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The Marriott/SPG/Ritz-Carlton integration has had its fair share of challenges, though it has also offered some great opportunities. However, as we shift gears from adjusting to the integration to living with the new (and oddly-named) Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program, there is one more great deal to put on your radar.

Marriott has now switched all of its Chase and Amex issued cobranded credit cards over to the new Bonvoy branding, and to drum up excitement for this change, Marriott is offering a limited-time, 100,000-point welcome bonus on two different Bonvoy credit cards. Now through April 24, new applicants to the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card (formerly the SPG Luxury Amex) and the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card (formerly the SPG Business Amex) can earn 100,000 Marriott points after you use your new card to make $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.

TPG values Marriott points at 0.9 cents each, making each one of these offers worth a solid $900. Of course, you need to be sure you’re even eligible for the welcome offer before applying, so we’ve compiled a helpful graphic to verify your eligibility. We’ve also put together a handy guide for choosing which Bonvoy card is right for you. However, no matter which card you pick, this haul of points can go a long way towards helping with your next vacation.

Here are a few of our favorite ways to redeem your 100,000-point welcome bonus.

Three Nights at a Category 5 Hotel

I loved my stay at Mira Moon in Hong Kong, a terrific Category 5 property in the Marriott program.

Marriott’s Category 5 holds some of my favorite properties around the world, including the Mira Moon Hong Kong, Sheraton Hyde Park Sydney, W Chicago Lakeshore and even the St. Regis Beijing (which I’m very excited to check out next month). These hotels cost 35,000 points a night for a standard award, meaning if you count the points you’ll earn spending your way to your welcome bonus, you’ll have enough Marriott points for three nights.

If you’re a Bonvoy credit card holder you should really spend some time researching Category 5 hotels. All Bonvoy credit cards come with an anniversary free night certificate when you renew your card. While this can get you a free night up to 50,000 points for the Bonvoy Brilliant card, it’s worth up to 35,000 points for the the Bonvoy Business card and the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card (currently offering its own elevated welcome bonus). You can mix those certificates with your actual points to stretch your stay even further.

There are plenty of great Category 5 hotels you can pick, and many are situated in major cities around the world. In Atlanta, for example, you can pick from three different Category 5 W Hotels in different parts of the city (downtown, midtown and Buckhead). If, on the other hand, you’re looking for more high-end stays, you can choose from about a dozen Ritz-Carlton hotels, spanning locations from Cleveland to Doha.

Up to 16 Nights at a Category 1 Hotel

Fairfield-inn-and-suites-orlando-international-drive
Many Fairfield locations require just 7,500 points for a free night. (Photo courtesy of Marriott)

If you’re really trying to stretch your points into the maximum number of hotel nights, you’ll obviously want to look at Category 1 hotels. These cost 7,500 points a night for a standard award, and you can stack this with Marriott’s fifth night free perk on award stays. Booking five nights will thus only set you back 30,000 points, so your 100,000-point Bonvoy welcome bonus could get you three separate five-night awards plus an additional free night added on to any of them (or redeemed separately).

Marriott has a few hundred Category 1 hotels from which you can choose. These certainly aren’t the most luxurious properties out there, but you will find many Courtyard, Aloft and AC Hotels in cities all around the world, like the AC Hotel Valencia or the Aloft Bogota. You’ll also come across many Fairfield locations as well, like the Fairfield Inn & Suites Memphis. Just take note that many Category 1 hotels (especially outside the US) are priced incredibly low, so be sure to crunch the numbers before you book. Even with a fifth night free, you might still be better off paying cash.

Two Nights at a Category 6 Hotel

It may be worth splurging on a Category 6 property like the Ritz-Carlton Bali.

 

Category 6 hotels require 50,000 points for a free night, the same value as the anniversary free night you’ll get with the Bonvoy Brilliant. This is a nearly 43% premium over the Category 5 option noted above, but it can offer a taste of luxury without breaking the (rewards) bank. The W Shanghai and St. Regis Abu Dhabi Saadiyat Island are great options, as is the Ritz-Carlton Bali, which can easily sell for more than $500 a night during peak season. In many cases, a hotel’s category has as much to do with local economic factors and demand as it does with the quality of the property itself, and if you can get the full St. Regis experience (butler service and a signature bloody mary) for fewer points, why wouldn’t you?

Of course, if you truly have your eyes set on the best of the best, you could instead redeem these points for a stay at a top-tier, Category 8 hotel like the St. Regis Maldives or Al Maha Resort in Dubai. These hotels recently climbed to 85,000 points a night with the full implementation of Category 8 pricing. And, these properties could climb as high as 100,000 points per night when the program adds peak and off-peak pricing (expected sometime in 2019). It might seem silly to blow your entire welcome bonus on a single hotel night, but travel rewards is all about enjoying memorable experiences you wouldn’t have otherwise been able to book. That might mean a night at the St. Regis New York, where rooms often retail for $1,000 or more or a quick all-inclusive getaway to Al Maha (though good luck squeezing three meals and two desert activities into a one-night stay!).

Don’t Wait, Book Now

Here’s the best thing about the above redemption options. Even if you just opened these cards (or received a targeted upgrade offer), you don’t need to wait to receive your points. Marriott has a redemption option known as Points Advance that allows you to lock in award stays when you’re short on points. This is a terrific way to make sure you have an award room at a property with limited standard accommodations, but it also enables you to book awards at hotels that are moving into a higher category on March 5. Marriott has confirmed that it will honor these rates, but you need to confirm the reservation before that date to do so.

For complete details on Points Advance, check out our complete guide to the program.

Airline Transfers

A Korean Air 747-400 at Seoul Incheon airport in December 2017 (Photo by Alberto Riva/TPG)
Marriott Bonvoy is now the only transferable points program to partner with Korean Air SKYPASS. (Photo by Alberto Riva/TPG)

Instead of using your welcome bonus for hotel stays, you may want to look at the program’s airline transfer option. Marriott has over 40 airline partners, including many unique ones that aren’t shared by other transferable currencies. If you want to transfer points to Korean Air, Alaska, Asiana or even American Airlines, Marriott is your only option. Points transfer at a 3:1 ratio to nearly every partner, and you’ll earn a 5,000-mile bonus for every 60,000 Marriott points you transfer. It can be easy to think of this as a 3:1.25 ratio, but you do need to break it down a little more to make sure you transfer enough points.

Let’s think of your 100,000-point welcome bonus as one block of 60,000 points and another block of 40,000 points. Your 60,000 points transfer at a 3:1 ratio with a 5,000-mile bonus, earning you 25,000 miles, while your 40,000 points simply transfer at a 3:1 ratio, earning another 13,000 miles. This brings your grand total to 38,000 airline miles for whichever partner you pick. That’s not enough to plan a free vacation for your entire family, but it’s a great starting point.

Those 38,000 miles will easily get you a one-way economy ticket to Europe through almost every loyalty program, letting you pick whether you want to fly Star Alliance, Oneworld or SkyTeam. You can even get a one-way economy ticket to Asia on most carriers, though double-check the pricing before you transfer, and remember that South Asia often costs more.

If you’re looking to stay in the US, you could transfer those points to Avianca and book five one-way, short-haul flights on United at 7,500 miles each. You could get the same number of short-haul American flights by transferring to British Airways and utilizing its distance-based award chart. If your eyes are set on other American-operated itineraries, check out the carrier’s current list of reduced mileage awards. However, be sure to read our guide on Marriott transfer times so you know roughly how long you’ll need to wait for your miles to arrive.

Bottom Line

Either of these cards can put you well on your way towards your next award trip.

We know that not every 100,000-point welcome bonus is created equal, but each of the current offers on two the Bonvoy credit cards has the potential to deliver well over $1,000 in value. Whether you’re looking to maximize your total number of free hotel nights, indulge in a luxury getaway, or even book some airfare, Bonvoy points are among the most versatile rewards currency out there and certainly deserve a spot in your wallet.

But hurry! These limited-time offers end April 24, 2019.

For more information on these cards and the benefits beyond the welcome bonus, check out the following articles:

How would you redeem 100,000 Marriott Bonvoy points?

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.