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

In my article yesterday, I outlined ‘the facts’ of the Marriott Rewards loyalty scheme. This article 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, Autograph Collection looking interesting

Weak points – very high number of nights required to achieve Gold or Platinum, regular MegaBonus promotion unexciting, 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 lucrative albeit not luxurious. Historically these offered a free night in a Category 1-4 or 1-5 hotel for every two stays, which excluded most of the interesting Marriott properties.  The current offer is a duller 2,500 bonus Marriott points per stay, albeit I would value that at £12.50 or so.

For heavier stayers, Marriott Rewards becomes more interesting. Perhaps that is actually the point. Reach Gold and you are guaranteed lounge access (where available) 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.

The new Marriott ‘Autograph Collection’ initiative looks as if it might deliver Marriott the decent high-end properties it needs.  I will write about Autograph separately soon – it is a group of independent luxury hotels who have agreed to use Marriott for sales and reservations and also issue and accept Marriott Rewards points.  I have been impressed by the calibre of some of the participating hotels.

Marriott Rewards must be doing something right, because the very heavy stayers are very supportive of the programme.  These people can generate enough points to unlock the value in the travel package redemptions.  For me, I tend to find more exciting properties (both for earning and redeeming) elsewhere.

(To see our complete list of current Marriott promotions, click here to visit our ‘Hotel Promos’ page or use the link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

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What is the best hotel scheme? - Marriott Rewards - The Facts
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  1. For me, the major benefit of Marriott Gold / Platinum membership (Lifetime Platinum myself), are the superb Executive / Club lounges, particularly across the far East and, depending on location, across continental Europe and middle-east.
    Unfortunately there is little consistency , particularly in UK and USA as to what to expect from an Executive/ Club lounge. As Raffles points out, they are closed at weekends in USA (and pretty poor in general), non-existent in many other Marriott locations (Courtyards and other labels never have them).
    For me the problem is that the Marriott rule book lays out minimum standards ( note that 95%+ of all Marriott properties are not owned by Marriott, but run by Marriott), so ultimate owners can choose to provide real quality or minimal adherence – Italian properties are particularly adherent to this minimalism, from unfortunate personal experience.
    Ahead of choosing to stay at a Marriott, I find the only way of knowing if there is an Executive lounge and / or worth using is to scour through reviews either posted on Marriott’s web site or via Tripadvisor.
    As to Autograph Collection, have never experienced them as it does not seem that they have Executive lounges, but if anybody knows better, please do comment.

  2. gnarlyoldgoatdude says:

    When I lived in the US, I was a fan.
    However, returning to the UK and finding that I need hotel stays regularly for business, I seldom stay at Marriotts.
    The reason is price. I will always find a Hilton or Holiday Inn for 20% less than the equivalent Marriott.
    I also never felt appreciated as a Gold member, although it is worth noting that I did receive an extended soft landing of 2 years as Silver which is worth something.

    They do have some lovely properties though. The Ghent Marriott is one of my favourite hotels in the world. I also take short breaks at Tudor Park (Maidstone), as it has one of the best leisure facilities in Kent.

    Of course you can often get your “Book of Mormon” fix if you have a look in the drawers in the bedside tables.

  3. Danksy says:

    I’ve got about 12k points which I’m going to struggle to find a compelling reason to do something with….this brand doesn’t excite me at all!

    • gnarlyoldgoatdude says:

      I took my first stay in about 2.5 years which kicked me up from 8k to 12k points.
      As soon as I was over 10k, I redeemed for 2000 Avios.

  4. avioscollector says:

    Perhaps this series would benefit from the voice of people who actually choose a particular hotel loyalty based on their own personal spend? The author seems to have a very limited palette of hotels stays, so this should be taken with a pinch of salt as an “on paper” comparison.

    It seems, perhaps cynically so, that the loyalties and ‘best value’ seem aligned to the referral links

    • How you pay is only one part of it – ‘free stuff’ (ie breakfast, internet) has a higher priority when you spend your own money rather than your employers. If you want airline miles over free stays your preference is different. If you want family redemptions your priorities are different as only some chains let you redeem for suites. If you intend to redeem in a specific part of the world your priorities would be different. If you stay in specific countries then your options are different. If you prefer luxury / upscale / midrange / budget your options are different. If you need the ability to ‘top up’ points via Amex to get enough for a reward then your priorities are different. If you have Amex Plat then you have 3 status cards in your bag and, again, your priorities will be different.

      It makes very little difference how many I stay in personally. I know exactly how many HFP readers stay at which chains because over 1,000 of them voted in the reader survey in February. I spend around 60 nights a year in hotels and, frankly, that is enough! The majority of these are not the big chain hotels reviewed here, though, because I am usually dealing with my family and I prioritise what works best for them. Four Seasons and Jumeirah take the bulk of our personal spend.

    • Is that not what the comments under each article convey? Many readers add their own personal experiences, good and bad, of each chain and method of payment & redemption.

      Raffles seems to give a very impartial and balanced view of each of the loyalty schemes.

    • czechoslovakia says:

      Marriott and M&M were the only loyalty schemes I was in (forgetting CSA OKplus) before finding Robs great site. Marriott rewards has given me plenty of bonuses and free nights which were of great use to me personally. Only next week I`ve got 2 rooms booked at the Courtyard Marriott Prague Airport, paid for by points from a 5 night work stay in the Marriott Budapest. Everyone`s needs are unique, and you get out what you put in. Marriott and M&M have served me very well over the years, but they`re not for everyone. Rob`s views are very impartial, honest and respected by me. Its imperative to read Robs “highlights” and apply what suits you best. The alternative is trawling through all the loyalty schemes small print yourself to compare.

  5. If you like to travel in Spain, one sweet spot is that the AC branded properties have been brought into Marriott Rewards at stupidly low categories – a very large number of Category 2 properties for instance. I just redeemed for a night at the AC La Rioja for 10,000 points a night – located in Logrono, a really lovely and underappreciated town in the heart of Spanish wine country.

  6. A few words in defence of Marriott. As the world’s largest vacation club condo operator, most of which are in the US, anyone with two or three weeks plus a Marriott credit card is well on the way to Gold status every year. Beach resorts – well most of them are condos, though they do sell by the day. In cities not ultra luxurious – perhaps not high end Conrad, but no worse than Hilton and often better – try the San Diego Marriott, Boston Long Wharf, and particularly the JW Marriott/Ritz Carlton golf resort in Orlando. For families, the vacation club or Marriott Residence Inns give a huge amount of space for the money. In Europe, admittedly they are more expensive than Hilton generally. Will be interesting to compare the new Venice Marriott with the Hilton Molino Stucky. But don’t give up on Marriott…