The award traveler’s guide to Marriott Bonvoy
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Marriott Bonvoy is a popular hotel loyalty program, especially among U.S. travelers. The program has changed significantly over the years, including Marriott’s removal of award charts in early 2022. But, there’s still plenty of value to be found in the Marriott Bonvoy program.
Whether you’re a long-term Marriott loyalist or new to the program, you should know how to get the most value from of your Marriott Bonvoy redemptions. In this guide, I’ll arm you with all of the information you need.
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Before we get into earning and redeeming points, let’s start by looking at Marriott’s elite status benefits. You’ll get access to these benefits when you book directly with Marriott.
Marriott offers five published levels of elite status: Silver Elite, Gold Elite, Platinum Elite, Titanium Elite and Ambassador Elite. You’ll typically reach each level by completing qualifying nights. But select Marriott credit cards provide automatic status and elite night credits that you can use toward meeting the qualifying night requirements for each status. In particular, you can earn up to 30 elite nights per year with Marriott credit cards.
You can get a complete breakdown of the benefits of each status level in TPG’s valuation of Marriott Bonvoy’s elite status, but I’ll provide a high-level overview below.
By signing up and becoming a Marriott Bonvoy Member, you’ll get free standard Wi-Fi, access to member rates and mobile check-in. You’ll earn points that you can redeem for free nights or other redemptions. So, even if you don’t think you will earn Marriott elite status, you’ll at least want to sign up for the Bonvoy program.
You’ll earn Marriott Silver Elite status after completing 10 qualifying nights in a calendar year. Silver Elite benefits include a 10% point bonus on stays and late checkout, based on availability.
You’ll automatically get Silver Elite status as a cardholder of the following cobranded Marriott credit cards:
- Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card.
- Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card.
- Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card.
You can earn Lifetime Silver Elite by accumulating 250 lifetime nights and earning Marriott Silver Elite status or higher for at least five years.
You’ll earn Marriott Gold Elite after completing 25 qualifying nights in a calendar year. In addition to Silver Elite perks, Gold Elites receive enhanced internet access, a 25% point bonus on stays, 2 p.m. late checkout based on availability, upgrades to an “enhanced room” (excluding suites) based on availability and a welcome gift of points each time you stay.
Cardholders of the following cards get Marriott Gold Elite status as a perk of their card (enrollment required):
- The Platinum Card® from American Express.
- The Business Platinum Card® from American Express.
- Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card.
- The Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card (no longer open to new applicants).
- Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card (after spending $35,000 on purchases each calendar year. Terms apply.).
- Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card (after spending $35,000 on purchases in a calendar year. Terms apply.).
The information for the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Members will achieve Lifetime Gold Elite status once they earn 400 lifetime nights and have held Gold Elite status or higher for seven years.
You’ll earn Marriott Platinum Elite status after completing 50 qualifying nights in a calendar year. In addition to Gold Elite benefits, Platinum Elite members receive a 50% point bonus on stays, space-available room upgrades (including select suites), lounge access, guaranteed 4 p.m. checkout (subject to availability at resort and convention hotels) and a welcome gift choice each time you stay.
Welcome gift choices vary by brand but generally include a choice of points, an amenity or breakfast. For Platinum Elites, breakfast is either included or available as a welcome gift choice at most brands. Breakfast is usually offered in the lounge or on-site restaurant, although some properties offer a room service credit instead.
From experience, I recommend bookmarking TPG’s complete guide to Marriott elite breakfast benefits so you can refer back to it before check-in.
Platinum Elite members can choose from one Annual Gift Choice after earning 50 nights: five Suite Night Awards, the opportunity to gift Silver Elite status, 40% off a mattress, five Elite Night Credits or a $100 charitable donation. Unless you end the year with 70-74 nights or need a new mattress, I recommend choosing the Suite Night Awards.
You can spend your way to Platinum Elite status if you have The Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card (no longer open to new applicants) and spend $75,000 on purchases during your account anniversary year.
To lock in Lifetime Platinum Elite status, you’ll need to accumulate 600 lifetime nights and 10 or more years as a Platinum Elite or higher.
You’ll earn Titanium Elite status after completing 75 qualifying nights in a calendar year. Titanium Elite benefits are similar to Platinum Elite benefits, with a few additions: a 75% point bonus on stays, 48-hour guaranteed availability and United MileagePlus Silver status through the RewardsPlus partnership.
Titanium Elite members are also eligible for a second Annual Choice Benefit after completing 75 nights in a year. In addition to the options Platinum elites receive, Titanium members also have the option of choosing a free night award worth up to 40,000 points or gifting Gold Elite status. This free night award or five Suite Night Awards are my top choices.
Marriott’s top published elite status tier is Ambassador Elite. Effectively an enhanced version of Titanium Elite, Ambassador Elite status is earned after accumulating 100 qualifying nights in a calendar year and reaching $20,000 in qualifying Marriott spending.
Ambassador Elite members get all Titanium Elite benefits, plus dedicated Ambassadors to help you out with booking and managing stays. You also get access to the Your24 benefit that lets you choose your 24-hour check-in and checkout time. So if you arrive on a late 10 p.m. flight for a one-night stay, you could check out the following night at 10 p.m.
You won’t find any mentions of “Cobalt” in any official Marriott Bonvoy promotional material. But TPG received leaked information in Aug. 2019 about this secret invitation-only Marriott status. This elite level is so exclusive that it’s only available through an invitation from Marriott International’s President and CEO.
The benefits are largely that of Marriott Ambassador Elite, but with additional touches such as a personalized note from the General Manager, a meeting with the GM and a “distinctive experience on-property” at luxury brands.
A great aspect of Marriott Bonvoy is that many of the benefits are guaranteed. For example, the “Ultimate Reservation Guarantee” promises elite members up to $200 and 90,000 Marriott points — plus accommodation at a nearby hotel — for being “walked” from a Marriott hotel.
Marriott has charts listing your compensation if you don’t receive what you’re entitled to.
Ways to earn Marriott points
There are several ways to earn Marriott Bonvoy points, from staying at Marriott properties to spending on credit cards. You can check out our guide on the best ways to earn Marriott points for additional details, but here’s a summary.
Marriott Members earn 10 points per dollar spent on qualifying charges for stays at most Marriott hotel brands. There are a few exceptions to that general rule, though. For example, you’ll earn five Marriott points per dollar spent on qualifying charges at Element, Residence Inn, TownePlace Suites and Homes & Villas by Marriott. Meanwhile, at Marriott Executive Apartments, you’ll earn 2.5 Marriott points per dollar spent on qualifying room rates.
But, elite status and current hotel promotions can boost your earning rates. For example, during a three-night stay as a Platinum Elite, I once earned 16,375 Marriott points — worth $131 at TPG valuations — on a $270 Four Points stay:
- 2,250 points from base earnings ($225 qualifying spend x 10 points per dollar spent).
- 1,125 points as an elite bonus (50% bonus as a Platinum Elite).
- 500 points as a welcome gift.
- 12,000 points as a bonus for completing five stays through the Unlock More promotion.
- 500 points for declining housekeeping for two days.
However, to earn points for a stay, you’ll need to book directly with Marriott. Stays that don’t earn points include rooms booked through online travel agencies (like Expedia, Hotels.com and Priceline), as part of an event, through a tour operator or as a comped stay.
Credit card bonuses and spending
There are several cards you can use to earn Marriott Bonvoy points, but only four are available to new applicants — two from American Express and two from Chase:
- Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card: Best for Marriott loyalists looking for perks.
- Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card: Best for Marriott business travelers.
- Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card: Best for Marriott loyalists looking for a modest annual fee.
- Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card: Best for Marriott loyalists looking for a no annual fee option.
The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card is the only personal Marriott cobranded card available through Amex. This card currently offers a welcome bonus of 75,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after you use your new card to make $3,000 in eligible purchases within the first three months of card membership.
The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex has a hefty $450 annual fee (see rates and fees) but comes packed with benefits. Plus, you’ll earn 6 points per dollar spent on eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program, 3 points per dollar spent at U.S. restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines and 2 points per dollar spent on all other eligible purchases.
Business owners can apply for the Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express Card, which currently offers a welcome bonus of 75,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after you use your new card to make $3,000 in eligible purchases within the first three months of card membership. This card has a $125 annual fee (see rates and fees), but it makes up for that fee with an up to 35,000-point certificate awarded each year after your card renewal month.
Plus, you’ll earn 6 points per dollar spent at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program, 4 points per dollar spent at U.S. restaurants, gas stations, shipping providers and wireless phone services purchased directly from service providers and 2 points per dollar spent on all other eligible purchases.
Chase’s Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card is currently offering 3 Free Nights (each night valued up to 50,000 points) after spending $3,000 on purchases in your first three months from account opening. This card comes with perks like automatic Silver Elite status and the ability to earn one elite night credit for every $5,000 you spend.
The Bonvoy Boundless Card also earns 6 points per dollar spent at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy, 3 points per dollar on the first $6,000 spent in combined purchases each year on gas stations, grocery stores and dining and 2 points per dollar on all other purchases. You’ll also get one free night award every year after your account anniversary that’s valid for a one-night hotel stay at a property with a redemption value up to 35,000 points.
For those looking for a no annual fee credit card, Chase offers the Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card. Despite the card not having an annual fee, you’ll earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 on purchases in your first three months from account opening. This card also offers 15 elite night credits each year.
But, you’ll only earn 6 points per dollar spent at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy (half the rate of other Bonvoy credit cards), 2 points per dollar spent on other travel purchases and 1 point per dollar spent on everything else.
Event planners will earn two points per dollar spent for any qualifying event held at a Marriott property, with a maximum base earning of 60,000 points per event. However, Marriott elite members get a bonus on these base earnings and have a higher maximum number of points they can earn per event.
You’ll earn an additional elite night credit for every 20 rooms you book as part of your event, up to 20 elite night credits per event.
Marriott Bonvoy will reward you for referring friends to the program. You can refer up to five new members each calendar year, and you’ll earn 2,000 points for up to five of their paid stays.
If all five of your referred friends complete at least five stays, you’ll earn 50,000 bonus points a year. The friends you refer will also earn 2,000 bonus points for each of their first five paid stays for a maximum of 10,000 bonus points.
In Oct. 2019, Marriott launched a new way of earning points: eating. The “Eat Around Town” program offers Marriott elites 6 Marriott points per dollar spent and nonelite Marriott members 4 Marriott points per dollar spent. To earn, all you need to do is connect your credit card to the program and use your card to eat at participating restaurants.
Note that points earned through the Eat Around Town program are in addition to the points you’d otherwise earn from the dining purchase, such as credit card rewards or rewards from the restaurant’s loyalty program.
You can earn up to 2,000 Marriott points per Hertz car rental by booking through Marriott’s Tours & Activities page.
And, you can earn bonus Marriott points when you book a cruise through Marriott Cruise With Points.
Buying a mattress
Bonvoy members can earn 10,000 Marriott points by buying a mattress from any of Marriott International’s retail stores online: Shop EDITION, The Ritz-Carlton Shops, The Luxury Collection Store, St. Regis Boutique, W Hotels The Store, Curated by JW, Shop Marriott, Sheraton Store, Westin Store, Shop Le Méridien, Collect Renaissance, Gaylord Hotels The Store, Shop Courtyard, Fairfield Store and Shop Four Points.
Transferring points from other programs
You can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards (39-hour transfer time) and American Express Membership Rewards (instant transfer) points to Marriott Bonvoy at a 1:1 transfer ratio. While it’s not the best use of more-valuable points, it can make sense to transfer in points to top off your Marriott Bonvoy account for a valuable redemption.
Combining points with other members
A fantastic aspect of Marriott Bonvoy is combining your points with another Marriott Bonvoy member. Each member can transfer up to 100,000 points to another account per year. And each member can receive up to 500,000 points per year.
Unlike in other programs, these member-to-member transfers are completely free. Note that there are restrictions on new members, and you need to call Marriott to complete the transfer.
You can buy up to 100,000 points each year. The purchase rate is generally $12.50 per 1,000 points, but Marriott will periodically run promotions that lower the price.
Earn miles instead of points
It’s also worth noting that you can earn airline miles with select airline loyalty programs instead of Marriott points on your hotel stays. Generally, you’ll earn two miles per dollar spent on all qualifying charges at most Marriott brands. But, you’ll earn less at some brands, and you may earn differently with select airline loyalty programs.
How to redeem Marriott points
You’ll typically get the most value from your Marriott points when redeeming for hotel stays or transferring to airline loyalty programs. However, in this section, I’ll overview a wide variety of ways you can redeem Marriott points.
Marriott no longer uses an award chart. However, award nights at 97% of Marriott properties will still fall within the previous off-peak to peak award prices for stays through the end of 2022. You can see Marriott’s previous award chart below:
Now Marriott uses dynamic pricing, with award rates based on paid hotel rates and occupancy levels (among other factors). As such, you won’t know until you go to book exactly how much your award stay will cost.
As I mentioned above, 97% of Marriott properties are still bound by the previous award chart’s peak and off-peak pricing rates for stays through 2022. But, your award stay could cost any amount for the other 3% of properties and stays in 2023 and beyond. And that’s why some believe this is a serious devaluation of Marriott Bonvoy points.
You can redeem Marriott points for upgraded rooms. This option isn’t available at every property, so you’ll simply need to search for award nights at your property and see if upgraded rooms are bookable via redemption with cash upgrade or redemption with points upgrade.
You’ll receive the lowest-priced night for free if you redeem points for five or more consecutive nights in a standard room, thanks to Marriott’s “Stay for 5, Pay for 4” perk. Marriott also allows you to reserve nights with Cash + Points when booking a standard room.
You can use the program’s Points Advance functionality to reserve an award stay when you’re short on points — which is a great way to confirm a room at a property before you earn enough points to cover the stay.
However, it’s important to note that you aren’t locking in a rate by using Points Advance. Points Advance merely confirms award space for you. So if the award stay becomes more expensive before you’ve earned the points and paid for the room with points, you’ll have to redeem more points.
Marriott Bonvoy Moments
If you’re looking for a different type of redemption, consider exploring the Marriott Bonvoy Moments program. This allows you to cash in your points for unique experiences like concert tickets, culinary events or seats to see your favorite sports team.
Check out the current options here. The packages change regularly, and while some are handled as auctions, others offer fixed price redemptions. It’s hard to peg a value on these, as many aren’t easily replicable using cash.
You can use points toward hotel credit against your total room bill. This option only offers a redemption rate of 0.4 cents per point, so I recommend avoiding this option.
You can also redeem Marriott points for gift cards. But, you’ll get 0.4 cents per point or less, so I also recommend avoiding this redemption option.
Travel redemptions and airline transfers
There are quite a few options for getting free travel with your Marriott Bonvoy points.
You can transfer your Marriott points into airline miles with more than 40 airlines. Most of these airlines have a transfer ratio of 3:1. The exceptions to this rule are Air New Zealand Airpoints (200:1) and United MileagePlus (3:1.1).
Marriott also offers 5,000 bonus miles for every 60,000 points you transfer. You will get 25,000 airline miles for transferring 60,000 points to most airline partners. Keep in mind that transfer times vary based on the airline.
You can book air travel and rental cars with your points through Marriott’s Air and Car program, but you’ll get less than 0.4 cents per point in value toward these redemptions.
You can also redeem points toward a free cruise with Marriott Cruise With Points, but you’ll only receive about 0.4 cents per point in value.
Award booking process
You can start your award booking process right on Marriott’s homepage. Just click the “Use Points/Certificates” box on the main search, and results will appear with the required points shown.
Click the “Find Hotels” button, and you’ll be presented with a view of all of the hotels that match your destination alongside their respective pricing.
Click “View Rates” to see which room types are available at these prices and your booking options.
Then, click “Select” next to the room type you want to book to move forward with the booking process.
Leveraging Marriott Bonvoy
Here are some of the strategies you can use to get the most value out of your Marriott experience.
Best rate guarantee
Marriott’s version of the best rate guarantee will match the rate found on another website if you submit a claim within 24 hours of making your reservation on Marriott’s website. Plus, Marriott will give you an additional 25% discount on that rate or a 5,000-point bonus.
Get at least one Marriott Bonvoy card
You can snag 15 elite night credits annually on a personal Marriott credit card and 15 elite night credits on a business card. So, you can earn up to 30 elite night credits by having two Marriott Bonvoy credit cards. These elite night credits can easily put Platinum Elite or Titanium Elite status in reach for many travelers.
Plus, most Marriott credit cards with an annual fee offer a free night award that can easily be worth enough to justify paying your card’s annual fee.
Fifth night free
All Marriott Bonvoy members get a free night on award stays of five nights or longer. While some travelers might not want to spend five or more nights in one place while on a trip, this benefit is a great way to save points on longer stays.
Stretch your points at hotels with low award rates
You can stretch your Marriott points by redeeming them at hotels with low award rates. And don’t dismiss these properties because of their award prices. For example, the Protea Hotel Lusaka Safari Lodge in Zambia will cost 5,000 and 10,000 points per night for stays through 2022. And true to its name, this property has its own 2,500-acre private game reserve.
Through stays, partners, credit cards and promotions, it’s not too difficult to earn Marriott points. And now, with dynamic pricing, it’s never been easier to spend those points quickly.
There’s no denying that free nights can cost a lot of points, but there’s still plenty of value to be had in the program.
With solid elite benefits and plenty of good-valued options for redemptions, I’m a fan of Marriott Bonvoy despite its devaluations. After earning Titanium Elite status for the first time in 2019, I’ve continued to collect Marriott points and get solid value on my redemptions.
Additional reporting by Katie Genter, Richard Kerr and Andrew Kunesh.
Featured photo of the Le Meridien Maldives Resort & Spa by Katie Genter/The Points Guy.
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