5 Marriott Bonvoy Tips You Need to Know

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Most of the chatter about miles and points is concentrated on airlines and flights. However, with the prices of hotels these days, there is a lot of value to be found in hotel loyalty programs. The best hotel loyalty program for Canadians is Marriott Bonvoy.

Marriott International has over 8,000 properties in more than 140 countries. That means you can book a room on points just about anywhere in the world. Marriott also has two credit cards available in Canada, which rank amongst the best travel credit cards

Here are five Marriott Bonvoy tips you need to know.

Earning Marriott Bonvoy points is easy

With any loyalty program, earning points is essential since if you can’t earn points, you can’t redeem them.  The quicker you can earn points, the easier you can redeem them. There are three easy ways to earn Marriott Bonvoy points.

Stay at Marriott properties

All Marriott Bonvoy members earn points on paid stays. The minimum earning rate is 10 points per US$1 on the base fare, food and drinks. You can earn more points by having higher status. For example, members with gold elite status earn 25% more points. You can earn higher status by staying frequently at Marriott properties or holding specific credit cards such as the American Express Platinum card, which gives you gold status with Marriott Bonvoy as a standard benefit.

Marriott Bonvoy also has targeted offers that are available to all members. For example, stay two nights at any hotel in North America and earn an additional 5,000 Marriott Bonvoy points. These promos require you to opt in, so visit the Marriott Promotion Central page to see what offers are available.

Credit cards

Holding the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card is arguably the easiest way to earn Marriott points. The welcome bonus is typically worth 50,000 – 80,000 Marriott Bonvoy points. The earn rate is 5 points per $1 spent at Marriott properties, and 2 points per dollar spent everywhere else. Cardholders receive each year a certificate for a free night (up to 35,000pts) which easily offsets the $120 annual fee.

There’s also the Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express Card which also typically has a welcome bonus of 50,000 – 80,000 Marriott Bonvoy points. Although the annual fee is slightly higher at $150, the earn rate is 5 points per $1 spent at Marriott properties, 3 points per $1 spent on gas, dining, and travel, and 2 points per dollar spent everywhere else. A free night certificate worth up to 35,000 points is also granted on your card anniversary each year.

Here’s another tip that’s not really known. Even if you don’t own a business, you can apply for business credit cards with American Express. That means if you applied and were approved for both cards, you’d get two free nights at a real cost of $270. That’s a good deal.

Transfer points from American Express

American Express Membership Rewards points can be transferred to Marriott Bonvoy points at a 1,000 to 1,200 ratio. This makes the American Express Cobalt Card highly appealing since you normally earn 5 points per dollar spent on eats and drinks (this includes grocery stores and restaurants). When you factor in the transfer ratio, you’re essentially earning 6 Marriott Bonvoy points per $1 spent on select categories.

Marriott has 30+ brands and partners

Everyone knows about Marriott and that Marriott Bonvoy points can be used to book nights in Marriott hotels. Some people don’t realize that Marriott is the largest hotel company in the world and owns 30 different brands. They also have various hotel partners. This means Marriott Bonvoy points can be used to book free nights at over 8,000 properties worldwide.

When you look at the various Marriott brands, you’ll see they offer a wide range of experiences and prices. Those looking for aspirational and luxurious stays will want to check out the Ritz-Carlton, St-Regis, Edition, and W brands.

Loyal business travellers with high status may prefer booking full-service brands with executive lounges, such as Marriott, JW Marriott, Sheraton or Delta. These can have a significant impact on your travels since lounge access provides you with free food and drinks for breakfast and dinner.

Value seekers may opt for Fairfield Inn, which is usually the cheaper option and offers free breakfast to all clients. No status is required to get access to the complimentary breakfast.

Anyone travelling with family may prefer the Residence Inn or Towne Place Suites since they offer free breakfast, and larger rooms with living room and kitchen area. Some even have one and two bedroom suites available.

The value of your points can differ

Knowing how to calculate the value of your Marriott Bonvoy points is essential, as you can quickly figure out what value you’re getting from each potential redemption. The cost of a free night varies from 5,000 points to 150,000 points. The range can change based on the type of hotel, location, and demand. Since Marriott Bonvoy uses Dynamic pricing (where it’s based on supply and demand), the cost of a night on points can vary quite a bit. To further complicate things, the cash price of the night rarely has any relevance to the night’s cost on points.

To calculate your cost per point (CPP), you would use the following formula:

(cash price) X 100 / Number of points required = CPP

Note that some hotels require you to pay resort and/or destination fees in cash. You would not subtract this from the cash price as you’d have to pay that when going with cash rates.

To give you some context about value, here’s what downtown Toronto hotels are going for in August.

To calculate your CPP for the Residence Inn Downtown Toronto, you would just use the formula outlined above, which would look like this:

($439 – $0) X 100 / 42,000 = 1.04 CPP

Now let’s look at the same hotel in September when the Toronto International Film Festival is happening.

The cash rate for rooms is absolutely insane at nearly 3X the price, but it’s only 3,000 more points. Using the formula again, you’d get the following:

($1,143 – $0) X 100 / 45,000 = 2.54 CPP

As you can see, you will get more value per point when cash fares are high, and points can be a lifesaver in these situations. The general consensus in the points & miles community is that Marriott Bonvoy points have a CPP between 0.8 and 1. This is an average; points can be worth less or way more if you optimize their use.

There is no magical formula to optimize the value of points, but I noticed that the best deal is often found at the lowest point cost hotels or the very high-end ones.

While optimizing value might be a fun exercise, I personally don’t stress about CPP and will always book the best hotel for my needs over a greater theoretical redemption just because it’s a better deal.

The 5th night is free on points

A great way to increase the value of your points is to book a hotel for five nights or more. When booking entirely on points, you get the night with the lowest cost for free. This instantly increases the value of points by close to 20%. It can also increase the value of your CPP to the suggested value range of .8 – 1.

As you can see, instead of paying an average of 20,800 points per night, you’ll pay an average price of 16,7000 points. That’s a significant value.

Note that the five nights must be consecutive and at the same hotel. You also can’t combine the fifth-night free promo with any free night certificates that you may have.

You can cancel for free when booking on points

Another great benefit of booking with points is that cancellations are almost always free. This means you can book as soon as you know where you want to go and then cancel without penalty if your plans change.

Since Marriott point redemptions are dynamic, that also means you can cancel and rebook a stay if the price in points drops whenever you want. I usually monitor all my future stays at least once a week to see if the price has fallen. If it has, I will rebook right away.

Checking for a lower rate is easy. Just go to the Marriott Bonvoy website and log in. Under stays, click your reservation, and then click view/modify stay. If you select a new room, it’ll show you current prices, including prices for your existing room. If a lower rate is available, select it. The points difference will be refunded to your account.

While the vast majority of properties offer free cancellation from one to three days before the stay, some do have a longer cancellation period, such as a week, so make sure to validate the cancellation limit date for each of your bookings.

Final thoughts

Getting free hotel nights is awesome, and one of the best ways to achieve this is with the Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program. Marriott Bonvoy offers several ways to earn points which can be redeemed at over 8,000 properties. Apply for one of the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Cards now, and you’ll be travelling for less in no time.

Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card

  • $120 annual fee
  • 70,000 Marriott Bonvoy points when you charge $3,000 in the first 3 months
  • Earn 5 Marriott Bonvoy points per $1 spent at participating Marriott properties
  • Earn 3 Marriott Bonvoy points per $1 spent at gas and travel purchases for the first 6 months (up to 15,000 points) – Offer ends May 6, 2024
  • Earn 2 Marriott Bonvoy points for per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual free night certificate worth up to 35,000 points

Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express Card

  • $150 annual fee
  • 75,000 Marriott Bonvoy points when you charge $6,000 in the first 3 months
  • Earn 5 Marriott Bonvoy points per $1 spent at participating Marriott properties
  • Earn 5 Marriott Bonvoy points per $1 spent on gas, dining, and travel for the first 6 months, up to 15,000 points
  • Earn 2 Marriott Bonvoy points for per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual free night certificate worth up to 35,000 points

About Barry Choi

Barry Choi is a Toronto-based personal finance and travel expert who frequently makes media appearances. His blog Money We Have is one of Canada’s most trusted sources when it comes to money and travel. You can find him on Twitter:@barrychoi

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