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Is Marriott Bonvoy the best hotel loyalty scheme? (Part 1)

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This is part 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.

Our other articles looking at how Accor Live Limitless works, how Hilton Honors works, how IHG Rewards works, how Radisson Rewards works and how World of Hyatt works are here.

Marriott Bonvoy is the 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, Bulgari, Courtyard, Delta Hotels, Design Hotels, Edition, Element, Fairfield Inn, Four Points, Gaylord, JW Marriott, Le Meridien, Marriott, Moxy, Protea, Renaissance, Residence Inn, St Regis, Sheraton, Springhill Suites, The Luxury Collection, The Ritz Carlton, Towneplace Suites, Tribute, W and Westin.  The Marriott Bonvoy home page is here.

Marriott Bonvoy overview

What is the geographic spread?

Marriott has a decent spread of UK and European properties, and 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.

Is Marriott Bonvoy the best hotel scheme?

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 reviewed the refurbished Sheraton Grand Park Lane in London which is beautiful and where many HfP readers recently enjoyed their top suite for just over £200 due to a pricing error!

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 the Starwood acquisition could probably be counted on two hands.  Things changed with the opening of the JW Marriott in Venice which is pretty good (our most recent JW Marriott Venice review is here). We have visited four times now.  I have also reviewed the new Ritz-Carlton Al Wadi Desert resort outside Ras Al-Khaimah twice and the new Ritz Carlton beach resort in Ras (reviewed here) as both are excellent value as a redemption. I also reviewed The Ritz Carlton Kyoto in 2017 (website here) and it was astonishingly good – on a par with the best of the Four Seasons portfolio.

In 2019 I reviewed the Al Bustan Palace in Muscat, managed by The Ritz Carlton (website here). The Berlin Marriott, reviewed here (website 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.

At the other end of the scale, my final hotel stay before coronavirus was at the new Courtyard hotel at Inverness Airport, reviewed here (website here). Rhys reviewed the Courtyard hotel at Luton Airport last Autumn (website here) and there are new Courtyard properties at London City and Heathrow awaiting a visit.

I managed to visit Domes of Elounda in Crete last Autumn (website here) which has become a family favourite with many HfP readers and is part of the Autograph Collection. In May we reviewed our first Residence Inn, in Edinburgh (book here). A November 2020 visit to the Bankside Hotel in London, part of the Autograph Collection, was impressive as our review showed (website here).

The Glasshouse Hotel Marriott Edinburgh

Elite membership levels in Marriott Bonvoy

If you have an Amex Platinum charge card you get Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status for free.

If you have the Marriott Bonvoy American Express, you receive 15 elite night credits each year. This is enough to get you Silver Elite status directly but, more importantly, puts you closer to the status which really counts – Platinum Elite.

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 Bonvoy 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.  There is a similar Marriott Bonvoy joint venture with Emirates.

Reward nights DO count for status.

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 has Marriott Bonvoy adjusted its qualification levels in 2021 due to coronavirus?

Marriott Bonvoy has not reduced its qualification thresholds in 2021.

Instead, it gave existing members a credit of 50% of the elite nights required for the status they earned in 2020. A Platinum Elite member in 2021, for example, received 25 elite night credits in January 2021 to help them requalify. In addition, the Q1 promotion in 2021 gave double elite night credits for each night stayed.

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 often less aggressive as those from IHG Rewards 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 Offers‘ page.

St Regis New York

How do you spend Marriott Bonvoy points?

The room redemption chart is here.

Redemption rates on standard nights run from 7,500 points in Category 1 to 85,000 points in Category 8.  Peak and off-peak pricing operates on certain dates.  This sees 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. It allows you to lock in the rooms you need today whilst giving you plenty of time you earn the points required. A recent change means that you can only hold a room for 60 days via Points Advance and the rate itself isn’t fixed – you are still at risk of the points requirement increasing.

St Regis Venice

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.

Mariott Bonvoy American Express credit card

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 status for as long as you hold the card.

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

The Marriott Bonvoy credit card, issued by American Express, was launched in 2020.  The Marriott Bonvoy Amex gives triple Bonvoy points (6 points per £1) when used at a Marriott property and 2 points per £1 elsewhere.  You also receive 15 elite night credits per year, which would trigger Silver Elite status, for as long as you hold the card.

It is also possible to earn Gold Elite status via the Marriott Bonvoy American Express card.  This requires £15,000 of annual spend, however, and is not an exceptionally generous return.

You receive a sign-up bonus of 20,000 Marriott Bonvoy points with the Marriott Bonvoy 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.

What is my personal opinion of Marriott Bonvoy?

Click here for Part Two of my review of Marriott Bonvoy which will give you my personal view of the programme.


Mariott Bonvoy American Express credit card

How to earn Marriott Bonvoy points and status from UK credit cards (September 2021)

There are various ways of earning Marriott Bonvoy points from UK credit cards.  Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses.

The official Marriott Bonvoy American Express card usually comes with 20,000 points for signing up, 2 points for every £1 you spend and 15 elite night credits per year.

You can apply here.

American Express Marriott Bonvoy credit card

Marriott Bonvoy American Express

20,000 points sign-up bonus and 15 elite night credits Read our full review

You can also earn Marriott Bonvoy points by converting American Express Membership Rewards points at the rate of 2:3.

Do you know that holders of The Platinum Card from American Express receive FREE Marriott Bonvoy Gold status for as long as they hold the card?  It also comes with Hilton Honors Gold, Radisson Rewards Gold and MeliaRewards Gold status.  We reviewed American Express Platinum in detail here and you can apply here.

Until 2nd November 2021, The Platinum Card comes with a sign-up bonus of 60,000 Amex points. This converts into 90,000 Marriott Bonvoy points.

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

60,000 points and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

You can also earn American Express Membership Rewards points with American Express Gold (20,000 bonus points), the American Express Rewards Credit Card (5,000 bonus points) and – for small business owners – American Express Business Gold (20,000 bonus points) and Business Platinum (40,000 bonus points).

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which can be used to earn Marriott Bonvoy points

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

Comments (31)

  • Kevin says:

    Morning, have anyone received the 10 nights credit for being Creation Marriott CC this year or does it happen only based on your card anniversary date?

    • ankomonkey says:

      Not received any credit for my Creation card so far and not sure if/when I should receive it!

      • Kevin says:

        Maybe we should raise it with creation/Marriott?
        Surely there are many HFP readers do have the creation Marriott card.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Do you all have the Amex card?

      • ankomonkey says:

        I don’t have the Amex Bonvoy card, but I do have some nights credited from Bonvoy Gold via Amex Platinum.

    • RussellH says:

      Yes. I have them. No obvious way of seeing when they were creited to my a/c though.

    • Chrisasaurus says:

      Card anniversary date

  • Anna says:

    In the news for the wrong reasons just now but the Alaia Belize on Ambergris Caye looks a decent deal for 50k points or just over $300 pn in December. It’s part of the Autograph collection and redemptions include studio suites.

  • Harry T says:

    Worth noting that Marriott moves hotels up extra categories even when it says it won’t – after initially saying they would move Schloss Lieser from category 3 to 5, they back-pedalled. Then they sneakily moved it to 5 at some point anyway!

    But they are still the best hotel chain, largely because the elite benefits suck for most other chains and they have by far the best footprint, with most of the best top tier properties that can be found in a big chain. Hyatt look great but we’ve only got a limited selection in Europe. Hilton doesn’t even have a proper late checkout benefit and most of the hotels in the UK and Europe are rubbish. IHG has no actual elite benefits.

    • RussellH says:

      Hilton’s free breakfast for Gold is far superior to Marriott’s Gold offering.

      • Harry T says:

        Marriott Gold isn’t the equivalent to Hilton Gold though. Hilton Gold usually requires 40 nights, whereas Marriott Gold requires only 25 nights. Hilton Gold should be compared to Marriott Platinum, which requires 50 nights. Marriott Platinum is superior to Hilton Gold, unless you don’t like suite upgrades, lounge access and guaranteed 4pm checkout. Marriott Platinum is probably better than Hilton Diamond too, which requires 10 more nights than Marriott Platinum.

        • The Savage Squirrel says:

          Very very few people (as a % of the total status holders) get status via 50 nights per year in a hotel though; especially round here. Amex Plat gets you both Bonvoy Gold and Hilton Gold so they ARE directly comparable… as they are the status that most HfPers will have.

          • Harry T says:

            Are you sure about that? I reckon there’s probably more people in the UK who earn status from business travel than from Platinum amex cards.

  • Harrier25 says:

    What status do you need to be for free breakfast?

  • ankomonkey says:

    When are Rhys’s other Marriott in Portugal articles running?

    • Rob says:

      Penha Longa probably tomorrow, Pine Cliffs probably Wednesday – but really depends on news flow.

  • James says:

    Good Introduction to Bonvoy. The legacy SPG stay qualification for elite levels is still much missed.

    With regards to lifetime status, you will find that the targets are now only on nights stayed, plus the number of years you have been at an Elite level.

  • N says:

    Are there any more easy/cheap ways of racking up tier nights at Marriott? Ten nights for a meeting space booking closed off a year or two ago…

    • Russ says:

      Mastercard occasionally do a book 2 nights get third free or book four nights get six nights free. I did very well out of it in Doha a few years back going from Marriott properties each end of the Mall. Be careful though because some properties in close proximity share the same back office and they can accidentally merge stays so it looks like you only stayed at one hotel.

    • Harry T says:

      Only the Marriott Bonvoy credit card – 15 nights for £75 is very good.

  • Bagoly says:

    “Ambassador Elite” – is that passing off relating to Intercontinentals?!

    • TGLoyalty says:

      No you used to get a dedicated member of the ambassadors team to liaise with.

      Think you just contact a pool of them now though (Covid cut backs)

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