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What is the best hotel scheme? – Marriott Bonvoy – The Facts

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This is the fourth of our overview series of the main hotel loyalty schemes. Each scheme will be covered over two articles on different days. One will list the basic facts of the scheme – basically “How does Marriott Bonvoy work?” – and the other will be my subjective view of what is of particular merit.

Marriott Bonvoy is the new loyalty scheme launched by Marriott in February 2019 following its acquisition of Starwood Hotels and Resorts. It covers almost 7,000 hotels globally across 30 different brands. These are (in alphabetical order!): AC Hotels, Aloft, Autograph, Courtyard, Delta Hotels, Design Hotels, Edition, Element, Fairfield Inn, Four Points, Gaylord, Le Meridien, Marriott, Moxy, Protea, Renaissance, Residence Inn, St Regis, Sheraton, The Luxury Collection, The Ritz Carlton, Springhill Suites, Towneplace Suites, W and Westin.  The Marriott Bonvoy home page is here.

If you are not currently a member of Marriott Bonvoy, I can refer you via the refer-a-friend scheme – email me at rob [at] headforpoints.co.uk. You will receive 2,000 bonus points on your first five stays.

What is the geographic spread?

Marriott has a decent spread of UK and European properties.  The low-cost end of the market has seen the rapid growth of Moxy and the relaunch of Courtyard.  Wherever you are in the world, you probably won’t be far from a Marriott-operated hotel.

The Autograph brand is ‘adopting’ interesting boutique properties such as Threadneedles in The City and this gave Marriott a much-needed shot in the arm in term of luxury properties.  Since the acquisition of Starwood, Marriott now has a vastly improved high-end portfolio via St Regis and The Luxury Collection.  The Ritz Carlton has also raised its game in recent years after a period of stagnation.

Do I use them?

I was historically a Starwood person rather than a Marriott person, although I did have the occasional stay at The Ritz-Carlton.

Looking at the ex-Starwood portfolio, stays in recent years include the excellent St Regis Istanbul, which I reviewed for HFP, and St Regis New York, reviewed hereLe Meridien Hamburg is a regular haunt when visiting family. The Westin in Dublin is a lovely conversion in a great location and my default choice there. We also reviewed the refurbished Sheraton Grand Park Lane in London which is beautiful. Here is my review of the Aloft at London Excel which is a ‘stylish budget’ brand with a decent pool.  We also reviewed the two European ‘Element’ hotels (environmentally focussed long-stay properties) and the Aloft Liverpool.  There were misses, of course, such as St Regis Doha, reviewed here.

My Marriott stays in the 20 years prior to 2015 could probably be counted on two hands.  Things changed with the opening of the JW Marriott in Venice which is pretty good (our JW Marriott Venice review is here). We have visited four times now.  I have also visited the new Ritz-Carlton desert resort outside Ras Al-Khaimah, just north of Dubai (reviewed here) and the new Ritz Carlton beach resort (reviewed here) as both are excellent value as a redemption. I also visited The Ritz-Carlton Kyoto in 2017 (reviewed here) and it was astonishingly good – on a par with the best of the Four Seasons portfolio.

Earlier this year I was at the Al Bustan Palace in Muscat, managed by The Ritz Carlton (review here). The Berlin Marriott (reviewed here) – possibly the poshest Marriott in the world – has also become my default hotel when visiting the ITB travel show each March.  And, of course, we had the 2019 Head for Points Summer Party at the lovely Renaissance St Pancras.

Is Marriott Bonvoy the best hotel scheme?

Elite membership levels in Marriott Bonvoy

If you have an Amex Platinum you can get Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status for free.  If you have the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express, you get Silver Elite status for free.

If you don’t have either of these, this is what you need:

Silver Elite – requires 10 nights. Benefit is a 10% bonus on base points and priority late checkout (based on availability)

Gold Elite – requires 25 nights. Benefits are 25% bonus on base points, room upgrade, high-speed internet, 2pm late check-out (based on availability, not at resorts and conference hotels) and welcome gift.

Platinum Elite– requires 50 nights. Benefits are 50% bonus on base points, room upgrade to best available room or suite, high-speed internet, lounge access (or breakfast if the lounge is closed), guaranteed late check-out until 4pm (not at resorts) as well as an annual ‘choice benefit’ from five options including 5 elite night credits or 5 suite night awards and welcome gift.

Titanium Elite – requires 75 nights. Benefits are 75% bonus on base points, an annual ‘choice benefit’ from six options as well as all the benefits enjoyed by Platinum.

Ambassador Elite – requires 100 nights and $20,000 spend. Benefits include all those of Titanium Elite (there is no increase in points bonus) as well as a 24/7 personal assistant service, the ability to choose the exact 24 hours of your stay.

The full table of elite benefits is here.

Free internet is given to all guests as long as they book direct. Members with Gold Elite or above receive high-speed internet for free.

In North America, it is common for executive lounges to be closed at weekends.

Marriott has a joint venture with United Airlines whereby Marriott Titanium Elite and Ambassador members receive Silver status in the United programme. United members who are Gold or higher receive Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status.  The similar joint venture with Emirates has just been relaunched.

Reward nights DO count for status but not for any promotion bonuses.

Marriott Bonvoy offers lifetime status at Silver Elite, Gold Elite and Platinum Elite level. You need to achieve targets for both nights stayed and points earned. Details can be found here.

How do you earn Marriott Bonvoy points?

Marriott Bonvoy gives you 10 points per $1 spent, plus any elite status bonus. The only exceptions are Residence Inn, TownPlace Suites and element which offer 5 points per $1 and Marriott Executive Apartments and ExecuStay where you earn 2.5 per $1. The full breakdown per chain is here.

At most brands, you will receive points on all of your in-hotel spending.

Marriott runs regular promotions although they are rarely as aggressive as those from IHG Rewards Club or Hilton Honors. These tend to run back-to-back so there will usually be some offer worth signing up for.  Details of the current promotion can be found on our ‘Hotel Promos‘ page.

How do you spend Marriott Bonvoy points?

The room redemption chart is here.

Redemption rates for hotels run from 7,500 points in Category 1 to 85,000 points in Category 8.  Peak and off-peak pricing is being introduced from 14th September 2019 which will see the top price increase to 100,000 points per night (Category 8 peak) and the cheapest free night drop to 5,000 points (Category 1 off peak).

Marriott is well-known for ‘category creep’ – moving hotels from category to category to increase their redemption cost without announcing any official devaluation.

All members receive ‘five nights for the price of four’ when redeeming.  The ‘free’ night is the cheapest – in points terms – of the five nights in your itinerary.

A 5-star 60,000 point redemption would typically require a Silver member to spend $5,500.  In reality this figure will be lower due to points earned from promotions, although these have less of an impact with Marriott Bonvoy than at other chains.

There is an ongoing PointSavers promotion which offers rooms at selected hotels at a discount. However, the list of participating properties is very small.  The discount is also very tiny at high-end hotels – a Category 8 drops from 85,000 to 80,000 points on a standard night, for example.

Marriott offers ‘instant redemption’ for in-hotel benefits. At selected hotels, these lets you redeem points for a cash credit against incidental charges on your room bill. 2,500 points is worth $10 through to 125,000 points being worth $500.

Marriott Bonvoy lets you book reward nights WITHOUT having the points in your account. This is a very valuable feature. It allows you to lock in the rooms you need today whilst giving you plenty of time you earn the points required. You have until 14 days before your arrival date to earn the required points.  From 14th September 2019, ‘Points Advance’ only guarantees your room and not the rate, so you are exposed to any increase in points prices between the day you book and the day you stay.

Do Marriott Bonvoy points expire?

According to the programme rules, if you do not earn or spend points during a 24 month period then your points will be removed (see clause 1.6).

I wrote a full article here on different ways to stop your Marriott Bonvoy points from expiring.

Can you upgrade using points?

Yes.  Some properties allow you to book upgraded rooms, including suites, for an additional co-pay on top of the standard redemption cost.  We have used this feature at JW Marriott Venice to get a junior suite, sleeping four, for the same number of points as a standard room.

Are ‘cash and points’ redemptions available?

Marriott Bonvoy allows you to use a mix of cash and points to redeem stays.

This ranges from $55 + 3,500 points in a category 1 hotel to $440 + 42,500 points in a category 8 property on ‘standard’ dates.  Peak and off-peak dates have different points levels but the cash element is the same.

A full chart is available here.

Can you transfer Marriott Bonvoy points to airline miles?

Marriott Bonvoy points can be transferred to a large number of airlines including BA / Avios.  For most airlines, it is a direct 3:1 transfer ratio. For every 60,000 points you transfer you get a 5,000 miles bonus so it is worth transferring in chunk of 60,000 points if you can.

The full list of airline partners is here.

Marriott’s travel packages still exist but these are no longer as generous as they used to be or the best use of your Bonvoy points.  In some cases, travel packages are now actually more expensive than booking the individual elements separately!  Because the price is the same irrespective of whether your nights are peak, off-peak or standard, they work best if you are considering a seven night stay over peak dates.

Can I earn Avios directly without collecting points?

Yes, see ba.com here. You can earn Avios by showing your British Airways Executive Club or avios.com card at check-in. The amount will depend on which brand you are staying with, but is usually 2 Avios per $1.

You will not earn any Marriott Bonvoy points. However, you must still be a member of Marriott Bonvoy in order to do this.

Marriott Bonvoy UK credit card partnerships

Can you get elite status with a UK credit card? Yes. Amex Platinum gives you Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite.

The 30,000 Membership Rewards points sign-up bonus on American Express Platinum converts into 45,000 Marriott Bonvoy points.

Marriott had a UK Mastercard, issued by Creation, but it was withdrawn in 2015.  It is still active for people who applied before it closed.

The Starwood Preferred Guest Card, issued by American Express in the UK, still exists and can now be used in conjunction with Marriott Bonvoy. It is not clear how long this card will exist, although Marriott is likely to replace it with a similar Bonvoy-branded product.  The Starwood Amex gives double Bonvoy points (6 points per £1) when used at a Marriott or Starwood property.  You also receive Silver Elite status for as long as you hold the card.

You receive a sign-up bonus of 33,000 Marriott Bonvoy points with the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express card.

Is Marriott Bonvoy an Amex Membership Rewards partner?  Yes. You can transfer Membership Rewards points to Marriott Bonvoy points at a rate of 2:3.

Purchasing and transferring points

You can buy Marriott Bonvoy points for $12.50 per 1,000 via this link.

You can transfer your Marriott points to anyone up to a cap of 100,000 points per year. This is free to all members. Transfers must be done by telephone.

My opinion

Part Two of this article, coming soon, will give you my personal view of the new Marriott Bonvoy programme.

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Comments

  1. Do you know why Residence Inns are only 5 points/$? Seems an odd thing.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      It’s marketed as a long term stay brand and therefore lower earning.

      Strange though as it probably puts people off booking direct. Hotels.com would be a better deal.

    • RussellH says:

      Same as IHG’s Straybridge.

  2. Should note that you get gold status on the SPG card when you spend £15k

  3. For Marriott Elite qualification, does award stays using points count?

  4. Hotel related : mini review

    Another good stay at the Glasgow Hilton on Friday evening despite a few niggles.

    Cons…

    Large, busy queue @ check-in with only 2 staff on the desks when the hotel was fully booked.

    Significantly overcharged at mini bar because I used it to store bottled water. No mention of this at checkout, had to phone them today to rectify.

    Room cards failed numerous times, had to queue again to get them reset.

    Pros….

    Gold got me upgraded to King Executive.

    Friendly helpful staff. Chef making omlettes, poached eggs, smoked salmon, etc nothing too much trouble.

    Bar staff gave us free popcorn snacks to go when we arrived back at midnight.

    Escorted to Executive lounge to ensure recut access cards worked.

    So despite the obvious negatives, the human interactions made up for any drop in expectations for the stay.

    It remains first choice for Glasgow, however I am trying out a Holiday Inn Express Riverside for my next stay due to its location for an event. Far cheaper, but expect that the experience will not be in the same league.

  5. Another data point is that points do not expire if you have Lifetime Status.

  6. Trip Rep. The Hilton Grosvenor Glagow whilst not offering an Ex Lounge is in by far a more interesting location near to good restaurants ,opposite the Botanical Gardens and The Oran Mor a pub transformed from a church which has a great vibe.The main Hilton requires an escort to walk anywhere in my experience. Breakfast at the Grosvener is also top class. My default in Glasgow despite having to pay for my drinks.

    • interesting feedback on the Grosvenor, thanks. A great pub I found is the Shilling Brewery Co, tons oof great ales on tap.

      Give you a laugh, got off a late bus on Bothwell St at midnight started walking back to the Hilton.

      A couple in their late 50’s/early 60’s had also just got the bus in front of us, clearly boozy.

      Guy walks east and his partner walks west, she shouts about him “Where feck are you going”?, turns to us and say “You ken Glasgee at all, we dinna naar waar wee are”

      I reply “I’m not, but try me, where are you going to, where are you staying?”

      Her “Errr, I should ken, but cannae remember, thinks its over there somewhere (points west)”

      Me “Hilton, Marriot”?

      Her “Oh its near that last un….”

      Me “The Hallmark?”

      Her: “Yes thats it”

      So I promptly give directions and the she runs after her hubby going in the opposite direction…

      Great entertainment 😀

      • Shoestring says:

        and a great place to live when you are young, free & single (2 years for me)

        dinnae ye worry, a cut glass Oxford accent won’t get you beaten up on your first night in the West End pubs, either

        friendly lot, the Glaswegians, just don’t go trying to make jokes about Rangers and Celtic as you’ll be out of your depth

  7. RussellH says:

    Transfer of Marriott points to United Airlines is (10%, I think) more generous than 3:1.

    Usefully, a small transfer of points (I think that you can just do 1 000) Marriott–> UA will reset expiry dates for both schemes.

  8. Just returned from a three night stay at Trump Turnberry on points / reward certificates – the first two nights were booked with reward certs on my wife’s account, earned doing two ~ £50 mattress runs at our local Marriotts.

    This is a great hotel for family redemptions – my wife and I and our two children who are under 5 were able to stay in a double double room on standard redemption rates – 35,000 points per night (Cat 5). In my view that represents very good value for a top class hotel.

    Children of 3 and over are normally charged a £30 a day fee which supposidly gets them ‘free’ drinks and ‘free’ meals when eating with parents. I was able to ask for this to be removed when booking without a problem. Decent kids menu in the two eating places we tried and decent value at £4 per course.

    F&B prices are as expected for this type of establishment and I was expecting to be stung £30 per day for cooked breakfast and £19 for continental, however this didn’t appear on my bill when checking out. Probably a mistake given that reward stays are room only and I am only Gold so no free breakfast with status.

    Staff and service levels are top notch. The Trump branding is evident and there are a few photographs of him in amongst the extensive collection charting the history of the place, but its not over the top.

    I’d happily return and think its a great use of points, especially for familys with young children where redemption stays are sometimes tricky.

    • Aren’t the free night certificates Cat 1-4, where as this is a Cat 5 property!?

      • The offer was on my wife’s account a while ago and a few other here had the same. If you stayed a night at any property you’d get a free night certificate to use at any property up to and including Cat 5. You could do this twice to earn two certificates.

  9. George K says:

    Does anyone have any idea when Marriott status actually expires? It used to be clear-cut with SPG, as a year’s status would end on the 1st of March. I was a beneficiary of the then Platinum challenge, which I achieved on April 2015, with status lasting till February 2017 (!).

    Earlier this year, I applied and achieved the Marriott Platinum challenge in early March, but I have no idea when the status expires. Is it December 31st, this year? Is it February next year? Or February the year after?

    • If achieved this year via challenge or otherwise, I believe you’ll hold it until March ‘21. (Remainder of this, all of the following, 2/3 month grace the period year after that)

      • George K says:

        Thank you – that would be the best! I may call and confirm, but I know experience varies by telephone agent (I had to call twice for my challenge, with one saying they don’t do it anymore, and the other being confused at the amount of nights required…)

  10. Did I miss a downgrade? I am sure that I used to get guaranteed breakfast as a gold?

    • SPG Gold never got a breakfast, so no change there
      (cant comment on old Marriott)

    • SPG Gold never had breakfast included. Marriott Gold did.
      What most people got confused about was:
      (1) SPG Gold needed 10 stays/25 nights; Marriott Gold needed 50 nights;
      (2) SPG Gold was mapped to Marriott Gold after the merger before Bonvoy;
      (3) Amex Platinum gave SPG Gold, which can then be mapped to Marriott Gold;
      (4) When Bonvoy launched, Marriott Gold effectively became (new) Bonvoy Platinum, needing 50 nights, and (new) Bonvoy Gold, needing 25 nights, does not come with Breakfast
      (5) Amex Platinum now give (new) Bonvoy Gold (without breakfast)
      So for about 2 years there was a sweet point which is now closed.
      Clear as mud!

      • Thanks. So I think I am right in saying that I did used to get a free breakfast, albeit briefly, as a converted dog gold into Marriott gold but before the Bonvoy thing. I’m sure I looked up the detailed T&Cs once and was amazed that I got breakfast and/or lounge access at some marriott hotels. And I am sure that is exactly what happened on one stay at least- I have a vague memory of having to pay for my wife’s breakfast in the main dining room but not my own, when we both had lounge access. Or something like that. I don’t really remember clearly, it was a pretty boozy weekend.

  11. After hitting platinum does anyone know how the Annual Choice Benefit “Five Elite Night Credits” functions?
    If I make Platinum in 2019 and select 5 night credits (so bumping me up to 55 in 2019, closer to titanium); does this also mean on renewal in 2020 I start with 5 free nights, so only need 45 nights to maintain platinum?

    • The Five Elite Night Credits can only be used in year, so it will get you closer to Titanium in 2019, but it won’t get you 5 nights closer to whatever elite status in 2020.

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