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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.

Marriott Bonvoy is the new loyalty scheme launched by Marriott in February 2019 following its acquisition of Starwood Hotels and Resorts. It covers almost 7,000 hotels globally across 30 different brands. These are (in alphabetical order!): AC Hotels, Aloft, Autograph, Courtyard, Delta Hotels, Design Hotels, Edition, Element, Fairfield Inn, Four Points, Gaylord, Le Meridien, Marriott, Moxy, Protea, Renaissance, Residence Inn, St Regis, Sheraton, The Luxury Collection, The Ritz Carlton, Springhill Suites, Towneplace Suites, W and Westin.  The Marriott Bonvoy home page is here.

Marriott Bonvoy overview

What is the geographic spread?

Marriott has a decent spread of UK and European properties.  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.

The Autograph brand is ‘adopting’ interesting boutique properties such as Threadneedles in The City and this gave Marriott a much-needed shot in the arm in term of luxury properties.  Since the acquisition of Starwood, Marriott now has a vastly improved high-end portfolio via St Regis and The Luxury Collection.  The Ritz Carlton has also raised its game in recent years after a period of stagnation.

Is Marriott Bonvoy the best hotel scheme?

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.

Looking at the ex-Starwood portfolio, stays in recent years include the excellent St Regis Istanbul, which I reviewed for HFP, and St Regis New York, reviewed hereLe Meridien Hamburg is a regular haunt when visiting family. The Westin in Dublin is a lovely conversion in a great location and my default choice there. We also reviewed the refurbished Sheraton Grand Park Lane in London which is beautiful. Here is my review of the Aloft at London Excel which is a ‘stylish budget’ brand with a decent pool.  We also reviewed the two European ‘Element’ hotels (environmentally focussed long-stay properties) and the Aloft Liverpool.  There were misses, of course, such as St Regis Doha, reviewed here.

My Marriott stays in the 20 years prior to 2015 could probably be counted on two hands.  Things changed with the opening of the JW Marriott in Venice which is pretty good (our JW Marriott Venice review is here). We have visited four times now.  I have also visited the new Ritz-Carlton desert resort outside Ras Al-Khaimah, just north of Dubai (reviewed here) and the new Ritz Carlton beach resort (reviewed here) as both are excellent value as a redemption. I also visited The Ritz-Carlton Kyoto in 2017 (reviewed here) and it was astonishingly good – on a par with the best of the Four Seasons portfolio.

Earlier this year I was at the Al Bustan Palace in Muscat, managed by The Ritz Carlton (review here). The Berlin Marriott (reviewed 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 Head for Points Summer Party at the lovely Renaissance St Pancras.

The Glasshouse Hotel Marriott Edinburgh

Elite membership levels in Marriott Bonvoy

If you have an Amex Platinum you can get Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status for free.  If you have the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express, you get Silver Elite status for free.

If you don’t have either of these, 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 $20,000 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 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.  The similar joint venture with Emirates has just been relaunched.

Reward nights DO count for status but not for any promotion bonuses.

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, TownPlace Suites 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 rarely as aggressive as those from IHG Rewards Club 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 Promos‘ page.

St Regis New York

How do you spend Marriott Bonvoy points?

The room redemption chart is here.

Redemption rates on standard nights run from 7,500 points in Category 1 to 85,000 points in Category 8.  Peak and off-peak pricing operates on certain dates.  This sees the top price increase to 100,000 points per night (Category 8 peak) and the cheapest free night drop to 5,000 points (Category 1 off peak).

Marriott is well-known for ‘category creep’ – moving hotels from category to category to increase their redemption cost without announcing any official devaluation.

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.

There is an ongoing PointSavers promotion which offers rooms at selected hotels at a discount. However, the list of participating properties is very small.  The discount is also very tiny at high-end hotels – a Category 8 drops from 85,000 to 80,000 points on a standard night, for example.

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. This is a very valuable feature. It allows you to lock in the rooms you need today whilst giving you plenty of time you earn the points required. You have until 14 days before your arrival date to earn the required points.  From 14th September 2019, ‘Points Advance’ only guarantees your room and not the rate, so you are exposed to any increase in points prices between the day you book and the day you stay.

St Regis Venice

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?

Yes.  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.

Are ‘cash and points’ redemptions available?

Marriott Bonvoy allows you to use a mix of cash and points to redeem stays.

This ranges from $55 + 3,500 points in a category 1 hotel to $440 + 42,500 points in a category 8 property on ‘standard’ dates.  Peak and off-peak dates have different points levels but the cash element is the same.

A full chart is available here.

Can you transfer Marriott Bonvoy points to airline miles?

Marriott Bonvoy points can be transferred to a large number of airlines including BA / 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 chunk of 60,000 points if you can.

The full list of airline partners is here.

Marriott’s travel packages still exist but these are no longer as generous as they used to be or the best use of your Bonvoy points.  In some cases, travel packages are now actually more expensive than booking the individual elements separately!  Because the price is the same irrespective of whether your nights are peak, off-peak or standard, they work best if you are considering a seven night stay over peak dates.

Can I earn Avios directly without collecting points?

Yes, see here. You can earn Avios by showing your British Airways Executive Club or 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.

Mariott Bonvoy American Express credit card

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.

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?

Part Two of my review of Marriott Bonvoy, which is here, will give you my personal view of the new Marriott Bonvoy programme.

Mariott Bonvoy American Express credit card

How to earn Marriott Bonvoy points from UK credit cards (February 2021)

There are various ways of earning Marriott Bonvoy points from UK credit cards.  Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!

The official Marriott Bonvoy American Express card comes with 20,000 points for signing up, 2 points for every £1 you spend and 15 elite night credits per year. You can apply here.

American Express Marriott Bonvoy credit card

Marriott Bonvoy American Express

20,000 points sign-up bonus and 15 elite night credits Read our full review

You can also earn Marriott Bonvoy points by converting American Express Membership Rewards points at the rate of 2:3.

Do you know that holders of The Platinum Card from American Express receive FREE Marriott Bonvoy Gold status for as long as they hold the card?  It also comes with Hilton Honors Gold, Radisson Rewards Gold, Shangri-La Golden Circle Jade and MeliaRewards Gold status.  We reviewed American Express Platinum in detail here and you can apply here.

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

30,000 points and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

You can also earn American Express Membership Rewards points with American Express Gold (20,000 bonus points), the American Express Rewards Credit Card (5,000 bonus points) and – for small business owners – American Express Business Gold (20,000 bonus points) and Business Platinum (40,000 bonus points).

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which can be used to earn Marriott Bonvoy points

(Want to earn more hotel points?  Click here to see our complete list of promotions from the major hotel chains or use the ‘Hotel Offers’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

Comments (32)

  • George K says:

    Does anyone have any idea when Marriott status actually expires? It used to be clear-cut with SPG, as a year’s status would end on the 1st of March. I was a beneficiary of the then Platinum challenge, which I achieved on April 2015, with status lasting till February 2017 (!).

    Earlier this year, I applied and achieved the Marriott Platinum challenge in early March, but I have no idea when the status expires. Is it December 31st, this year? Is it February next year? Or February the year after?

    • Paul says:

      If achieved this year via challenge or otherwise, I believe you’ll hold it until March ‘21. (Remainder of this, all of the following, 2/3 month grace the period year after that)

      • George K says:

        Thank you – that would be the best! I may call and confirm, but I know experience varies by telephone agent (I had to call twice for my challenge, with one saying they don’t do it anymore, and the other being confused at the amount of nights required…)

  • Nick says:

    Did I miss a downgrade? I am sure that I used to get guaranteed breakfast as a gold?

    • Matt says:

      SPG Gold never got a breakfast, so no change there
      (cant comment on old Marriott)

    • James says:

      SPG Gold never had breakfast included. Marriott Gold did.
      What most people got confused about was:
      (1) SPG Gold needed 10 stays/25 nights; Marriott Gold needed 50 nights;
      (2) SPG Gold was mapped to Marriott Gold after the merger before Bonvoy;
      (3) Amex Platinum gave SPG Gold, which can then be mapped to Marriott Gold;
      (4) When Bonvoy launched, Marriott Gold effectively became (new) Bonvoy Platinum, needing 50 nights, and (new) Bonvoy Gold, needing 25 nights, does not come with Breakfast
      (5) Amex Platinum now give (new) Bonvoy Gold (without breakfast)
      So for about 2 years there was a sweet point which is now closed.
      Clear as mud!

      • Nick says:

        Thanks. So I think I am right in saying that I did used to get a free breakfast, albeit briefly, as a converted dog gold into Marriott gold but before the Bonvoy thing. I’m sure I looked up the detailed T&Cs once and was amazed that I got breakfast and/or lounge access at some marriott hotels. And I am sure that is exactly what happened on one stay at least- I have a vague memory of having to pay for my wife’s breakfast in the main dining room but not my own, when we both had lounge access. Or something like that. I don’t really remember clearly, it was a pretty boozy weekend.

  • Matt says:

    After hitting platinum does anyone know how the Annual Choice Benefit “Five Elite Night Credits” functions?
    If I make Platinum in 2019 and select 5 night credits (so bumping me up to 55 in 2019, closer to titanium); does this also mean on renewal in 2020 I start with 5 free nights, so only need 45 nights to maintain platinum?

    • James says:

      The Five Elite Night Credits can only be used in year, so it will get you closer to Titanium in 2019, but it won’t get you 5 nights closer to whatever elite status in 2020.

  • J D says:

    On applying for the SPG card it asks you for SPG number, assume you use the old one rather than the now Marriott number?

    • Rob says:

      No, you need the new Marriott number. All SPG acccount numbers were turned into Marriott account numbers last Autumn anyway. I doubt your old SPG number will get you very far.

  • Bruce says:

    Hey Rob,

    Have you had this before? Long term Marriott rewards member. Just booked a Marriott room on Expedia, tried to associate the reservation with Bonvoy; been directed to customer services, who informed me that I am not eligible for points/stay nights as I did not book direct! I’ve not had this previously.

    • Rob says:

      This is correct now. In the old days, Marriott was the only scheme which respected your status on 3rd party bookings. They dumped that when Bonvoy was set up. You now get nothing unless you book direct, same as Hyatt, IHG, Hilton.

    • Genghis says:

      Prior to Bonvoy creation, you used to get status benefits (i.e. be given free breakfast / lounge access) but you’ve never got points / credits for status.

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