I thought I'd share a recent experience so that others don't make the same mistake I did. If you're not a reader of lengthy posts, please feel free to skip to the TL:DR version section. Cheers!
Earlier in 2017 I got my very first rewards card – the Marriott Premier card that earned me a solid 85K rewards points. I used it for all my spending. Halfway through that year, I joined the Insider forum and started learning more. I picked up a new Chase card and a new Amex card to better optimize my rewards earning. Then I heard the buzz around the end of last 2017. Marriott was acquiring Starwood and, upon merging the 2 loyalty programs, members would have a once in a lifetime opportunity to book future category 8 hotels using current category 7 standard award pricing. I was definitely interested.
I was saving my rewards points for a legacy hotel+air package, but considered altering my strategy to take advantage of using 240K points for one of those “sweet spot” award redemptions. To get additional points, I picked up the SPG Amex for 35K star points (105 rewards points). Halfway through 2018 with travel package devaluations imminent, I decided to forego the potential “sweet spot” redemption and cashed in my points to lock in a 7 night Marriott stay and 132K United Airlines miles. Life was good.
Enter, the monkey wrench
Being Marriott-oriented, I decided to get the Ritz-Carlton credit card as well. My timing couldn't have been any luckier because right after I applied, Chase stopped offering the card to new applicants. Signing up for the RC card got me two 60K e-certificates and got me to thinking that I might be able to take advantage of a “sweet spot” redemption after all. All I'd need to do is come up with another 120K more points. So I did. When Chase made a second offer for 50K points to upgrade to the Marriott Premier Plus, I did. When Amex offered me 50K points to upgrade to the SPG Lux, I did. I had already booked my “sweet spot” award using points advance. I was about to book the award using the 2 certificates and my 120K points thereby granting the 5th night free.
Here's what I didn't do. I didn't read the terms & conditions. If I had, I would have realized that you don't qualify for a 5th night free by mixing e-certificates and points. The 5th night free award is specific to points only bookings – not points plus e-certificates. Ugh.
So now I need to come up with roughly 120K points to cover the cost of my points advance booking, and I need to do so fairly soon. I don't think I'll be able to keep the 60K per night rate if I don't lock it in before new points pricing takes effect this March. So...
Since the two 60K e-certificates won't help, I can apply them to a reservation I made with points a while ago and get back the 65K points that I used. The rest of the points, I can transfer from Amex and/or Chase. Though I'd prefer to keep these flexible points available for other uses, time is of the essence. I promised Mrs. Betterdays we'd be vacationing in Crete, and I'm not going to let her down.