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Massive ProgramMarriott Bonvoy is relatively new as a combined program, an amalgamation of Ritz-Carlton Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest, and Marriott Rewards. Today, the program awards points at more than 7,000 properties, cruise lines, and restaurants. One the largest in the world, the new Marriott Bonvoy has 120 million members and the most flexible rewards currency across the travel loyalty space.
Marriott BrandsAs a result of several acquisitions and mergers, Marriott has 30 brands, a Homestay (VRBO and Airbnb competitor), yachts, and cruise lines, and it can be difficult to keep them straight. Marriott’s 30 brands feature a variety of varied price levels, room types, and features. The brand has “select service” properties like Fairfield, Four Points by Sheraton, and Residence Inn that do not offer a restaurant but do provide breakfast for guests. Extended Stay brands like Courtyard by Marriott, Townplace Suites, and Marriott Executive Apartments offer long-term guests (like consultants) a home away from home with suites that feature kitchenettes and separate sleeping and living spaces. Luxury brands such as Ritz-Carlton, St. Regis, and JW Marriott provide excellent amenities for the top end of the market. From classic, upper-crust, historical properties to chic and modern and even the highest hotel in the world, there’s plenty of luxury at Marriott. Full-service hotels like Sheraton, Marriott, and Element complement Westin, Le Meridien, and Renaissance properties often in business markets. “Lifestyle” brands such as Autograph give guests something extra in the form of style and design. Here is every Marriott brand and its appropriate category:
- Marriott (Full-service, business hotels)
- Delta (Full-service, business hotels)
- Westin (Full-service, business hotels)
- Sheraton (Full-service, business hotels)
- Le Meridien (Full-service, business hotels)
- Renaissance (Full-service, business hotels)
- Autograph (Lifestyle)
- Tribute (Lifestyle)
- Design (Lifestyle)
- W Hotels (Lifestyle)
- Gaylord (Lifestyle)
- Protea (Select Service)
- Sheraton Four Points (Select service)
- Aloft (Select service)
- Element (Select Service)
- Residence Inn (Select Service)
- AC Hotels (Select service)
- Fairfield (Select service)
- Moxy (Select service)
- Springhill Suites (Extended Stay)
- Courtyard by Marriott (Extended Stay)
- Marriott Executive Apartments (Extended Stay)
- Towneplace Suites (Extended Stay)
- JW Marriott (Luxury)
- St. Regis (Luxury)
- Ritz-Carlton (Luxury)
- The Luxury Collection (Luxury)
- Bulgari (Luxury)
- Edition (Luxury)
- Marriott Vacation Club (Timeshares)
MembershipSimply by joining Marriott Bonvoy for free, members add cost-free benefits to their stay. Even members that rarely stay in Marriott hotels will have access to free high-speed internet, a digital room key (accessed by smartphone in equipped hotels), earn points for their stay, and access the best cash rates for stays.
Elite StatusFrequent guests have special privileges bestowed upon them the more they stay with the chain. With Marriott Bonvoy, guests can only qualify for status by staying a certain number of qualifying nights. For top tier guests, a revenue requirement of $20,000 spent with the hotel on nightly rate (excluding taxes and fees.)
NightsQualifying based on “nights” refers to nights spent in the hotel. For example, landing on Saturday night and departing one week later will result in seven qualifying nights. Some Marriott Bonvoy credit cards provide 15 nights that count toward status. By holding them, requirements are reduced.
Elite TiersMaking all elite groups happy from Ritz-Carlton Rewards, Marriott Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest was one of the biggest challenges when merging the three programs into one. As one of the largest chains in the world, with so many millions of members, creating value for a multitude of frequent guests was a challenge. Move up the elite tiers even faster with a Marriott Bonvoy credit card. If you don’t have one be sure to read – Why The Marriott Bonvoy Credit Card May Be The Best For Travelers , first. Marriott has a total of six tiers to their loyalty program:
- Marriott Bonvoy Member (General, sign up online, at a hotel or over the phone)
- Marriott Bonvoy Silver Elite (10 nights)
- Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite (25 nights)
- Marriott Bonvoy Platinum Elite (50 nights)
- Marriott Bonvoy Titanium Elite (75 nights)
- Marriott Bonvoy Ambassador Elite (100+ nights and $20,000 hotel spend)
Marriott Bonvoy’s Best BenefitsThere’s a lot to love about Marriott Bonvoy, especially at the Titanium and Ambassador elite tiers.
BreakfastPlatinum, Titanium, and Ambassador Elites have access to breakfast in the hotel restaurant for properties that have them. Some properties may offer breakfast in the executive lounge (if available) for elites instead of the hotel restaurant. Select Service properties like Fairfield may also offer breakfast to all guests. The best part of Marriott Bonvoy’s breakfast benefit is that it also allows guests to choose a hotel amenity or points instead if they so choose. Due to scheduling challenges (an early morning meeting or flight) may make bonus points or a welcome amenity more desirable. Some properties apply restrictions to the breakfast amenity, for example, limiting the breakfast selection or billable amount. Some may offer room service as opposed to restaurant-only dining, while others allow guests to choose the lounge or the restaurant. It’s important to ask at check-in what the benefit allows at each specific property for those who qualify.
UpgradesPlatinum, Titanium, and Ambassador members are eligible for upgrades up to one-bedroom suites. For Platinum and Titanium members, they can also secure suite upgrades confirmed in advance for up to ten nights per year. All suite upgrades are subject to availability, however, suite nights confirmed in advance (if available in advance) must be available for the length of the stay. If a guest has three suite night upgrades remaining and the suite is available for just one, few properties are willing to honor the request at all as moving guests within their stay can be difficult.
Airlines Transfer BonusesOne of the most popular features of the (former) Starwood Preferred Guest program was airline transfer bonuses. Marriott Bonvoy adopted this popular program which allows guests to transfer Bonvoy points to an airline of their choice at a 3:1 ratio. However, for each 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points that a guest transfers, instead of receiving 20,000 airline miles they receive 25,000 (usually enough for a coach domestic roundtrip.) Of the 43 airline loyalty programs with which Bonvoy members can transfer their points, three exceptions to the transfer rate apply:
- Air New Zealand (200 Bonvoy points to 1 Airpoint)
- JetBlue (6 Bonvoy points to 1 TrueBlue point)
- United (3 Bonvoy points to 1.1 MileagePlus miles) – Temporary increase
Hotel and Airfare PackagesA unique aspect of Marriott Bonvoy is its Hotel and Airfare packages. These packages allow Marriott Bonvoy members to spend their points on packages that provide both hotel accommodations and airline frequent flyer miles to offset the cost of a vacation. Prices for these packages were better in the past. However, it remains a great value for true road warriors who drive to business destinations and stay in Marriott properties but do not often fly for work. At the entry-level, 255,000 Bonvoy points would provide enough miles to fly two passengers just about anywhere in the US (domestically) and include a seven-night stay in up to a Category 4 property. To take a family of four on the same trip, just 75,000 more points are needed to give the Marriott Bonvoy guest 110,000 airline miles plus the same Category 1-4 stay.
Reciprocal United MileagePlus StatusTitanium and Ambassador members enjoy reciprocal status with United Airlines. MileagePlus Silver elite status allows the most frequent Marriott Bonvoy guests to enjoy complimentary upgrades to Economy Plus, upgrades to some first-class seats (if available at check-in), one complimentary checked bags (up to 70 lbs), Premier Access (expedited security line) in available airports, and 40% mileage bonus over general members.
Shortcuts to Marriott Bonvoy StatusThe traditional route to Marriott Bonvoy status is staying the required number of nights per desired status level, however, there are a couple of shortcuts guests can take to achieve a higher level.
Credit Card Night CreditsMarriott Bonvoy credit cards offer 15 nights toward status for cardholders. That alone would be enough to make Platinum status (a reasonably high level of status) with just 35 nights. However, consumers who also have businesses (even home-based businesses like selling items on eBay count), they can add a business card as well that adds another 15 nights toward status. That brings down the threshold to Platinum elite status to just 20 nights. It also makes Titanium far more achievable at just 45 nights, compared to Hyatt’s 60-night requirement for Globalist.
ChallengesMarriott Bonvoy sometimes extends “status challenges” to members without status or at a lower tier. Challenges offer reduced requirements to achieve a status tier. This is often equivalent to just over 1/4th of the requirements in a 90-day period. Past challenges have offered Platinum status for completing 18 nights in a three-month period.
Multiple Room NightsSome families book more that one room for their stay when bringing family or friends along. Members can earn Base Points on up to two rooms per night. Traveling workers can also book for their co-workers to earn more base points accelerating status earning.
MeetingsWhile it may seem like a huge requirement for some, those who plan group travel for their peers or company can secure one night toward status for every 20-room meeting block they book. A sales manager booking for his team or customer events may be able to shorten their path to elite status by booking meetings several times annually.
Point ValuationAs always, point values are personal metrics. For example, some guests may only prefer to stay in Select Service properties like Fairfield Inn that usually charge $100/nt or less and the charge per night when spending points is between 5,000-15,000 points. They will achieve one value. Those that prefer only to spend their Bonvoy points at extremely high-end properties may find a better value for their points but it requires far more of them to complete a stay. Based on Suites and Lobbies analysis of the current cost of points per stay vs. the cost in cash for the same stay, Marriott Bonvoy points are worth about 0.45¢ each. If a hotel charges 10,000 points/night for the stay or $78, the points are the better method of payment as those points would normally only yield a value of $45. However, if a stay costs 70,000 for a $200/nt room, the cash price is a better use of points as the value of 70,000 points is $315.
Earning vs. Burning PointsIt’s very important that members of any loyalty program closely watch both how they earn and burn their points. Standard earning rates are 10 points per $1 spent (excluding taxes and fees) at most Marriott properties. The exclusions to this list are Element, Residence Inn, and Townesuites whereby guests earn half as many (5 points per dollar). Elite status increases earnings relative to the tier, climbing all the way to 20 points per dollar. If a guest completes a weeklong stay in Beijing for $1,400 (just the room rate, no taxes, and fees included) they will accrue 14,000 points before any bonuses or $63 worth of points. However, if the guest earns the top rate (20 points per dollar) and participates in a 2,000 point bonus per stay promotion, the guest would earn 30,000 points or $135 value – a roughly 9% return on their spend.
Cash Plus PointsTo give Bonvoy members more flexibility to use their points, the program also allows for point redemptions to be combined with cash. This allows members to conserve their points by offsetting half the cost per night with cash. A word of caution when booking with points and cash. Some redemptions for premium awards may be a combination of cash and points but at a severe cost. In the below example you’ll see that points and cash redemptions for this stay actually cost more than a standard room for cash without spending any points. How can this be? The property has only made suites available for award redemptions, so standard rooms are available for cash while only premium rooms can be used with cash and points. It’s within the program’s rules, but it’s intentionally tricky.
Best RedemptionsWhat are the best Marriott Bonvoy redemptions? Much like the point valuation identified above, the redemption value is often in the eye of the beholder. However, I will offer a few different examples that speak to different values offered to member customers.
Courtyard by Marriott Guyanquil – 10,000-15,000 points/nt. One of the nicest Courtyards in the world, this Ecuadorian hotel in the largest city in the country delivers terrific value for very few points.
JW Marriott Chengdu – 15,000-20,000 points/nt. Stunning luxury (perhaps the best in the city) for very few points. Marble floors, deluxe bedding, well-placed lighting – it all creates a dreamlike experience for very few points.
- Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong – 70,000-100,000 points/nt. The highest hotel in the world, the Ritz-Carlton sits over 90 stories above Kowloon overlooking the beautiful Victoria Harbour. While not exactly a bargain, there’s only one hotel in the world that can boast “highest” and the views are unforgettable.