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The Walt Disney World Swan and Walt Disney World Dolphin are two hotels on Disney property between Epcot and Hollywood Studios (near the Boardwalk). Both are owned and operated by Starwood Hotels, which is now a subsidiary of Marriott.
Before you read on, you should know that the Starwood / Marriott merger is still a very active process. You may still need to merge your rewards accounts, the Starwood website will still need to be updated, and we expect some small rate changes once 2019 rolls around.
The good news is that the major pieces of the merger are set, and we know enough to develop a strategy for booking the Swan and Dolphin with points.
In this post, we cover booking the Walt Disney World Swan and Walt Disney World Dolphin with points. Don't have Starpoints / Marriott Points (or any idea what they are)? That's fine!! At the end of this post we cover some easy ways to get points for your stay!
Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Nightly Rates
The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin are both Marriott category 6 hotels, requiring 50,000 points per night.
2019 is expected to bring “peak” season rates to some times of the year, so we’ll be on the lookout for that. For now, if nights are bookable, they’re bookable at 50,000 points per night.
Using Fifth Night Free to Boost Your Value
When you book four nights at a Marriott property using points, you'll get the fifth night free! If you're thinking four days at the parks is enough time (and money), consider taking the fifth day for a resort day. Near the Boardwalk and Fantasia Gardens you're perfectly placed for a fun day!
This means that a five night stay at the Walt Disney World Swan or Dolphin will cost you 200,000 points. We’ll cover more on whether this is good value in a bit.
Booking The Swan and Dolphin With Points
Booking the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin with Marriott points is an easy enough affair. This is the part of the post that will almost certainly change in the coming months as Marriott and Starwood marge systems. For now, it’s current as of October 4, 2018.
1. Log on to your Marriott / Starwood Rewards Account
2. Search for your hotel and dates
We've chosen one night at the Walt Disney World Swan for this booking.
3. Click Through to View Rates
You’ll see nearby hotels (including the other Swan / Dolphin hotel) and rates in your results as well.
4. Choose the SPG Free Nights Rate
You’ll also see cash rates for comparison. You can scroll down for other room types.
5. Complete Your Booking
I’ll leave the screenshot out of here because it’s got all our personal info, but it’s a standard reservation form.
Where to Get Marriott Points
Besides stays at Marriott (and subsidiary) hotels, there are plenty of ways to earn Marriott points using credit cards. We’ll start by listing the cards to consider before we explain (very important) details about these offers.
American Express Starwood Cards
(Note: Signup offers from American Express change frequently and can vary by who is viewing them, whether they have cookies in their browser, and other random factors.)
Despite the merger seemingly being the end of the SPG rewards program, American Express will continue offering three cards under the SPG brand:
The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express offers 75,000 bonus points for $3000 spent in the first three months; $95 annual fee waived first year (also includes annual free night that CANNOT be used at Swan & Dolphin)
The Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express offers 100,000 bonus points for $5000 spent in the first three months; $95 annual fee waived first year (also includes annual free night that CANNOT be used at Swan & Dolphin)
The Starwood Preferred Guest® Luxury Card offers 100,000 bonus points for $5000 spend in the first three months; $450 annual fee with $300 annual Marriott credit; annual Free night certificate that CAN be used at Swan & Dolphin (first free night certificate arrives after your first year as cardholder)
Chase Marriott Cards
While American Express has long offered SPG cards, Chase is the historical partner of Marriott. They will continue offering at least two Marriott-branded cards.
The two currently available Chase-Marriott cards are:
Other American Express Cards
If your American Express card earns Membership Rewards points, those can be transferred to Marriott at a 1000 MR = 12000 Marriott as well. This typically won't be a good use of these points, though.
Stays at Marriott and Starwood Properties
As you might expect, when you stay at Marriott (and Starwood) properties, you’ll earn points.
Combining Credit Card Signup Bonuses for Swan and Dolphin Stays
Chase and American Express are being VERY restrictive about who can sign up for these cards and earn bonuses. We 100% undoubtedly suggest you review the terms specified on the Chase and Amex offers before signing up for any of these cards.
The details of these exclusions are very specific, but basically Chase and Amex are trying to eliminate double dipping across their cards. If you get the bonuses through Chase, you won’t be able to get them through Amex, and vice versa.
The cross-branded restrictions are complex and will catch many off guard. For example, we cannot get the bonus on the SPG Luxury card because we’re current holders of the JP Morgan Ritz Carlton Credit card. Keep in mind that Amex and Chase have their own rules (unrelated to Marriott) about who is eligible for their cards, too.
At the moment (10/4/2018), the size of the available bonuses makes the decision easy. You can get 275,000 by signing up for the three American Express cards. That would be good for six nights at the Walt Disney World Swan or Dolphin.
As with all things, you’re not guaranteed to be approved for all three cards, but if you’re approved for one and earn the signup bonus, you’re at least earning free nights.
Are The Swan and Dolphin a Good Use of Marriott Points?
A sample five-night stay we looked at cost $2,185 or 200,000 Marriott points. That’s roughly 1.1 cents per point, which is higher than the 0.9 cents The Points Guy values Marriott points at. If you’re not a big traveler, getting 1.1 cents per Marriott point at the Swan & Dolphin is a fine way to use your points.
If you’re transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards points or American Express Membership Rewards points over to Marriott, you’re not getting great value at Swan & Dolphin, so you’ll want to reserve that for when you just need to top off with a small number of points to earn a free night.