MARRIOTT GROUP OF HOTELS
Marriott International manages over 6,700 hotels in 130 countries through it’s 29 brands. If you travel with any regularity, chances are you have heard or perhaps stayed at Marriott Group hotels such as JW Marriott, Sheraton, Le Meridien and so on.
Marriot Group operates hotels under these 29 brands
Marriott’s loyalty program is known as ‘Marriott Bonvoy’ and has more than 120 million members worldwide, making it the world’s largest hotel loyalty program.
The program has 5 membership tiers, starting with ‘Marriott Bonvoy Silver Elite’ and progressing all the way to ‘Marriott Bonvoy Ambassador Elite’, the latter kicking in at a whopping 100 nights per year and US$ 20,000 in spend.
Some of the prominent benefits associated with each tier are:
Member 0-9 Nights (10 points per US$, free wifi)
Silver Elite 10-24 Nights (10% bonus points, free wifi)
Gold Elite 25-49 Nights (25% bonus points, Welcome Gift, Room Upgrade*, 2 pm late check-out*)
Platinum Elite 50-74 Nights (50% bonus points, Choice Benefits, Lounge Access, Room Upgrade*, 4 pm late check-out^)
Titanium Elite 75-99 Nights (75% bonus points, Choice Benefits, Lounge Access, Room Upgrade*, 4 pm late check-out)
Ambassador Elite 100 Nights + US$ 20,000 in spend (75% bonus points, Ambassador Service, 24 hrs check-in)
* based on availability
See the chart below for full details.
Marriott Bonvoy Points
Members participating in the hotels loyalty program earn Marriott Bonvoy points, the programs official currency. The standard earn rate is 10 points per US$ (excl fees and taxes) with bonus points starting at the ‘Silver Elite’ level which comes with staying 10 qualifying nights. There is no cap on how many points members can earn.
Bookings made through non Marriott channels such as Hotels.com or other OTA’s do not generally earn points and nights do not count as qualifying nights. Should you book through these channels, hotels are unlikely to recognise benefits associated with your membership status.
So if you are someone who stay with Marriott regularly and value its membership benefits, make sure you book your stays through Marriott’s own booking channels (website, over the phone or the Marriott app).
There are multiple ways of earning Marriott Bonvoy points, some of which are listed below.
The most straight-forward way to earn points is through stays at Marriott properties. This is particularly appealing if you travel for work and the employer lets you credit the points to your personal account. As of the time of writing, Marriott has 22 hotels in Australia with another 2 scheduled for open in 2019. You can check-out the full list of Marriott properties in Australia here.
I recently stayed at the newly opened ‘The Westin‘ in Brisbane and have reviewed it here.
The Westin Brisbane
American Express Cards
Marriott is a partner of American Express Membership Rewards program. If you own an American Express card, you have the option of transferring your Membership Rewards points to Marriott Bonvoy at 3:2, ie, 3 Membership Rewards points to 2 Marriott Bonvoy points. If you own an American Express Platinum Edge card which earns 3 Membership Rewards points per $ on supermarket spends, this is also like indirectly earning 2 Marriott Bonvoy points per $.
The transfer ratio is abysmal and there is much better value to be had by transferring your Membership Rewards points to some of the airline partners. But it’s an option neverthless. Unlike places such as United States and Canada where Marriott offers its own credit cards to consumers, there are no cards in Australia on which you can directly earn Marriott Bonvoy points.
Another great way of earning Marriott Bonvoy points is through it’s partnership with Hertz. You earn 500 points when you rent a car for 1 day, rentals of 2 days or more earn you 2,000 points.
Earn Marriott Bonvoy points when you rent with Hertz
More details on Marriott’s partnership with Hertz can be found here.
Lastly, you can purchase Marriott Bonvoy points if you so wish. This is not really an option I would recommend under most circumstances, but might make sense when you are short a small number of points for making a redemption.
Marriott will let you buy up to 50,000 points per year in 1,000 points increment. The cost is US$ 12.50 per 1,000 points or US$ 625 for 50,000 points.
You can buy up to 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per year
Like earning points, there are several ways to spend your Marriott Bonvoy points. If you wish to maximise the value of your points though, it can generally only be found on couple of types of redemptions.
Points earned through qualifying stays can be used to redeem award (free) nights. Each hotel in the Marriott program falls within 1 of the 8 categories. How many points an award night requires depends on where the hotel sits within the categories and the time of year. See the chart below for details.
Peak/off peak periods are not currently applicable but will be introduced at some point in 2019. Marriott has not announced the exact date yet
When you redeem 4 nights, you get the 5th night free. Further, fees and taxes that are payable with cash bookings do not generally apply (with some exceptions) to award nights. In other words, a free night is actually a free night with no hidden costs, which is great.
For instance, lets look at Le Meridien Angkor in Siem Reap, a hotel I stayed at last year and thoroughly recommend. This is a Category 3 hotel with Standard redemption rate of 17,500 points per night.
A solitary night at this hotel costs 17,500 pints.
To maximise my value, I could redeem for a 5 night stay which drops the cost down to 14,000 points per night (70,000 points over 5 nights).
Stay 5 nights, Pay 4 when you redeem points
One of the great features of award night redemption is that in most cases (but not all), cancellations can be made without incurring any charges right up to the day before your scheduled stay, which can be extremely valuable if you often make frequent or last minute changes to your schedule.
Transfer to Airline partners
Marriott Bonvoy points can be transferred to any of its more than 40 airline partners. With most partners, the transfer ratio is 3:1, ie, 3 Marriott Bonvoy points to 1 airline point/mile. Transfers start at a minimum 3,000 points. For every 60,000 points you transfer, Marriott will sweeten the deal by throwing in additional 5,000 bonus airlines points/miles.
You can transfer a maximum of 240,000 points per day which will get you 100,000 points/miles in most programs. Both Virgin Australia and Qantas partner with Marriott under the program. You can check out full list of partners and the respective transfer ratios here.
If you do transfer your points under this program, remember that it can take up to 6 weeks for points/miles to be credited in your airline account. So give yourself plenty of time.
You can redeem your Marriott Bonvoy points for a travel package, under which you receive 7 nights of hotel stay and airline points/miles (55,000 or 100,000), in a program of your choice for a fixed number of Marriott Bonvoy points. The cheapest package of 7 nights stay + 55,000 airline points/miles, start at 255,000 points and incrementally goes up, topping out at 750,000 points, which gets you 7 nights stay at any of the top-shelf hotels within Marriott Group, + 100,000 airline points/miles in the program of your choice.
Redeem Marriott Bonvoy points for a travel package of hotel nights and airline points/miles
Travel packages were excellent value before Marriott’s take-over of Starwood Hotels Group. Since then, they have been absolutely butchered and make for terrible use of points.
Besides these, there are some other ways to redeem Marriott Bonvoy points too, such as for car hire, cruises, experiences etc. You can check these out here. For most part though, they provide less than optimal value.
Marriott’s acquisition of Starwood Preferred Guest has turned it into a behemoth. The group currently has the widest foot-print of hotels across the world. The take-over has brought into Marriott’s fold, some highly aspirational brands such as St Regis and Luxury Collection Hotel. Marriott management has also announced aggressive plans to grow organically with hundreds of new hotels expected to join the Group over coming years.
The newly combined Marriott Bonvoy program lacks some of the features of erstwhile SPG program. On the whole though, it’s offerings remain competitive and for the foreseeable future at-least, I expect to stick with Marriott for most of my travels.