Is Marriott Bonvoy the best hotel loyalty scheme? (Part 1)
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This is part of our overview series of the main hotel loyalty schemes. Each scheme will be covered over two articles on different days. One will list the basic facts of the scheme – basically “How does Marriott Bonvoy work?” – and the other will be my subjective view of what is of particular merit.
Our other articles so far, looking at how Accor Live Limitless works, how Hilton Honors works and how IHG One Rewards works are here.
Marriott Bonvoy is the loyalty scheme launched by Marriott in February 2019 following its acquisition of Starwood Hotels and Resorts. It covers over 8,000 hotels globally across 30 different brands.
These are (in alphabetical order): AC Hotels, Aloft, Autograph, Bulgari, Courtyard, Delta Hotels, Design Hotels, Edition, Element, Fairfield Inn, Four Points, Gaylord, JW Marriott, Le Meridien, Marriott, Moxy, Protea, Renaissance, Residence Inn, St Regis, Sheraton, Springhill Suites, The Luxury Collection, The Ritz Carlton, Towneplace Suites, Tribute, W Hotels and Westin.
The Marriott Bonvoy home page is here.
What is the geographic spread?
Marriott has a decent spread of UK and European properties, and the low-cost end of the market has seen the rapid growth of Moxy and the relaunch of Courtyard. Wherever you are in the world, you probably won’t be far from a Marriott-operated hotel. That said, outside London it doesn’t have the UK coverage of Hilton or IHG.
Since the acquisition of Starwood, Marriott now has a vastly improved high-end portfolio via The St Regis and The Luxury Collection. The Ritz Carlton has also raised its game in recent years after a period of stagnation.
The Autograph brand is ‘adopting’ interesting boutique properties such as The University Arms in Cambridge and gives Marriott a much-needed shot in the arm in term of luxury properties.
Do I use them?
I was historically a Starwood person rather than a Marriott person, although I did have the occasional stay at The Ritz Carlton. This has changed substantially since the Starwood / Marriott merger, and last year I did enough nights for Platinum Elite status.
We have reviewed a lot of Marriott Bonvoy hotels on HfP in recent years if you search through our full hotel reviews index here.
Looking at the ex-Starwood portfolio, stays in recent years include the excellent The St Regis Istanbul, which I reviewed for HfP, and The St Regis New York, reviewed here where I have done three stays (it’s not the flashiest but it is good with suite upgrades for elites).
Le Meridien Hamburg is an occasional haunt when visiting family and last year I got their top suite via a Suite Night Award upgrade. The Westin in Dublin is a lovely conversion in a great location and my default choice there.
There were misses, of course, such as The St Regis Doha, reviewed here and the new The St Regis Venice, reviewed here.
The JW Marriott in Venice was a hotel we visited four times when our children were younger (our most recent JW Marriott Venice review is here) and it works well for families. There are two little-known but impressive luxury resorts in Ras Al-Khaimah – I reviewed The Ritz-Carlton Al Wadi Desert resort outside Ras Al-Khaimah twice and The Ritz Carlton beach resort in Ras (reviewed here). Both are good value compared to Dubai resorts and the drive is only 70 minutes. I reviewed The Ritz Carlton Kyoto in 2017 (website here) and it was astonishingly good – on a par with the best of the Four Seasons portfolio.
In 2019 I reviewed the Al Bustan Palace in Muscat, managed by The Ritz Carlton (website here). The Berlin Marriott, reviewed here (website here) – possibly the poshest Marriott in the world – has also become my default hotel when visiting the ITB travel show each March. And, of course, we had the 2019 and 2022 Head for Points Summer Party at the lovely Renaissance St Pancras.
At the other end of the scale, my final hotel stay before coronavirus was at the new Courtyard hotel at Inverness Airport, reviewed here (website here). Rhys reviewed the Courtyard hotel at Luton Airport (website here) and there are new Courtyard properties at London City (reviewed here, excellent hotel) and Heathrow (reviewed here). Both Rhys and I also have soft spots for the Moxy chain, despite its budget positioning.
I managed to visit Domes of Elounda in Crete in 2020 (website here) which has become a family favourite with many HfP readers and is part of the Autograph Collection. Sinead on our team is a fan of Domes of Corfu. A November 2020 visit to the Bankside Hotel in London, part of the Autograph Collection, was impressive as our review showed (website here).
Apart from The St Regis Istanbul and Al Bustan Palace, which were provided by Marriott, the stays I mention above were paid for in cash or with my own Bonvoy points.
Elite membership levels in Marriott Bonvoy
If you have an American Express Platinum credit card you receive Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status for free, along with status at Hilton, Melia and Radisson.
If you have the Marriott Bonvoy American Express credit card, you receive 15 elite night credits each year. This is enough to get you Silver Elite status directly but, more importantly, puts you closer to the status which really counts – Platinum Elite.
If you don’t have either of these cards, this is what you need:
- Silver Elite – requires 10 nights. Benefit is a 10% bonus on base points and priority late checkout (based on availability).
- Gold Elite – requires 25 nights. Benefits are 25% bonus on base points, room upgrade, high-speed internet, 2pm late check-out (based on availability, not at resorts and conference hotels) and welcome gift.
- Platinum Elite – requires 50 nights. Benefits are 50% bonus on base points, room upgrade to best available room or suite, high-speed internet, lounge access (or breakfast if the lounge is closed), guaranteed late check-out until 4pm (not at resorts) as well as an annual ‘choice benefit’ from five options including 5 elite night credits or 5 suite night awards and welcome gift.
- Titanium Elite – requires 75 nights. Benefits are 75% bonus on base points, an annual ‘choice benefit’ from six options as well as all the benefits enjoyed by Platinum.
- Ambassador Elite – requires 100 nights and $23,000 spend. Benefits include all those of Titanium Elite (there is no increase in points bonus) as well as a 24/7 personal assistant service, the ability to choose the exact 24 hours of your stay.
The full table of elite benefits is here.
Free internet is given to all guests as long as they book direct. Members with Gold Elite or above receive high-speed internet for free.
In North America, it is common for executive lounges to be closed at weekends.
Marriott Bonvoy has a joint venture with United Airlines whereby Marriott Titanium Elite and Ambassador members receive Silver status in the United programme. United members who are Gold or higher receive Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status. There is a similar Marriott Bonvoy joint venture with Emirates.
Reward nights DO count for status.
Marriott Bonvoy offers lifetime status at Silver Elite, Gold Elite and Platinum Elite level. You need to achieve targets for both nights stayed and points earned. Details can be found here.
How do you earn Marriott Bonvoy points?
Marriott Bonvoy gives you 10 points per $1 spent, plus any elite status bonus. The only exceptions are Residence Inn, Towneplace Suites, Protea and element which offer 5 points per $1 and Marriott Executive Apartments and ExecuStay where you earn 2.5 per $1. The full breakdown per chain is here.
At most brands, you will receive points on all of your in-hotel spending.
Marriott runs regular promotions although they are often less aggressive than those from IHG One Rewards or Hilton Honors. These tend to run back-to-back so there will usually be some offer worth signing up for. Details of the current promotion can be found on our ‘Hotel Offers‘ page.
What are Marriott Bonvoy points worth?
We have an article dedicated to working out what Marriott Bonvoy points are worth which you can find here.
Our mid-point valuation is 0.5p per point although you can easily beat this.
How do you spend Marriott Bonvoy points?
I used to link to a redemption chart at this point, but Marriott Bonvoy got rid of redemption charts last year.
Redemption rates are now linked to cash rates, although it is certainly not a linear relationship. We haven’t seen properties hitting the 200,000 points per night level that a flat 0.5p per point relationship would imply for, say, a luxury New York hotel on a peak date.
All members receive ‘five nights for the price of four’ when redeeming. The ‘free’ night is the cheapest – in points terms – of the five nights in your itinerary.
A 5-star 60,000 point redemption would typically require a Silver member to spend $5,500. In reality this figure will be lower due to points earned from promotions, although these have less of an impact with Marriott Bonvoy than at other chains.
Marriott offers ‘instant redemption’ for in-hotel benefits. At selected hotels, these lets you redeem points for a cash credit against incidental charges on your room bill. 2,500 points is worth $10 through to 125,000 points being worth $500.
Marriott Bonvoy lets you book reward nights WITHOUT having the points in your account. It allows you to lock in the rooms you need today whilst giving you plenty of time you earn the points required. You are not fixing the points rate, however. This article explains Marriott’s ‘Points Advance’ feature in more detail.
Marriott has an excellent ‘experiences’ programme called Marriott Moments which allows you to use points for cultural and sporting events. The company has a permanent suite at the O2 Arena in London and a suite at Manchester United’s Old Trafford ground in Manchester, allowing for a steady stream of good redemption options. The current London events are listed here.
You can use Marriott Bonvoy points to book cash flights with any airline as this article shows. It isn’t as bad a deal as you may expect and, as Marriott is buying you a cash ticket, it would earn miles and tier points back.
Do Marriott Bonvoy points expire?
According to the programme rules, if you do not earn or spend points during a 24 month period then your points will be removed (see clause 1.6).
I wrote a full article here on different ways to stop your Marriott Bonvoy points from expiring.
Can you upgrade using points?
Not from a cash booking, no.
Some properties allow you to book upgraded rooms, including suites, for an additional co-pay on top of the standard redemption cost.
We have used this feature at JW Marriott Venice to get a junior suite, sleeping four, for the same number of points as a standard room. My Berlin Marriott reward night for the ITB travel fair next month was upgraded for €60 per night. For families this is a very useful option where offered.
Marriott Bonvoy also allows you, at selected hotels, to book larger or upgraded rooms entirely with points.
Are ‘cash and points’ redemptions available?
Yes. Some hotels allow to book reward nights using a mix of cash and points. This is usually 50% of the standard number of points plus roughly 50% of the cash rate.
Can you transfer Marriott Bonvoy points to airline miles?
Marriott Bonvoy points can be transferred to a large number of airlines including British Airways / Avios. For most airlines, it is a direct 3:1 transfer ratio.
For every 60,000 points you transfer you get a 5,000 miles bonus so it is worth transferring in chunks of 60,000 points if you can.
The full list of airline partners is here. A handful no longer offer the bonus 5,000 miles when transferring 60,000 points.
Can I earn Avios directly without collecting points?
Yes, see ba.com here. You can earn Avios by showing your British Airways Executive Club or avios.com card at check-in. The amount will depend on which brand you are staying with, but is usually 2 Avios per $1.
You will not earn any Marriott Bonvoy points. However, you must still be a member of Marriott Bonvoy in order to do this.
Marriott Bonvoy UK credit card partnerships
Can you get elite status with a UK credit card? Yes. Amex Platinum gives you Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status for as long as you hold the card.
The 30,000 Membership Rewards points sign-up bonus on American Express Platinum converts into 45,000 Marriott Bonvoy points.
The Marriott Bonvoy credit card, issued by American Express, was launched in 2020. The Marriott Bonvoy Amex gives triple Bonvoy points (6 points per £1) when used at a Marriott property and 2 points per £1 elsewhere. You also receive 15 elite night credits per year, which would trigger Silver Elite status, for as long as you hold the card.
It is also possible to earn Gold Elite status via the Marriott Bonvoy American Express card. This requires £15,000 of annual spend, however, and is not an exceptionally generous return.
You receive a sign-up bonus of 20,000 Marriott Bonvoy points with the Marriott Bonvoy American Express card.
Is Marriott Bonvoy an Amex Membership Rewards partner? Yes. You can transfer Membership Rewards points to Marriott Bonvoy points at a rate of 2:3.
Purchasing and transferring points
You can buy Marriott Bonvoy points for $12.50 per 1,000 via this link.
You can transfer your Marriott points to anyone up to a cap of 100,000 points per year. This is free to all members. Transfers must be done by telephone.
What is my personal opinion of Marriott Bonvoy?
Click here for Part 2 of our Marriott Bonvoy review which will give you my personal opinion of the programme.