12 Things To Know About Marriott Points: An Introduction To The Marriott Bonvoy Program

Marriott Bonvoy is inarguably the best hotel rewards program for Canadians, given how easy it is to earn lots of points—and how much value you can get out of them. Every traveler should understand the basics of this rewards program.

As an introduction to the Marriott Bonvoy program, here are 12 basics to understand Marriott points.

 

1. What is the Marriott Bonvoy program?

Marriott is one of the world’s largest hotel chains, with 7,000+ hotels under 29 different brands. While these range from extremely-luxurious to more affordable options, in general the standards in Marriott hotels are pretty high.

Marriott Bonvoy is the chain’s rewards program, and Marriott points (or Marriott Bonvoy points) are the program’s currency.

At the most basic level, Marriott points can be redeemed for free hotel nights. And unlike with airline points, free nights are truly free nights: there are no taxes to pay when using hotel points (except in very few countries, and even then, it’s a small amount in those rare places).

They can also theoretically be transferred to airline points, but the transfer rate is pretty bad. In general, we recommend using hotel points for hotels and airline points for flights for maximum value.

 

2. What type of points are these?

Marriott points are variable-value points, meaning the value you will get from them is entirely dependent on how well you use them. Variable-value points can give you incredible outsized value, but they can also give you a lot less if you aren’t careful and don’t know that the value of your points can vary.

However, it’s not as complicated as it looks, I assure you. Marriott points are one of the easiest of the variable-value points to understand. And they can be very rewarding.

The points work as follows: the prices for a free night in each hotel is established by the Marriott redemption chart. It’s completely transparent, you know which price every hotel costs (which is not always the case, sadly).

The reason that the points’ value varies is that the price you pay in points is fixed, while the cash value obviously varies wildly. For example, using 7,500 points for a night that costs $100 is a value of 1.3¢ per point. That same night that costs 7,500 could sell for $150, giving you a value of 2¢ per point. That is 50% more!

 

3. How much are Marriott Bonvoy points worth?

Our Flytrippers valuation of Marriott Bonvoy points is ≈ 0.9¢ per point. In other words, if a particular redemption saves you 0.9¢ per point you use, it’s a good idea to use your points.

Yes, that is the very basic rule of variable-value points: sometimes it’s a good redemption, sometimes it’s not and you should just pay with cash. Calculating the value is simple: it’s the amount of money you save divided by the amount of points used.

But that ≈ 0.9¢ valuation can be different for you, depending on your travel habits (hence the “≈” symbol for our valuations of variable-value points). It’s a conservative estimate for an average traveler. If you’re like us and maximize your Marriott points, they can be worth a lot more. If you don’t pay attention, they can be worth a lot less.

In all cases, even with average redemptions, you can get free nights fairly easily!

 

4. How many Marriott points do I need for a free night?

All Marriott hotels belong to a hotel category. Prices are set for each category. There are 8 categories: Category 1 to Category 8. While luxury is a major factor, even Category 1 hotels can be luxurious: it often depends on the location (Category 1 hotels are in less popular destinations or those with lower costs-of-living).

Simple right? Well, there’s a second element: each Marriott hotel category has 3 pricing levels. One hotel night cannot cost a different amount of points than those 3 levels. Why 3? Standard dates, peak dates, and off-peak dates (standard dates are the most common, and off-peak and peak are equal).

That’s it, that’s how the price is set. Okay, before I show you the award chart, there’s one last thing: Stay for 5, Pay for 4. Every time you book 5 nights with points, you’ll only pay for 4. This brings the “per-night” cost down to lower prices when you book 5-night stays.

Here is the regular award chart:

CATEGORYOFF-PEAKSTANDARDPEAK
15,0007,50010,000
210,00012,50015,000
315,00017,50020,000
420,00025,00030,000
530,00035,00040,000
640,00050,00060,000
750,00060,00070,000
870,00085,000100,000

Here is the effective cost per night if you book 5-night stays:

 

5. How do I maximize my Marriott points?

Based on what I just explained, getting the highest amount of free nights is simple.

There are 3 elements to maximize your points:

  1. location: hotels in more affordable destinations (Cat. 1 or Cat. 2)
  2. Stay for 5, Pay for 4 (5th night free): staying for 5 consecutive nights
  3. period: traveling on off-peak dates or at least standard dates (not peak)

The first one is easy. To get the most out of your points, you can plan your trips around those specific hotels.

The second one is also easy. Booking in 5-night increments will always save you a lot of points. Not to mention that “slow travel” that gives you more time to immerse in the local culture is a lot more gratifying for most travelers.

The third one is the hardest part. But if you’re somewhat flexible, you will easily find the dates that are standard or off-peak (Marriott lets you see the price for an entire month at a time easily, see #5.3).

Let’s delve deeper into each of these 3 key elements (or you can read how to maximize your Marriott Bonvoy points).

 

5.1. How do I find a hotel’s category?

The most rewarding, at least in terms of the number of free nights, are Category 1 hotels. You can see our detailed post with all the destinations with Marriott Category 1 hotels, it will show you exactly where you can go.

In our relaunched section we’ll do the same for Category 2 hotels: these will give you a bit fewer nights, but you’ll have 1,000+ extra destination options (sign up for free to get it once it launches).

Otherwise, when searching on Marriott’s website, you’ll see every hotel’s category prominently displayed.

 

Also, Marriott also has a hotel directory where you can look at specific regions and then filter by category in the results page.

We also usually recommend this useful map of Marriott hotels sortable by category, but it’s slightly out of date. The mapmaker did not update it, so while it can give you a good idea while we build our own Flytrippers map, you need to double-check the hotel’s current category on the Marriott website (once a year, some hotels go up and some go down).

 

5.2. How does the “Stay for 5, pay for 4” benefit work?

It’s very straightforward, and the price will be reduced automatically when you book 5 nights at the same hotel. It’s cumulative, so if you stay 10 nights, you’ll pay for just 8 as well.

Like any of these types of promo, the cheapest night will be the one you get free, in case there are peak, off-peak, and standard dates within the same time period you choose.

 

5.3. How to see which dates are standard, peak, and off-peak?

Again, standard nights are the most common, so to keep it simple, we always use the standard price in our math and examples because it’s the likeliest scenario. Some dates will require a bit fewer points, some dates will require a bit more points, but the standard dates price is definitely the average.

Peak and off-peak dates are dynamic unfortunately, not based on a set calendar. You’ll need to search for the lowest prices. And if you want to increase your chances to snag lower prices, you can check back regularly.

To see the pricing for a full month for any hotel, all you need to do is select the “flexible dates” option in the search form:

 

Pro tip: you can always cancel bookings made with points for free up until either 14, 7, or more commonly 1 or 2 days before check-in.

So you can book to lock in a standard or off-peak price, and cancel it if you don’t want it anymore. Also, if you book a standard or peak price, you can keep checking and if the price drops, you can cancel the initial one and simply rebook for cheaper!

 

6. What is a Marriott annual free night certificate?

It’s one of the best perks of the MB and the MB SBS, and the reason it makes no sense to cancel the cards even after the sizeable welcome bonus.

Essentially, you get one certificate every year and it can be used for any Category 5 hotel. These are amazing hotels, most of them luxurious. Many are even 5-star hotels. They can often be worth $500 a night, and you get it for free. Using it as simple as using points (see #8).

You can read Flytrippers’ other cofounder Kevin’s experience getting a $1,000 a night overwater bungalow in Fiji for free with his annual Marriott free night certificate.

 

7. Do Marriott points expire?

Marriott points essentially never expire, since you just need to earn a single point every 2 years to reset the clock. For example, using your MB once every 2 years, for any purchase, will keep the points active.

 

8. How do I book with Marriott points?

Using your points is very simple. When searching for a hotel, you select “Use points”.

 

When you are finalizing the booking, you select points as the method of payment. All you need is to create an online account on Marriott’s website.

 

9. Are Marriott points better for couples or families?

Free hotel nights are for everyone, but there is one caveat for families.

First, earning points as a couple is twice as fast and couples can pool their points together into one account.

And pooling points is the smart thing to do: to make bookings simpler, and to potentially reach Elite status pretty easily (see #10). However, you can only pool 100,000 points per calendar year, and you have to do it over the phone unfortunately.

For families, if the room you book has two beds, or if you don’t need an extra bed, there’s no problem in theory.

Just don’t add more than two guests on the booking itself, by default it will charge you extra. In practice, everyone seems to say that no hotel will really care (except maybe some special resorts that offer extras to each individual guest), even thought there’s supposed to be an extra fee. We have zero datapoints ourselves, since we don’t have kids.

The main issue is that outside of North America, many hotels don’t offer the two-bed option that is common here. Apparently, many hotels can accommodate you at no extra cost if you contact them. But check beforehand because if you get there and ask for an extra bed and they decide to charge an extra for the extra guest, you’ll be pretty captive at that moment.

 

10. What is Marriott Bonvoy Elite status?

To reward loyal travelers, hotels have elite statuses that give many benefits. You automatically get Silver Elite status with the MB.

But more importantly, you get a shortcut to Gold Elite (after just 10 nights in a calendar year—nights paid with points or cash both count). The reality is Silver status doesn’t offer that many benefits, but Gold Elite can be quite interesting for those who travel a lot or like luxury.

You can read all the details about the Marriott Bonvoy Elite status program.

 

11. What is the best way to earn Marriott points?

Before you can use Marriott points, you need to earn them first. Even if it is a hotel rewards program, the best way to earn Marriott Bonvoy points is with a credit card (that’s the quickest way for any type of point).

The best cards to earn Marriott points are:

 

Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card

The Marriott Bonvoy Card has one of the best Welcome Bonuses in Canada. As you just saw, it can be worth up to 8.5 free nights. It has a great earn rate for non-bonused spend (categories that don’t offer category multipliers like groceries, etc.), and every year on your account anniversary you will get a free night certificate, which can give you a night worth hundreds of dollars (see #X).

The card currently offers 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy points and a $120 fee for a net of ≈$357 in free travel (minimum spend: $1,500 in 6 months). Until August 31st, you’ll earn 5 Marriott points per dollar spent on groceries and food.

The regular earn rates are:

  • 5 Marriott Bonvoy points per dollar (≈4.5%) on Marriott hotels
  • 2 Marriott Bonvoy points per dollar (≈1.8%) everywhere else

Read Marriott Bonvoy Card review or Apply for Marriott Bonvoy Card now

 

American Express Cobalt Card

The American Express Cobalt Card is especially interesting if you can spend $500 per month on the card (or once you’re ready to get more Marriott points after the Marriott Bonvoy Card). That’s because the welcome bonus is unique in Canada: it requires $500 per month each of the first 12 months, instead of just a lower amount in the first 3 months like other cards. The Cobalt Card earns a whopping 6 Marriott points per dollar normally, but with that welcome bonus you’ll get the equivalent of 12 Marriott points per dollar.

The card currently offers 72,000 Marriott Bonvoy points and a $120 fee for a net of ≈$456 in free travel (minimum spend: $500 every month the first year).

The regular earn rates are:

  • 6 Marriott Bonvoy points per dollar (≈5.4%) on groceries, and restaurants
  • 2.4 Marriott Bonvoy points per dollar (≈2.2%) on gas, transit, and travel
  • 1.2 Marriott Bonvoy points per dollar (≈1.1%) everywhere else

Read AMEX Cobalt Card review or Apply for AMEX Cobalt Card now

 

Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express Card

This is the small business version of the Bonvoy card. If you generate any type of side income, you are eligible. This card is a great way to earn another Marriott Welcome Bonus, and also get a second valuable annual free night certificate. It has bonus categories too, unlike the personal card.

The card currently offers 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy points and a $150 fee for a net of ≈$327 in free travel (minimum spend: $1,500 in 6 months).

The regular earn rates are:

  • 5 Marriott Bonvoy points per dollar (≈4.5%) on Marriott hotels
  • 3 Marriott Bonvoy points per dollar (≈2.7%) on gas, restaurants, and travel
  • 2 Marriott Bonvoy points per dollar (≈1.8%) everywhere else

Apply for Marriott Bonvoy Business Card now

 

12. What are other ways to earn more Marriott Points?

There are a few other ways to earn more free nights.

 

Hotel stays

Unlike with airline points, you can actually earn a reasonable amount of points by traveling. This is especially the case when Marriott has significant seasonal promos (these can offer double point earnings on cash bookings).

With the regular earn rate by booking directly with Marriott, you’ll earn 10 Marriott points per USD spent on the room rate and any additional room charges. That comes out to ≈ 7.5 Marriott points per CAD.

If you have the Marriott Bonvoy Card, this jumps to 11 Marriott points per USD (8.3 per CAD) due to your Silver Elite Status bonus. But by combining that with the 5 points per CAD you’ll get by paying with the card, it starts getting interesting. It’s 13.3

 

Buying points

We usually don’t recommend buying points speculatively (with no specific redemption in mind) because the price is often high, even with the frequent sales. There are often sales on Marriott points, come back soon for a post to explain the details.

 

Travel portals

Marriott no longer has an online shopping portal in the traditional sense, but there are a few portals where you can book travel and earn Marriott points:

  • Activities: you can book your activity tickets and tours for the same price as elsewhere and get 10 Marriott points per USD
  • Car rentals: you can book Hertz car rentals and get 2,000 Marriott points for rentals of 2 days or more (make sure it’s the same price as on other sites though)
  • Cruises: if you book a cruise, you can earn 3 Marriott points per USD (again, make sure the price is competitive by comparing)

 

Bonus: Are there other pro tips about Marriott Points?

More to come in the ultimate guide.

 

Want to get more content to maximize your Marriott points?

Sign up for our travel rewards newsletter

 

Summary

If you understand these 12 basics about Marriott points, you are now almost an expert! Hopefully this introduction to the Marriott Bonvoy program has convinced you of how good a deal the Marriott Bonvoy Card is for Canadian travelers.

Have any questions about the Marriott program? Tell us in the comments below.

 

Explore awesome destinations: travel inspiration

Learn pro tricks: travel tips

Discover free travel: travel rewards

 

Featured image: Marriott category 1 hotel in China (photo credit: Marriott)

Advertiser Disclosure: In the interest of transparency, Flytrippers may receive a commission on links featured in this post, at no cost to you. Thank you for using our links to support us for free, we appreciate it! You allow us to keep finding the best travel deals for free and to keep offering interesting content for free. Since we care deeply about our mission to help travelers and our reputation and credibility prevail over everything, we will NEVER recommend a product or service that we do not believe in or that we do not use ourselves, and we will never give any third-party any control whatsoever on our content. For more information on our advertiser disclosure, click here.

Share this post to help us help more people travel more for less:

Andrew D'Amours

Andrew is the co-founder of Flytrippers. He is passionate about traveling the world but also, as a former management consultant, about the travel industry itself. He shares his experiences to help you save money on travel. As a very cost-conscious traveler, he loves finding deals and getting free travel thanks to travel rewards points... to help him visit every country in the world (current count: 61/193 Countries, 46/50 US States & 9/10 Canadian Provinces).

Leave a Reply