Spotlight: The Marriott Rewards Program
February 2nd, 2018
**Update: You can read up about the new Marriott/SPG combined loyalty program using the links below!**
- New Marriott Loyalty Program Launch Date and Hotel Category Changes – one combined loyalty account, changes to elite status, updated Free Night Award Chart, Amex SPG card alterations
- The All-New Marriott and Starwood Preferred Guest Combined Loyalty Program – one combined loyalty account, changes to elite status, updated Free Night Award Chart, Amex SPG card alterations
- Sneak Peak at New Marriott/SPG Program Award Categories – Marriott offered up a little sneak peak, or teaser if you will, of where some popular properties would be placed under the new category structure. Such destinations included: Paris, New York, Dubai, Bali, Caribbean and Mexico.
With over 4,700 Marriott branded hotels worldwide plus an additional 1,000+ Starwood Preferred Guest properties, as well as the countless Ritz Carlton locations, having a foot in this program makes a lot of sense. You could be anywhere on the globe and have close access to some sort of Marriott/SPG/Ritz property. I’d wager a guess and say with confidence that you’d be very hard-pressed not to find some sort of accommodation wherever you chose to wander. It’s easy to see why Marriott is such a powerhouse in the hospitality industry!
5,700 + properties to choose from in 100+ countries
4 Membership Levels (Rewards Member, Silver Elite, Gold Elite, Platinum Elite)
Ability to transfer points between Marriott and SPG programs
Redeem points for Hotel/Resorts, Vacation Packages, Cruises, etc.
Before we get into the Bells and Whistles of the program, let’s first talk about how we can accumulate points within the Marriott Rewards Program. Besides actually making reservations for hotel stays and gaining points that way, there are a few other avenues that will help you amass Reward Points. After all, this is a Miles and Points game and spending money to get rewards is usually our least favourite method, right?
American Express SPG and Business SPG Cards:
I’ve written about the American Express SPG and Business SPG cards in great detail but I’ll recap the offerings for both. The Welcome Bonus on the cards is 20,000 Starpoints after spending $1,500 within the first 3 months and have an annual fee of $120 and $150 respectively. These points can be then be transferred to your Marriott Rewards account at a rate of 1:3 (20,000 Starpoints = 60,000 Marriott Reward Points). Signing up for both cards will net you 40,000 Starpoints which is equal to 120,000 Marriott Reward Points.
You would have to spend a lot of nights in a hotel room to gain those kinda figures! Oh, and to put those points into perspective, 120,000 points can get you 7+ nights in a Category 1-4 Hotel. More on that later.
Marriott Rewards Visa:
Signing up for the Marriott Rewards Visa by Chase will earn you a welcome bonus of 50,000 Marriott Reward Points after your first purchase. You’ll also receive No FX fees, an Annual Fee Waiver ($120) as well as an anniversary free night e-certificate every year. To check out more about the Marriott Visa, click here.
American Express Cards:
Although you can’t directly transfer Amex MR points to Marriott Rewrds, you can transfers them via SPG. The transfer ratio, although not very good, is 2:1 meaning that you lose 50% when transferring from Amex MR to SPG. From there you can transfer those points over to Marriott at a rate of 1:3. So, in a nutshell, you can effectively transfer from Amex to Marriott at a rate of 2:3. Example: 100,000 Amex MR points = 50,000 SPG = 150,000 Marriott Rewards.
Bells & Whistles:
Let’s dive right in to the Marriott Rewards Program, shall we?
The program itself consists of 4 Membership Levels and the required amount of nights to get to said level are:
Silver Elite (10+ nights)
Gold Elite (50+ nights)
Platinum Elite (75+ nights)
(I’ve highlighted the Gold Elite since there are easier ways of obtaining it and hint, it sure doesn’t involve spending 50+ nights)
Some of the benefits associated with the membership levels include some of the following but are not limited to:
Room upgrades, arrival gifts, late check-out, lounge access and daily breakfast, complimentary internet, and so on. For specific benefits, refer to the chart below.
Now I mentioned a way of obtaining Marriott Gold Elite status without spending the required nights. One of the many benefits that came with the Marriott/SPG merger was not only the ability to freely transfer points back and forth, but to also Status Match across each program. Okay, so your probably thinking, “Steve, that’s great, but I don’t have Gold Status at SPG either!” Well if you already read my review on the American Express Platinum Card as well as the American Express Business Platinum Card, (if you haven’t, go check that out pronto!) you would have read that one of the benefits of these cards is automatic Gold Status within SPG. Automatic Gold Status with SPG equates to Gold Elite Status within Marriott Rewards!
When it comes to redeeming your “hard earned” Marriott Reward points, you’ve got a bunch of options. The most obvious, and to be quite honest, best use of your points are towards Hotel stays as well as Travel Packages. We’ll talk about both options today but let’s take a look at the Hotel options first.
Redeeming points for hotels is extremely straight forward and needless to say, the options are near limitless. In order to redeem points for a free hotel night, just head over to the Marriott website or even within the Marriott Rewards app on your phone. When searching for properties, make sure you check off the “Reward Point” option under “Special Rates”. The great thing about making reservations is you don’t have to have all the points upfront – you can continue to collect and work towards the amount you need. Another great benefit is that there are no blackout dates. If a property is showing availability, it’s open for redemption. Last thing and probably a big plus is that your 5th night is free when you redeeming points. Even if you only need 4 nights, tack on the 5th night anyway, either at the beginning or end of your stay and you’ll get yourself an “early” check-in or “late” check out! For the former option, it’s best to let the hotel know you’ll be showing up late (past midnight) on your first night so that they don’t cancel your reservation for “not showing up”.
Hotel redemptions start as low as 7,500 points per night at the lower tier properties all the way up to 45,000 for your luxurious resorts/properties. Those values don’t include the potential 33% savings if you’re able to redeem for PointSavers stays. PointSavers redemptions are available at certain properties around the globe at certain times. The properties which participate is always changing but head over to the Marriott website to see a list of PointSaver properties.
Travel Packages (Hotel and Miles):
Redeeming for travel packages is definitely going to get you the best value for your points without a doubt. Essentially with the travel packages you get a 7-night hotel stay plus airline miles in your program of choice. Let’s take a look at the chart below to get an idea of what you can expect to receive with the Marriott Travel Package.
I’ve post the Hotel + Air redemption chart for Package 1 for demonstration purposes, but in total there are 5 to choose from, depending on which airline miles you’re after.
The chart itself is pretty straightforward but let’s take a closer look at the inner workings of it. On the left-side column you have Categories/Tiers. These represent the category/tier of hotel you’d want to stay at. On the top row you have the amount of miles you’d like to receive. Within the cells of the chart you have the associated number of Marriott Reward Points it would cost to obtain that particular mix of hotel + miles.
Example: If you were planning a trip to Hawaii with your significant other and wanted to get there using Aeroplan, you would have to look at the 7 Nights + 100,000 Miles column since we know that it will cost you 90,000 Aeroplan to get there. (This is assuming you don’t already have a stash of Aeroplan.) From there you would move down the column and decide what category/tier of hotel you’d want to stay at. An easy way to figure out what categories/tiers are offered is to go to the Marriott Rewards app that you downloaded and just do dummy searches for locations in Hawaii. I know that the Marriott properties on Maui are category 7/8 and The Ritz Carlton is Tier 4 so we can use those in our example. Let’s say you decided on the Marriott Wailea Resort in Maui which is a Category 8 hotel, looking at the chart under 100,000 Miles, you would need to redeem 340,000 Marriott Reward points for that particular package.
Let’s dissect this package to see what kind of value we are actually getting when we’re dropping that many points.
The Wailea Resort in Maui costs 40,000 points per night x 7 nights = 280,000 points
Since we are staying 7-nights, technically our 5th night is free so we can subtract 40,000 to give us a new total of: 280,000 – 40,000 = 240,000 points for 7 nights.
The package as we remember, cost 340,000 Marriott points and we get 100,000 Aeroplan miles.
340,000 – 240,000 = 100,000 Marriott Points remaining. Therefore we essentially redeemed 100,000 Marriott Points for 100,000 Aeroplan. Let’s take a closer look at that number.
If we were to transfer Amex MR points to Marriott to get us to a total of 100,000 Marriott points we would need to transfer 66,667 points since we know Amex transfers to Marriott at an effective rate of 2:3 or 150%. So in a nutshell, we redeemed 66,667 Amex MR points for 100,000 Aeroplan when normally we would only get 66,667 Aeroplan miles if we did a straight transfer to Aeroplan at 1:1.
Did I lose you? Yeah? I thought so! If you had to take one thing away from this example is that redeeming for Vacation Packages offers a much better value than redeeming for Hotels and Miles on an individual basis! As an added incentive, throughout the year, Airline programs offer transfer bonuses when you transfer hotel points over to their program. You end up getting more miles in the end than you originally were supposed to receive in there travel package!
The only real caveat about the Vacation Packages, besides having to dish out a whack load of points, is that you’re getting 7-nights at a hotel/resort and for some travelers, staying at the same property of 7 days may seem like a stretch when in fact they may want to only spend 4-5 days at a particular location then move on to the next. Definitely something to consider!
Oh, and by the way, what if I told you that you didn’t have to settle for 7-nights and that you could shave two days off for a 5-night Travel Package? These packages do exist but unfortunately only for Marriott Vacation Club members which means that unless you own a Marriott timeshare property, you don’t have access to booking the 5-night travel packages. With that being said, as recent as last year, there were numerous data points of people, including Jayce from PointsNerd, being successful in getting Marriott Reps to allow non-Marriott Vacation Club members to redeem points for the 5-night travel packages. To be honest, I think that ship has long sailed and Marriott has closed the loop on that lucrative redemption. To read more about it, head over to Jayce’s PointsNerd blog!
Hopefully I was able to shed some light on how great the Marriott Rewards program is. To be honest, I could take up a few more thousand words going over the little details of the program and other redemption opportunities. Feel free to browse the Marriott website for tons more info and how to take advantage of the program itself and use it to the fullest. Keep an eye out for the other half of this relationship that being the Starwood Preferred Guest program, otherwise known as SPG.
If you have any questions, you know the drill – either shoot me an comment below or an email!~Keep Wandering