Marriott Bonvoy is by far the best hotel rewards program for Canadian travelers. The merger with SPG and Ritz-Carlton makes Marriott the world’s largest hotel chain… but with 30 different hotel brands, it’s sometimes hard to understand what each one of them is supposed to represent—or tell the difference between them.
Now is the best time to earn Marriott points with the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card and the American Express Cobalt Card (both have increased welcome bonuses), to be ready to get free hotels for your next trip — whenever that will be for you.
So here’s an overview of each Marriott hotel brand’s positioning (and soon, subscribers of our free rewards newsletter will receive a more detailed guide to each brand, including my personal experience in 20 of the 30 brands).
Marriott categories vs. Marriott brands
First, each and every one of Marriott’s 8,000+ hotels around the world is part of one of the 30 hotel brands and is also classified into one of 8 hotel categories.
Marriott’s hotel brands are not to be confused with Marriott’s hotel categories:
- hotel brands: the name on the hotel’s sign
- hotel categories: a classification for reward night pricing only
The categories are what determines the number of points you need for a free night. That’s the most vital classification.
The brands are what determines what the experience in that hotel is meant to be; the hotel’s positioning.
Categories and hotel brands are unrelated: within the same brand, some hotels are in Category 1 while others are in Category 5. There’s no correlation, even though of course the most luxurious brands are mostly in the higher categories. But categories depend on many factors, most importantly the hotel’s location and what the cost of living is over there.
So a great way to maximize the value of your Marriott points is to use them for free nights in hotels that belong to the most luxurious brands but happen to be in the lowest hotel categories (and therefore cost fewer points).
Why you should know Marriott hotel brands
With 30 brands, it can be confusing to search for hotels. I mean you probably have heard of Ritz-Carlton, and you know right away that it is a very luxurious brand. But you probably don’t know the 29 others, unless you’re a total travel rewards nerd like. That’s normal!
So if I tell you to choose between “St. Regis” and “SpringHill Suites” and you don’t know those brands, you might think they’re comparable… but they’re worlds apart. If you don’t know the brands, you’ll have to check everything each time you do a hotel search in a new destination. That’s time-consuming.
The point is that if you at least knowing the brands’ overall positioning, it will definitely make all of your hotel searches a lot easier and faster. If you see a St. Regis that is cheap (with cash or with points), you’ll know right away that that’s a way better deal than a SpringHill Suites at a similar price.
You won’t have to always check every hotel to get an idea of what to expect. It’s useful to help you decide between properties, by knowing which hotel brands are meant to be more upscale or offer more services.
But I’d recommend also considering Marriott members’ reviews, the score out of 5 that is always prominently displayed or each individual hotel on the Marriott website.
That’s because a brand-new hotel from an “inferior” brand can often offer a better overall experience than an older more dated hotel from a “superior” brand, depending on each traveler’s priorities. So brands are not the only thing to consider, but it helps you plan your next free stays with your Marriott points.
The positioning of Marriott hotel brands
Marriott groups all of its 30 hotel brands under 3 levels and 2 distinct segments.
Let’s start with the infographic in case you’re more of a visual person:
First, let’s clearly explain the 2 types of brand classification:
- the level (vertical axis) is really the brand’s level of luxury and services
- the segment (horizontal axis) is the brand’s style and personality
Here’s our own interpretation of both to summarize, before we look more closely at the brands.
So from most luxurious to least luxurious, the 3 levels are pretty simple:
- luxury hotels are among the most upscale hotels in the world
- premium hotels are the other “full-service” brands
- select hotels are entry-level affordable “limited-service” brands
Finally, all 3 of those levels are further split into 2 separate segments, and it’s really about the design and overall atmosphere:
- distinctive hotels are trendy and modern, a bit more of a hip and young vibe
- classic is, well, classic… or more traditional and less edgy/innovative
You might have noticed that 4 hotel brands have a special classification, regardless of their level or segment:
- longer stays are quite simply “extended-stay” hotels with kitchenettes
Last thing: sometimes you’ll see 29, 30, or even 31 brands. There are in fact more than 29 Marriott hotel brands, but only 29 brands participate in the Marriott Bonvoy rewards program. Yes, 2 luxury brands are excluded:
- Bulgari (it has only 6 hotels in the world; it’s Marriott’s smallest by both property count and room count so it’s not really a big deal)
- Ritz-Carlton Reserve (a small sub-brand of Ritz-Carlton that also has just a few resorts—to be clear Ritz-Carlton participates in the program; just not Ritz-Carlton Reserve)
Then, there are also 2 brands that are sometimes displayed, but are unique in their positioning:
- Marriott Vacation Club (Marriott’s brand of timeshare properties)
- Homes & Villas by Marriott (Marriott’s answer to Airbnb)
The latter is not in the graphic above and won’t be included below since those aren’t hotels.
Overview of each Marriott Bonvoy hotel brand
Let’s dive deeper into Marriott’s hotel brands.
For now, we’ll show you one representative picture of each brand and highlight a few properties, but our detailed guide will also have each brand’s key properties around the world and many Marriott hotel reviews.
Marriott Bonvoy hotel brands – Luxury
We are not luxury travelers, and Flytrippers’ travel rewards section is mostly geared towards people who want to travel more often and for free, not necessarily in luxury.
That said, in some destinations with a low cost of living, luxury hotels are extremely affordable (in cash or in points). And most importantly, if you are going to splurge on high-end hotels, regardless of the country, it’s often a good idea to use points instead of cash (it’s another way to maximize the value of your points).
Here are the 3 Marriott Bonvoy Classic Luxury brands:
- The Ritz-Carlton
- St. Regis
- JW Marriott
And the 5 Marriott Bonvoy Distinctive Luxury brands:
- The Luxury Collection
- W Hotels
- Ritz-Carlton Reserve (does not participate in Bonvoy)
- Bulgari (does not participate in Bonvoy)
Marriott Bonvoy hotel brands – Premium
This is the sweet spot and the great compromise for those looking to splurge and use points, as there is great value to be found for premium hotels in affordable countries. And everything is more luxurious outside of North America, always keep that in mind.
Here are the 4 Marriott Bonvoy Classic Premium brands:
- Marriott Vacation Club (timeshares)
- Marriott Executive Apartments (Longer Stays)
And the 7 Marriott Bonvoy Distinctive Premium brands:
- Le Méridien
- Autograph Collection
- Tribute Portfolio
- Design Hotels
Marriott Bonvoy hotel brands – Select
This collection is where most of our own stays are in, because we love to stretch our points for as many free nights as we can.
The best value can be found in Category 1 and Category 2 hotels, the ones that require the least amount of points. Most are select hotels, although in many destinations premium hotels can quite often be Category 1 and Category 2 hotels too.
In our post about all the Marriott Category 1 hotels, we’ve mentioned the brands that stand out.
Here are the 5 Marriott Bonvoy Classic Select brands:
- Four Points
- SpringHill Suites
- Residence Inn (Longer Stays)
- TownePlace Suites (Longer Stays)
And here are the 3 Marriott Bonvoy Distinctive Select brands:
- AC Hotels
- Element (Longer Stays)
Want to learn how to earn more travel rewards thanks to Marriott points?
Here is a good overview of all the 30 Marriott Bonvoy program hotel brands to help you plan out your future travels. Check out for our Introduction to the Marriott Bonvoy program for a lot more information on maximizing your points.
What would you like to know about Marriott hotel brands? Tell us in the comments below.
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Featured image: Renaissance Phuket (photo credit: Marriott)
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