What is the best hotel scheme? – Marriott Rewards – The Opinion

In my other post today, I outlined ‘the facts’ of the Marriott Rewards loyalty scheme.  This post is my personal opinion, highlighting areas where I think you might want to focus.

The 10-second summary:

Strong points – big global network, decent benefits for Gold and Platinum members, good value ‘travel package’ rewards, MegaBonus is the most generous promo in the industry for free nights

Weak points – very high number of nights required to achieve Gold or Platinum, MegaBonus free nights restricted to low category hotels, hotels generally uninspiring, few aspirational resort hotels

Grosvenor House Marriott

The longer version:

Marriott Rewards does not, in general, excite people.  It isn’t entirely clear why.  It could be the utilitarian nature of the majority of the hotels, it may be the lack of luxury properties (Ritz-Carlton is generally kept separate, and that is still relatively small).  It may be the constant repetition of the MegaBonus promotion two or three times a year.

Marriott cropped

What IS true is that, unless you manage to hit the (crazy) 50 nights a year required to reach Gold status, there is not a lot in it for you.  Silver status has modest benefits, and the lack of bonus point promotions mean that you will struggle to earn a lot points.

Marriott doesn’t have ‘cash and points’ awards, so you need a higher amount than other programmes to make a redemption.  The conversion rates to airline miles are also skewed against smaller conversions – you get a substantially better deal for converting larger amounts.

However – and this is a major thing to consider – the MegaBonus promotion CAN be very lucrative.  Every quarter, Marriott offers me a free night in return for 2 stays.  I can earn two free nights each quarter.  The snag, of course, is that usually you can only redeem these in Category 1-4 hotels – the Marriott Northampton is Category 4, as an example.  If you are going somewhere with a decent number of Category 1-4 properties, though, MegaBonus could work for you.

For heavier stayers, Marriott Rewards becomes more interesting.  Perhaps that is actually the point.  Reach Gold and you are guaranteed lounge access (where available), free internet and an upgrade.  At Platinum level, you are earning 15 points per $1.  The lifetime status requirements are achievable given a few years of heavy stays.

When it comes to redeeming, the Marriott travel packages – combining both airline miles and hotel nights – are a pretty good deal.   390,000 points would get you 7 nights in a top-tier Category 9 hotel (worth around £2,000 if you choose well) and 120,000 Avios points, worth a further £1,000.

(Marriott does not have much in the way of beach or resort hotels, though, so it is not necessarily straightforward to find somewhere you want to redeem for 7 nights.)

A Platinum member would need to be spend $26,000 to achieve this – less, in reality, as a heavy stayer would get bonus point offers as their targeted quarterly promotion.  $26,000 is around £17,000, so getting around £3,000 of value back is pretty decent.

That said, apart from the higher points bonus (50% vs 25%), the difference between Platinum and Gold is modest – although arguably the step-up from Gold to Platinum (50 nights to 75) is also relatively small.

What is the best hotel scheme? - Marriott Rewards - The Facts
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  1. My preferred hotel chain, although geographic spread sometimes makes it difficult. I just like the feel of a Marriott. Although you need to be a heavy user. Golds/Plats have access to nice exec lounges with free food/drink in many top hotels.

    Although as mentioned above, the real winner for me were the travel packages, combined redemptions of miles and hotel. They have been devalued but still good if you have the points for the top ones

  2. Mr Chiggles says:

    Note they are still pretty good at doing challenges if you’ve done a few stays elsewhere. I had approx 40 nights with Hilton and they gave me instant gold on Marriott with the condition I complete 6 stays!

    They even have exec lounges in fairly drab hotels (such as Edinburgh) – you need the free booze to get over the hard beds and noisy closing doors!

    • Andrew (@andrewseftel) says:

      Are they? Last I’d heard they shut down their challenge program completely.

      • Mr Chiggles says:

        Seems to be a common misconception – my whole team has got challenges for either gold or plat when we moved to a Marriott property. It was a bit harder, we couldn’t just ask for a challenge – had to provide evidence of stays from other hotel schemes and evidence of future bookings.

  3. So after one long (50+ nights) stay in a Marriott I’m sitting at Gold with a puny 30k points for it. My current strategy is:

    1. In the event I’m in a Marriott, reap the benefits
    2. Use it for a Hyatt 60day Platinum status match
    3. Wait until a promotion comes round for airline conversion to dump the 30k

    My question is, would you do it any differently?

    • You need to be careful with super-long stays, some chains cut off benefits and points after 30 nights. Marriott is OK though.

      One thing I would have done (depending on my MegaBonus target) would have been to check-out at some point and check-in again after 24 hours, three times, to trigger 4 ‘stays’ and thus my 2 MegaBonus free nights.

      You could also have checked out for a day after hitting enough nights for Silver, so that your remaining nights would have benefitted from the elite bonus.

      I may also have got the free Marriott credit card, as I would have got double Marriott points on all that spending.

      Note that American is offering a transfer bonus of 25% on hotel conversions at present, there is a post next week. BA will be doing its regular ‘25% bonus on hotel conversions’ again in a few months, almost certainly.

      • Unfortunately changing hotels was not a realistic option but I was with someone with more flexibility who was checking in and out of hotels every 3 days for 2 months to maximise points. These were also the days before I got into drinking a cup of coffee and reading HfP every morning 🙂

        I’ll look out for your transfer post for an opportunity to dump these points. 30k isn’t an amount that is that worthwhile, especially when I use airbnb dominately for personal travel.

  4. Maximum Power says:

    I am about to lose my concerige with club carlson and be dropped to red at the end of this month, the price of chasing the big win, I am also silver with Mariott – I can stay 4/5 nights a week in either of the 3 brands, do you think it’s worth trying to get Marriot or club carlson to do me a status match or challange to up my level? I could easily hammer 20 stays in the next month either of them? do I just call and ask?

    • Mr Chiggles says:

      Do you have evidence of 50ish stays over the past year? Also a load of forward bookings. Marriott will want to see that – easier to do it over e-mail.

      • Maximum Power says:

        I could just screen shot or print my priorityclub account page, shows I’m staying with IHG 4 times per week minimum every week, also my club carlson is showing alot of stays over the last year, as i tend to switch between both. Just not sure how i approach it

        • Mr Chiggles says:

          Just send a mail to [email protected] (obviously with your Marriott details!) asking them to match your status and attaching the screenshots showing the stays (and have some reservations in at the Marriott too – they will check that of course).

        • Maximum Power says:

          Just done it now! I also told them I’m looking to book 15-20 nights for the next 3 weeks on Monday (which I am) hopefully that should give them an incentive to give me an incentive.

        • Maximum Power says:

          Update – got an e-mail today got automatic update to platinum without any conditions attached!

  5. BrightlyBob says:

    Marriott is my main scheme, and I feel rewards me well both with points (more of which later) and benefits, guaranteed lounge access, free breakfast 7 days/week and upgraded rooms near enough 100%of the time, though suite upgrades are rare, probably no more than 2 or 3 times a year.

    Marriott Rewards is not for the faint hearted, that I do agree. But if you can make the nights it’s very rewarding. I stay about 70 nights pa which maintains Plat at a cost of about £135 inc incidentals and vat per night. With the plat welcome points I achieve about 3000 points per night (£110net of vat = $180 x 10 pts per $= 1800pts + 50% plat bonus and 500 plat welcome points) and hit all 3 seasonal megabonuses paying an additional 40,000 points each time. Total annual spends are about £9500 and points earned about 330,000points which is enough for a 7 night Cat 7 travel package weighing in at around £2500 value. That’s a cracking over 25% return.

    As you say, Marriott can also turn out well for the occasional stayer using the free night promos that come along three times each year achieving 3 free nights for 6 stays.

    The problem with Marriott is the middle ground, those staying 20-40 nights a year are very well rewarded by HH, IHG et al, but receive very little from Marriott Rewards, the megabonuses don’t work, no lounge, no free breakfasts, only 20% extra points. Yes, the life of the middle stayer isn’t well regarded by Marriott. However as a loyalty program once you get to gold/plat Marriott really rewards the loyalty and that’s reflected in the lifetime scheme where I’m now only 80 nights and 200k points short of LTGold

  6. Lee Thornton says:

    The MegaBonus promotion doesn’t just give free nights in a 1-4 category hotel, it depends on the stay pattern and can be in a 1-5 category hotel or provide bonus points. See http://pointsandoffers.com/hotels/marriott-megabonus-2014/.

    • Yes, I know – although the majority of people with few or no stays get the Cat 1-4 version, predominantly the sort of people who would be reading a ‘beginners guide’!