, 45,000, 50,000, 60,000 & 70,000

See, it fits on one line! 


Our new redemption table is (takes a deep breath)

4,000, 5,000, 6,000, 7,500, 8,000, 8,500, 10,000, 11,000, 12,000, 12,500, 13,000, 15,000, 16,000, 17,500, 18,000, 20,000, 22,500, 25,000, 27,500, 30,000, 32,500, 35,000, 37,500, 40,000, 45,000, 50,000, 55,000, 60,000, 65,000, 70,000, 80,000, 85,000, 90,000, 100,000


Ok, so it’s not dynamic pricing, but gosh, our Marriott Rewards redemptions just got a lot more complicated!

I’m going to Walt Disney World in just 40 days! Woohoo, excited! Now, Walt Disney World is a very big holiday to us Brits because it comes with a hefty flight cost, direct return economy flights to MCO in July and August typically run around $1,000! As a result we book early and stay long, typically 1-3 weeks. 


One of the great pluses of the merger is that Marriott acquired the Swan and Dolphin hotel, a Starwood property directly on-site in Walt Disney WWorld and walking distance from both Hollywood Studios and Epcot, and a very short walk to the Boardwalk, a nightlife and bar area. Actually it’s 2 hotels, the ~1000 room Swan is a Westin and the ~2000 room Dolphin is a Sheraton. Hence I could book them and earn the now interchangeable SPG points, a currency that is otherwise near useless due to a lack of earning availability in the UK. 


So, first I found my rate in September 2017 for July 2018 and booked it - $5,600 inc all taxes and fees for 13 nights. Sounds a lot, and it is a lot, but still $2,000 cheaper than the next door Disney Beach Club. Then, like a good scout as taught by fistuk, our resident LNF Scoutmaster, seek out a lower rate and claim Starwoods BRG (If you don’t know what this means see fistuks excellent thread /message/243753?commentID=243753#comment-243753) which reduced the rate I found by $3,000 to $2,600. 


All good - you bet!



Well, except that a few changes have conspired to erode the value. None make the deal worse but all do tell of the value-for-money improvements Marriott has made since September. Firstly, earlier this year Marriott adjusted Starwoods BRG discount increasing it from 20% to 25%. Yes, I did look and although I could rebook and get a BRG, I couldn’t find an outcome which even after the enhanced discount would go below $2,600. But if only the new Marriott policy had applied when I did it in September last year it would have saved me an extra $120. Then there’s the new scheme that would mean I would earn 17.5 Reward points per $ instead of the 3SPG (9 Marriott) I am earning. So if only the new Marriott scheme came in just 1 month earlier I would have received an additional 17,000 Marriott points! And of course I’d also recieve almost double the points on my incidentals too, and let me tell you, there will be quite a few incidentals over the 2 week stay, I strongly suspect I’ll be out 20,000 points on that month difference! And of course I’d be checking in as a newly minted PP, as opposed to a plain ‘ol SPG Plat, hopefully giving me all the better chance at those wonderful Starwood upgrades I hear so much about.


Now, admittedly, these are truly First World Problems and I was happy with my BRG at $2,600, and content that I’d be earning 9 Marriott points per $ which was after all 9 more than I would have earned without the merger! And I was happy to be turning up as a regular Plat which was far farther up the elite tree than, well, um, no status that I otherwise would have had sans merger. 


But now better deals have turned up I’m gagging for them. But can’t get them!


Darn these bigger and better baubles Marriott

Starting off from drizzly Manchester... it begins!


This is how my DoubleTIPPLE works:


Flights and travel

Outbound, UK to USA

04/25 08:00 MAN-DUB RyanAir - £22

04/25 12:30 DUB-IAD Aer Lingus - £88 & 13k Avios

Return, USA to UK

04/29 11:20 WAS-NYP Amtrak train - £38

04/29 19:20 JFK-MAN Virgin Atlantic - £27 & 2k Miles



04/25 Intercontinental The Wharf - 35kIHG

04/26 Residence Inn Capital View - Cat 1-5 cert

04/27 Renaissance Capital View - DoubleTIPPLE HQ

04/28 Renaissance Capital View - DoubleTIPPLE HQ


And here’s how it turned out, in Eastern time -


01:00 Wakey wakey (thats 6am in England)

01:15 Lift to airport.

01:30 Queue for security, belt off, iPad out, toiletries out, pockets emptied.

02:00 Security cleared.

02:15 Flight gated, queue at Gate.

02:45 RyanAir flight boarded seat 32A £22.

03:06 Take off from MAN,

03:46 Land at Dublin airport.

04:00 Passport cleared.

04:05 Selfie time in Dublin, scenic, eh?Well, at least its blue skies...




04:15 Queue for security (again) belt off, iPad out, toiletries out, pockets emptied.

04:30 Security cleared.

04:45 Breakfast, coffee and bacon barm.

05:05 Queue for American preclearnce machine.

05:06 Get preclearance slip, go down to preclearance area.




05:10 Queue for security (yet again!) belt off, iPad out, toiletries out, pockets emptied.

05:20 Security cleared, queue for USA passport control.

05:40 USA Passport control cleared.

05:50 Flight Gated, wait at gate.

06:45 Flight called, boarding begins. My status at BA puts me in boarding group... let’s see, Z, yeah, Z!

07:10 My bird to DC, for all you avgeeks out there!




07:15 Boarded and found my accommodation for the next 8 hours




07:35 Pushback...

07:50 Take off from Dublin

15:25 DoubleTIPPLE lands at Washington Dulles

15:50 Wait for 5A bus for L’Enfant Plaza

16:10 Bus journey begins

17:05 Arrive at L’Enfant Plaza

17:30 Check into Intercontinental on the Wharf


As I was making my way to the hotel I passed shake shack after checking in hotel returned there to grab a quick burger and a beer, only to come across the First casualty of tourism, local customs. In DC fast food places won’t serve beer without identification, and cautious TIPPLEr I am, I’d left my passport in my hotel room. So for the rest time in 30years I was refused a beer! I’m not sure that’s good or bad!


Let the TIPPLing begin, lining ‘em up




So here I am sat in the Intercontinental bar burning my free drink voucher on a Caribbean Kicker. It’s a surprise as I’m used to eating my chilles, not drinking them. Pleased they serve free water. Gosh, chillies in drinks, that’s foul.. Luckily the Dc Brau is a better choice!

Happy 27th March everyone. And it’s a special day indeed with only a month to go till we all meet up here




For a repeat of what we did there




Because guys it’s time for


**********Double TIPPLE**********


So its time to plan that Plane




Book that train




or in the case of erc, put on those Sketchers



       Very Fetching in pink, there erc - The Fast Show - Suits you Sir! - Solo - YouTube


And join us all on this list here Double TIPPLE (Insider Gathering) Guest List on Friday 27 and Saturday 28th April for only the second ever Marriott Rewards Insiders TIPPLE. Bigger and better than ever. Like me!


Now our little planning group is working to get together the numbers (I say we but I mean bejacob is) and he needs you to advise of numbers in your party here Double TIPPLE head count, if you haven’t already please visit the thread and give him a number. He loves numbers! And we are also designing name-badges (I say we but I mean seatexan is). And as our TIPPLE is a “live and in person” version of Insiders we are collecting real first names to go with our handles on the badges (I say we but I mean nationwide is) so if you receive an insiders direct message asking for your first name it’s not some internet scam, he’s ensuring you’ll be easily identified at Double TIPPLE, so ensure you reply so he can complete his task! And me? Well I’m looking for ways to claim all their collective glory. It’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta steal everyones thunder, don’t you know?


Lastly, anyone thinking about coming and staying with us all at DoubleTIPPLE HQ, namely the Renaissance Arlington Capital View really needs to get their room booked as soon as possible as our room guarantee comes off book on 6th April and then you’ll be left with whatever the hotel offers at the time. To book your room see the thread here Double TIPPLE Hotel and Booking Info


So get going all y’all (still praktisin’ ma Texan) and get ready for an EPIC DOUBLE TIPPLE in just one months time!


Oh, go on, there’s just time to repeat my TIPPLE monicker.... I’ve been holding back so here’s a treble for our Double



Yesterday I was at the Sheraton Skyline in Heathrow simultaneously sampling both my first Starwood lounge and my 50th hotel Exec lounge where I receive complimentary access due to my top tier status in a hotel program, mostly Marriotts brands but there’s yesterdays Sheraton, four Crowne Plazas following a recent policy change to offer free lounge access to top-tier Spires and two Hilton’s following a status match with them last year. I’ve visited all of these lounges in the last decade and have ranked them top to bottom. They’re based on places that are pleasant to spend some of your leisure time, so whilst good food and seating is important so are good views, free alcohol, and general ambience.





The list is divided down into 6 categories, Outstanding, Excellent, Good, Adequate, Poor, and alas, Closed. There’s no limit to how many lounges can be in any one category, each lounge is placed where it belongs, if I visit a lounge that makes it to number 4, that won’t relegate Budapest out of “outstanding“, it’ll remain in the outstanding category but will become the fifth in that category, unless a later visit confirms adverse changes that cause its relegation. The below key lists the principal lounge facilities.


f = decent Food choices

b = free Beer and Wine

c = free Cocktails or Spirits

7 = 7-day evening service

V = great views, or at least not internal (v)


OUTSTANDING LOUNGES - go out of your way to stay:


01. London St Pancras Renaissance (fbc7v)

02. Beijing Wangfujing Renaissance (fbc7V)

03. Niagara Fallsview Marriott (fV)

04. Budapest Marriott (fbc7V)


I place the St Pancras Chambers Club at the top, although there’s no real outside views from the lounge, inside it’s like an English Gentleman’s club (no, NOT the Spearmint Rhino type) and indeed calls itself the Chambers club, and with that turn of phrase excludes Golds. This I’m afraid is a Plats only lounge. Situated in the historic wing of the building and beautifully decorated with varied seating, interesting architectural and design features clearly a lot of thought has gone into the club. Lots of nooks and crannies and manned all day with the longest free beer and wine hours anywhere in Marriott-dom, serving a very good breakfast in the club or the option of one of the best restaurant Buffet breakfasts anywhere, it follows that up by cracking open the craft beer and decent wine for its impressive afternoon tea followed by a wide ranging and lengthy evening service and a cocktail hour too. And to cap it off, if you’re travelling by Eurostar, an escorted VIP service through to your international departure, simply advise the night before, turn up in the club half an hour before your departure time and you’ll be whisked through the formalities via the VIP facilities and reunited with your luggage on the train in minutes, and well before the great unwashed start boarding! The Beijing Wangfujing Renaissance takes second place. With Forbidden City views in the background it offers varied seating with lots of private nooks and crannies plus excellent service manned all day long. It offers a huge lounge breakfast selection and cooked to order eggs in the lounges own chef-manned kitchen. This kitchen arrangement is repeated at night when chef cooks up a nightly special during the lengthy evening service that has the widest evening food selection I’ve seen in any lounge anywhere. Topped off by long alcohol hours and a full “help yourself” liquor bar selection, including, first time I’ve seen it, Free-pour Baileys! The third place Niagara choice is probably controversial because it’s manned only during service, too small for the hotel and breakfast & evening food offerings are okay at best, but this lounge is about the seating offering sweeping views of Niagara Falls. Where else in the world can you enjoy breakfast or a few evening snacks and a drink overlooking one of the worlds natural wonders? The view is incredible and makes this otherwise uninspiring lounge into a must visit. And finally on this “Go out of your way to stay” list is the Budapest Marriott which has a large lounge with a great range of plentiful food offerings at both breakfast but especially in the evenings with long help yourself beer, wine and spirits hours. What really elevates this though is it’s huge terrace overlooking the Danube and Buda castle. An absolutely excellent place to spend time during the summer months. Just beautiful. Honestly, sit on that terrace with your free beer, wine or spirit and you’ve got the best view in Budapest, free of charge, courtesy of your loyalty!



EXCELLENT LOUNGES - if staying in the area, these lounges are a great perk:


05. London County Hall Marriott (fbc7V)

06. Shanghai City Centre Marriott (fbc7v)

07. London West India Quay Marriott (fbc7V)

08. Copenhagen Marriott (fb7v)

09. Xi’an Hilton (fbc7v)

10. Warsaw Marriott (fb7v)

11. London Park Lane Marriott (fbc7v)

12. Leeds Marriott (fb7v)

13. London Heathrow Renaissance (fb7V)

14. Moscow Royal Aurora Marriott (fbc7)

15. London Grosvenor House JW (fbc7)

16. Newcastle Crowne Plaza (fbc7v)

17. London Heathrow Sheraton Skyline (fb7v)

18. Montreal Chateau Champlain Marriott (fV)


All save one of these lounges are open 7 days a week, offer free beer, wine (some with cocktails/spirits) and good food in pleasant surroundings. In fact the Hilton Xi’an provided one of the best hotel experiences in my life, but here I’m marking the lounge, and although a truly top-10 lounge it’s just not outstanding, but the hotel itself is! Now, you will also find a lounge on this list that doesn’t offer weekend service but when open Montreal Chateau Champlains food offerings are amongst the most generous out there and although the beer isn’t free it offers several local craft bottles at reasonable prices all in a very plush environment with excellent views across Montreal.


GOOD LOUNGES - if you’re in the hotel, worth visiting during service hours:


19. Paris Rive Gauche Marriott (fbv)

20. Brussels Marriott (fb7v)

21. Houston Downtown JW (fV)

22. Richmond Marriott (fV)

23. Dubai JW (fbc7v)

24. Cardiff Marriott (fb7v)

25. London Regents Park Marriott (fb7)

26. Liverpool Airport Crowne Plaza (fbc7v)

27. London Kensington Marriott (fb7)

28. Birmingham Crowne Plaza (bc7v)

29. Bristol City Centre Marriott (fb7)

30. Manchester Airport Marriott (fb7)

31. London Heathrow Marriott (fb7)

32. Birmingham Metropole Hilton (fb7v)

33. Philadelphia Marriott (fv)

34. New York Times Sq Renaissance (fV)

35. London Grosvenor Sq Marriott (fb7)

36. Windsor Marriott (fbv)

37. San Antonio Plaza Marriott (fv)

38. Leicester Marriott (fb)

39. Nottingham Crowne Plaza (b7v)

40. Toronto Eaton Marriott (f)


The fact these places have a lounge should be viewed as an advantage, but shouldn’t sell them to you for leisure. They’re still good and - especially the lounges that serve free beer and wine - worth a small premium to stay over other choices. But one way or another they have shortcomings, whether it’s because they’re internal, small rooms, short alcohol hours, or none at all, overcrowded, or poor food. Or in the case of the Ren Times Sq, the R lounge which isn’t really an Exec lounge but instead plays a hybrid role both as a guest lounge in the evening but an elites-only free breakfast lounge each weekday morning, and I score it as an Exec lounge here because of the opportunity to have free breakfast in a lounge environment with an absolutely unbeatable view of Times Sq. Indeed, the view is so good that during times of particularly newsworthy American events, Britain’s Sky News hires the R lounge as it’s HQ, using the Times Sq view as it’s backdrop, as does CNN International on NYE. The Toronto Eaton Marriott just slips into this category as although it’s windowless and it’s evening food uninspiring, it’s big and the breakfast is top-hole as you simply grab a tray, walk through the door into the restaurant, load up your food and then walk back into the lounge, so It’s the full restaurant breakfast grab-and-go style in the lounge, which is great!


ADEQUATE LOUNGES - they wouldn’t make me any more likely to stay here:


41. Brussels Renaissance (b)

42. Houston Marriott North (fv)

43. Ottawa Marriott (v)

44. Newark Airport Renaissance (v)


For a Biz stay these are quite adequate, pop in for a soda (or beer in the case of the otherwise sterile Brussels Ren Lounge, it’s couple of hours free beer is literally all that holds its place here) or maybe a snack, but theres little to detain you in any of these.


POOR LOUNGES - don’t be swayed by lounges here, they’re nothing worthwhile:


45. Quebec Delta (v)

46. New York Times Sq Marriott Marquis (fv)

47. Newcastle Gosforth Park (v)


Just to be clear here, these poor lounges are not bad spaces, they’re clean enough and have seating away from your room. If you need to get away from the kids to do a bit of work, they’ll fit the bill, but expect nothing more here than a table, chair and coffee in a comfortable and clean environment. Quebec Deltas food offerings are unimpressive, Newcastle Gosforth Park Marriott doesn’t provide any service at all and New York Marquis may have slightly better food than the Quebec Delta but is way too small for the size of hotel and number of elites, it’s just not a relaxing place to be during evening or breakfast service. The fact that these places have a lounge wouldn't influence my leisure decision in their favour at all, not one bit.


CLOSED LOUNGES - these are no longer available


Life moves on and so do Hotels, so it’s inevitable that out of 50 different properties over a decade some would no longer be available, in this case 3 lounges, namely:


48. London Chancery Court Renaissance - now deflagged.

49. Miami Beach Stanton Marriott - now a resort, hence closed.

50. Edinburgh Marriott - now closed, no reason, they just closed it!


And I’ve managed to rank these 3 as well, not on the quality of the lounges as they stood, though all were actually very good, none were outstanding but all 3 had strong points, so are a sad loss. I can hardly criticise the Chancery Court Renaissance lack of availability as it’s the outcome of the properties decision to deflag and try its fortunes with the more upmarket Rosewood brand. Miami Beach Marriott's excuse is weaker. The pursuit of Resort status for this small property became an exercise in box ticking producing teeny-weeny pools and titchy-tiny eateries, the reward being the opportunity to charge a ridiculous cash-grab resort junk fee and close the lounge to make way for something more profitable. Not an approach I endorse! But at least not as bad as the Edinburgh Marriott who despite remaining a full service Marriott just closed its lounge without notice or explanation. The Marriott Stanton must be kicking itself, no need to become a “fake resort” to get rid of the lounge, in the words of Nike “Just do it”. It’s a great pity Marriott let these 2 get away with their manoeuvres, neither of which justified the lounge closures. Nonetheless with Edinburgh’s excuse for closure being the weakest, well no excuse at all actually - it roots itself ignominiously to the bottom of the table.


Moxy -v- Marriott

Posted by brightlybob Mar 4, 2018



Stratford and Park Lane


This weekend I stayed my first 2 Marriott nights this year. I paid £41 to stay a night at the new Category 6 London Stratford Moxy and 45k points to stay at the £360 London Park Lane Marriott. The one stands as often the cheapest Marriott in London, the other the priciest.




So how did they do? Well both recognised me as a Plat Premier even though I got busted last weekend. Both placed me in their best rooms. Both offered the Plat gift and I took the £10 off at the Moxy bar for a couple of pints and a packet of crisps, and the amenity at the Marriott for a couple of bottles of Pale Ale and some chocolate do-dahs. All very tasty.


So check in like this at the Moxy




And like this at the Marriott




My upgraded corner room at the Moxy had a view of the carpark and a balcony





No balcony at the Park Lane instead a top of the line upgrade to the £1,000/nt Park Lane Suite - oooh, posh!






Wetroom at the Moxy




Bathroom at the Marriott






The Marriotts lounge is excellent with good food, breakfast, afternoon tea and evening and long alcohol hours with good local beers too.



The Moxy is a great place, literally 2 mins walk from Stratford tube. It’s literally a 10 minute subway ride to St Paul’s and another 10 mins to Hyde Park. This place puts London in easy reach for very small money. Great bed, good sized room, great bar scene. Safe locality. Even with dynamic rates putting this up to £100 sometimes I reckon it represents great value since it’ll still be far cheaper than anything comparable.


The Marriott is literally 1 min walk from Marble Arch tube and is easily the most polished Marriott I’ve stayed in. Excellent lounge and on the corner of Oxford Street it’s a short stroll to a host of city shopping names and opposite Hyde Park too. The hotel itself is 5-Star all the way and a great place to redeem points.


So would I stay at either of these again? Well, yes I would. Arriving by train late into London and need a cheap place to crash, Moxy is it. Wanna redeem some points for a posh weekend with your significant other, then the Marriott Park Lane is a real contender. Both have a real boutique feel about them, albeit at opposite ends of the market. Marriott Park Lane has the situation, decor rooms and lounge to proclaim its place. Moxy, well I guess if you asked it what it would like to be when it grew up, I like to think it’d answer Aloft...



So I’ve joined the dark-ish side. SPG tonight replacing a Marriott stay in Liverpool. First ever SPG. And booked solely on brianandlin recommendation. Well actually added to to my search for the night (searched Crowne Plaza, Marriott and Starwood) and found I could BRG it at £54 and gain 2000 extra SPG points too, so it became a no-brainier really.


i arrived at 14:30 and was advised my room wasn’t ready but given a voucher for the bar, which is a pretty swish place.






And the receptionist just came up to me advising my room is ready. Time to see what’s so good about SPG...

Slow news day on Insiders, probably due to the dreadful SSO sign-in bug, so although not Marriott related, or even hotel related, here’s something travel related.


I’m returning from TIPPLE with Virgin Atlantic spending miles. The number of miles is relatively small because European airlines tend to charge fewer miles per redemption flights, but much bigger copays. For instance United one-way East Coast transatlantic Economy redemptions are 30,000 miles and $5, BA is 13,000 miles and $180, Virgin is 10,000 miles and $150. For TIPPLE returning to UK I booked Virgin using an upgrade voucher to PE with its 21” width, great recline (guilt free back of cabin) and 38” pitch, it’s a great product. Using my AMEX upgrade voucher meant it was only 10k Virgin miles and due to a pricing anomaly, the same copay as economy, $150. TIPPLE-y bargain!




Except Virgin Atlantic has a problem with its 787 fleet. It’s Rolls Royce engines are wearing faster than expected. This is a problem across the Rolls Royce 787 Trent jet engines. It especially effects Virgin who have bet the farm on a fleet of just 2 aircraft types, the 787 and the 330. All the 787s are being grounded while it waits for Rolls Royce to manufacture and replace but it’s a long wait, maybe a year or more, Rolls is way behind schedule. To tackle this Virgin has purchased some of bankrupt Air Berlin’s A330s and given them a quick paint-job. Alas Air Berlin didn’t run a Premium Economy cabin but this shouldn’t have effected me as Virgins Manchester fleet is 100% A330s. Except that Virgin decided to transfer it’s MAN fleet to LHR hence ensuring LHR customers get their PE seats, and assigned the Air Berlin paint-jobs to MAN meaning my PE seat, and TIPPLE-y bargain ended up at Heathrow. Drat!


But, Ta-Tara! Enter stage left the EU and it’s consumer protection legislation catchily called EU261 that provides where a flight is downgraded the airline has to refund 75% of the cost of the flight. Virgin duly wrote to me at the beginning of December advising I’d been downgraded but I could change my flight free of charge, revive a full refund or take the downgrade and receive my EU261 refund. Not ideal, but the refund would make it a doubly TIPPLE-y cheap flight, just 2500 miles and $39! It’s a deal. Except it’s not. Virgin has decided not to refund me anything as I’m flying on the voucher and didn’t pay either the miles or copay for PE, all they’re doing is replacing the voucher into my account. Alas, the voucher has now passed its 12-month validity, so the returned voucher enters my online Virgin account and disappears in a puff of airline sleight of hand!


All this shenanigans makes me a distinctly Un-BrightlyBob! So I rang Virgin and spoke to customer services who referred me onto refunds, who went silent so I complained again on the phone and then received an email repeating that no EU261 rebate was due but they would be refunding £46 of taxes. Where that came from I’ve no clue, but it is a step in the right direction, however this has now become a challenge. I’m right and they’re wrong! Time to stoke the boiler, with an email to get Virgin Atlantic to abide by its original letter, and the law...


FAO ROBERT W********


Dear Mr W*********,


Many thanks for your response earlier today. As you say, this has left a bad impression in a variety of different ways:


1. Although the seat downgrade was caused by excessive RollsRoyce engine wear on your 787s this shouldn’t have effected my Manchester flight as it was to be flown utilising Airbus aircraft. Instead your company decided to redirect the Manchester airbus fleet to LHR thereby passing the problem onto me. This was not forced upon you, it was a choice your company made.

2. This was ameliorated somewhat by early communication and immediate confirmation that EU261 applied and I would accordingly be rebated 75% of my flight cost. Had that occurred I would have taken that as the end of the matter. Sometimes **** just happens!

3.  Unfortunately after that email at the beginning of December 2017 I received no further correspondence and only after calling repeatedly in January was I advised that your refunds dept had decided that as a points flyer no refund was due. That decision had been made over 2 weeks earlier but without any communication to me.

4. That decision was and remains wholly unlawful as EU261 is completely clear in its wording that the regulations apply to both mileage and money.

5.  I then had to complain to you and you handed me over to the refunds dept who as before didn’t say a word, and still haven’t. Why are your refunds dept so speechless?

6. I today received your email indicating that £46 has been refunded, though not yet received, now 2 months after the date of the email from your company promising the refund. Even if paid however, it would still be insufficient.


I would remind you of your obligations under EU261 with which I am sure your company is very familiar. Article 10 (2) states


If an operating air carrier places a passenger in a class lower than that for which the ticket was purchased, it shall within seven days, by the means provided for in Article 7(3), reimburse

(a) 30 % of the price of the ticket for all flights of 1500 kilometres or less, or

(b) 50 % of the price of the ticket for all intra-Community flights of more than 1500 kilometres, except flights between the European territory of the Member States and the French overseas departments, and for all other flights between 1500 and 3500 kilometres, or

(c) 75 % of the price of the ticket for all flights not falling under (a) or (b), including flights between the European territory of the Member States and the French overseas departments.


This therefore confirms that in the event of a cabin downgrade (in my case from premium to economy) 75% of the entire flight costs are to be refunded.


And article 3 (3) states:


This Regulation shall not apply to passengers travelling free of charge or at a reduced fare not available directly or indirectly to the public. However, it shall apply to passengers having tickets issued under a frequent flyer programme or other commercial programme by an air carrier or tour operator.


This therefore confirms the rules apply in respect of mileage payments to exactly the same extent as the cash copayment.


So that’s 75% of the mileage, that’s 7500 miles AND 75% of the copay, that’s £86 to be refunded. You've decided to return only £46, hence you remain in breach of our contract and EU261.


To resolve this dispute you have the following choices-



1. Compensating me properly for the breach of contract that your decision to reassign the Manchester airbus fleet to London has caused.


You can accomplish this by either:


(A) refunding me 7500 miles and a further £40 to comply with your mileage and cash refund obligations under EU261; or

(B) Paying me £190 representing a very conservative value of the airmiles at 2p per mile making £150 and of course the £40 shortfall referred to above.




2. Changing your mind and not breaching your contract with me.


This can be accomplished by either:


(A) carrying me in Premium Economy cabin, admittedly bearing in mind your decision to reassign the aircraft with it’s PE cabin from Manchester to London that’s a pretty long shot, but it is an option; or

(B) upgrading me without charge to a business seat, hence ensuring I haven’t been downgraded, so you're not then in breach of our contract.



I hope this email is clear, take the opportunity of thanking you for your assistance to date and now look forward to your further responses once you have considered this email accordingly.


Yours Sincerley,







Yeah, slow news day, but I’m awaiting their further response and will update on this blog.

Woohoo - made it to LaLa Land. Trying to get over the jetlag.


The travel day started early at 5am Friday UK time (9pm Thursday LaLa time) for a 6am MAN-LHR hop followed by a transfer from T5 to T3 and then 3 hours in the No1 lounge and then boarding for my noon LHR-LAX Virgin PE flight burning up 60,000 VS miles for the return journey for the 2 of us. After an hours delay we departed LHR and enjoyed a most comfortable beer-laden flight to LAX. Immigration and Customs were fast, as was baggage, but the 10 mile transfer to the Intercontinental Century City was not, taking well over an hour. We finally checked in at 6pm LaLa time , 21 hours after awaking!


This is a Virgin Atlantic and IHG redemption-fest spending the 60,000 Miles I've earned over 2 years on the Virgin AMEX and 180,000 IHG points and 2 Credit Card certificates over the same period from the IHG MasterCard. I’m afraid Marriott Rewards has no part in this trip, but as I’m here I thought I’d post it anyway!


Happy wishes to all from LaLa land.

Chinese hotels have a reputation of coming through on service and elite upgrades so I thought I'd share with all of you my most recent fabulous experience during my stay in Xi'an - home of the Terracotta warriors.


We arrived in Xi'an at 9am on an overnight Sleeper train from Shanghai and after a days touring with a guide visiting the Big Goose Pagoda, the Bell & Drum tower, the Walls and Muslim Street arrived at 4pm to check-in to our hotel.


*WOW* - What an experience! Upon arriving a bellboy collected my luggage from my guides car and asked my name. I replied and he immediately asked me to be seated in reception whilst he called the Exec lounge manager who arrived quickly, thanked me for my loyalty and asked me to accompany him to the Exec lounge where he would personally complete my checkin. We then all accompanied the manager to the lounge where we were offered welcome drinks while I went through the process at the exec lounge desk. After a few mins with my passports and visas I was then advised I could join my family and the hostess would take care of the remaining formalities. 10 minutes later the hostess approached me and advised that our rooms were ready, a double-double as reserved for the two teenagers and our room had been upgraded to a suite, on the exec floor! Of course when we walked into our rooms we found our luggage there waiting for us! SMOOOOTH....


Now, suite upgrades are rare enough but exec floor suite upgrades - never, not ever, never ever, never, never have I received an exec-floor-suite-upgrade in 10 years and over 500 real butt-in-bed nights as a Marriott Platinum, and latterly Platinum Premier.


And then there was the evening lounge, top-shelf liquor and lots of different hot options meant you could eat a full evening meal there AND choose between a Western or Chinese menu. Although the alcohol hours were officially short -  6pm-8pm only - in practice I was there at 5:30pm before dinner and was offered a beer, and returned after dinner at somewhat past 8pm and was able to have a couple more. The Exec lounge Breakfast was amongst the widest I have seen in any exec lounge worldwide and the alternative in-restaurant breakfast was absolutely the best breakfast selection I have ever seen anywhere in the world.


So, smooth-as-silk no-wait exec lounge checkin, upgrade both rooms to exec lounge level AND our room to a full suite on the lounge level, top alcohol and food offerings and the best hotel buffet breakfast ever seen makes me sooo glad I'm a Marriott Platinum Premier ---------- that got comped Hilton Diamond - Yes folks, all this top-treatment, best ever experience occurred at the Xi'an Hilton. It had to be a Hilton as Marriott has no central properties in Xi'an. Its only my second Hilton stay this millennium!


As part of this trip I've also stayed at the Marriott Shanghai City Centre, where I received a concierge level "upgrade" to a standard room 4 floors below the lounge and the Beijing Renaissance Wangfujing where I received no upgrade whatsoever. Both required lengthy checkin procedures and waits (ironically the Ren Beijing stuffed a slip in my roomcard advising all club level guests could checkin in the lounge - only given after I'd gone through the whole lengthy checkin process in reception!). Both lounges are good, as are the alternative full breakfast options, but really, no patch, absolutely no patch, on the incredible Hilton Xi'an...


I think it might be time to rethink my opinions on Hilton!

You know how it goes in the beginning it's all rosy, everything's good, but over the years you feel taken for granted, that your partner just doesn't care for you. Overlooked and ignored you wake up one morning and wonder - really, why am I taking this? Is this all I'm worth?


Well on Monday morning I awoke in my small corner room 2505 at the London Renaissance Heathrow Hotel with a magnificent view of a poured concrete wall just inches from my window while the family next door argued as I could plainly hear through the connecting door, thinking, is this really the best room they could find for a regular Plat premier guest? Thus I began questioning our entire relationship - and decided that it was time to part with the London Heathrow Renaissance. It's been good at times - well the lounge has, but there has to be more to a relationship than great free beer. There's lots of other hotels around who have got to treat regular customers better than this.


As a regular LHR Renaissance Hotel guest I receive:


(a) lengthy checkin queue and an elite queue line that is ritually ignored and utterly pointless

(b) no suite upgrades at checkin, never, not ever. I mean never! Promises of "next time" never kept

(c) repeated "missing stays" - forgetting to post at least 10% of my stays

(d) repeated point-shorting - at least half of my stays that aren't actually missing are significantly point-shorted

(e) "forgotten" Plat bonus points.

(f) charges for car parking but forgets to give the card needed for the reader necessitating further queueing

(g) forgets to post incidental card details given leading to payment refusal at restaurant/bar and further queueing


My last stay 1st-3rd July experienced a, b, f and g and so my first step, once home and acting upon my resolution, I consulted the Marriott Plat line where I spent half an hour on the phone Monday afternoon with them correcting my last 3 LHR Ren stays of woeful underpayment, one missing stay, one significant point-shorting and one "forgotten" Plat bonus points. Yes, that is my last 3 stays at the Heathrow Renaissance! And I've been accepting this as normal for years! The place uses every opportunity to "accidentally" underpay points. Now I await my points posting for my stay ending that fateful dawn of realisation Monday morning and I'll bet you a buck to buttons there'll be at least one of c, d, or e!


I am sorry London Heathrow Renaissance, but this type of crappy consistency isn't a good thing, its time to try another LHR hotel. SPG have a couple of options, and I think there's a Crowne Plaza and at least 2 Hiltons. With my regular stay record I should be able to find another fish in the LHR sea that will provide me with good consistency instead of your take-me-for-granted type.


A few years ago if you'd have asked me what I would most want with me on a desert Island I would have replied, without hesitation, a lifetime supply of beer (and the means to keep it cool). Now, after some thought, I'd reply a lifetimes supply of tea (and the means to brew it).


The free beer was good, but there's more to a relationship than free beer - Yes, LHR Renaissance, I've outgrown you!

Marriott, IHG, Hilton & SPG compared:


China, Florida, Europe and SoCal.


In 2015 I booked a month off work to take a redemption Fly-Drive with my four teenagers around Canada and NE USA. As my planning proceeded I realised there were quite startling differences in comparative redemption costs between my 2 favoured programs - Marriott and IHG - and posted a thread ranking those 2 and the other 2 of the big 4 hotel programs. This year I'm again on my travels redeeming Marriott Reward points in China during July and IHG in California during October and decided to compare again. The results of that comparison led me again down the rabbit hole of comparative redemptions and this blog is the outcome of that.


Before you spend the points, they first have to be earned and no comparison between the values offered by each scheme can ignore the earn rate, since only with this data can one truly assess the comparative value of each loyalty program. I'm assuming top tier is completed in 60 paid nights as all the chains have different ways to their top tiers on that number of paid nights. I assume each night costs $150 plus tax (total inc tax of $10,000pa) and that 30 of those are single night stays, 10 are 2-nighters and 2 are 5-night stays. I take into account HH Diamond & IHG Spire at 20 points per $, MR Plat at 15 and SPG Plat75 at 4 and add in the arrival amenity at 1000 per single night arrival at HH but choosing breakfast on all other stays and do the same with SPG. At Marriott I get 500 points and the free brekky, and IHG doesn't provide a free breakfast benefit at all, so it's just the points there. At SPG on the longer stays I'm allowing for the green choice.


30x1-nighters - Total 30 nights
HH 120k------IHG 105k------MR 83k------SPG 33k
10x2-nighters - Total 20 nights
HH 60k------IHG 65k-------MR 50k------SPG 17k
2x5-nighters - Total 10 nights
HH 30k------IHG 31k-------MR 24k------SPG 10k


HH 210k------IHG 201k------MR 157k------SPG 60k


Here I assume Hilton bonuses offer double points most of the year with some stay based and triple bonuses. At IHG I'm assuming the accelerate bonuses make 60k twice each year, with miscellaneous bonuses making another 20k. Marriott megabonuses make 25k twice each year and the summer promo makes 15k. Finally I've assumed SPG continued its double promo with some tripling, so:


HH 120k------IHG 140k------MR 65k------SPG 20k


Total PROGRAM points on a years hotel spend of $10,000

HH 330k, that's 33 points per hotel $ spent
IHG 341k, that's 34 points per hotel $ spent
MR 222k, that's 22 points per hotel $ spent
SPG  80k, that's  8 points per hotel $ spent






Now if you're going to be directing stays purposely to one hotel chain it makes sense to add the affiliated credit card to ramp up the earnings, so I'm going to add in credit card points for spending. Here I'm assuming $20,000 pa being spent on the cards, $10,000 on the hotels, $7,000 on restaurants, flights, gas and supermarkets and $3,000 on the other purchases. The Hilton Surpass gives 12 points per $ at Hilton, 6 on restaurants, gas and supermarkets and 3 on the rest. The IHG Select card pays 5 points per $ hotel spends, 2 points at restaurants, gas and supermarkets and 1 point on the rest, plus an annual free "any IHG hotel" certificate. Whilst it can be redeemed for up to 60,000 points, and I've redeemed my last 2 at that value, I nonetheless hold their value at half the face value due to expiry, so for this purpose, 30k points. Lastly it provides a 10% point rebate on redemptions. For this purpose I'm adding 10% to the points at final USA totalising which is an extra 44k. For Marriott the Chase card is a debatable choice. It does however offer 15 EQNs so I favour it here. The card pays 5 points per $ at Marriott's, 2 per $ on fuel, flights and restaurants with 1 on everything else. It also adds in an annual Cat1-5 cert which I value at half its possible 25k, namely 12k points. For SPG elites the SPG AMEX is the best option earning 2 points per $ on hotels and 1 on the rest and is overall a slightly higher earner for Marriott elites too, if you're not needing those 15EQNs.


US Credit card earnings on $20,000 spend:

HH 170k------IHG 140k------MR 79k------SPG 30k


So the GRAND total is
HH  500k, that's 50 points per hotel $ spent
IHG 481k, that's 48 points per hotel $ spent
MR  301k, that's 30 points per hotel $ spent

SPG 110k, that's 11  points per hotel $ spent




Now in the UK, the Hilton Barclaycard pays 3 points per £ on hotel spend and 2 points on everything else, the IHG Premium card pays 4 points per £ hotel spend and 2 on everything else and on £10,000 spend provides a free "any IHG hotel" certificate. Whilst it can be redeemed for up to 60,000 points, and I've redeemed the last 2 at that value, I nonetheless hold their value at half the face value due to expiry, so for this purpose, 30k points. Lastly, the SPG AMEX is the only option in the UK for both Marriott and SPG loyalists and pays very well with the 1:3 conversion SPG:MR and making 2SPG (6MR) per £ at hotels and 1 (3MR) on everything else.


Spending the same $20,000 (£15,000) garners:


UK Credit card earnings

HH: 40k------IHG 78k------MR 67k------SPG 22k


So in the UK the (not so) GRAND total is
HH   370k, that's 37 points per hotel $ spent
IHG  419k, that's 42 points per hotel $ spent
MR   289k, that's 29 points per hotel $ spent
SPG 102k, that's 10 points per hotel $ spent


Since I last calculated this relating to my Canada/NE USA trip in 2015 Hilton has done away with categories making its redemptions more dynamic and SPG categories have remained pretty static whilst both IHG and Marriott have continued their annual category creep, with IHG even adding two new categories at 55k and 60k points. All four of these stays represent this vacations taken, or planned, this year.


Last time Marriott and IHG tussled for best value earn and burn with Hilton and SPG way behind. How will the dominos fall this time?


This summary lists each hotel and the hotel spend needed in USD to earn the points necessary to buy the stay expressed as (P$xxxx : UK$xxxx : US$xxxx) where:

P.   - Points earning only, no credit card in USD
UK - Points and the affiliated UK card in USD
US - Points and the affiliated US card in USD


-----CHINA in July-----


Shanghai - 5 nights in the centre
Hilton: Hilton Shanghai -------------160,000 HH   (P$4900 : UK$4300 : US$3200)
IHG: Indigo Bund -------------------200,000 IHG  (P$5900 : UK$4800 : US$4200)
Marriott: Marriott Shanghai Centre  60,000 MR  (P$2700 : UK$2100 : US$2000)
SPG: Westin Bund ------------------ 40,000 SPG (P$5000 : UK$4000 : US$3600)


Beijing - 5 nights near Forbidden City
Hilton: Hilton Wangfujing ------------180,000 HH (P$5500 : UK$4900 : US$3600)
IHG: Crowne Plaza Wangfujing -----125,000 IHG (P$3700 : UK$3000 : US$2600)
Marriott: Renaissance Wangfujing -- 80,000 MR  (P$3600 : UK$2800 : US$2700)
SPG: Westin Beijing ------------------40,000 SPG (P$5000 : UK$4000 : US$3600)


Vacation requires spend of:
Pts:- Marriott $6,300; IHG    $9,600; SPG $10,000; Hilton $10,400
UK:- Marriott $4,900; IHG     $7,800; SPG   $8,000; Hilton  $9,200
US:- Marriott $4,700; Hilton $6,800; IHG    $6,800; SPG     $7,200


The total cost of the vacation if paid in cash would be roughly $2,000 at all the chains.
This is a very easy win for Marriott because both the very central full service hotels chosen are low categories. At only 140,000 Marriott points for both stays it's making 1.5UScents per point. Hilton finds itself beaten into last place here, saved only for US customers by its excellent Surpass card


-----FLORIDA in August----


2 nights Orlando offsite near Universal
Hilton: Doubletree ---------------40,000 HH  (P$1200 : UK$1100 : US$800)
IHG: Holiday Inn ---------------- 50,000 IHG (P$1500 : UK$1200 : US$1000)
Marriott: Fairfield Inn ------------50,000 MR (P$2300 : UK$1700 : US$1700)
SPG: Four-Points -----------------8,000 SPG (P$1000 : UK$800 : US$700)


5 nights offsite near Disney
Hilton: Hilton Garden Inn ------80,000 HH ($P$2400 : UK$2200 : US$1600)
IHG: Holiday Inn Express -----150,000 IHG (P$4400 : UK$3600 : US$3100)
Marriott: Courtyard ---------- 100,000 MR (P$4500 : UK$3400 : US$3300)
SPG: Sheraton -----------------16,000 SPG (P$2000 : UK$1600 : US$1500)


Vacation requires spend of:
Pts:- SPG $3,000; Hilton $3,600; IHG $5,900; Marriott $6,800
UK:- SPG $2,400; Hilton $3,300; IHG $4,800; Marriott $5,100
US:- SPG $2,200; Hilton $2,400; IHG  $4,100; Marriott $5,000


The total cost of the vacation if paid in cash would be roughly $1,000 at all the chains.
This is a cheap stay in a high demand tourist area. SPG performs surprisingly well here, as does Hilton, leaving IHG and Marriott scrapping out for last place. Here those 150,000 MR points redeemed at only 0.66UScents per point, well less than half of the values in China.


-----EUROPE in September-----


5 nights London in a 5* Hotel
Hilton: Waldorf Astoria ------------320,000 HH  (P$9700 :  UK$8600 :  US$6400)
IHG: Intercontinental Park Lane --300,000 IHG (P$8800 : UK$7100  :  US$6300)
Marriott: JW Grosvenor House ---180,000 MR   (P$8200 :  UK$6200 :  US$6000)
SPG: Sheraton Grand -------------100,000 SPG (P$12500 :UK$10000 : US$9000)


3 nights Paris, Opera
Hilton: Astor Opera ----------------210,000 HH (P$6400 : UK$5700 : US$4200)
IHG: Indigo Opera -----------------135,000 IHG (P$4000 : UK$3200 : US$2800)
Marriott: Marriott Opera -----------120,000 MR  (P$5400 : UK$4100 : US$4000)
SPG: W Opera -----------------------60,000 SPG (P$7500 : UK$6000 : US$5400)


Vacation requires spend of:
Pts:- IHG $12,800; Marriott $13,600; Hilton $16,100; SPG $20,000
UK:- IHG $10,300; Marriott $10,300; Hilton $14,300; SPG $16,000
US:- IHG   $9,100; Marriott $10,000; Hilton $10,600; SPG $14,400


The total cost of the vacation if paid in cash would be roughly $4,000 at all the chains.
Bucket-list destinations at near-top redemption cost. All the chains require big point totals to do this pair. It turns out a straight fight between IHG and Marriott for first place with Hilton and SPG duking it out for the wooden spoon. Marriott's value per point climbs back up to 1.2UScents here.


-----SoCAL in October-----


3 nights in LA
Hilton: Beverly Hilton ----------------180,000 HH (P$5400 : UK$4900 : US$3600)
IHG: Intercontinental Century City --180,000 IHG (P$5300 : UK$4300 : US$3800)
Marriott: Beverley Hills Marriott ---- 120,000 MR  (P$5400 : UK$4100 : US$4000)
SPG: W West Beverley ----------------60,000 SPG (P$7500 : UK$6000 : US$5400)


4 nights in Anaheim
Hilton: Doubletree ---------------------140,000 HH (P$4200 : UK$3800 : US$2800)
IHG: Indigo -----------------------------120,000 IHG (P$3500 : UK$2900 : US$2500)
Marriott: Marriott (also FFI & SHS) --- 140,000 MR (P$6400 : UK$4800 : US$4700)
SPG: Sheraton -------------------------- 40,000 SPG(P$5000 : UK$4000 : US$3600)


Vacation requires spend of:
Pts:- IHG $8,800; Hilton $9,600; Marriott $11,800; SPG $12,500
UK:- IHG $7,200; Hilton  $8,700; Marriott  $8,900; SPG $10,000
US:- IHG $6,300; Hilton $6,400; Marriott  $8,700;  SPG  $9,000


The value of all these is roughly the same for each hotel group at $1,500


Another popular redemption spot, where IHG again scores well and Marriott finds itself scrapping with its SPG stable-mate to avoid last place. Here the Marriott point redeems at only 0.6UScents, it's worst performance of the 4 vacations.




Together these 4 vacations are worth roughly $8,500 & require hotel spending of:


Non Credit-Card holders
1st IHG---------$37,100 hotel spends needed
2nd Marriott----$38,500 hotel spends needed
3rd Hilton------$39,700 hotel spends needed
4th SPG--------$45,500 hotel spends needed


UK Credit Card holders
1st Marriott------$29,200 hotel spends needed
2nd IHG---------$30,100 hotel spends needed
3rd Hilton-------$35,500 hotel spends needed
4th SPG---------$36,200 hotel spends needed


US Credit Card holders
1st Hilton--------$26,200 hotel spends needed
2nd IHG---------$26,300 hotel spends needed
3rd Marriott-----$28,400 hotel spends needed
4th SPG---------$32,800 hotel spends needed


Total value of the breaks amounts to roughly $8,500 the value of a point is:
Hilton: ----------cost 1,310,000 points = 0.6 UScents per point
IHG: ------------cost 1,260,000 points = 0.6 UScents per point
Marriott: --------cost   850,000 points = 1.0 UScents per point
SPG:  -----------cost   364,000 points = 2.3 UScents per point


This probably best represents those that carry airline affiliated cards and have neither the room in their lives, or their wallets, for another. And of course MOST OF THE WORLD where affiliation cards are a rarity. This category is very tightly fought out by IHG, Marriott and Hilton but won out by IHG with Marriott following closely behind and Hilton in hot pursuit. The IHG points represent a 23% rebate against stays, Marriott is 22% and Hilton is 21%. No stewards decision needed for last place where SPG trails in far behind the other three with its points representing a 19% rebate.


Here, Marriott leapfrogs over IHG to first place because using the SPG card with its 1:3 conversion ratio means 6MR points per £ at hotels, as against IHGs card awarding 4 of IHGs less valuable points at its hotels. This continues on all other spending too with 3MR points on other spending as opposed to IHGs 2, and although the IHG card does provide a free annual certificate it just can't catch up the value, in no small part because each IHG point is worth a third less than a Marriott point. It does however remain close between Marriott and IHG with Marriott just clinching that first place representing a 29% rebate against IHGs 28%. Although Hilton is third, it's insipid UK credit card offering means it's avoids last place only marginally at 24% with SPG, ably assisted by its excellent AMEX, chasing Hilton to the wire at 23%.


Here, it's definitely a battle of the 2 credit cards, IHG Select and Hilton Surpass. In fact Hiltons Surpass Credit card is the better of the two and does the heavy lifting taking Hiltons otherwise tepid scheme into its photo-finish victory with IHG, but IHGs head start from its better value scheme and the IHG cards ingenious 10% points rebate helped it run Surpass to the wire. Both schemes supported by their cards offer an excellent overall 32% return. Hilton Honors is however not so much a top-value scheme as a torpid program beefed up by a top-value card that raises Hiltons otherwise mediocre return to this win. Marriott members are beaten down here by the relatively insipid Chase offering, which needs a review. No doubt that will be considered when the new combined Marriott/SPG program is launched. Until that happens USA Marriott elites will have to satisfy themselves with a 30% return. SPG keeps up its losing streak at only a 26% return, picking up the wooden spoon, yet again. And it would have been worse but for the relatively simple, yet quite generous SPG AMEX.


Here your best credit card is Surpass adding 50% to Hilton points, followed by the SPG AMEX that eschews complex rules just to give a good 40% increase with SPGs valuable points. The IHG Select Visa manages the same 40% uplift as SPG but via certificates and redemption rebates that may not be as convenient as points simply dropped into your account each month. The Chase Marriott card is the laggard here hauling only 35% and showing signs of neglect.




Simply straight points only program-for-program comparison, there's not much between IHG, Marriott and Hilton. Although IHG wins this it's not convincing and the lack of benefits during stays means it all feels a bit utilitarian, unless you're staying at the Intercontinental, Indigo or a recently refurbed Crowne Plaza, AND pay your own freight to enter the lounge or take breakfast. Overall, penny for penny, with the free breakfast and lounge access provided by Marriott and Hilton they represent a better value choice bearing in mind the micro-difference in redemption percentages between these 3.


For UK and USA residents, the big take-away from this is to get the affiliated credit card if you are going to systematically collect hotel points since they provide a real boost to earnings.


In the US, the Hilton Surpass is undoubtably the best, providing 12HH points per $ at Hiltons, that's more than Hiltons base points! Amazing! The IHG Select cards innovative 10% redemption rebate can really add value, but only as long as you're redeeming. If you're saving over several years for a special redemption then the card becomes less interesting, though of course it beats all comers if you're making that once-in-a-Lifetime million-points redemption trip! And there's some very upmarket Intercontinental's to enjoy out there, backed up by some great refurbed Crowne Plazas and those new Indigos! Marriott's Chase card is looking distinctly flabby in the US market, indeed with the SPG AMEX paying double points at Marriott (2SPG=6MR) and 1SPG (3MR) on all other purchases Marriott members should be better off with that, assuming they don't need the EQNs provided by Chases offering. Even so, using SPGs card wouldn't have changed Marriott's 3rd placing here. SPGs AMEX doesn't bother with lots of bells and fancy whistles preferring a simple earn route in SPGs more valuable points. Longer term, Marriott needs to pay some attention to its affiliated card and a recent announcement indicating it's being considered clearly shows Marriott is alive to the issue.


In the UK Marriott elites will do well with the SPG AMEX. The IHG Premium MasterCard is a good choice for IHG regulars. Hiltons card is a fairly anaemic offering, somewhat like its full service hotels in the UK, but the recent crop of newer hotels are slick, albeit, limited service, outfits. It's difficult to see the point of Hilton in the UK though, Marriott full service hotels are far better maintained and more numerous, IHG covers the same ground offered by Hiltons limited service brands but has several times the number, they're everywhere! Hilton is squeezed out between these two, if you want full service, Marriott has more of them and in better condition, if you want limited service, IHG has hundreds more of them AND both these companies have better value loyalty schemes. Finally there's SPG. It's an odd UK player, with only a couple of hotels outside London and consequently I'd imagine very few UK elites, yet it's managed to snag a good, simple card with the AMEX. British SPGers should certainly be enjoying the enormous extra choice of presented by Marriott outside London to earn their points and I'm sure American Express has experienced a sizeable uptick in the SPG card from Marriotts British pointsluts, keen to ramp up their point totals.




Hilton Honors is a pretty unimpressive performer here with nothing that particularly stands out, but with the Surpass card it becomes a full throated US contender winning out against IHG in a photo-finish. Even so, it wins through on none of the vacations at all - indeed without the benefit of the Surpass card, Hilton finds it difficult to compete and in the UK it's insipid card leaves it well behind IHG and Marriott (supported by the SPG AMEX). In fact in the UK it came perilously close to taking the wooden spoon from SPG. A lot of work is needed here, especially with its UK Hilton full service inventory in a pretty dilapidated condition, its best UK hotels are now the newer Doubletree, Garden Inn and Hampton properties, all of which offer more restricted membership benefits. In the UK it's very difficult to make a case for Hilton. Add to that it's dynamic redemption pricing which means there's no longer any categories so it's vulnerable to unannounced and almost undetectable devaluations. The program is now in Hiltons trust, and I'm not sure it's trustworthy enough to be left with its hands on the levers of such an opaque scheme. If Hilton decides it's time to gut the scheme it can do so easily and no amount of points from the Surpass card could stop the slide. At the turn of the millennium Hilton was a leading scheme with hotels you really wanted to stay at but neglect of the full service UK properties and a slash and burn approach to its loyalty program has left it threadbare.


IHG Rewards Club wins the "points only" category, battles Hilton gamely in the US and runs a close second to Marriott in the UK, but being a largely benefits free zone it really should have romped all 3 races. IHG is a points-for-free-stays program goddamnit! I would have expected this to be right in its home game, after all, it offers little else for elites but oodles of points for free stays, yet although it wins on "points alone" its pipped at the post by Hilton in the US and Marriott in the UK. To some extent IHG was struggling with my predisposition for 5-night redemptions thus hitting Marriott's 5-for-4 sweet spot. What would allow IHG to compete more effectively would be a change in my redemption behaviour as the stay lengths here have worked against it with half the stays being 5-nights which is what I almost always reserve if I am considering redeeming 4 nights. This is because Marriott (and Hilton and SPG) operate a fifth night free on redemptions. This stay length causes problems for IHG as unlike the other 3 chains it doesn't offer that fifth free night. If all the 5-nighters were instead 4-nighters IHG would see its total spend requirement reduced by approx $4,000 enabling it to clean-sweep the world as number 1.


Marriott has lost its crown in the US and on "points only", reflecting its aggressive category creep and maybe also the fact that half of these 4 vacations play directly against its category placement policy where it fixes hotel categories on the basis of redemption demand, not brand. Hence there's eight of Marriott's luxury JW properties languishing in Category 2 at only 10,000 points per night and nine of the budget Fairfield Inns scaling the heights at Category 8 costing a breathtaking 40,000 points a pop. Now, leisure destinations in the USA - where the vast majority of Marriott points are both earned and redeemed -  suffer considerable redemption pressure with Florida and SoCal at the very eye of the leisure redemption storm. Marriott's policy means they react to that pressure bumping up the categories again, and again to try and ease the pressure in the pot. But this doesn't work so well in these hotspots as many members simply think "I've built up all these points - I AM HAVING A FREE STAY THERE,  however many points it costs!" However, Marriotts approach does mean it places even full service 5-star hotels into low categories where redemption demand is comparatively weak, such as China, where you'll find 3 of the Cat2 JWs and where both my Super-Central choices were 5-star full service, yet low category (Shanghai Cat3 & Bejing Cat4). The outcome of this policy is that Marriott offers poor value in both Florida and SoCal as they are classic USA redemption hotspots  but the scheme can offer amazing value where redemption pressure is lower, Shanghai, Beijing, Moscow, many ACs in Spain, those CYs, RIs and FFIs that are scattered around the American  'burbs. If I'd stuck to just these places Marriott would have romped home in all categories. Nonetheless, even though 2 of the 4 vacations played against Marriott it still won overall for those living in the UK with the able assistance of its high-value (for UK) SPG AMEX card and 1:3 transfer rate. Had the UK been stuck only with the lethargic UK MasterCard then IHG would have romped home here as well.


Starwood Preferred Guest doesn't seem to have improved its earn-and-burn much from my last outing, mostly bringing up the rear, but does manage a strange win in the offsite-Disney race. This is probably due to the fact it runs the on-site Swan and Dolphin hotels which means the nearby-but-offsite hotels have to be priced especially keenly to see redemption activity. It's certainly the stand out there. Elsewhere SPG struggles to come even close at last place and finishes some distance behind the rest. The programs bright spot is undoubtably the in-stay benefits. You may need to save longer for that vacation, but at least when you get to the hotel you'll be well treated by SPG. Many think that's worth the poorer earn to burn ratio.




The clearest takeaway here is if you're invested into a loyalty scheme, get the card. For most of the world that's not possible as indeed it isn't for many US residents who've decided to use credit cards to ramp up airline miles and don't have spend left to divert to a non-airline card. But for those of us that can get the hotel affiliated cards, and do use them, they do really juice-up the totals.


Another clear takeaway here with both Marriott and IHG can be found in their top categories which requiring a spend of $1,800 per night at IHG and $2,000 ($1,600 on 5-night stays) at Marriott compare very cheaply with Hiltons top category that requires $3,000 of spending and SPGs that requires an eye-watering $3,500! The effect of this is easily seen in London and Paris where all the chains post high redemption categories, but Marriott and IHGs comparatively low caps easily win out. What is also noticeable here is that the Waldorf at 80,000 points requiring $2,400 spending to get there is 15%  below the top of the Hilton table but SPGs London Sheraton Grand is 25,000 points requiring $2,500 spending yet is 30% lower than its top category! SPG points transfer to Marriott at 1:3 and this earn rate is pretty well reflected in my earning breakdown, yet SPGs earn and burn rate is dreadful. Thus, it's not the earn bit - it's the burn bit - Yep, those SPGers are feeling the burn! The London JW is a Cat9, the Marriott maximum, at 45,000 points. Similarly IHGs Intercontinental Park Lane is the maximum at 60,000 points. As IHG points are worth about 30% less than Marriotts points it's Intercontinental on Park Lane is, in Marriott money, about 40,000 points. SPGs Sheraton Grand is 25,000 SPG points which is equivalent to 75,000 Marriott points. And thats not SPGs top category either!


So, although Marriott's crown has slipped, it managed to keep the UK title and was a tight second on "points only" against the benefit-free IHG. For US elites Marriott made a close run against Hiltons all-conquering Surpass, but even so, 3rd is nothing to be proud of. For Marriotteers the best redemption value remains those destinations that take advantage of the route less travelled, as unlike the other chains that just won't place their full service brands in their lower redemption categories, Marriott does.
Time to explore India or China, mayhaps? The Shanghai City Centre Marriott is only a Cat3 despite costing $150/nt, as is the Beijing Central JW. In reality Florida and SoCal are both crowded Hotel markets running cheap rates as all the chains compete. Those are the places to pay money for your room and earn your Marriott points. The top location gateway cities where redemption pricing is artificially capped by the top category such as NYC, London and Paris or the low category roads less travelled are where the best Marriott redemption values lie so if you stick there then Marriott's value is unbeatable.

And so it begins!




Aboard the 1pm Manchester-London Pendolino with a nice cool Becks, mmmmmmm.


A great day for a TIPPLE!