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Maximizing Marriott Rewards Points for Room and Suite Upgrades

Sept. 06, 2012
9 min read
Maximizing Marriott Rewards Points for Room and Suite Upgrades
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This is part of my series on using points for premium rooms and suites. Other posts include: Maximizing Starwood Points for Rooms and Suite Upgrades, and Maximizing Hilton HHonors Premium Room Rewards and Room Upgrade Rewards.

With the current 50,000-point sign-up bonus after $1,000 spent in the first 3 months for the Marriott Premier Rewards Credit Card, I thought I’d go through some of the Marriott hotel redemption opportunities that aren’t just for standard free-night redemptions, but for premium room and suite upgrades instead.

Plan Ahead
Similar to Hilton’s premium room rewards and upgrades and Starwood's room and suite upgrades, Marriott Rewards members can use Marriott points to upgrade to premium rooms and suites. One of the biggest issues with these options, similar to other two chains, is the lack of consistency from property to property on what type of room or suite you’ll get for your upgrade. I contacted several hotels and had no luck at all being able to book an upgrade award, then in some popular resort destinations, almost every hotel was available, so it can be hit or miss and I'd advise you to call ahead to a property you're interested in visiting or check a variety of dates with their online booking system to see if they offer premium room and suite upgrades for points redemptions before you make your travel plans.

Types of Upgrades
Marriott offers Marriott Rewards members two types of upgrades on award stays. The first one is paid upgrades on awards stays. At select hotels and based on availability, you can pay cash for an upgrade on a cost per night basis ranging from $50-$200. The specific price varies by hotel and will be charged to your room during your stay. With this option, no extra Marriott Rewards points are used, just what was redeemed for the standard room.

The other option is Marriott's Point Upgrades. Marriott offers upgrade rewards which are available for 5,000 points each. Most rooms require only one upgrade reward per night. However, some hotels require two or more upgrade rewards per night, depending on the room type or whether it has a view. These are in addition to the standard amount of points redeemed for the free night. Neither of these options is available for upgrading paid reservations - they are only for upgrading award reservations.

Since the upgrade awards are done at time of booking, this a way to get a confirmed upgrade ahead of time, unlike some programs such as Starwood's Suite Night Awards, which you don't get confirmed until only 5 days prior to your stay. You will see the various options - regular cash rates, award rates, paid upgrades and point upgrades - that are available on your dates when you use a hotel's online reservation system.

Some general rules when it comes to point upgrades: The upgrade reward offerings vary by hotel and by season. While most rooms require only one upgrade reward (5,000 points) per night, in some cases, depending on the view or room type, multiple upgrade rewards may be required (10,000+ points) for each night. Most resorts require upgrade rewards for rooms with special views, such as ocean or bay view. All Residence Inn and TownePlace Suites require upgrade rewards for 2-bedroom or penthouse suites, and Marriott Vacation Club International locations require upgrade rewards for their 2- and 3-bedroom suites.

Some Examples:
At the JW Marriott LA Live, a Category 6 property where free night redemptions cost 30,000 points, Marriott Rewards members can upgrade from a Deluxe Guest Room to a One Bedroom King Junior Suite for 10,000 Marriott Rewards points per night.

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Upgrade awards are available at the J.W. Marriott LA Live for 10,000 more points per night.

However, on the dates I checked in August cost an additional $50, meaning you’d only getting .5 cents per point in value.

Instead of using 10,000 points per night, I could just pay $50 extra for the suite.

So in this case, I'd definitely spend the extra cash if I wanted to upgrade because my points wouldn't be getting me much value.

The Waikiki Beach Marriott is another Category 6 property where free night redemptions are 30,000 points. This hotel offers upgrades for 10,000 points for a partial ocean view room, 20,000 extra points per night for an upgrade to a full ocean view room, 25,000 points to upgrade to a Diamond Head view, or 30,000 extra points (double the price!) for a deluxe ocean view guest room with a balcony. However, if you'd didn't want to shell out all those extra points, you could upgrade for $50 to a partial ocean view, or $100 to an ocean view room saving either 10,000 or 20,000 points respectively.

The Waikiki Beach Marriott offers multiple room upgrade options using points.

In either situation, using the extra points would only be worth 0.5 cents per point. Again, not a great redemption value. What's worse is that just looking at the room rates for the same night:

The difference in prices among the room categories (for instance, just $40 between a standard and the partial ocean view) is less than the paid upgrades would be from one to the next in several cases, so you'd essentially be getting even less value from your points if you took that into account.

At the Renaissance Orlando, a Category 5 property where free night redemptions are 25,000 points, you could use 5,000 points to upgrade to a room with a sofabed and a balcony, or 10,000 points to upgrade to a corner junior suite. For price comparison, the difference from a standard room to the one with the sofabed was only $10 (only a .2 cents per point in value). I think I would save my 5,000 points in this situation. The price difference for the junior suite was only $60 more from the most basic room, so again not a good value to use points to upgrade here.

The Renaissance Orlando is one hotel where it doesn't make sense to book an upgraded award.

The Renaissance Aruba, a Category 5 property where free night redemptions are 25,000 points, was actually offering PointSaver upgrade awards for the dates in September I looked at. This meant you could choose to use 10,000 points (instead of 15,000) to upgrade to a garden view suite or 15,000 (instead of 20,000) extra points for an ocean view suite.

The Renaissance Aruba was offering PointSavers upgrade awards.

There were no standard rooms available for redemption at this property during that time. However, they did offer paid upgrade awards using cash on the base 20,000 PointSaver rate a standard would normally cost for only $80 more to a garden view suite, or $120 extra to an ocean view suite. So you'd be getting 0.8 cents each from your extra points here.

Upgrade awards are also available when redeeming Marriott points at Ritz-Carlton properties.

At the Ritz-Carlton LA Live, a Ritz-Carlton Tier 2 property where free night redemptions are normally 40,000 points, you could use an additional 20,000 points to upgrade to a junior suite. On the dates for this booking, a standard room cost $399 whereas the junior suite ran $549, so you'd be getting a .75 cents per point in value for choosing the upgraded option over the standard room. There was no option to use cash to upgrade to a better room at this property at that time.

The Ritz-Carlton LA Live offers point upgrades to junior suites for 20,000 more per night.

At the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua, a Ritz-Carlton Tier 3 property, where free night redemptions are normally 50,000 points, the hotel offered many options for upgrading to a better room or suite. You could use 20,000 additional points per night for a deluxe ocean view room, 25,000 for a 1 bedroom residential suite with garden view, or 40,000 more points for a 1 bedroom partial ocean view residential suite. For price comparison, a standard room was $299, a deluxe ocean view was $559 per night, and the 1 bedroom partial ocean view suite was $679.

Ritz-Carlton Kapalua offers many rooms and suites for upgrades.

The best option here would be to upgrade to the deluxe ocean view, which was a $260 premium over the standard room, meaning so you'd be getting a 1.3 cents per point in value for the extra 20,000 points you'd be spending on this upgrade.

Though the erratic availability and types of upgrades at Marriott and Ritz-Carlton properties makes it difficult to pin down hard-and-fast value from the various types of upgrades, checking point requirements against room rate differences revealed that redeeming points for upgraded rooms and suites is rarely a good value with Marriott. As always, you have to do the math each time you're thinking about one of these redemptions and see if it makes sense for you. I would hate to redeem points for just 0.5 cents in value each when I know there are better redemptions out there, but if you're swimming in Marriott Rewards points and need some extra space for your stay, it's still nice to have the flexibility of so many options.

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