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How to redeem Marriott points for upgraded rooms

July 03, 2022
11 min read
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Ever since Marriott integrated Ritz-Carlton and Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) into its umbrella program — Marriott Bonvoy — not everything has been perfect. Criticisms have been warranted along the way, to be clear.

That being said, there are still some terrific uses of Marriott points, from unique experiences to luxurious resorts like the St. Regis Bora Bora. But did you know that you can sometimes redeem Marriott points for rooms above and beyond the standard variety? This is a way to guarantee your suite or upgraded accommodations ahead of time without needing to rely on a last-minute upgrade at check-in.

Today we’ll show you how to do exactly that the next time you go to redeem your Marriott Bonvoy points.

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The basics

Let’s start off with a quick overview of this process. Sadly, there are two major drawbacks to this award option. First, there’s no published chart that breaks out the redemption costs. Second, upgraded rooms aren't bookable with points at every property across all dates. This means you’re left to Marriott’s website to search for properties with this option, and sadly, our searches indicate that it’s a relatively small minority that offer it.

If you are lucky enough to find one that does, there are two different types of upgrades available using points:

  1. Redeem the number of points required for a standard room and upgrade using a cash copay.
  2. Redeem a higher number of points to book the upgraded room.

As noted above, many properties won’t offer any option for booking upgraded rooms with points. Some will offer both of the above options, and yet others will offer just one of them.

Again, searching is the only way to find this availability, and you’d do this in the same way you’d search for regular award rooms. Visit Marriott’s website, log into your Bonvoy account, enter your search criteria and check the box for "Use Points/Certificates."

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(Screenshot from marriott.com)

If the property has one of the above options available, you’ll see them once you go to select your room.

Let’s take a closer look and see what this looks like in practice.

Upgrade with cash copay

Certain Marriott properties will give you the option to use the same number of points you’d use on a standard room and then pay a nightly cash copay to secure an upgraded one. An example of this is the St. Ermin’s Hotel in London, part of the Autograph Collection. If you search for award rooms here, you’ll frequently be presented with rooms beyond the standard “Guest Room” for you to book with points, like this option to book a Junior Suite:

(Screenshot from marriott.com)

In this case, you’re redeeming 66,000 Marriott points — the price of the standard room — plus paying £200 (~$244) per night to secure a much larger room, including a separate living room with a sofa bed.

On the same night, we also see the following upgrade options:

  • Deluxe room: 66,000 points + £150 per night.
  • Suite: 66,000 points + £250 per night.

This gives you a number of ways to snag a better room in advance by adding cash to your points redemption.

It’s worth noting that Marriott’s Points Advance is still an option for these awards. In addition, since you’re redeeming the standard number of points, this type of reservation is eligible for Marriott’s fifth-night free perk on award stays. You still need to pay the cash copay for all of the nights, but the points required for one of the nights would be zero:

(Screenshot from marriott.com)

Upgrade with points

(Screenshot from marriott.com)

The second way to upgrade — at select properties — is by redeeming more points than you would for a standard room. One example of this is the Westin Resort & Spa in Cancun. The standard room rate is typically 35,000 points, but you can currently snag a room for just 28,000 points per night in February of next year.

However, you could book directly into a better room by using additional points. This option is classified as “Redemption with Points Upgrade” in the room list. On a random day in February of 2023, you could spend 5,000 extra points to book into a Junior Suite that has a lagoon view:

(Screenshot from marriott.com)

Like upgrading with a cash copay, you can book this upgraded room type as a Points Advance reservation, and this type of award also allows you to utilize Marriott’s fifth night free on award stays:

(Screenshot from marriott.com)

In this case, the free night saves you 28,000 points. But, you still have to redeem 5,000 points for the upgrade on your free night.

Choose your upgrade type

Finally, there are some properties that will allow you to select between both of these options, like the Fort Lauderdale Marriott Pompano Beach Resort & Spa. Standard room rates on a random Tuesday in February are 57,000 points per night. However, you have multiple room types and upgrade options, including a choice of cash or extra points.

(Screenshot from marriott.com)

As you can see, you have the choice to pay a copay of $25 or redeem an extra 26,600 points. Since TPG values Marriott points at 0.84 cents apiece, you can think of it as paying $25 or spending $223.44 worth of points, so the upgrade with cash copay is probably the better option here.

It’s worth noting here that the cash copay isn’t simply the difference between the paid rates on the two room types. On this date, the standard room has a base rate of $420 per night ($497 with taxes and fees), while the Ocean View room is $530 per night ($580 with taxes and fees). Thus, the cash upgrade option is significantly cheaper than the price difference when paying for the rooms with cash outright.

Other considerations

As noted above, the biggest limitation of this redemption option is that it isn’t widely available. If you do find it, however, there are a few additional things to keep in mind.

Capacity controls

Each individual property has complete control over when (or if) to make this award option available. Just because it’s there one night doesn’t mean it’s available the next night, even if the room is available as a paid stay for both nights. Once again, the only way to see if it’s being offered is by searching for availability on Marriott’s website.

Free night certificates

Many popular Marriott cobranded credit cards offer free night certificates every year. While you can use these on upgrades with cash copays, you can’t use them on upgrades with points. Any applicable certificates will appear as a payment option right before confirming the reservation:

(Screenshot from marriott.com)

This can be a fantastic use of these certificates, as you’re essentially covering a standard award with a free night award and then paying a (relatively) small cash amount to confirm right into an upgraded room.

Elite status

If you have Marriott Bonvoy elite status, you may not want to use extra points or pay a cash copay to upgrade into a room to which you might get upgraded anyway. Gold Elite members — a tier provided automatically to holders of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card and The Platinum Card® from American Express — enjoy space-available upgrades to preferred rooms.

Meanwhile, Marriott Bonvoy members with Platinum Elite or Titanium Elite status can snag standard suites with this perk. These members could also use Suite Night Awards as part of their annual choice benefits, though these will only start clearing within five days of arrival. It’s up to you to decide if confirming the suite in advance is worth it or if you’d rather wait and play the upgrade lottery.

Value of the redemption

Finally, be sure to crunch the numbers to make sure the redemption is worth it rather than simply paying the full rate outright. For example, here are your booking options for a random date at the Grand Ocean Front Suite at the JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa:

  • Paid stay: $708.62.
  • Award stay with cash upgrade: 44,000 points + $191.80 (redemption value = 1.17 cents per point).
  • Award stay with points upgrade: 69,000 points (redemption value = 1.01 cents per point).

Both of these values are above TPG’s most recent valuations, so using your points for a standard room award and then choosing to pay extra points or add some cash for an upgrade could be worth it for this particular booking.

Earning Marriott points

Le Meridien Maldives. (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

Speaking of Marriott points, there are many ways to boost your points balance beyond simply staying in one of the program’s thousands of properties. One of the best is via cobranded credit cards, like one of the following:

  • Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card: Earn 75,000 bonus points after you use your new card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first three months of card membership. The card's annual fee is $450 (see rates and fees).
  • Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card: Earn 3 Free Night Awards (each night valued up to 50,000 points) after you spend $3,000 on purchases in your first three months from your account opening. Certain hotels have resort fees.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card: Earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 on purchases in your first three months from account opening. The card does not have an annual fee.

You can also transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points and American Express Membership Rewards points directly to Marriott at a 1:1 ratio, but given that TPG values these transferable point currencies at well more than the value of Marriott points, this is usually a bad idea. You should only transfer these points to Marriott if you need just a few more points for a great redemption.

Bottom line

Saving money by using points and miles is a great way to enhance your vacations. While other programs make it relatively straightforward to book directly into premium accommodations, Marriott’s approach is much more hit-or-miss.

That being said, if you’re sitting on a large stash of Marriott points or looking to snag a suite for your next family vacation or special occasion, you should definitely crunch the numbers to see if any of the above options are available for your dates and worth booking.

Additional reporting by Ryan Smith.

For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant, please click here.

Featured image by (Photo by Eric Rosen/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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