January 21, 2021

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The best ways to earn and redeem Marriott points for maximum value

17 min read

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  • The Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program includes over 7,000 properties across 32 brands worldwide, so it’s easy to find a Marriott hotel just about anywhere you go.
  • It’s easy to earn Marriott points from paid stays or with co-branded credit cards, including the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card and Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card.
  • The Bonvoy program is one of the most versatile around, with options to use Marriott points for free hotel nights, points and cash bookings, and a fifth night free on award stays.
  • You can also transfer Marriott points to over 40 airlines, including some that don’t partner with any other flexible-points programs, like Alaska Airlines.
  • Read Business Insider’s guide to the best Marriott Bonvoy credit cards.

With over 7,000 properties under its umbrella, Marriott is by far the largest major hotel chain. Size isn’t everything, but its broad footprint is great news for Marriott customers who’ll usually have multiple hotels to choose from in big cities and smaller destinations all over the world. 

Marriott leapfrogged into this number one spot a few years ago when it acquired Starwood Hotels. In the process, it picked up some of the most aspirational points hotels on the planet (think — overwater bungalows in Bora Bora, luxury villas in the desert outside of Dubai, ski resorts in Aspen, and so much more), while preserving some of the most popular features of the old Starwood Preferred Guest loyalty program. 

Flexibility is one of the most valuable and underrated things for award travelers to focus on, but Marriott makes it easy at the 32 different brands that are part of the Marriott Bonvoy family. If you’re looking for a luxury hotel you can choose from well-known brands like St. Regis, Ritz Carlton, and JW Marriott, while budget or extended-stay travelers often have their pick of multiple Courtyard, Aloft, or Four Points properties within the same city.

And if your plans change and you don’t need to book a hotel, Marriott lets you transfer your points to over 40 different airlines — it’s hard to find more versatility than that.

Here’s everything you need to know to start earning and redeeming Marriott Bonvoy points.

Earn points from Marriott Bonvoy hotel stays

There are plenty of different ways to earn Marriott points, but let’s start with the most simple one: earning points on hotel stays. Marriott Bonvoy members earn 10x points per eligible dollar spent on hotel stays, including your room rate, food and beverage, spa treatments, and other incidental charges.

If you stay enough with Marriott to earn elite status, you’ll earn a bonus multiplier at the following rates:

  • Marriott Silver status: 10% bonus
  • Marriott Gold status: 25% bonus
  • Marriott Platinum status: 50% bonus
  • Marriott Titanium status: 75% bonus
  • Marriott Ambassador status: 75% bonus

This means that a general member of the Marriott program who spends $500 staying at a hotel (excluding taxes) will earn 5,000 points ($500 x 10 points per dollar), while a top-tier Ambassador elite member would earn 8,750 points on the same stay ($500 x 17.5 points per dollar). Marriott makes it really easy to earn elite status by holding the right combination of credit cards (more on that in a minute), and if you’re spending a lot of money at Marriott properties this can be a great way to turbocharge your earnings.

When booking stays at a Marriott hotel, it’s important to book directly with Marriott and make sure that your Bonvoy number is attached to the reservation to make sure your points post correctly. I’ve personally had a lot of problems with hotels posting the incorrect number of points to my account — as many as 50% of my stays have issues, so I strongly recommend double-checking your earnings after you check out to make sure everything is correct. 

Earn points from Marriott credit cards

Marriott is one of the only travel brands to issue co-branded credit cards with two different banks — a relic of the pre-merger Marriott and Starwood programs that partnered with Chase and American Express, respectively. The credit card portfolio has changed significantly since the merger, but there are currently four options open to new applicants (two each from Chase and Amex). 

While the exact earning rates and benefits vary from card to card, all cards except the no-annual-fee Marriott Bonvoy Bold™ Credit Card offer 6 points per dollar on Marriott purchases and 2 points per dollar on non-bonus spending.

Regular APR

15.74% to 24.74% variable APR

Credit Score

Good to Excellent

Featured Reward

Earn up to 125,000 Marriott Bonvoy points. Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Plus, earn an additional 25,000 bonus points after your first anniversary of Card Membership. Offer Expires 1/13/2021.

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  • Details
  • Pros & Cons

    • Earn up to 125,000 Marriott Bonvoy points. Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Plus, earn an additional 25,000 bonus points after your first anniversary of Card Membership. Offer Expires 1/13/2021.
    • Enjoy complimentary Platinum Elite status with your Card for the 2021 status year. Offer Expires 1/13/2021.
    • Enjoy up to $300 in statement credits each year of Card Membership for eligible purchases at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels.
    • Earn 6 Marriott Bonvoy points for each dollar of eligible purchases at participating Marriott Bonvoy Hotels. 3 points at U.S. restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines. 2 points on all other eligible purchases.
    • Receive 1 free Night Award every year after your Card account anniversary. Award can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy Points) at a participating hotel. Certain hotels have resort fees.
    • Enjoy unlimited airport lounge visits when you enroll in Priority Pass Select membership.
    • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
    • $450 annual fee.
    • Terms Apply.
    Pros
    • Annual statement credits can save you money on Marriott stays
    • You get a free reward night each year after your account anniversary
    Cons
    • High annual fee
    • Other cards are more rewarding for earning points on your spending

    Read Our Review
    Read Our ReviewA looong arrow, pointing right

    Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card

    Starting at the top of the ladder is the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card, which is currently offering a bonus that lets you Earn up to 125,000 Marriott Bonvoy points. Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Plus, earn an additional 25,000 bonus points after your first anniversary of Card Membership. Offer Expires 1/13/2021. 

    The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card is the premium Marriott card, with a $450 annual fee ((See Rates)) and luxury perks to match. Cardholders enjoy a $300 annual Marriott property credit (valid on room rates, food and drink, spa treatments, and more), which reduces your effective out-of-pocket cost to just $150.

    In exchange for that, you get complimentary Marriott Platinum elite status for the 2021 year, a Priority Pass Select membership, and an anniversary free night worth up to 50,000 points. This last benefit is my personal favorite, as I’m usually able to redeem that free-night certificate for well over $400 in value. This year, before the pandemic, I was able to use my free night to book a $650 room at the St. Regis Langkawi in Malaysia.

    The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card earns 6 Marriott points for each dollar of eligible purchases at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels, 3 points per dollar at U.S. restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines, and 2 points on all other eligible purchases.

    Regular APR

    15.99% – 22.99% Variable

    Credit Score

    Good to Excellent

    Featured Reward

    75,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening

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  • Details
  • Pros & Cons

    • Earn 75,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
    • 1 Free Night Award (valued up to 35,000 points) every year after account anniversary.
    • Earn 6X Bonvoy points per $1 spent at over 7,000 hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy™.
    • 2X Bonvoy points for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
    • Automatic Silver Elite Status each account anniversary year. Path to Gold Status when you spend $35,000 on purchases each account year.
    • 15 Elite Night Credits each calendar year.
    • No foreign transaction fees.
    • Earn unlimited Marriott Bonvoy points and get Free Night Stays faster
    Pros
    • Annual free night reward for hotels that cost up to 35,000 points can be worth more than annual fee
    Cons
    • The only lucrative bonus category is participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels
    • Upgrading to Gold status requires spending $35,000 on the card in an account year,

    Read Our Review
    Read Our ReviewA looong arrow, pointing right

    Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card

    If you’re looking to add a Marriott card to your wallet but can’t justify the annual fee of the Bonvoy Brilliant, consider the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card from Chase. It currently offers 75,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

    The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card carries a $95 annual fee and comes with automatic Marriott Silver elite status and an anniversary night worth up to 35,000 points. Cardholders earn 6x points on all Marriott purchases and 2x everywhere else.

    Regular APR

    15.74% – 24.74%

    Featured Reward

    Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Marriott Bonvoy points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases within your first 3 months of Card Membership. Earn up to $150 in statement credits within your first 6 months of Card Membership for all eligible purchases on your Card on U.S. Advertising in select Media. Plus receive complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Platinum Elite status for one year (February 1, 2021-January 31, 2022). Offer ends 1/13/21.

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  • Details
  • Pros & Cons

    • The information related to the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card has been collected by Business Insider and has not been reviewed by the issuer
    • Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Marriott Bonvoy points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases within your first 3 months of Card Membership. Earn up to $150 in statement credits within your first 6 months of Card Membership for all eligible purchases on your Card on U.S. Advertising in select Media. Plus receive complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Platinum Elite status for one year (February 1, 2021-January 31, 2022). Offer ends 1/13/21.
    • 6x points at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels.
    • 4x points at U.S. restaurants, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping. 2x points on all other eligible purchases.
    • Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card account anniversary. Plus, earn an additional Free Night Award after you spend $60K in purchases on your Card in a calendar year. Awards can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy points) at a participating hotel. Certain hotels have resort fees.
    • Terms apply.
    Pros
    • Comes with a free night reward every year after your account anniversary
    • Earns 4x points on several bonus spending categories, including US purchases for shipping and US restaurants
    Cons
    • The complimentary Silver elite status isn’t very valuable
    • Not the best option for earning rewards on non-bonus category purchases

    Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card

    Post-merger, Amex is the sole issuer of Marriott Bonvoy business credit cards. The Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card currently has a Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Marriott Bonvoy points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases within your first 3 months of Card Membership. Earn up to $150 in statement credits within your first 6 months of Card Membership for all eligible purchases on your Card on U.S. Advertising in select Media. Plus receive complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Platinum Elite status for one year (February 1, 2021-January 31, 2022). Offer ends 1/13/21.

    The card comes with a $125 annual fee and an anniversary night worth up to 35,000 points, and if you spend $60,000 or more in a calendar year, you’ll receive another anniversary night worth up to 35,000 points.

    Similar to the other cards on this list, the Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex Card earns 6x points on Marriott purchases and 2x on non-bonus spending, though it also throws in 4x points per dollar at U.S. restaurants, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers, and on U.S. purchases for shipping.

    Regular APR

    15.99% – 22.99% Variable

    Credit Score

    Good to Excellent

    Featured Reward

    30,000 Bonus Points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening

    Chevron iconIt indicates an expandable section or menu, or sometimes previous / next navigation options.

  • Details
  • Pros & Cons

    • Earn 30,000 Bonus Points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
    • No Annual Fee!
    • Earn 3X Bonvoy points per $1 spent at over 7,000 hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy™.
    • 2X Bonvoy points for every $1 spent on other travel purchases (from airfare to taxis and trains).
    • 1X point for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
    • Receive 15 Elite Night Credits annually, qualifying you for Silver Elite Status. Restrictions apply.
    • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
    • Earn unlimited Marriott Bonvoy points and get Free Night Stays faster.
    Pros
    • No annual fee
    • Cardholders get 15 elite night credits toward status
    Cons
    • Only offers strong rewards for Marriott purchases

    Read Our Review
    Read Our ReviewA looong arrow, pointing right

    Marriott Bonvoy Bold™ Credit Card

    Finally, there’s the no-annual-fee Marriott Bonvoy Bold™ Credit Card from Chase. When it comes to travel rewards cards you usually get what you pay for, and cheaper is not necessarily better. This card comes with reduced earning rates (3x points on Marriott purchases, 2x on other travel purchases, 1x everywhere else) and no anniversary free night certificate.

    It’s currently offering a modest bonus of just 30,000 Bonus Points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, so unless you absolutely will not pay an annual fee, any of the other Marriott credit cards are a better choice.

    Insider tip: While you can earn Marriott elite status the old-fashioned way with frequent hotel stays, credit cards offer a powerful shortcut and can help boost your earning rates. While all Marriott credit cards offer at least Silver elite status, they also come with 15 elite night credits that can help you upgrade to the next level.

    You’re allowed to earn one set of credits from a personal card and one from a business card each year, meaning that if you hold, for example, the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card and the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card, you’ll earn 30 elite night credits a year. That means you just need to spend 20 nights in a hotel in order to earn Platinum status and the free breakfast and suite upgrades it unlocks.

    Another elite-status tip: If you have The Platinum Card® from American Express or The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, you’ll get complimentary Marriott Gold elite status — just be sure to activate the benefit, as it doesn’t happen automatically.

    Refer friends to Marriott credit cards

    Once you start racking up points and using them for memorable family vacations or luxury getaways around the globe, you’re bound to get questions from friends who want to get in on the action.

    The best part is that you can get rewarded for good advice. If you refer a friend who gets approved for a Marriott Bonvoy credit card, you stand to earn 20,000 points or more to get you started on your next vacation.

    Transfer Chase or Amex points to Marriott  

    If you find yourself just short on the points you need for an upcoming reservation, you can consider transferring points from Chase Ultimate Rewards or American Express Membership Rewards to Marriott Bonvoy. Points transfer at a 1:1 ratio, though Amex occasionally offers transfer bonuses to sweeten the deal.

    This is generally a pretty poor value compared to redeeming your Chase and Amex points for flights, and you should really only consider this if you’re short on points and running out of time.

    Buy Marriott points

    Marriott allows you to purchase points in 1,000-point increments, starting at $12.50 for 1,000 points. You can only purchase or receive as a gift up to 50,000 points per year.

    Make sure to keep your eye out for sales or bonuses on purchased points. We’ve seen several this year alone, and these promotions can help make this a compelling option to boost your balance.

    Use Marriott’s Earn Around Town dining program

    Marriott offers the ability to earn bonus points when dining at local restaurants with the “Earn Around Town” dining program.

    It’s free to join — you simply register, link your preferred credit card(s), and the points will automatically roll in when you dine at a participating partner. You can even earn 1,000 points when you spend $30 in your first 30 days.

    Marriott’s award chart has eight categories, each of which is subdivided into off-peak, standard, and peak pricing. Where you’ll get the most value depends on how and when you like to travel, but usually, the best deals come at the top and bottom of the award chart.

    Most of my favorite Marriott redemptions have been for Category 8 properties, like spending 100,000 points a night to stay in an overwater villa at the W Maldives (for a room that would’ve cost well over $1,500 a night). Still, no matter what type of trip you’re looking for, here are a few tips you can use to maximize your Marriott Bonvoy redemptions.

    If you’re looking to stretch your points, Marriott also offers the option to combine cash and points for hotel bookings. 

    Take advantage of Marriott’s 5th night free

    Whether you’re getting pampered in a beachfront Ritz Carlton or stretching your points on a backpacking trip, 20% off your award rate (in the form of a fifth night free) is an incredible deal. This year alone I’ve used the benefit to save hundreds of thousands of points by enjoying free nights in the Maldives and Dubai.

    Marriott makes this perk quite easy to use, as it will automatically show up when you search for eligible award stays of five nights or more. Now that peak and off-peak pricing are in full swing, the perk will give you the cheapest night of your stay for free — not necessarily the actual fifth night (this is important if some dates of your stay are off-peak while others are standard or peak).

    Use Marriott Points Advance to buy time

    Just about anyone can open the right credit card and start earning points, but finding the award space you want on the dates you need can often be challenging. This is why I love Marriott’s Points Advance feature, which lets you lock in award space even if you don’t have enough points in your account.

    You have until 14 days before check-in to earn the points you need, but this can buy you valuable time especially if you’re planning a trip to aspirational and competitive properties like the St. Regis Maldives. While Points Advance guarantees your award space, it doesn’t lock in the rate.

    You’ll be on the hook to pay whatever the rate is at the time you complete your booking, whether that’s off-peak, standard, or peak. This might even end up working in your favor if the hotel you’re looking at ends up dropping to off-peak rates.

    Free night certificates can be excellent value

    I end up with quite a few 35,000-point free night certificates each year thanks to holding multiple Bonvoy credit cards, and over the years they’ve helped me unlock some of my most valuable redemptions.

    35,000 points roughly maps to a Category 5 hotel on the Marriott award chart, though Category 5 properties at peak pricing are excluded. If you’re selective and intentional with how you redeem these nights, they can offer you a comfortable stay while saving you hundreds of dollars.

    One of my best uses came on a business trip to Chicago early last year. Nearly every hotel room in the city was booked up for a major conference, but I was able to redeem a 35,000-point free night certificate at the JW Marriott Chicago for a room that would’ve cost $680 instead. Don’t worry — if the JW is all booked up, Chicago alone has nearly a dozen Category 5 properties to choose from.

    I’ve also used certificates to stay at lower-category luxury hotels like the St. Regis Beijing, as well as boutique properties in places like Hong Kong and Cambridge. 

    Don’t forget about airline redemptions

    We’ve talked a lot about flexibility, which is why I want to end by highlighting the fact that Marriott Bonvoy offers more airline transfer partners than Chase Ultimate Rewards and Amex Membership Rewards combined!

    Some of these partners overlap with other programs (like United MileagePlus or British Airways Executive Club), but many are unique to Marriott and offer truly outsized value. Nearly all airlines transfer at a 3:1 ratio, with a 5,000-mile bonus for every 60,000 Marriott points transferred.

    Take Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan, for example. 180,000 Marriott points could get you a nice two- or three-night stay in an upscale luxury hotel, or you could transfer that into 70,000 Alaska Airlines miles. That’s enough to book a one-way first-class ticket from the US to Asia on either Cathay Pacific or Japan Airlines — two of the top carriers in the world.

    Alaska even lets you include a free stopover on one-way awards, so you could fly from New York to Hong Kong, stop for a week or two to explore the city, and continue on to Singapore at no added cost. Since Alaska doesn’t partner with any other transferable points currency, this is the fastest way to earn a meaningful number of miles.

    Hotel + Air packages

    Marriott Bonvoy offers another option if you want to use points for airfare and a hotel stay. Marriott’s Hotel + Air packages start at 255,000 points for a seven-night hotel stay at a Category 1 to 4 Marriott plus 50,000 miles with a participating airline (55,000 miles if you transfer to United). 

    At the top end, you’ll pay 750,000 Marriott points for a seven-night stay at a luxury Category 8 hotel plus get 100,000 airline miles (110,000 with United). While these packages cost a lot of points, they can represent significant savings compared to booking flights and hotels separately.

    You’ve got other options for using Marriott points (including non-travel redemptions), but you’ll typically get much less value than if you redeem for Marriott stays or transfer your points to airlines:

    • Use points to book airfare, car rentals, or air and car packages
    • Redeem points for exclusive events, experiences, concerts, tours, and more through Marriott Bonvoy Moments
    • Cash in points for gift cards or merchandise through Marriott Shop With Points
    • Donate points to charity for disaster relief, including the American Red Cross and Unicef

    Marriott also offers the ability to share points with other members, up to a maximum of 100,000 points per year, in increments of 1,000 points. This is helpful if you (or a friend) are short points for an award stay, or if you’re traveling together and want to pool your points for a redemption.

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