You are currently viewing Marriott Bonvoy program: ultimate guide (Canada)

The Marriott Bonvoy program is inarguably the best hotel rewards program for Canadians, given how easy it is to earn so many points — and given how much value you can get out of them. All travelers should include this must-have currency in their travel rewards strategy.

For many years now, it’s been my own favorite program to travel more for less, out of all the different types of programs we have in Canada! Especially as someone who is obviously very good at finding cheap flights.

Here is Flytrippers’ ultimate guide to the Marriott Bonvoy program.

 

Basics of the Marriott Bonvoy program

There are many ways of earning Marriott Bonvoy points, but mainly there are 2 Canadian cards that earn some directly and I’ll share more details about them in a section below

But here is a table right away, just so you know whether this guide applies to one of the cards in your current travel rewards portfolio (or to one of the cards you are considering adding next).

Best credit cards for
Marriott points
WELCOME BONUS
( VALUATION)
Marriott
points
Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card
Card:
Bonus: spend $1.5k in 3 mos.
Welcome bonus: $477
Card Fee: $120
53,000 pts
after welcome bonus
Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express Card
Card: no business required
Bonus: spend $1.5k in 3 mos.
Welcome bonus: $477
Card Fee: $150
53,000 pts
after welcome bonus
Terms and conditions apply. Flytrippers editorial opinion only. Financial institutions are not responsible for maintaining the content on this site. Please click "See More" to see most up-to-date information.
Best credit cards for
Marriott points
Marriott Bonvoy® American Express®* Card Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card
Card:
Bonus: spend $1.5k in 3 mos.
WELCOME BONUS
Welcome bonus: $477
Card Fee: $120
Marriott points: 53,000 pts
after welcome bonus
Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express® Card Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express Card
Card: no business required
Bonus: spend $1.5k in 3 mos.
WELCOME BONUS
Welcome bonus: $477
Card Fee: $150
Marriott points: 53,000 pts
after welcome bonus
Terms and conditions apply. Flytrippers editorial opinion only. Financial institutions are not responsible for maintaining the content on this site. Please click "See More" to see most up-to-date information.

 

Marriott is the world’s largest hotel chain, with 8,000+ properties all over the planet. You’ve probably tried one, or at the very least seen one.

Marriott has a total of 30 different hotel brands. These range from extremely luxurious to more affordable options, but with pretty high standards overall (especially outside of North America of course). They do not have entry-level economy brands, these are all nice hotels. They also have their own more luxurious version of Airbnb.

Marriott’s many hotel brands (image credit: Marriott)

 

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

In short, Marriott points can be redeemed for completely free hotel nights in Marriott hotels. And unlike with airline points, free nights are completely free: there are no taxes to pay when using hotel points (except in very few exceptions, I’ll get back to those below).

They are variable-value rewards, meaning they offer the potential for outsized value and unlimited value… often way more than our Flytrippers Valuation of ≈ 0.9¢ per point (but sometimes less too).

How many nights you get and how many dollars you save with your points depends on how well you use them.

However, it’s not as complicated as it looks, I assure you. Marriott points are one of the easiest to understand among the variable-value rewards. And it’s definitely worth the slight effort!

Here is a brief summary of the Marriott Bonvoy program:

  • Best use: Free hotel nights
  • Type: Variable-value rewards
    • Subtype: Standard variable-value rewards (2022)
    • Subtype: Dynamic variable-value rewards (2023)
  • Rewards examples:
    • Free nights in Marriott hotels
  • Flytrippers Valuation: ≈ 0.9 ¢/pt
    • Maximum value: Unlimited
    • Minimum value: None
  • Transferable: Yes (39 airline programs)
    • Not recommended (bad transfer rate)
  • Classification: Hotel rewards program
  • Available cards: 2 (1 issuer)
  • Available cards (indirectly): 7 (1 issuer)
    • Amex points can be transferred to Marriott
    • Not often recommended

 

Introduction to redeeming Marriott Bonvoy for travel rewards

Here’s an introduction to Marriott Bonvoy points to start with the essentials.

 

Types of rewards with Marriott points

You can get just one type of travel rewards with your Marriott points:

  • A variable-value discount for nights in Marriott hotels

As mentioned, you can theoretically also transfer them to partner airline rewards programs, but it’s pretty rare that it’s a good use so I’ll focus on hotels here.

I’ll tell you more about transfers in the full redemption section below (because it can be useful in some specific situations), along with the option of using your points for unique experiences (which is more for rich people or those who don’t want free travel)

 

Basic of redemptions with Marriott points

In short, here are the most important things to understand about your redemptions with Marriott points:

  • Within the Marriott Bonvoy program:
    • A bit more complicated than with fixed-value rewards
    • Potential for outsized value and unlimited value
    • Need to use the points “well” and be a bit flexible
    • Standard-type variable-value rewards (for 2022)
      • Points requirements based on program award charts with a range
    • Dynamic-type variable-value rewards (for 2023)
      • Points requirements based on cash price
    • The value of points is variable based on the redemption
      • Discount is worth ≈ 0.9¢ per point
      • Can be more or less, it depends on the redemption

We’ll have more details about the value below, but let’s just note that our Flytrippers Valuation of Marriott points is conservative, for an average traveler.

It’s possible to get a lot more value if you use them well, there’s no limit! That’s what’s great about variable-value rewards for those like us who love great deals! But when there is no maximum value, there is no minimum value either of course (and so many people use their Mariott points soooooo badly, sadly)!

 

Rules to use Marriott points

The rules are very different from those that apply to bank points or even different from those that apply to many airline points:

  • Points can only be redeemed for Marriott hotels
  • There are no availability limits
    • If a room is available, you can redeem your points
  • There are no taxes to pay when redeeming points
    • There are a few rare countries that charge a few dollars in tax per night
    • There are a few hotels with resort fees, avoid them both in cash and in points
  • The 5th night is always free when you redeem points for 4 consecutive nights
  • That gives you 25% more rewards, it’s pretty significant

That last element is an important rule to maximize your amount of free nights. For example, a hotel that costs 7,500 points per night comes out to only 6,000 points per night if you stay for 5 consecutive nights in that same hotel (7,500 x 4 = 30,000 points total; 30,000 / 5 = 6,000 points per night).

As with all variable-value rewards, there are 2 main ways to get a lot more value with your Marriott points:

  • For sweet spots, which are the cheapest hotels in Marriott’s case
  • For trips that are very expensive in cash, which are the high-end or popular hotels

Essentially, there are 2 philosophies or 2 definitions for “maximizing” Marriott points:

  • Getting the highest amount of free nights
  • Getting the highest amount of discounts (dollars saved)

With 68,000 Marriott points, you can get 11 free nights in Bali. I personally prefer that. It allows me to travel more. Those nights might just be worth $60 per night in cash, but 11 free nights are a lot of nights!

But with those same 68,000 points, you could maybe get just 1 free night in the Maldives, but that 1 night might be worth more in cash than all 11 Bali nights because it’s an overwater villa! You “save” more in theory sure, but would you really have paid $700 in cash for just 1 night? If not, did you really “save” $700?

Every traveler is different and Marriott points allow you to get value in both ways, based on which one is more valuable to you.

 

How Marriott points work (2022)

The next section gives you plenty of redemption examples, but more concretely, here is what your travel rewards can look like with Marriott points for the rest of 2022, before the upcoming changes:

  • Within the Marriott Bonvoy program:
    • 68,000 Marriott points give you a ≈ $400 to ≈ $1,000 discount on Marriott hotels
    • Based on the hotel chosen, the number of points required varies (fixed by the programs’ award charts)
    • Based on the hotel’s cash price, the discount varies (the amount of points required is unrelated to the cash price)

How the amount of points required for a free night is determined is the key, as with all rewards programs. That’s what is often confusing for many. And Marriott is a bit particular too, but it will be simplified in 2023.

Up until very recently, Marriott hotels had a fixed price in points based on an award chart and a categorization for every hotel, it was simple and straightforward. For example, a category 1 hotel would cost either 5,000 points, 7,500 points, or 10,000 points per night. It could not be anything other than those 3 prices.

Those award charts were eliminated in March 2022, but the prices for the near-totality of hotels (all except a few very high-end hotels) are staying in the same price range for the rest of 2022. So a category 1 hotel still costs between 5,000 and 10,000 points per night.

That’s why we can still know that category 1 hotels cost 30,000 points per 5-night stay on most dates (or just slightly more — or slightly less even) ad why the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card‘s current welcome bonus gives you 11 free nights.

But hotel categories are no longer published, so you’ll need to use our lists for categories 1 and 2 (the cheapest hotels) or search the Marriott website to see prices.

There will be more details in this guide’s next update, but to explain the pricing a bit more, basically, a night in a Marriott category 2 hotel always costs between 10,000 and 15,000 Marriott points in the Marriott program.

That means your 68,000 Marriott points can save you $400 sometimes or $1,000 other times… it all depends on the cash price of that category 2 hotel! So sometimes it’s a good use of 68,000 points (if your discount is $800) but other times it’s not (if your discount is $400).

That’s what variable-value rewards are all about. Sometimes those same 68,000 Marriott points could give you savings of $1,200! That’s 3 times more than in some other situations, for the exact same amount of points… that’s the potential for outsized value and unlimited value.

That potential for outsized value and unlimited value is made possible by the fact that the amount of points required is sometimes too high compared to the cash price too! There have to be some people that use their points badly because they don’t know better, in order to subsidize the great redemptions savvy travelers make!

So to be very clear, not all Marriott hotels are good uses of Marriott points (especially in North America)! These are variable-value rewards, so it depends! You have to be more flexible and be more knowledgeable for sure. But they can be worth a lot more!

In short, the key to getting more free nights with Marriott points, at least for the rest of 2022, is to:

  • Choose the right destinations
  • Choose the less busy dates
  • Stay 5 nights at a time

 

How Marriott points work (2023)

However, starting in 2023, things are changingé

The pricing system will be simplified: the pricing will become purely dynamic.

That means the number of points required will be directly related to the hotel night’s cost in cash, which is obviously not the case now. It’s close enough to that (most hotels in category 1 are those that cost the least in cash in general) but it’s not perfectly linked.

In 2023, it really will be intimately linked: the price in points will be based on the price in cash. It will become very similar to fixed-value rewards basically, except that it’s not fixed, we won’t know the value per se, it can vary by hotel or period or anything really, and it’s not transparent at all. But almost every hotel chain had gone this way already, it was inevitable.

That said, it actually makes things simpler for those who want things to be simpler! But those who loved maximizing by finding sweet spots and outsized value opportunities will find it harder to do that. Because like with anything in life, in the world of travel it can either be more simple or more valuable. Always.

There will be fewer very bad uses but also fewer very good uses. It will average everything out, and make it simple!

Essentially, most hotel prices in points won’t really change, except for the most peak periods where it will most likely go up. But it will also provide a ton of opportunities for value for travelers who wisely avoid peak periods because the number of points required for those could go down for many hotels!

 

How to actually redeem Marriott points

We have a very detailed section towards the end of this ultimate guide, but to close out this introduction section, here are the highlights of the process:

  • You search for a hotel on the Marriott website or the Marriott app
  • You book there by using the points in your Marriott account quite simply
 

How to redeem Marriott points to maximize them (best uses)

Here are just a few concrete examples of the best uses of Marriott points to maximize their value (the number of nights is based on the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card‘s current welcome bonus):

Apart from those hotels that require the fewest points, it comes back to what I was saying earlier about philosophical choices. There are luxury hotels (or hotels that are just very expensive) where your points can give you more value (value = how much you save).

You need to do the math for your personal Marriott points valuation (see the section below) and choose the most appropriate strategy for your own situation and your own preferences.

Then, invest the time to do your research and planning well. The better you prepare for a trip, the more you save and the more enjoyable the trip is too: it’s true whether you pay in cash or in points. It’s just even more amazing when you can keep your money.

 

How to earn Marriott Bonvoy points (best ways)

First of all, as with all hotel and airline rewards programs, you can earn Marriott points in many ways

  • With credit cards that earn Marriott Bonvoy points
  • With credit cards that earn American Express points
  • With the Marriott Bonvoy rewards program directly

 

Earning with credit cards that earn Marriott Bonvoy points

Again, here is a brief overview of the 2 cards that earn Marriott Bonvoy points directly.

Best credit cards for
Marriott points
WELCOME BONUS
( VALUATION)
Marriott
points
Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card
Card:
Bonus: spend $1.5k in 3 mos.
Welcome bonus: $477
Card Fee: $120
53,000 pts
after welcome bonus
Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express Card
Card: no business required
Bonus: spend $1.5k in 3 mos.
Welcome bonus: $477
Card Fee: $150
53,000 pts
after welcome bonus
Terms and conditions apply. Flytrippers editorial opinion only. Financial institutions are not responsible for maintaining the content on this site. Please click "See More" to see most up-to-date information.
Best credit cards for
Marriott points
Marriott Bonvoy® American Express®* Card Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card
Card:
Bonus: spend $1.5k in 3 mos.
WELCOME BONUS
Welcome bonus: $477
Card Fee: $120
Marriott points: 53,000 pts
after welcome bonus
Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express® Card Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express Card
Card: no business required
Bonus: spend $1.5k in 3 mos.
WELCOME BONUS
Welcome bonus: $477
Card Fee: $150
Marriott points: 53,000 pts
after welcome bonus
Terms and conditions apply. Flytrippers editorial opinion only. Financial institutions are not responsible for maintaining the content on this site. Please click "See More" to see most up-to-date information.

 

Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card

Let’s start with one of the very best cards for Canadian travelers, the only one that is a must-have for all types of travelers.

Marriott Bonvoy® American Express®* Card
Flytrippers Valuation
of Welcome Bonus alone
≈ $
minimum income required: $0
spend $1,500
in 3 months
Terms and conditions apply. Flytrippers editorial opinion only. Amex is not responsible for maintaining the content on this site. Please click "Apply Now" to see most up-to-date information.
Marriott Bonvoy® American Express®* Card
Flytrippers Valuation
of Welcome Bonus alone
≈ $
minimum income
required: $0
spend $1,500
in 3 months
Terms and conditions apply. Flytrippers editorial opinion only. Amex is not responsible for maintaining the content on this site. Please click "Apply Now" to see most up-to-date information.

 

After unlocking the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card‘s current welcome bonus, you’ll get:

  • 53,000 Marriott points
  • Flytrippers Valuation of ≈ $357 net
  • Details of the welcome bonus offer
    • Rewards worth ≈ $47
      • Welcome bonus worth ≈ $450
      • Earn on the minimum spend worth ≈ $27
    • Card fee of $120
  • Minimum spend required: $1,500 in 3 months
  • Minimum income required: None
  • Subsequent years’ fee if you wisely decide to keep it: $120
    • The annual certificate worth ≈ $315 more than offsets this
    • One of the rare cards to NEVER EVER close!

With the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card you will earn:

  • 5 Marriott points per $ (≈ 4.5%) at Marriott
  • 2 Marriott points per $ (≈ 1.8%) on everything else

Here are just a few highlights of the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card:

  • Good welcome bonus of ≈ $357
  • Annual free luxury night certificate
  • Flexibility of points that do not expire
  • Good base earn rate
  • Free supplementary card, automatic Elite status, insurance

You can apply now via the secure Amex link, or:

 

Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express Card

Amex is the only issuer that allows everyone to get a “business” card, so you do not need to have a business to get this card to get even more free hotel nights.

Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express® Card
Flytrippers Valuation
of Welcome Bonus alone
≈ $
no business required
spend $1,500
in 3 months
Terms and conditions apply. Flytrippers editorial opinion only. Amex is not responsible for maintaining the content on this site. Please click "Apply Now" to see most up-to-date information.
Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express® Card
Flytrippers Valuation
of Welcome Bonus alone
≈ $
no business required
spend $1,500
in 3 months
Terms and conditions apply. Flytrippers editorial opinion only. Amex is not responsible for maintaining the content on this site. Please click "Apply Now" to see most up-to-date information.

 

After unlocking the Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express Card‘s current welcome bonus, you’ll get:

  • 53,000 Marriott points
  • Flytrippers Valuation of ≈ $327 net
  • Details of the welcome bonus offer
    • Rewards worth ≈ $477
      • Welcome bonus worth ≈ $450
      • Earn on the minimum spend worth ≈ $27
    • Card fee of $150
  • Minimum spend required: $1,500 in 3 months
  • Minimum income required: None
  • Business income required: No, you must write your full name as the business name
  • Subsequent years’ fee if you wisely decide to keep it: $150
    • The annual certificate worth ≈ $315 more than offsets this
    • One of the rare cards to NEVER EVER close!

With the Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express Card you will earn:

  • 5 Marriott points per $ (≈ 4.5%) at Marriott
  • 3 Marriott points per $ (≈ 2.7%) on travel, gas, and restaurants
  • 2 Marriott points per $ (≈ 1.8%) on everything else

Here are just a few highlights of the Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express Card:

  • Good welcome bonus of ≈ $589
  • Annual free luxury night certificate
  • Flexibility of points that do not expire
  • Good base earn rate and multiplier rate on travel
  • Some insurance coverage

You can apply now via the secure Amex link, or:

 

Earning with credit cards that earn American Express points

I won’t get into too much of the details of transferring Amex points (American Express points) for now, since it’s no longer very interesting in terms of options.

First of all, you need to understand that even if Amex issues the above cards that earn Marriott Bonvoy points, that has nothing to do with Amex points. Those are Marriott Bonvoy points. Amex also issues Aeroplan cards, AIR MILES cards, and most importantly cards that earn their own proprietary rewards currency, American Express Membership Rewards points (or just Amex points).

Amex points can be transferred to Marriott, but they can also now all be transferred to airline partner programs like Aeroplan and Avios, which are very often more valuable.

But we’ll give you more details when we’ll share the ultimate guide on the American Express Membership Rewards program, the next one on our publication list (after this one and HSBC Rewards).

In the meantime, know that Amex points can be transferred to Marriott at a transfer rate of 1 to 1.2 (so 1,000 Amex points gives you 1,200 Marriott points). That reduces the value of Amex points, unfortunately. And also, all transfers are always one-way and irreversible, so be careful.

That said, Amex sometimes has a transfer bonus deal (not every year though) that gives you 30% more Marriott points, so 30% more value for your rewards! That’s when it can start making a lot more sense to transfer Amex points to Marriott.

 

Earning with the Marriott Bonvoy rewards program directly

Since Marriott Bonvoy is the Marriot hotel chain’s rewards program first and foremost, you can earn even more points via the program directly. And unlike with airline points, it’s really possible to earn a worthwhile amount outside of credit cards!

Here are the 4 ways to earn more Marriott points with the program directly, but the 1st one is really by far the most important:

  • Hotel stays
  • Rental stays
  • Points purchases
  • Travel portals

 

Hotel stays

As I said, unlike with airline points, you can actually earn a reasonable amount of points by traveling (by paying for Marriott hotel stays in cash) without spending tons of money.

This is especially the case when Marriott has enticing seasonal promos (these can offer double point earnings on cash bookings for example). We’ll have a post about this soon.

With the regular earn rate by booking directly with Marriott, you’ll earn 10 Marriott points per US$ spent on the room rate and any additional room charges (everything except taxes basically). That comes out to ≈ 7.5 Marriott points per C$.

If you have the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card, this jumps to 11 Marriott points per US$ (8.3 per C$) due to your Silver Elite Status bonus. But by combining that with the 5 points per C$ you’ll get by paying with the card, it starts getting really interesting.

It gives you a minimum of 13.3 Marriott points per C$ spent, which is a great return (better than the 10% you should get on all your other hotels). So at similar prices, choose a Marriott hotel for your stays paid in cash!

 

Rental stays

You probably know Airbnb and its competitor Vrbo, platforms that allow you to rent homes, apartments, or rooms from individuals (or at least outside of formal hotel properties let’s say)

Marriott has its own similar platform, Marriott Home & Villas.

We’ll have a detailed post about it soon, but basically, it’s like the best of both worlds. It gives you a unique rental stay. But since it’s part of Marriott, there’s better customer service and general standards than with Airbnb (yeah that bar is extremely low, but whatever) and you can also earn Marriott points on your stays.

However, there are obviously nowhere near as many options as on Airbnb and Vrbo. In terms of destinations first, because Marriott Home & Villas is not present everywhere.

But most importantly, the rental options are in the high-end segment for the most part. That’s why I never tried it personally, it’s just terribly expensive every time I check (and also I prefer hotels and hostels over rentals).

 

Buying points

We usually don’t recommend buying points speculatively (with no specific redemption in mind) or even at all, because the price is often high, even with the frequent sales and discounts offered.

But you can buy points on the Marriott website if you were going to pay for a hotel in cash and can save money by buying points (the site is powered by Points.com, a platform to buy various rewards currencies).

You can read our detailed article about buying Marriott points, although the 55% bonus sale mentioned in it is now expired.

 

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: Book your activity and attraction tickets and get 10 Marriott points per US$
  • Car rentals: Book a Hertz car rental and get 2,000 Marriott points for rentals of 2 days or more in many countries
  • Cruises: Book a cruise and you can earn 3 Marriott points per US$

 

How to manage Marriott Bonvoy points (logistics)

Here’s a little more detail on some of the more logistical elements of the Marriott program.

 

Expiry rules for Marriott Bonvoy points

Marriott Bonvoy points don’t expire as long as there is any activity (e.g. earning or using 1 point) in your account every 24 months, so it’s very very easy to make sure they never expire.

Since the 2 Marriott credit cards come with an absolutely awesome annual certificate, it just doesn’t make sense to close them. So just make a purchase of at least 50¢ every 2 years and you’ll keep your Marriott Bonvoy points! Simple as that.

There are other ways to extend the expiration if you can’t get the cards, we will add to this section in the next update.

 

Creating a Marriott Bonvoy account

You need to create a Marriott account, whether you have an Amex account or not. The Marriott program has nothing to do with Amex, it’s an independent and standalone program.

If you didn’t put your Marriott membership number on your card application with Amex (or if you didn’t have one), you can simply contact Amex by chat or by phone so that they can give you the Marriott number associated with your card (and if you have 2 accounts in your name, Marriott can merge them).

Then, create an online account on the Marriott website.

Creating a Marriott account allows you to manage everything and use your rewards and the annual certificates from both Marriott cards, as I will show you below in the section on how to book.

 

Pooling Marriott Bonvoy points in one account

You’ve probably already figured it out: earning points as a couple is twice as fast. With Marriott Bonvoy, couples (or anyone really) can pool their points into one account very easily.

Pooling points is the smartest thing to do: to simplify bookings and potentially reach Elite status quite easily too. However, you can pool just 100,000 points per year, and unfortunately, you have to do it over the phone like it’s 1998.

 

Family strategies with Marriott points

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

If the room you book has 2 beds, or if you don’t need an extra bed, there’s no problem in theory.

Just make a booking for 2 travelers and not more, because by default it will charge you extra if you add more than 2 travelers. In practice, everyone seems to say that no hotel will really care, even though in theory some of them are supposed to charge an extra fee for additional guests (the only ones who could care are maybe some special resorts that offer extras to each individual guest). We have zero data points ourselves since we don’t have kids.

The main issue is that outside of North America, as you probably know, many hotels simply don’t offer the 2-bed option that is common here. Apparently, many hotels can accommodate families at no extra cost if you contact them in advance. But check before you get there because if you get there and ask for an extra bed and they decide to charge an extra for the extra guest, once you’re there you’ll be pretty captive at that moment.

 

How to take advantage of the Marriott program benefits (other than points)

Here are more details on 4 very interesting benefits:

  • The annual certificate
  • The “Stay 5 nights, pay for 4” benefit
  • Elite status
  • Free cancellation on all reservations

 

Marriott free night award annual certificate

The Marriott free night award annual certificate is one of the best benefits of the 2 Marriott cards — and a good reason to have both! It’s literally one of the best credit card benefits in Canada, nothing less!

Every year, upon your card’s renewal, a free night award certificate will appear on your Marriott account (in the “Activity” tab).

The certificates appear on your account (image credit: Marriott)

It gives you a free night at very luxurious and expensive hotels. You have literally thousands of options to choose from.

You can use it for any hotel that costs up to 35,000 points. In fact, you can even add up to 15,000 points from your own points stash if you want to be able to apply the certificate to an even more expensive hotel (that’s new since May 2022).

The certificate fully offsets the annual fee from the 2nd year onwards, after the welcome bonus in the 1st year. It makes absolutely no sense to close Marriott cards, none! The value of the certificate is ≈ $315 (and it can be worth more), it’s really quite a deal!

Strategically, save it for really nice hotels obviously. Especially not for ordinary hotels in North America! If you are a couple, each of you having your own card will obviously give you 2 welcome bonuses but also 2 certificates so you can have a nice 2-night getaway in a very nice hotel during one of your trips (or 4 certificates if you each take the 2 different Marriott cards like pros).

It’s very easy to use the certificate: you can apply it directly during the online booking, on the payment page.

Applying a certificate to a reservation (image credit: Marriott)

 

We will have a detailed article about the certificate, a list of the best hotels where to use it, and how to redeem it step by step. In the meantime, you can read about Flytrippers’ other co-founder’s experience using his certificate for a $1,000+ overwater bungalow in Fiji.

 

Marriott points “Stay 5 nights, pay 4 nights” benefit

This program benefit is very simple. The price is automatically reduced when you book 5 consecutive nights at the same hotel with your Marriott points: you’ll pay for just 4 nights. It’s cumulative, so if you stay 10 nights, you’ll pay just 8.

As with all these types of promotions, it’s the cheapest night you get for free of course, not necessarily the 5th night in chronological order (as was the case when all nights were the same price in the past).

The “Stay 5 nights, pay for 4” benefit on the booking page

 

You can’t combine the use of a certificate with this benefit, it has to be 4 nights fully paid for with Marriott points.

Anyway, for a long stay with points, it’s better to go to a hotel that costs much less than 35,000 points a night to get more free nights. And for a stay with certificates, it’s better to go to a hotel that costs 35,000 points per night to maximize the value of the certificate.

That’s why it’s important to have a personal card and a business card (and ideally both under a travel buddy’s name as well) to be able to have a longer stay in a very luxurious hotel with the certificates if you’re the type of traveler who wants to stay longer in one place.

 

Marriott Bonvoy Elite Status

To reward loyal travelers, most airlines and hotel chains have elite statuses that offer many benefits. Marriott Bonvoy of course has its own elite status program that is very interesting for those who travel a lot.

You automatically get Silver Elite status with the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card. But more importantly, you get a shortcut to Gold Elite status: you just need to stay 10 nights in a year (nights paid with points or cash all count). The super-premium American Express Platinum Card also gives you Gold Elite status automatically if you prefer (and Gold status at Hilton too).

The reality is that Silver Elite status doesn’t really offer much in the way of benefits, but Gold Elite status can be more appealing to those who travel a lot or those who like luxury, with free room upgrades sometimes and guaranteed late check-out.

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

 

Free cancellation on all Marriott points reservations

One of the best things about points is that you can always book in advance completely risk-free! If you don’t need the reservation anymore, you cancel it and they give you all your points back. It’s that simple.

Beware of the minimum cancellation delay, of course. It’s always written when you book (and you can always go and see it again at any time in your account, under the “My Trips” tab).

Cancellation deadline in “My Trips”

 

Set a reminder in your calendar so you don’t forget to cancel. You usually have up to 2 days before the arrival day to cancel, but sometimes it can be 3, 7, or more rarely 14 or 31 days. Check!

And double-check all your reservations regularly! Maybe the number of points required will go down, so you can just cancel and rebook for less!

If you’re going somewhere during a festival or popular event, or during peak dates, book a hotel as early as possible to ensure a lower price and worst-case scenario you can just cancel it for free if you end up not needing it!

 

How to book travel with Marriott points (step by step)

Here’s a more hands-on section on the booking process.

 

See the points price for each Marriott hotel

On Marriott’s website, simply choose the “Use points/certificates” option in your hotel search.

Points option for searches

 

This will show you the price of each hotel in points for the dates you request.

Everything else is the same as when you book a hotel with cash.

 

Find the cheapest dates

If you’re a savvy traveler, you know that you either have to be flexible on the date or flexible on the destination when you want to save money. It’s that simple.

So if you want to see the cheapest dates, Marriott has a way to see the price of each day in a whole month at a glance, but you have to do it with an individual hotel (not for a whole destination).

In short, first choose a specific date to see which hotels are the cheapest for your destination in general.

Then, once you’re on the specific hotel, click on “Flexible Dates” in the choice of dates.

 

Option for flexible dates

 

You’ll see the price for each night.

They even put an orange banner to show you the cheapest nights (which in this particular example are during the Christmas holidays, strangely enough).

 

Price per night for the whole month

 

You can also select 5 nights to see the total price for a 5-night stay, based on the arrival date.

(This all works if you are looking for hotels to pay in cash too, by the way!)

Selecting the number of nights for the monthly price view

 

I always like to see the individual price of each night no matter how long I’m staying, but most people are probably not like me, as usual.

Price for 5 nights based on the check-in date

 

Finding the cheapest Marriott hotels

There is no longer a published list with prices, so it takes a bit more manual research for now (other than for category 1 and category 2). Otherwise, in general, the cheapest countries will have the hotels that cost the least points. We’ll help you with more content on that front soon.

In the meantime, you can do some digging and see what the prices are. You can use the Marriott directory to at least see the available hotels by country if you want.

 

Booking with Marriott Bonvoy points

Booking with your points is very simple. If you checked the “Use Points” option at the beginning of your search, you will simply select points as the payment method when you finalize your reservation.

Selecting points for the reservation on the payment page

 

We will soon have more details about the booking process from A to Z with screenshots.

 

Paying with the “Cash & Points” option

Marriott is always going to offer you the terrible option to pay a portion in points and a portion in cash, the “Cash & Points Redemption” option that appears first in searches.

The “Cash & Points” option

 

Definitely don’t do it, ever. Always choose the normal “Redemption” option. The end.

Okay… since we want you to learn and be a pro, take out your calculator: the “Cash & Points” option is basically selling you 8,500 points (22,500 – 14,000) for 2,154,600 IDR in this random example. That’s C$192! How much are 8,500 points really worth? Only $77 based on our Flytrippers Valuation of 0.9¢/point. Ouch. Imagine having chosen that option!

So again: don’t do it!

 

Choosing a Marriott Bonvoy hotel brand

No other hotel chain has as many brands as Marriott! That gives you a lot of choices, but it also makes it a little hard to find your way around.

In short, there are generally 4 levels of hotels in the world:

  • Luxury / high-end
  • Premium / upscale
  • Midscale / midrange
  • Basic / economy

Marriott has brands in the first 3 levels, and they each have distinct personalities and positioning (okay, most brands are distinct haha).

You can read our introduction to the 30 different Marriott hotel brands for an overview. And since I’ve tried 21 of them personally, I’ll give you a little more detail soon to help you become a Marriott expert.

 

How much is a Marriott point worth (valuation)

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

The value calculation is simple and is always the same no matter the rewards: it’s the number of dollars saved divided by the number of points used.

For example, if paying 20,000 points for a hotel saves you $200, you get a value of 1¢ per point ($200 / 20,000 pts = $0.01/pt or 1¢/pt). You need to use the total amount you save for the formula, so the price of the room with taxes included of course.

A value of 1¢/pt is more than our Flytrippers Valuation, so we use points to pay, not cash. That is the very basic rule of variable-value rewards: sometimes it’s a good redemption, sometimes it’s not and you should just pay in cash.

But that ≈ 0.9¢ valuation can be different for you, depending on your travel habits (hence the “≈” symbol for all our Flytrippers Valuations of variable-value rewards). I repeat: 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’re not careful, they can be worth a lot less.

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

 

How to use Marriott Bonvoy points (detailed rules)

Here are more details on the different options for using Marriott points.

 

Using Marriott points for hotels

The intro above should be enough for now, the rest is coming in the next version!

 

Using Marriott points for flights

In general, we recommend using hotel points for hotels and airline points for flights to get the maximum value out of them.

But there are a few scenarios where it might be worthwhile to transfer your Marriott points to one of 39 partner airline programs:

  • If you don’t want anything to do with hotels
  • If you’re going to use airline points very well
  • If you need some points to top off a booking
  • If you want to keep your airline points from expiring

We’ll give you more details on each shortly. In the meantime, know that the transfer rate is 3:1, but you get a 5,000 point bonus if you transfer 60,000 Marriott points (that gives you 25,000 airline points instead of 20,000).

You can transfer as many points as you want, with a minimum of 3,000 points. It’s easy to do online. The name on your airline account must match the name on your Marriott account exactly, so a very basic tip is to always write your name exactly as it appears on your passport for all travel-related matters.

 

Use Marriott points for unique experiences (Marriott Bonvoy Moments)

The Marriott Bonvoy Moments program is not for those who want points to give them free travel.

But for those who want unique and very VIP experiences (including during a trip, but not necessarily), it gives you the opportunity to get activities that sometimes just can’t be bought at all with cash.

Sometimes it’s in the field of sports, music, art, culinary, wellness, etc.

To give just one current example, there is a package for the Canadian Grand Prix that includes a visit to the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 team’s lounge and a meeting with their personnel, access to the VIP party at the Grand Prix, 4 nights at the Ritz-Carlton and other little extras.

The bidding is currently at 500,000 Marriott points, or ≈ $4,500 (or the equivalent of 82 hotel nights in Bali).

For some, access to these events that can’t be obtained any other way than through Marriott Bonvoy Moments is very appealing, but I think that here we’d rather travel more!

That said, I was kindly invited to the VIP parties that Marriott threw during the last 2 Art Basel festivals in Miami Beach (which were part of Marriott Bonvoy Moments) and it was really fun to chat with famous artists and attend intimate performances by relatively well-known singers, no doubt.

 

Using Marriott points for something other than travel

The best way to use Marriott points for something other than travel is to not do it.

Same as for every other rewards program in the world, which always give less value when you use them for anything other than travel. We certainly won’t encourage you to lose that much value; after all, our mission at Flytrippers is to help you travel more for less!

 

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Summary

The Marriott Bonvoy program is the best hotel rewards program for Canadians, with points that are so easy to earn with the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card. You have lots of options where you can use your Marriott points for free hotel nights. The points have a value of ≈ 0.9¢ each, but it varies a lot depending on how well you use them! That’s what the potential for outsized value and unlimited value is all about.

What would you like to know about the Marriott Bonvoy program? Tell us in the comments below.

 

See the deals we spot: Cheap flights

Explore awesome destinations: Travel inspiration

Learn pro tricks: Travel tips

Discover free travel: Travel rewards

 

Featured image: Fairfield by Marriott Belitung (crédit photo: Marriott)

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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: 64/193 Countries, 47/50 US States & 9/10 Canadian Provinces).

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