Since you’re reading this, you probably already know that one of the best ways for Canadians to travel more is with the Marriott Bonvoy program. We’ll help you maximize it in 2020 so you can explore more places for less thanks to free hotel nights, but let’s start with these things to do before 2019 ends.
First of all, if you are among the many readers who’ve taken advantage of the Marriott Bonvoy Card, you got an amazing deal and have enough points for many free hotel nights.
If you haven’t, the current offer is still great: 8 free nights (or 17 if you’re in two-player mode), which is an amazing deal with the welcome bonus alone (if you don’t have good credit, subscribe for free below for our upcoming guide on how to fix that and also our upcoming guide on how to earn rewards without credit cards).
In all cases, especially if you already have the card, there’s a lot to learn, so we please ask you to subscribe to our new free travel rewards newsletter to get our upcoming Ultimate Guide to Marriott and tons of great tips about the Marriott program. Seriously, there will be so much great content!
P.S. I’ll have spent 60 nights in Marriott Hotels in 2019, including at least $5,000 in free hotels in just one year. Not bad, right? Long live Marriott Points! Imagine how much more you could travel by maximizing free nights like that!
It will save you hundreds of dollars and you won’t regret signing up (duh, it’s free):
But as the year-end approaches, here is a checklist with 6 things to do for Marriott members (and a bonus one too, with a hard-to-swallow pill for beginners… that will enable you to earn so much more points).
1. Pooling Your Marriott Points
This is the very important one. If you’ve gotten into the world of travel rewards as a team, you’ve each gotten a Marriott Bonvoy Card and therefore you’ve each gotten separate Welcome Bonuses in separate Marriott accounts.
(two-player mode is ideal to double up your rewards, if you haven’t done that yet you really should, because it’s vital to earn more free travel… if your significant other isn’t interested in investing the time into travel rewards, just manage their points strategy for them, but don’t leave free travel on the table)
For many reasons, it’s much simpler to have all your points in the same account. For example to make bookings easier and also for Elite status (see item #5 on this list).
But you can only transfer 100,000 Points each calendar year, so you need to do this in the next 3 days. Pool your points together in one “main” account and make everything simpler going forward.
It’s free and easy for those who’ve had their accounts open for either 30 days (or 90 days depending on your account activity).
Unfortunately, as if we were still in 2006 or something, you need to call Marriott to do this. There is no way to do it online.
The person transferring the points needs to call 1-800-627-7468 and ask to pool points. Have both account numbers on hand and it is a relatively quick call. à
I just did it to get my girlfriend’s points into my account since I manage the points, and I travel (a lot) more and therefore have Elite Status on my account… and the points
2. Using Your Annual Free Night Award
This one is more of a reminder than anything else, but it’s so important that it’s worth mentioning again. We want to make sure you don’t make a common mistake, since it’s like the $200 annual travel credit for those who have the Platinum Card (only recommended for those who travel a lot) that you receive on your renewal date and expires the same day one year later.
Many of you took advantage of the offer in March, when the Marriott Bonvoy Card was refreshed and rebranded.
That means in just a few months, your card will renew. And some people who struggle with math will make the mistake of canceling the card because there is no longer a Welcome Bonus to offset the $120 fee, but that makes no sense.
Why? Remember that the card comes with an Annual Free Night Award that gives you a completely free night at a Category 5 hotel.
This is insane value, and worth so much more than $120 if you use it right. In fact, even if you use it very badly, as those who didn’t read How To Maximize Your Marriott Points often do, it’s almost humanly impossible not to get at least $120 in value from that free night.
So don’t cancel the card. Closing cards is also bad for your credit score (see the list’s bonus item below).
Just to give you one example, when researching my Spain trip (to take advantage of the Category 1 and 2 hotels there) I was considering a stop in Portugal and the Ritz-Carlton Penha Longa Resort was selling for €420 (C$614). You can get that free with your card’s annual free night.
There are a lot more like this, we’re putting together a list of the best Marriott Category 5 hotels for you. And it’s super easy to apply the free night, we’ll show you a step-by-step in our Marriott Guide.
But just know that canceling the card doesn’t make sense if you plan on spending even just one night in a hotel in 2020.
3. Planning For 2020
Speaking of maximizing your points and planning ahead, this also doesn’t need to be done before the 31st, but the more you prepare, the more value you’ll get. I recently told you about that for all things travel, and it’s true for travel rewards points as well.
If you want to get the most free nights out of your points and travel longer or for less, then make that a priority. Plan trips around the Marriott Bonvoy Card‘s points.
The best countries to do so are Spain, South Africa, Indonesia, Colombia, China, and India. All of those places are amazing destinations, and they’re even better when hotels are free. Especially when you get 17 nights! I spent a few weeks in both Spain and Southern Africa in 2019 to get free hotels.
We’ll have a lot more content about these destinations and these hotels particularly, so again, sign up for free to get it all first!
4. Taking Advantage Of Seasonal Promos
We’ll tell you more about these, but Marriott (and all hotel chains) have seasonal promos that help you earn more points for your paid stays. It is very useful for those who are chasing elite status (see next item on the list), but for everyone it can be worth switching a stay to a Marriott hotel if the price is similar during the promos.
Especially when the promos are interesting. Because yes, every season’s promo is different, and some are better than others.
Marriott’s current promo ends January 14 but you need to register before December 31st (on your online account, under “promotions”). Currently, you’ll get 2,000 bonus points after 2 stays (and then another offer after those 2, I got 12,000 Points for 5 stays). That one is actually pretty underwhelming, but it’s coming to an end soon.
Maybe the next promo will be better, and we’ll tell you all about it here. It will surely be announced soon, but in the meantime, if you have stays planned from today to January 14th, make sure to register to at least get the small bonus.
You should always register for these promos just in case, it only takes a second online. That way you don’t need to worry about it for a few months and you’re going to get the bonuses automatically if you book a Marriott hotel.
Pro tip: when promos are “per stay” like this one, changing hotels every night allows you to double or triple (or more) your points. Because each night will then count as a separate stay. I don’t always do it if it doesn’t make sense, but for example the next 2 nights in Miami, both hotels are within walking distance so I’ll change and therefore unlock my 12,000 Points bonus from the promo (that gets me 2 completely free Category 1 nights, just by switching hotels, not that big of a hassle!).
Sure, it’s less convenient, but that’s always your choice in travel: choose more convenience or more value. This will be my 12th international trip this year, because I always choose more value and cumulatively it adds up.
Luckily, my girlfriend mostly sees things like I do and let’s me make those bookings. It sure helps that she spent 35 nights in Marriott Hotels with me in 2019 for a grand total of close to $0, so at least $3,000 in free hotels this year alone. I spent another 25 nights solo, so another $2,000 in free hotels at least.
When you want to maximize, you can get amazing value!
5. Earning Elite Status
As I mentioned in the Marriott Bonvoy Card review, you’ll get automatic Silver Elite Status. That doesn’t give you much, but the card has an elite shortcut benefit, which means you just need to stay 10 nights to reach Gold Elite (instead of 25 normally).
That’s easy considering you’ll get 17 free nights with the Welcome Bonus in two-player mode, so if you’ve used your points this year, you might already be Gold for all of 2020. I explained it all in the article about the Marriott Elite statuses.
Usually, those who are 1 or 2 nights short of a threshold will try to stay in Marriott hotels in the last days of the year to reach the next level for all of the next year. But honestly, Gold isn’t really worth chasing if you haven’t reached them already, especially since there are only a few nights left in the year to do so.
But if you plan on staying in hotels a lot, elite status is amazing and you might want to make a plan to reach the levels required in 2020.
I am currently headed to Miami for my nights #74 and #75 (#59 and #60 in reality with the shortcut) to reach Titanium Elite for the first time, and seeing how amazing being Platinum Elite has been in 2019, the budget-traveler in me is excited about the benefits. This is a whole other topic that we’ll cover in our guide, if you’re interested in free breakfast, free suites, and a lot more advantages.
6. Maximizing Earn Rates On Spending
This isn’t a year-end task really and isn’t really for the Marriott Card, but just a reminder while I have your attention. I recently shared 2 tips that apply for all credit cards, but many people still don’t know.
If you want to maximize your free travel, this will double or triple or quadruple your rewards, so it’s worth it.
First is using shopping portals to buy everything online, and the second is to buy gift cards with a card that has a category bonus (see the next item on this list for more on that).
Bonus. Earning More Marriott Points
Another heads-up, there is a way to earn a lot more Marriott Points in 2020 if you want more than the 100,000 or so points you’ve earned with the Marriott Bonvoy Card‘s welcome bonus.
For those who are new to travel rewards, the most important thing to understand first, is that the “conventional wisdom” and what you thought you knew about credit cards is plain wrong. Contrary to what most believe, having multiple credit cards is better for your credit score.
Yes, better. It’s not debatable, it’s mathematical. That’s how credit scores are calculated. We’ll share all the details about this in January, but basically, if you pay every card in full every month, your credit score will improve by getting a new card, because it positively affects all the major parts of how your score is calculated.
Most people don’t know how any of this works and cancel their old card when they order a new one. Then, of course their score drops because closing cards is bad and having just one card is bad too. So then they believe the myth that opening a new card is bad. But they’ve got it all wrong.
I’ve been into travel rewards for over 10 years, have 10 cards currently and my credit score is still over 800. It’s just how it works, it’s nothing surprising.
Anyway, I love my Marriott Card but it isn’t even the card that earns me the most Marriott Points.
My Cobalt Card is the one I use the most. It is unique, because the Welcome Bonus isn’t like all other cards: it’s spread out over 12 months. So it’s especially good for those who spend a lot every month. And “a lot” just means $500 a month, which is actually pretty easy if you shop at a grocery store that accepts AMEX. That’s only about $115 in “groceries” every week over a year, not too hard for families and even couples.
I personally literally changed grocery stores for this card: it earns 6 Marriott Points per dollar on groceries. That is simply amazing. It is 200% more than the Marriott Card, which earns 2 Points everywhere (I use it for my spending in non-bonused categories). With the gift card trick, I therefore earn 6 Marriott Points on almost all of my purchases.
And back to the Welcome Bonus. If you spend $500 on the Cobalt Card each month for the next year, you’ll earn a whopping 72,000 Marriott Points. That is 12 free nights in Category 1 hotels for only $115 of groceries per week.
Let’s say $1,000 in value easily, for $6,000 in purchases. That’s a 16.67% return. Now do you get why it’s wrong to think that “1% or 2% cashback” is going to get you far?
And there is another card option, we’ll share it in the Ultimate Guide as well, if you want to raise your free travel game to the next level in 2020!
Sign up for free!
There are so many more easy ways to maximize your Marriott Bonvoy points, we can’t wait to help you do so in 2020.