Back in November, Mrs. Selfish and I drove from Barcelona to Madrid, stopping in a total of 5 cities over the course of 8 nights: Valencia, Murcia, Malaga, Seville, and Cordoba.

8 Days of driving in Southern Spain!

While Mrs. Selfish was excited to try authentic Spanish paella, take in the Moorish ruins, and experience Flamenco dancing, I was excited to try out Marriott’s latest promotions.

Marriott acquired the AC Hotel chain in Spain, which is a low-to mid tier chain with quite a number of cheap hotels. While a few of the hotels ran us upwards of 80 euros a night (or $106), the majority were 60 euros ($80) or cheaper.

This was especially handy, because Marriott was running several stackable promotions at the same time:

1. Marriott’s MegaBonus Promotion: Any 2 stays net you one free night in a category 1-4 hotel, up to 3 free nights per quarter. A “stay” counts as checking in, and checking out of a hotel, so there is no difference between a 1 night stay and a 7 night stay as far as Marriott is concerned.

2. Southwest Gift Card Promotion: By buying gift cards through the southwest portal, we earned 3000 Southwest points. Since Marriott doesn’t charge ahead of time (for most stays) we used the gift cards at check out time. Points ranged from 1200 Rapid Reward points for $100 to 6000 Rapid Reward points for $500. This particular promotion expired on Nov 30, but they appear to run them from time to time, so check online if you have any upcoming Marriott stays.

3. Taste of Platinum Challenge: If you have status in another hotel program, you can call or email Marriott to request a Taste of Platinum challenge which requires you to complete 9 stays in a 4 month period (the month you ask for the challenge + 3 months). Marriott is extremely generous with their Platinum challenge, allowing members to attempt it once per year. Unlike other programs, they extend you the full benefits of Platinum status during your stay, which gives you internet, breakfast, late check out, 50% extra points, and a possible upgrade.

Since Mrs. Selfish and I both have Gold status in Hilton, she was able to call in and request the Platinum challenge.

We were upgrade to suites at the AC Seville and AC Cordoba!

Unfortunately one of the best benefits, free breakfast, was not honored by the AC Hotels. Since each Marriott hotel can choose whether or not to participate in the platinum member benefits, this was a known, but disappointing result. The free internet, upgrades, and extra points more than made up for it, however!

4. Marriott’s Refer a Friend Bonus: Existing members can refer friends to join Marriott Rewards. For every stay your friend completes YOU BOTH earn a bonus of 2000 points, on top of the points you receive for the stay itself. Since neither Mrs. Selfish nor I had Marriott accounts before starting we were able to sign up for this promotion, which means for my 4 stays we earned an additional 16000 points. Since 16000 points is good for a free night at a category 3 hotel, it was definitely worth the 10 minutes it took to sign up.

Only 15,000 points for a night at the Beijing Marriott Hotel City Wall, a $128 value!

5. Use Cash Back Portals for Additional Money Back: Use sites like Mr. Rebates, or Ebates to get even more cash back. If you’re a Discover card holder, you can earn an additional 5% back currently by clicking through Discover’s store. To see who gives you the most cash back or points when shopping online I go to sites like evreward.

Turning 5 Stays into 8

Since we were staying at 5 separate hotels, Mrs. Selfish and I would have only earned 5 stays, for a total of 2 free nights. In order to turn our full 8 nights into 8 stays (and 4 free nights) Mrs. Selfish and I booked each night individually, staying in her name first (since she had Platinum status) then staying in mine. Upon checking in to every hotel, we explained that we were staying under two separate accounts, and asked the hotel to allow us to stay in the same room for two nights. With the exception of the Malaga hotel, which was completely booked, we were able to keep the same hotel room.

The Results

Mrs. Selfish and I earned 4 free night certificates and 25,031 points, enough for a free night in a category 5 or lower hotel. We’re planning on using all 5 nights in one go to book a category 4 hotel, like the JW Mariott in Kuala Lumpur, which goes for $165 a night, or the Renaissance Naruto Resort, which goes for a whopping $303 a night! During that time I’ll call up Marriott to request a Taste of Platinum challenge myself to see if we can get breakfast, internet, and a room upgrade.

5 nights in the JW Marriott in Kuala Lumpur, a retail value of  $825!

If you estimate the value of a free night at a category 4 hotel at $175, those 4 free nights are worth ~$700. Since most people tend to value Marriott Points at $.01 each, those 25,031 points are worth  roughly $250.31.  Lastly, Southwest’s Rapid Reward points are redeemable at a rate of 60 per $1, so those 3000 RR points are worth $50.

Total cost of 8 hotel nights: $751.97
Free nights earned: 4
Marriott Rewards Points earned: 25,031
Southwest points earned: 3000

Estimated value of points & nights: $1000.31

Additional Resources

* Flyertalk has a great list of current Marriott promotions
* Marriott hotels listed by category
* Travel by Points in depth article