Long-term readers of Head for Points will know that I have not been the greatest fan of Marriott Rewards although I have always acknowledged that people who commit enough to earn top-tier status (75 nights!) are well treated.
My main problems have always revolved around:
the fact that Marriott has very few aspirational properties I want to stay at, and
Marriott Rewards is not an easy scheme to earn points in: it is not an Amex partner, it has a weak – and not currently available – UK credit card, and you need to do a ludicrous number of nights to earn status (unlike the US, you don’t have a Marriott on every street corner in Europe)
The acquisition of Starwood has changed all this:
Marriott Rewards is now a de facto Amex Membership Rewards partner because you can go Amex to Starwood at 2:1 and then Starwood to Marriott at 1:3
The Starwood American Express card effectively lets you earn 3 Marriott points for every £1 you spend (compared to 1 per £1 on the old MasterCard) as well as a 30,000 Marriott Rewards points bonus for signing up. The card also gives double points – effectively 6 Marriott points per £1 – when you stay at either a Marriott or Starwood property.
American Express Platinum gets you automatic free Starwood Gold which you can instantly match to Marriott Rewards Gold
Starwood has brought a LOT of upmarket hotels into the Marriott family
Because I can now generate Starwood points at will, via an Amex Membership Rewards conversion or by spending on their credit card, I have been paying more attention to Marriott Rewards. And, I have to say, there are two features of the Marriott Rewards programme which I have quickly come to love.
Loveable feature 1: You can book a Marriott Rewards redemption without having the points in your account
This is very cool and very handy. You can log into the Marriott Rewards website and book yourself a reward stay even if you don’t have any points. Marriott doesn’t care, as long as you earn them eight days before you check in.
These is a great feature. I have just booked the JW Marriott in Venice for a few nights in August (this is probably the best Marriott hotel in Europe, excluding the Ritz-Carlton chain). Here is the review of my last stay.
The stay will cost me 120,000 Marriott points. I don’t have that at the moment. However, I have over four months to do it. I will probably end up moving across American Express points to Starwood and then to Marriott, but I will also get my Starwood Amex card back into action for a bit. I might even do a couple of Marriott stays. The bottom line is that my reservation is secure and I can worry about earning the points later.
Loveable feature 2: I can finally book suites or bigger rooms for points, by adding some cash
Marriott Rewards is the only programme that has fully embraced the idea of making all room types available for points, as long as you top up with cash.
To be fair, many other hotels will do this but it requires negotiation with the property directly. With Marriott Rewards, the numbers are there on the website.
We have booked a Junior Suite at the JW Marriott in Venice. We had this room type last year and it worked well for a family of four, with two kids on rollaway beds. There are bigger suites in the hotel but they are often funny shapes or over two levels or with poorer views. We found that the Junior Suites work well for a family.
Booking is a doddle. Pretty much all room types at this hotel are available for points, with a cash supplement for a bigger room.
In this case, a standard room is 40,000 points per night. The Junior Suite is 40,000 points per night plus €300 per night top-up. Other room types are available for more or less €. Compared to paying cash for the Junior Suite, I’m getting 0.8p per Marriott Rewards point, so 2.4p per Starwood point, which is excellent value.
(If you were thinking of booking this hotel, note that it is classified by Marriott as a ‘resort’. This means that Marriott Rewards status benefits, such as free breakfast, do not apply.)
Marriott Rewards is winning me round. Once the superior Starwood hotels are merged onto the Marriott Rewards platform, you will also be able to book those on ‘book now, earn the points later’.
If you’ve got children, or if you simply don’t like staying in small standard rooms when travelling, you will also find the co-pay option to get a bigger room on a reward stay to be of great interest. If this option is added to the Starwood hotels as well next year, it will be great.
We can only hope that both of these features are retained when Marriott Rewards, Ritz-Carlton Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest are merged into a new ‘super programme’ during 2018.