Marriott Hawaii
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If someone were to say “travel rewards,” your first thought might be airline miles or credit card points. Just as importantly, though, major hotel companies field their own loyalty programs with points you can earn and redeem for stays at great properties around the world.

Not only that, but you can often boost your earnings with co-branded credit cards, convert hotel points into airline miles, and even redeem points toward unique experiences like sold-out concerts or private dinners with celebrity chefs.

Marriott Bonvoy is the loyalty program of the world’s biggest hotel company, with over 6,900 properties across the globe. Here’s how to make the most of it.

What is Marriott Bonvoy?

After acquiring Starwood Hotels & Resorts in September 2016, Marriott combined its own Marriott Rewards loyalty program with Starwood Preferred Guest and Ritz-Carlton Rewards. The new Marriott Bonvoy program launched in February 2019.

Marriott now comprises 30 brands including distinct flagships like The Ritz-Carlton and St. Regis on the luxury side, JW Marriott and Westin in the middle of the range, and MOXY and Element toward the budget end of the spectrum. There are also brands you might not have heard of, such as Protea Hotels and the Tribute Portfolio. While this might seem confusing at first glance, it just means more opportunities to earn and redeem Marriott points.

How to Earn Marriott Bonvoy Points

Of course, the most obvious way to earn hotel points is to stay at hotels. Marriott Bonvoy members earn 10 points per dollar spent on eligible hotel charges (usually what’s on your final bill minus taxes), except at Element, Residence Inn, and TownePlace Suites hotels, where they earn five points per dollar. Marriott Executive Apartments and ExecuStay guests earn 2.5 points per dollar.

Bonvoy members can earn even more points by signing up for one of Marriott’s new co-branded credit cards. The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card from Chase currently offers a 75,000-point sign-up bonus for spending $3,000 within three months, and earns six points per dollar on Marriott purchases, and two points per dollar on everything else. Cardholders receive a free night after the first year, at a redemption value up to 35,000 points. There is a $95 fee per year.

The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express also currently has a sign-up bonus of 75,000 points when you spend $3,000 in the first three months and earns six points per dollar at Marriott hotels, three points per dollar at U.S. restaurants and on airfare booked directly with airlines, and two points per dollar on all other purchases. It does have a $450 annual fee, but comes with benefits like a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee reimbursement worth up to $100, an annual free night at hotels where awards cost 50,000 points or less, up to $300 in statement credits per year on Marriott purchases, and access to Priority Pass airport lounges.

Marriott and Chase also just launched the new Marriott Bonvoy Bold credit card with no annual fee. Its sign-up bonus is usually around 50,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in your first three months from account opening. The card earns three points per dollar spent at Marriott Bonvoy hotels, two points per dollar spent on other travel purchases, and one on everything else. Cardholders also enjoy automatic Marriott Bonvoy Silver elite status.

If you stay at Marriott properties, those earning bonuses can really add up, as can the points-earning opportunities on everyday purchases. As a last resort, you might also consider buying points, which normally costs $12.50 per 1,000.

How to Redeem Marriott Bonvoy Points

Members can redeem their points a number of different ways. The most obvious is by booking award nights at hotels. Marriott Bonvoy has an award chart with properties grouped into eight categories. The redemption rates are in flux at the moment as the program prepares to introduce off-peak and peak award pricing. Once it does, though, free nights will range from 4,000 to 100,000 points each depending on the category into which a hotel falls.

For instance, an award night at the Category 1 Four Points by Sheraton Little Rock Midtown is currently 7,500 points (instead of $126), while a night at the stunning Category 8 St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort is 85,000 points (instead of $2,089). When you redeem for stays of five consecutive nights, the fifth night is free, which is a handy 20-percent discount. Members can also use points to upgrade to better rooms or suites, or to pay for on-property expenses like a restaurant charge or a round of golf.

Marriott Bonvoy offers Cash + Points awards as well, where you can save some points by booking a night with a higher cash co-pay. These rates are also going to change with peak and off-peak pricing, but will range from 2,500 points plus $50 at Category 1 hotels through 50,000 points plus $635 at Category 8 properties.

Finally, Marriott fields so-called Hotel + Air packages which let members redeem a pile of points for seven-night stays and tens of thousands of airline miles in one fell swoop. To end up with seven award nights and 55,000 airline miles, you’ll need to redeem 255,000-675,000 points, depending on the hotel category.

Aside from hotel stays, members can redeem their points for Marriott Bonvoy Moments, which are one-off experiences like hanging out with Billie Eilish at the Marriott Bonvoy Lounge at Coachella (177,500 points), or attending Day One of the 2019 NFL Draft (300,000 points).

You could also redeem points for gift cards at a variety of merchants like Best Buy or Bloomingdale’s, but the value you get for your points is much less.

Marriott Bonvoy Partners

One of the unique facets of Marriott Bonvoy is the ability to convert hotel points into frequent-flier miles with over 40 airline partners including Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest, and United in the U.S.; and international carriers such as Air France/KLM, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Lufthansa, and Singapore Airlines, among others.

The transfer ratio is generally three Marriott Bonvoy points to one airline mile, and when you transfer 60,000 points at a time, you receive 5,000 bonus airline miles. (So if you transferred 60,000 Marriott points to American Airlines, for instance, you’d end up with 25,000 miles.) Members can transfer anywhere from 3,000-240,000 points per day.

Marriott has partnered with United on a program called RewardsPlus through which Marriott Bonvoy members get 10% more miles when converting points to United miles, and Marriott Titanium elites receive complimentary United MileagePlus Premier Silver status, including perks like free checked bags and priority boarding.

On the earning side, Marriott Bonvoy members can accrue three points per dollar spent on cruise vacations with CruisesOnly, and up to 2,000 points per Hertz car rental.

Elite Status Tiers and Benefits

Marriott Bonvoy members who spend a certain number of nights at hotels can earn elite status, which confers benefits like bonus points-earning opportunities, room upgrades, daily breakfast, and more.

The program currently has five tiers of elite status, starting with Silver Elite for staying 10 nights or more per calendar year. Hit this level, and you can expect to 10% bonus points on stays, late check-out times, and a dedicated reservation line. If you earn Gold Elite status by staying 25 nights or more, you can enjoy added benefits like a 25% points bonus, free premium in-room internet, and a better shot at upgrades.

Platinum Elite is earned at 50 nights and comes with a 50% bonus on points earning, late check-out extended to 4 p.m., a welcome amenity like bonus points or free breakfast, and the chance to redeem certificates for suites or to gift someone else Silver status. Titanium Elites are those who stay 75 or more nights in a year and get better upgrades, including to some suites, access to some hotel club lounges, and a 75% points bonus. Finally, if you hit 100 nights and also spend $20,000 or more on stays in a year, your Ambassador status includes top-shelf perks like a personal Ambassador to assist with your stays and the ability to choose your own 24-hour check-in and check-out times.

The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless credit card from Chase comes with 15 elite night credits each year, enough for Silver Elite status and to put Gold within 10 nights’ reach. The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express, meanwhile, confers automatic Gold Elite status with the opportunity to spend your way up to Platinum by making $75,000 in purchases in a calendar year.

Pros and Cons of Marriott Bonvoy

Marriott Bonvoy offers a tremendous array of advantages. Its huge global footprint means that travelers will find hotels where they can earn and redeem points in most major destinations around the world. Getting a fifth night free on award bookings allows members to stretch their points even further. Finally, the ability to book awards with a mix of cash and points, or to convert hotel points into airline miles at favorable rates, also afford members added flexibility to redeem points for their specific travel goals.

If you're banking on staying at aspirational properties such as Al Maha, a Luxury Collection Desert Resort and Spa in Dubai, or the Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong, however, award-night pricing can run high. Since there are so many brands under Marriott’s umbrella, this program is best for the organized type who's dedicated to keeping track in order to ensure they're getting the elite benefits they're due. And the co-branded credit cards are most ideal for frequent travelers, because they offer great benefits on hotel stays and other travel experiences, but everyday spending won't earn you tons of bonus points.

How to Sign Up

You can sign up for Marriott Bonvoy for free, and new members who make two paid stays between now and Aug. 28, 2019, will even earn a free night award worth up to 25,000 points.