BA sale

Two things about Marriott Rewards that I am growing to love

Links on Head for Points may pay us an affiliate commission. A list of partners is here.

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.

JW Marriott Venice main building

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.

JW Marriott Venice room

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.

(Want to earn more hotel points?  Click here to see our complete list of promotions from the major hotel chains or use the ‘Hotel Promos’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

Why January 2013 was an amazing sweet spot for a free Maldives holiday
Bits: BA trialling improved 'cash for Avios' with EU261?, Etihad launches A380 from Paris
Click here to join the 14,500 people on our email list and receive the latest Avios, miles and points news by 6am.

Amazon ad
About Head for Points

We help business and leisure travellers maximise their Avios, frequent flyer miles and hotel loyalty points. Visit every day for three new articles or sign up for our FREE emails via this page or the box to your right.


  1. Genghis says:

    @Rob. SPG top end properties are currently poor value on points. How do you think that might change on a merged Marriott platform?

    Might they do a generic x3 of pricing and then play around with the SPG top ends to say match some similarly priced RCs etc?

    • I think they will get better value. My guess is that the RCarlton hotels will now share the same chart as Marriott with SPG hotels slotted in wherever – so Gritti Palace in Venice is equivalent to a top Ritz.

  2. the_real_a says:

    Is this the best value redemption ever? I have just booked:

    5 Nights in the five star Mulu Marriot Resort (Borneo) = 13,333 Starwood points (40,000 Marriott points in the 5 for 4 redemption deal)

    Plane transfers (as its in the middle of the rain Forrest) are provided my MASwings (malaysian) so bagged open jaw in and out for 13,500 Avios and £16 tax – although it was not bookable online and had to call up. Outward is in regional Business Class as no economy was available.

    • Genghis says:

      Looks nice and a bit of a bargain. With cash rates for some random dates around £86 a night, well over 3p/SPG. Not quite Aloft Liverpool at peak rates though.

    • Hello,
      We are also planning to go to Mulu caves in July. Can you elaborate on the MASwings deal – is it a Kuching or KK to Mulu or KL to Mulu? And did you call Avios for this?
      Any tip on how you actually transfer the AMEX points to Starwood then to Marriott ? Many thanks

      • the_real_a says:

        You can get flights from Kuching, Miri or KK – if you search MASwings for the flight numbers, it appears that BA is pricing up the flights with a 20 minute stop in Miri as a direct flight so only 4500 points. You need to call up as BA as the website does not recognise the Mulu airport code in its search. I just tell the agents the website is broken (which it is) and they waive the telephone booking fee.

        AMEX to starwood is straightforward, just link your accounts on the AMEX site. After about 3 days you are able to transfer the points. Starwood to Marriot is instant. Again just search for the relevent transfer page.

  3. OT – IHG Accelerate Q2

    Any ideas when will IHG launch Accelerate for Q2 (16 April onwards)?
    I am contemplating couple of booking, which I might book as flexible for now and switch to Accelerate target if there is any sensible target!.

  4. James A says:

    I’m still enjoying Marriott too, I say this each time this comes up but it remains true so far: I’ve not had a bad stay yet since matching to gold this year.

  5. For many years now, when visiting Middle East countries on business, I’ve always used Marriott Rewards points, by purchasing them, to pay for hotel stays. The savings over the cash rates have been significant because many of the **** or ***** hotels (eg. JW Marriott) are often only level 2 or 3, so can be booked for 10-15,000 per night.

    I’ll admit that the savings are not quite so good now with the current USD/GBP exchange rate, when buying the points, and also the change in levels of the hotels, but savings are still at least 25% in my experience, and have been up to 40% in past years.

  6. OT- Amex Platinum for Hertz

    Do I have to use Amex platinum card for prepaid booking at HERTZ for car hire?

    Can I pay with other Amex and use amex platinum for optional extras such as for payment towards car seat at local collection point?

    • Car hire cover isn’t dependent on use of the card according to the insurance T&Cs.

  7. Did AMEX on the SPG card change the sign up bonus since you wrote this Rob? Their website shows as ony 10,000 points not the 30,000.

    • Travel Yoda says:

      10,000 Starwood points = 30,000 Marriott points. They convert 1 to 3 as per above.

  8. Graham Walsh says:

    Very interesting. Looks like it could be good as they have many properties in Dubai which is my target for next year. 0 points at present but with CC sign up and then put all my spending for the year, I should have enough points for next easters holiday 8 days before hand.

  9. Rob. Does the spg Amex card come with a Mastercard as well, and am I correct in thinking it is £75 a year (no first year free)?

  10. Wally1976 says:

    Agree with this, I’ve got redemption rooms booked at both the Budapest Marriott and the Boscolo in Budapest for a weekend break with my wife in September. Can’t decided which one to go for but I don’t need to decide until 8 days beforehand! It’s a choice between breakfast in the New York cafe and executive lounge overlooking the Danube (we’re Gold members courtesy of Amex Plat).

    • Wally, I’d go for the Danube location, if I were you. You might get upgraded to a Danube view room as a Gold Member and there is something very special about being on the river overlooking it – I had that at the IC. I’d also say that the river location is better for general sightseeing – a short hop over to the Buda side, for instance, whereas the Boscolo’s area is not special. You can always go the New York cafe for afternoon coffee…

    • Czechoslovakia says:

      Ive Stayed at the Budapest Marriott. Decent, but nowt special. Very close to red light area. Every year for past 5 theyve credited me with the points on the anniversary of my stay! At the end of the day, it’s an old commie building. I’d stay again on business, but not with family in tow.

  11. And you might win 3.75 million Marriott points in this free draw

Please click here to read our data protection policy before submitting your comment.