Why I’m earning more Marriott Bonvoy points during the pandemic
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Through the bad and good, I’ve remained a Marriott loyalist through the years.
It all started when I got into points and miles in 2014. I opened a Starwood cobranded card from American Express early on and used it for all of my non-bonused spending. This helped me rack up free stays and airfare (with the program’s excellent transfer rates) until the program merged with Marriott Rewards in 2019.
There’s no doubt that the Marriott Bonvoy program — the combined program of Marriott, Starwood and Ritz-Carlton — still has some flaws. At the same time, though, I’ve stuck with the program. I’m a huge fan of the Marriott brands and the flexibility Marriott gives me when it comes to transferring points to airlines.
Plus, it’s become even easier to earn Marriott Bonvoy points during the coronavirus pandemic through credit card spending. At the same time, they’re one of the few types of points I’ve actually been able to redeem during the pandemic — something that can’t be said for most other points in my portfolio.
In this article, I’ll walk you through why and how I’ve continued to earn Marriott Bonvoy points through the coronavirus pandemic. I’ll start with an overview of why I liked these points before the pandemic and then move onto how and why I’ve kept earning these points through the pandemic.
Let’s get started!
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Why I’m a Marriott loyalist
As discussed in the intro, I started as a Starwood Preferred loyalist in 2014. Once 2019 rolled around, my Starwood points (which I miss dearly) were converted and combined with my Marriott Rewards balance. Despite its flaws, here’s why I’ve continued to stick with Marriott Bonvoy.
The chain has a larger Central and Eastern European presence
I stuck with the program largely because of how huge Marriott’s footprint is where I travel. In normal years, the bulk of my international travel is in Eastern and Central Europe. I’ve found that Marriott has the best coverage in these regions — especially in my second home of Prague, Czech Republic.
There are four Marriott properties in Prague. There used to be five, but the city lost my favorite property — the Carlo IV — to NH Hotels earlier in the year. Regardless, this is more than Hilton’s two and Hyatt’s zero properties in the city, and it is essential to me as I stay in Prague hotels when not staying with family.
Beyond Prague, Marriott has a significantly larger presence in other major cities in the region like Budapest, Hungary and Warsaw, Poland. This coverage keeps me loyal to Marriott, and I hope the hotel group can keep up its expansion in the region post-pandemic too.
I prefer Marriott’s brands in the U.S.
I’ve always been a fan of Marriott’s brands here in the U.S. I almost always stay at mid-tier properties as they offer the best value for my needs. Marriott offers a ton of excellent mid-tier brands, with some of my favorites being Aloft, Moxy, Four Points and Element.
These hotels generally offer a nice and modern place to stay in most of the cities I travel to. Plus, they have reasonable points and cash rates, which I appreciate too.
When I do stay at a high-end property, I am a huge fan of J.W. Marriott, W and Luxury Collection hotels. Sure, a Park Hyatt may be similar, but there are far more Marriotts to choose from around the U.S. and abroad.
Of course, these properties aren’t perfect, but I like them enough to stay loyal to Marriott Bonvoy.
The hotel has kept a standard award chart
Unlike IHG and Hilton, which have moved to dynamic pricing, Marriott kept its standard award chart.
It’s made up of eight different hotel categories with standard, off-peak and peak pricing. This means that you always have a general idea of how many points you’ll need for a specific redemption, and it can’t skyrocket at a moment’s notice (looking at you, Hilton).
Of course, I would have preferred that Marriott not introduce peak pricing. But even with it, I still prefer Marriott’s pricing to Hilton Honors’ dynamic pricing, where the price of a night can fluctuate by tens-of-thousands of points.
Plus, off-peak pricing has saved me thousands of points over the years, especially during the recent booking promotion that offered off-peak rates at almost all properties through early 2021.
Marriott Bonvoy points are the most flexible
Finally, I’m a huge fan of how flexible Marriott Bonvoy points are.
I generally use them for hotel stays, but being able to transfer my points to airlines at a reasonable rate is a huge plus. As a refresher, you can transfer points at a 3:1 ratio, with a 5,000-mile bonus awarded for every 60,000 points transferred. This means that 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points equal 25,000 airline miles with most programs.
Marriott has tons of useful airline partners — including many that don’t have credit card transfer partnerships. This includes American Airlines AAdvantage, Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan, JAL Mileage Bank and others.
Having access to these obscure airline miles means I can book airfare on more airlines and score excellent deals in the process — something that will be even more important post-pandemic.
Why I’m earning more Marriott Bonvoy points during the pandemic
So now that you know why I’m a Marriott loyalist, let’s take a closer look at why and how I’m earning more Marriott Bonvoy points during the pandemic.
Great cobrand credit card spend bonuses
The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card is one of my favorite credit cards. Despite its high $450 annual fee (see rates and fees), the card provides excellent value with an annual $300 Marriott credit, free night certificate (worth up to 50,000 points) and various other benefits. These alone cover the card’s annual fee.
Better yet, the card has offered a handful of excellent spend bonuses during the pandemic. In September, we saw the card offer a huge 10x points per dollar spent on dining, gas, and Marriott properties. Plus, there’s currently an 8x promotion on Amazon, Target and Walmart promotion too, which has been a huge help for my holiday shopping.
I’ve received some great Amex Offers too. In October, I received an offer for 20,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 or more on my card before the end of November. This was a great stack with the bonus on dining, gas and Marriott properties discusses earlier. I also received another Amex Offer for $75 off $250 or more in Marriott purchases — this came in handy on a recent road trip.
American Express and Marriott are offering great limited-time welcome bonuses on new cards too. The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card currently offers 125,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 in your first three months of opening the account. Plus, you’ll enjoy Platinum Elite status through 2021 (drops to Gold Elite thereafter, or you can spend $75,000 to renew). Offer ends 1/13/2021.
I was recently approved for a Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card as well. The card currently offers a welcome bonus of 75,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 in eligible purchases in the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn up to $150 back in statement credits on eligible purchases made within the first three months of card membership.
These offers have made it easier than ever to earn Marriott Bonvoy points. Even excluding my new credit card, I was able to earn thousands of points by simply charging daily expenses to my card. Here’s hoping we see more spend bonuses soon.
A handful of excellent promotions keep me earning
Marriott has also offered a handful of interesting promotions since the start of the pandemic.
On the earning side, the hotel group recently ran a promotion that offered 2,500 bonus points per stay, plus a one-time bonus of 5,000 bonus points on the third stay. This was a great promotion to drum-up hotel stays and is one I took advantage of during my limited travel this fall.
Additionally, the hotel is offering 2,000 bonus points per Courtyard stay through the end of the year. This also came in handy on a recent trip where I spent a night at a Courtyard in Pennsylvania. The 2,000 bonus points plus my Platinum Elite bonus means I earned a nice points haul on a sub-$100 stay.
Promotions like this make it easy to drum up Marriott Bonvoy points even if you have limited travel. One hotel stay can quickly turn into thousands of extra points, especially if you have elite status.
On the redemption side, Marriott has offered a handful of lucrative promotions this year. I took advantage of a recent sale that let members book over 90% of Marriott properties at off-peak rates during a recent trip to Miami. This saved me a cool 20,000 Marriott Bonvoy points or roughly $160 in value per TPG’s most recent valuation.
These promotions keep me engaged and loyal to the Marriott Bonvoy program. I really hope that Marriott continues to offer these through 2021 — if so, it will keep me booking Marriott stays and doing my best to earn Marriott Bonvoy points when it makes sense to do so.
I started road-tripping in 2020
I bought my first car earlier in the year and have taken a couple of electric car road trips ever since.
On these trips, I generally spend a night or two at hotels either at the destination or on the way to it. For example, my girlfriend and I recently drove from New York City to Kansas City and spent a night at both a Courtyard and Aloft on the drive out.
The Courtyard was near an expressway while the Aloft was in downtown St. Louis. These convenient locations offer a great way to earn elite nights and Marriott Bonvoy points on the road, thanks to the chain’s numerous roadside U.S. locations.
Going on road-trips means that Marriott Bonvoy points are one of the few points currencies I can actually use this year. I actually used 20,000 Marriott Bonvoy points on this road trip for a night at the Westin Kansas City at Crown Center, which was a great experience for such few points. This happened while the bulk of my points and miles have sat dormant in my loyalty accounts due to low travel during the pandemic.
Road trips mean that I need to stay at more off-the-beaten-path destinations around the country. Marriott’s huge list of properties makes this easy and helps keep me loyal to the Bonvoy program.
Marriott Bonvoy isn’t perfect, but it’s still my favorite hotel loyalty program due to its huge global footprint and flexible points.
I’ve continued earning Marriott Bonvoy points through the pandemic because of the numerous cobranded credit card spending offers and other excellent promotions. It also helps that I can actually use Marriott Bonvoy points during the pandemic as I travel the country by car.
Of course, I’m still earning other points too. Most of my spending is focused on earning American Express Membership Rewards points, as I still believe they’re the most valuable points out there. That said, these aren’t great for hotel stays, and having a diverse points portfolio means less risk of devaluations and more great redemptions.
Feature photo by JHVEPhoto/Shutterstock
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