The Complete Guide to Marriott Bonvoy Rewards

Marriott has one of the biggest footprints in the hotel industry, but Bonvoy Rewards don’t go very far. Read on to find out why.

Last Updated: 02/07/2020


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The Marriott Bonvoy program lets travelers earn loyalty points at thousands of hotels worldwide. But besides free nights—which have become harder to find and more expensive to book—only VIP experiences and (sometimes) airline miles are worth buying with those points.

What Is Marriott Bonvoy?

Bonvoy is the loyalty program for Marriott, the world’s largest hotel operator. The company has 30 brands, from affordable Courtyard and Springhill Inn & Suites to lavish Ritz-Carlton and Bulgari, and more than 7,600 properties around the globe. 

Bonvoy is the newest iteration of the loyalty program, and was created in 2019 when Marriott merged its Starwood, Ritz-Carlton, and Marriott Rewards programs into one. 

How to Earn Marriott Bonvoys

You can earn Bonvoys at almost all Marriott hotels and resorts—10 points for every dollar you spend on most brands, less for a handful of others—and using Marriott Bonvoy credit cards. You can also score points by hosting an event, booking a cruise through the Marriott portal, flying with more than three dozen airline partners, renting a car with Hertz, or dining at restaurants in the Eat Around Town program.

Guests with elite status also get extra points with every stay. Marriott has an unusually high number of elite levels—six—with perks that increase as you climb the ladder. And though you technically need to stay at Marriott at least 10 nights in a calendar year to rise above the basic membership level, Silver status is included with all Bonvoy credit cards. And unlike many other hotel loyalty programs, Marriott counts nights booked with points toward your elite total.

  • Member: The entry level gets you free Wi-Fi, access to member rates, and mobile check-in and room key. 
  • Silver Elite: If you stay at least 10 nights in a year or have a Marriott Bonvoy Credit Card, you get the perks of vanilla membership, plus priority late checkout, 10% bonus points on stays, a dedicated reservation line, and compensation and a nearby room if the Marriott can’t honor your reservation. 
  • Gold Elite: Stay at Marriott at least 25 nights a year and you get a 25% point bonus plus a few hundred bonus points at check-in, room upgrades, high-speed wi-fi, and 2 p.m. checkout. 
  • Platinum Elite: In addition to Gold benefits, members with at least 50 nights under their belt receive 50% bonus points, a choice of welcome gifts (such as breakfast or points), lounge access, an annual gift, and 4 p.m. checkout. 
  • Titanium Elite: For a whopping 75 nights a year, perks include 75% bonus points, two annual gifts, guaranteed availability if you book 48 hours in advance, and United Silver Status. 
  • Ambassador Elite: You reach Bonvoy’s very top tier with 100 nights and $20,000 in qualified spending at Marriott, you get all Titanium benefits plus a personal point of contact for every stay and the ability to choose exactly which 24 hours you’d like to spend at the hotel—whether that’s 3 p.m. to 3 p.m. or 1 a.m. to 1 a.m. 

Finally, Marriott regularly runs promotions that let you earn bonus points for stays. They generally require you to register for the promotion online.

What Cards Earn Bonvoy Rewards

How to Use Bonvoy Rewards 

Even if Marriott only let you use Bonvoy points to book hotel stays, you’d have an abundance of options given the size of its network. But there are several other valuable ways to use your rewards—though not all provide great value.

  • Hotel stays. Off-peak rates start at 5,000 points per night.
  • Experiences. Book VIP and special-access events and activities.  
  • Transfer to airlines. Move points to 43 airline partners. 3 points = 1 mile. 
  • Flights and rental cars. Use points on Marriott’s travel portal. 1 point = 0.4 cents
  • Cruises. 1 point = 0.4 cents through Marriott’s portal. 
  • Travel packages. Swap Bonvoys for 7 hotel nights plus frequent-flyer miles. 
  • TSA Precheck: Pay the fee with 25,000 points. 
  • Gift cards. Purchase gift cards through Marriott’s portal, at truly terrible rates. Often 1 point = 0.2 cents. 
  • Merchandise. Buy jewelry, gadgets, kitchenware and more. 1 point = up to 0.4 cents
  • Transfer to friends and family. Give points to other Bonvoy members, for a fee. 
  • Donate to charity. Help communities affected by disasters, starting at 2,500 points. 

Hotel Stays 

Free nights are one of the best ways to use Marriott Bonvoy points—relatively speaking. The booking process is easy and given the size of Marriott’s hotel network, there are a lot of choices. But the value you’ll get for your points is highly variable, and generally less than you can find with other hotel loyalty programs.

Marriott’s system is tiered in two ways. First, it groups hotels into eight different categories based on amenities, location, desirability, etc. Second, it has off-peak, standard, and peak rates.  

Category 1 hotels cost 5,000 points a night off-peak, 7,500 points standard, and 10,000 points at peak times. Category 8 hotels cost 70,000, 85,000, and 100,000 points a night, respectively. The reward chart makes it easy to compare rates, though finding available rooms is another matter.

Marriott claims to have no blackout dates, meaning that members can book any available room with points. In reality, that’s not the case. Marriott hotels can limit the number of rooms they have available for points bookings. Sometimes, they have none at all.  We recently tried to find a hotel in Hawaii for three nights. Marriott gave us 20 options for cash, but just 11 that could be paid for with points.

Though you can occasionally get lucky—we found a room at the Courtyard in Paris that yielded 1.5 cents a night for our points—mediocre values are more common. We’ve seen plenty of rooms whose points prices were so high, each Bonvoy was worth only 0.5 cent apiece.

There are a few upsides, however. When booking with points, Bonvoy members get the fifth night free—the equivalent of a 20% savings on a five-night stay. Marriott also offers PointSaver deals, specials that save you up to 33% on points bookings. But the number of PointSaver hotels can be limited (there were only 20 hotels in the U.S. when we last checked), and you should always do the math to make sure the price is worthwhile. We recently saw the Westin Resort & Spa in Cancun listed as a PointSavers, but when we compared the rack rate and points prices, our points were only worth 0.4 cents apiece.

Marriott does have a friendly points advance option. If you don’t have enough points to book your award room or vacation package, you can go ahead and make the reservation anyway. You just need to get those points into your account at least 14 days before check-in.

Experiences

Another good use of points is paying for the hundreds of experiences from Marriott Bonvoy Moments—largely sporting, music, food and fashion events. Most include some sort of special access. And besides being fun and special, Moments can provide excellent value for your points. In some cases, they’ll be worth much more than if you’d used them for hotel nights.

For instance, premium tickets to see the Jonas Brothers play at Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin recently retailed for upwards of $130 each. You could also take a friend to watch the concert from Marriott’s luxury suite for 10,000 Bonvoy points—a value of about 2.6 cents per point, before you even factor in the free food, drinks, and parking. Tickets to the TIBI runway show at New York Fashion Week, including a meeting with the designer and a $1,000 shopping credit, was being sold in auction format. The starting bid was 50,000; at that price, the shopping credit alone is worth 2 cents a point. 

Transfer to Partner Airlines

You can move your Marriott Bonvoy points to more than 40 airlines, free of charge, but you may not want to. The exchange rate is 3:1, except for Air New Zealand, which is 200:1. That’s far worse than you’ll do with other points programs, including Chase Ultimate Rewards, which lets you transfer points to 10 airlines at a 1:1 ratio. But it might be worthwhile if you need to top off an account, or you find a great deal an airline that doesn’t partner with Chase or other loyalty programs. With every 60,000 miles you transfer, you get 5,000 bonus points.

Transfer partners include:

  • AEGEAN Miles+Bonus (3:1)
  • Aeroflot Bonus (3:1)
  • Aeromexico ClubPremier (3:1)
  • Air Canada Aeroplan (3:1)
  • Air China PhoenixMiles (3:1)
  • Air France-KLM Flying Blue (3:1)
  • Air New Zealand Airpoints (200:1)
  • Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan™  (3:1)
  • Alitalia MilleMiglia (3:1)
  • American Airlines AAdvantage® (3:1)
  • ANA Mileage Club (3:1)
  • Asiana Airlines Asiana Club (3:1)
  • Avianca LifeMiles (3:1)
  • British Airways Executive Club (3:1)
  • Cathay Pacific Asia Miles (3:1)
  • China Eastern Airlines Eastern Miles (3:1)
  • China Southern Airlines Sky Pearl Club (3:1)
  • Copa Airlines ConnectMiles (3:1)
  • Delta SkyMiles®  (3:1)
  • Emirates Skywards®  (3:1)
  • Etihad Guest (3:1)
  • FRONTIER Miles (3:1)
  • Hainan Airlines Fortune Wings Club (3:1)
  • Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles®  (3:1)
  • Iberia Plus (3:1)
  • InterMiles (3:1)
  • Japan Airlines JAL Mileage Bank (3:1)
  • JetBlue TrueBlue (6:1)
  • Korean Air SKYPASS (3:1)
  • LATAM Airlines LATAM Pass (3:1)
  • Multiplus Fidelidade (3:1)
  • Qantas Frequent Flyer (3:1)
  • Qatar Airways Privilege Club (3:1)
  • SAA Voyager (3:1)
  • Saudia Alfursan  (3:1)
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer® (3:1)
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards®  (3:1)
  • TAP Air Portugal Miles&Go (3:1)
  • Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus (3:1)
  • Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles (3:1)
  • United MileagePlus®  (3:1.1)
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club (3:1)
  • Virgin Australia Velocity Frequent Flyer (3:1)

Flights and Rental Cars

You can use Bonvoy points to pay for flights and rental cars when you book through Marriott’s portal. You’ll only get 0.3 to 0.4 cents of value for every point. 

Cruises 

Just as you can earn Marriott points by booking trips through its Cruise with Points portal, you can redeem them for credits you can apply to your cruise price. You can choose any dollar amount to use points for, but it can only be done over the phone. You’ll get roughly 0.4 cents a point if you go this route.

Vacation Packages

In theory, another way to get value out of your Marriott points is by buying a travel package. They combine 7 nights at a hotel with either 50,000 or 100,000 frequent flyer miles, which can be used with more than 40 partner airlines.

We say “in theory” because the packages are so complicated to book. First, you have to identify a hotel that has availability for your dates—and can also be booked with points. You have to find corresponding flights that can be booked with frequent flyer miles. Then you have to call Marriott to purchase your package. If your experience is like ours, you will be hot-potatoed from one customer service rep to another, because few have even heard of the travel packages. Cross your fingers that nothing sells out while you’re trying to get someone knowledgeable on the line.

And that’s before we consider value. The packages are priced based on the category of the hotel and the number of miles. Seven nights in a category 1-4 hotel plus 50,000 frequent flyer miles costs 255,000 Bonvoy points. To stay in a category 8 hotel and get 100,000 miles costs 750,000 Bonvoy points.

Let’s do some math on that. Marriott lets you transfer points to airlines at a rate of 3 Bonvoy points to 1 frequent flyer mile. So the 50,000 miles in the first example would normally cost 150,000 Bonvoy points. That means your 7-night hotel stay only costs 105,000 points (the total package price of 255,000 minus the 150,000 that the miles would otherwise cost in points), or an average of 15,000 points a night.

Let’s say you are able to book a category 4 hotel. Seven peak nights normally costs 30,000 points a night, or 210,000 points total. But Bonvoy members get every fifth night free, so it really costs 180,000 points. If you use the vacation package to book the hotel, you’re basically saving 75,000 points (180,000 points minus the 105,000 points we calculated above for the hotel stay). But an off-peak room normally costs 120,000 per week, giving you only a 15,000-point savings.

And the package is no deal at all for the lowest-tier properties. Peak rooms in Category 1 hotels cost 10,000 points a night—or a total of 60,000. If you bought the vacation package, you’d actually be paying more for this hotel room than by booking it separately.

Let’s go back to those frequent flyer miles you get. Are they really worth 3 Bonvoy points each? Marriott thinks so, but if you have Chase Ultimate Rewards you can transfer them to Marriott at a rate of 1:1. You can also transfer them to 10 airline partners at a rate of 1:1. Use Ultimate Rewards instead of Marriott Bonvoy points and you’ll only pay 50,000 points for the same number of miles—which makes the travel package look even less appealing.

To get great value out of a travel package, you need to be very lucky, very flexible, or both—and there’s a big hassle factor. Your points and time are better used elsewhere. 

TSA Precheck 

A little-known option for Bonvoy points is to use them to pay the $85 TSA Precheck fee. That’s a value of just 0.3 cents a point. Someone call security…

Merchandise

You’ll find everything from socks to chocolate-covered pretzels to Apple watches in Marriott’s shopping portal. You’ll get 0.2 to 0.4 cents per point you spend in this way.

Gift Cards

Bonvoy points can buy gift cards from roughly 90 major retailers. As with buying merchandise, the rates are dismal—about 0.2 cents per point.

Transfer to Friends and Family

While you can give and receive Marriott Bonvoy points, you might as well just buy them, since the fees are exactly the same: $12.50 per 1,000 points.

Donate to Charity

You can help communities affected by natural disaster by donating points to World Central Kitchen, or directly to families and individuals, including Marriott employees. Donations are in increments of $10 or 2,500 points, for a value of 0.4 cents a point. This makes Marriott one of the only companies that actually assigns a value to their donations so that’s a plus. But it’s important to remember that you can’t deduct points donations from your taxes.

Summary

Marriott Bonvoy has some minor perks, like the 5th night free and the ability to transfer to airline partners unaffiliated with other programs. If you’re a frequent Marriott guest, you can collect points quickly—but you might have a hard time getting good value out of them.