The Ultimate Guide to Marriott Bonvoy

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Marriott is a FORCE to be reckoned with. For starters, they have the biggest global footprint with 30 brands and 8,300+ properties spread across 138 countries (currently).

Courtesy of Marriott Bonvoy

This is GREAT news for all our Canadian friends (who, I’m sure, are collectively mumbling under their breath, “Finally something that isn’t exclusive to the Americans…”).

This is also great news for those of you who live outside both the U.S. and Canada, too. Just look at all those properties spread out around our beautiful earth!

And Marriott isn’t all luxury—they’ve also got a wonderful blend of budget and boutique-style properties, too (which we love!).

Plus, Marriott has a number of co-branded credit cards with Chase and American Express that are available in other countries, so many of our global neighbors can join in on the travel perks! Just scroll to the bottom of that linked page to see their options.

Elite Status:

A BIG reason that many of us even get into the hotel rewards realm is to earn and hold elite status.

Marriott has five levels of status within their program: Silver Elite, Gold Elite, Platinum Elite, Titanium Elite, and Ambassador Elite

They also have a general Member “status” just for signing up with the program. You get some basic perks like free Wi-Fi, mobile check-in, and the ability to earn points for various redemptions.

It’s nothing glamorous, but if you’re going to be staying at Marriott anyway, you might as well sign up to work towards even their lower-tier rewards!

It’s also important to note that you’ll only get access to these elite benefits if you book directly with Marriott. Most of the time, if you’re booking through a third-party site (like Expedia, Booking.com, etc.) your status won’t be honored.

Marriott provides a comprehensive chart on their site that breaks down the different benefits based on the level of elite status.

But for those who are new to this game can (very understandably) be quite overwhelmed when first looking at this chart.

Keep in mind that the higher the elite status, the more benefits you get. They essentially compound on each other, as the chart shows.

But let’s do a little more explaining 👇

Courtesy of Marriott Bonvoy

You can see that the top row shows how many elite nights per year are required to earn the different elite statuses. For instance, you need just ten nights to earn Silver Elite, but 75 to earn Titanium.

You’ll find that the third row shows the percentage of bonus points you’ll get on eligible hotel purchases. The higher the elite status, the higher the percentage.

You can also see that room and suite upgrades vary by elite status, as do complimentary lounge access and free breakfast.

One thing their chart DOESN’T cover, however, is how you can also earn three of the elite statuses with credit cards.

Silver Elite

You’ll receive automatic Silver Elite status by having this card in your wallet:

Gold Elite

You’ll receive Gold Elite status as a perk from holding these cards (enrollment required for some):

Platinum Elite

Snag the platinum title with these cards:

And just to show you that because of my Marriott Gold Elite status (thanks to my Amex Platinum card), I was upgraded to a top-floor, larger room with a view of the Dead Sea when I stayed at the Dead Sea Marriott Resort & Spa in Jordan.

And it was *chef’s kiss* 😘👌

Now I’m about to sound like an engagement ring commercial here… There aren’t many things that last a true lifetime in this world, but Marriott Bonvoy lifetime status IS A THING.

Here’s how that works:

  • Lifetime Silver Elite: 250 lifetime nights and five years as a Silver Elite member or higher

  • Lifetime Gold Elite: 400 lifetime nights and seven years as a Gold Elite member or higher

  • Lifetime Platinum Elite: 600 lifetime nights and 10 years as a Platinum Elite member or higher

How to Earn Marriott Points:

There are a handful of ways to earn Marriott points! Let’s walk through some of the most common ones.

1. Stay at Marriott Hotels

The new JW Marriott Masai Mara Lodge: Courtesy of Marriott Bonvoy

The majority of Marriott’s properties will get you 10 points per dollar spent on stays. However, its Homes & Villas, Residence Inn, Towne Place Suites, Element, and Protea Hotels brands will only earn you 5 points per dollar. 

Lastly, Marriott Executive Apartments will only get you 2.5 points per dollar (womp womp).

However, in addition to Marriott’s base points categories listed above, Elite members will earn an additional percentage of bonus points based on the base points earned during their stay:

  • Silver Elite: 10% bonus points

  • Gold Elite: 25% bonus points

  • Platinum Elite: 50% bonus points

  • Titanium Elite: 75% bonus points

  • Ambassador Elite: 75% bonus points

If you reference the fifth row of Marriott’s benefits chart above, you’ll notice that the “hotel welcome gift” includes an option for additional points for Gold Elite members and above.

This typically hovers around 250-500 points for Gold Elites, and upwards of 500+ points for Platinum Elites and higher.

There are also other options for welcome gifts that you can read about here.

💡Pro Tip: You’ll often earn bonus points for your entire hotel bill. So charge any onsite restaurants, drinks at the pool, room service, etc. to your room. This way, you’ll earn points on those purchases, too!

2. Use Credit Cards

Credit Cards

Annual Fees

Points Earned: Marriott

Points Earned: Elsewhere

Elite Night Credits

Free Night Certificates

Marriott Bonvoy Bold

$0

Up to 14x per $1

1-2x per $1 on grocery stores, rideshare, select food delivery, select streaming, internet, cable, and phone services, & eligible purchases

5

Marriott Bonvoy Boundless

$95

Up to 17x per $1

2-3x per $1 on gas, groceries, dining, other travel, & eligible purchases

15

Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express

$125

Up to 18.5x per $1

2-4x per $1 on worldwide restaurants, U.S. gas stations, wireless phone services, other eligible purchases

15

*

Marriott Bonvoy Bountiful

$250

Up to 18.5x per $1

2-4x per $1 on combined groceries and dining, plus other eligible purchases

15

**

Marriott Bonvoy Bevy American Express

$250

Up to 18.5x per $1

2-4x per $1 on worldwide restaurants and U.S. supermarkets, plus other eligible purchases

15

***

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express

$650

Up to 21x per $1

2-3x at worldwide restaurants, flights booked directly with airlines, plus other eligible purchases

25

*Receive 1 certificate every year after your card renewal month. Plus, earn an additional certificate after you spend $60k in a calendar year.

**Receive 1 certificate after spending $15k on eligible purchases per calendar year.

***Receive 1 certificate after spending $15k on eligible purchases per calendar year.

You can see the levels of Marriott point accruals based on how big of a card you go for. It’s like the ultimate level mastery in, say, Super Mario. A wonderful classic, btw.

The higher up and harder the level, the more gold coins you’ll earn—but in this case, the more coveted Marriott points 💰

But another strategy that can take you a long way when it comes to maximizing points and overall status, is that column labeled Elite Night Credits.

Remember Marriott’s chart from earlier? You can reach different levels of Elite status by staying a certain number of elite-qualifying nights OR get a credit card that gives you a headstart.

You could even pair some of the other cards together to give you a headstart in reaching Titanium status. So instead of needing 75 qualifying nights, you’ll only need 35!

3. Keep Track of Promotions

It’s not uncommon for hotel programs to run promotions. Sometimes they sneak up on you, or you just flat-out miss the opportunity because you’re trying to manage multiple rewards programs and elite statuses.

The best way to keep tabs on any promotions that Marriott has going on is to log into your account and head to their current promotions page.

Some promotions may require you to register for them, especially if it’s a targeted offer, so be sure you’re taking the right steps to lock up any given deal.

Not only are these promotions a little exciting and motivating (like the above promo for properties in Japan), but depending on the offer, they’ll also give you a sweet little boost to your points pool.

4. Transfer Partners

We love a good miles and points transfer action (but only when you’ll come out on top).

You’ll probably be happy to hear that Marriott is a transfer partner of both American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards—so you’ve got a few different ways to rack up those points.

However, this isn’t always the best idea, even though you can transfer points at a 1:1 ratio from both partners. Seems fair and equal… but it’s actually not.

In general, both American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards are valued quite a bit higher than Marriott points are worth. You’ll most likely lose value if you transfer them in this way.

But… if there’s a good deal, or you just need a few extra points to top off your Marriott stash, then who are we to tell you “no”?

Your third option to transfer points to Marriott comes from United’s MileagePlus.

They’ve had a long-term relationship (called RewardsPlus) and are essentially like the old, wise couple that is still happily married after all these years.

But again, you’ll be losing value if you’re transferring your United miles to Marriott all the time.

Plus, you’ll be capped at only transferring 100,000 United miles to Marriott each year (and not a single mile more!). AND you’ll need to have United Silver Elite status or higher in order to transfer miles at all.

I’d only do this if you really just need to top off some miles/points in order to get a certain perk or redemption.

BUT there’s another really cool perk because of Marriott and United’s long-term, healthy relationship… (goals! 💕).

And that is the ability to status match your Marriott Titanium Elite or Ambassador Elite status to get United’s Silver Elite status (which comes with a handful of nice little perks).

💡Pro Tip: Marriott also allows transferring points between accounts. You can transfer up to 100,000 Marriott points to another account in one year, and you can receive up to 500,000 points per year. This is a great perk if your have a partner or family members that want to pool points for a single redemption! Plus, there’s no fee to do this.

5. Dining

This option is more limited, but it’s still decent (and therefore still worth mentioning). And who just doesn’t love to eat, am I right? Might as well earn some additional points for it 😎

Marriott has its own dining rewards program called Eat Around Town where non-Marriott elites will earn 4 points per dollar spent, and Elites (Silver, Gold, Platinum, Titanium, and Ambassador) will hear 6 points per dollar at participating restaurants.

Different restaurants can opt in to this dining program, so you never know what you’ll find. A quick search of Seattle shows a decent amount of restaurants and some that I’ve even eaten at before.

Even a search of the smaller suburb that I actually live in yielded a handful of results. Just be sure to link your account to the program before dining at eligible restaurants!

And perhaps an even cooler perk to this is that you’ll earn these Marriott points in addition to whatever rewards points you’d get from the actual credit card you use to pay for these dining purchases.

For example, the American Express® Gold card (Rates & Fees) will get you 4x points per dollar spent on dining.

So let’s say you have Gold Elite status with Marriott, and you dropped $50 on dinner. You’d earn 300 Marriott points ($50 × 6 points) plus 200 Amex Ultimate Rewards points ($50 × 4 points).

Your $50 meal just turned into 500 points that you otherwise might not have gotten. Isn’t the miles and points world just freaking wonderful?! 🥹

Other great card options to link to this dining program are the Chase Sapphire Preferred® card and the Bilt Mastercard® which both earn 3x points per dollar for eligible dining purchases. Sweeet 🤘

6. Uber

This one applies to both riding in an Uber and order food with Uber Eats.

Simply link your two accounts to get a 3,000 point bonus, but you’ll also continue to reap the rewards by earning 3x points per dollar spent on Uber Premium rides, 6x points when you order Uber Eats while staying at a Marriott hotel, and 2x points when you order Uber Eats while staying anywhere else (including your own home).

Free Night Awards

Free Night Award Certificates are earned by:
1. Holding certain Marriott Bonvoy credit cards 

You can see this laid out in the above chart, but many of Marriott’s cards come with an annual 35,000-point (or higher!) Free Night Award Certificate when you renew your account.

This annual free night is only good for ONE YEAR, so don’t let it expire!

One of the cooler features of Marriott’s free night certificates is also the ability to “top it off” using up to 15,000 points.

What this means, is if you find a property you want to stay at, but it’s valued at 38,000 points per night (and your certificate is good for 35,000 points), you could redeem your Free Night Award Certificate + top it off with 3,000 additional points from your account to make that free night stay happen.

2. Selecting a certificate as part of an Elite Annual Choice Benefit 

Members who earn 75 Elite Night Credits in one calendar year can choose from a selection of benefits, with one of those being a Free Night Award valued up to 40,000 Marriott Bonvoy points.

Courtesy of Marriott Bonvoy

It’s important to know that you can’t use this Free Night Award as an upgrade award, and it can’t be applied to multiple nights.

So for example, if you found a stay for 20,000 points per night and you wanted to stay for two nights (for a total of 40,000 points), you couldn’t use your free night award to cover both nights. It would only apply to one of them.

If you’d like an excellent step-by-step walkthrough of how to book using a Free Night Award Certificate, Marriott lays it out beautifully.

How to Redeem Marriott Points:

Now here’s the fun part! It might still take a little bit of work, but you’re at the point where you’ll finally reap some rewards (literally… 🤭) for your efforts.

1. Award Nights

In 2022, Marriott switched over to a dynamic award pricing system. In a nutshell, they got rid of their structured award charts and categories, and are now pricing hotel redemptions in variable ways.

A lot of these variables in award pricing have to do with the ever-changing cash price per night and even occupancy levels around the time of your stay.

Basically, it’s the WILD WEST when dealing with Marriott.

For example, the same Marriott property in Rome costs more points (but the cash price is cheaper) than a second search for the following month where the cash price is more, yet the points are less… *Rolls eyes in Italian*

But… if you’re looking at award nights at properties in Rome… life really isn’t too bad, eh? 😅

The bottom line is you can book award nights using your stash of Marriott points, which is what we’re all here for. Just make sure you select “Use Points/Certificates” when searching for hotels in order to see these award rates.

You can also (sometimes) redeem Marriott points for upgraded rooms. This will depend on each individual property, and if that comes up as an option when you go to book.

It’s a nice perk if you’d like to guarantee an upgrade without relying on the potential to be upgraded at check-in.

The other fantastic perk to be aware of is Marriott’s “every fifth night free“ benefit. Essentially, you’re getting five nights for the price of four.

So if you redeem points for five or more consecutive nights, you’ll get the lowest-priced night for free and save the points you would have otherwise used for that additional night 🎉 

And this benefit isn’t exclusive to only one “five-night” chunk. For example, if you stay ten award nights, you’ll get two of those free; 15 nights, three will be free, etc.

If you can make it work, it’s a great incentive to take advantage of!

2. Airline Transfer Partners

Marriott has a staggering 40+ airline transfer partners with many of those airline currencies otherwise hard to come by (like Alaska Airlines).

We don’t always recommend transferring points this way (as it often comes at a 3:1 ratio, or more…), but there’s usually a deal to be had somewhere. And really, if it makes sense for you, you can choose to use your points however you wish.

Bottom Line: Marriott is Best for Travelers Who

  • Live and/or want to travel outside of the U.S.

  • Want lots of options for both types and locations of properties

  • Can often redeem five-night reward stays at a time

  • Already hold the Amex Platinum card for Marriott Gold Elite Status

  • Plan on getting at least one Marriott Bonvoy card

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