Given the increased interest in hotel programs and their complementary nature with hotel programs, I decided to do a deep-dive on Marriott, similar to the one I did on Delta starting here. I will use the same structure, with Part I about earning points, Part II focusing on redeeming points and Part III discussing elite status.
The most obvious way to earn points is by staying at a hotel. While there are programs with more actual properties than Marriott has, none can match the breadth of Marriott’s product offering. Marriott has 15 different brands, ranging from luxury (Ritz-Carlton) to mid-tier (Fairfield) to extended stay (TownePlace Suites). If you are looking for a program that offers you the maximum number of options, you should go with Marriott or Hilton. So here we go…
[important]Note: When booking Marriott hotels, you can earn up to 3% back by accessing Marriott through a shopping portal. This one is a gimme. Details are here.[/important]
Valuing Marriott Points
There is simply no good way to value points from any loyalty program, since people use them in such different ways. That will not, of course, stop me from trying, so I went through a number of hotels and determined how much it would cost to stay, in both points and dollars. And while there are always outliers, the general range was from 0.6-1.2 cents per point, with the majority grouped around 0.8c per point when used at a hotel, and slightly less for anything else. But let’s look at one factor: Marriott will sell you points for 1.25c each, so they’re worth less than that.
Earning Points at Hotels
The majority of Marriott’s properties earn ten Marriott Rewards (MR) points per dollars spent, although elite members earn bonuses based on their status. The extended stay properties and executive apartment partners only earn five points per dollar. For purposes of redemptions, there are nine categories, with options ranging from 6,000 points for the least expensive to 70,000 points for a room at the swankiest Ritz-Carlton properties.
Like all good travel companies, Marriott has a list of partners through which you can earn points, including rental cars, cruises and online shopping. Marriott’s list of partners is slimmer than most, however. Among the better ones:
- Hertz’s offer is particularly good, with a promotion currently running that can get you 5,000 MR points (and a discount code for the rental). That’s a very strong deal for a rental car partnership, since rental car companies are particularly stingy with their rewards.
- The shopping portal is adequate, but not great. Truthfully, if you want the Marriott points that much, you’d be better off shopping at a cash-back portal and buying the points directly from Marriott.
- Diners Club points transfer one-for-one into Marriott points. Not a great use, but one of the few programs outside of Marriott that will exchange for Marriott points.
The Credit Card
The partner upside is that Marriott has one of, if not the best (along with Hilton’s) credit cards (both personal and business) among all hotel programs. The sign-up bonus alone is outstanding:
- A free night in any Category 1-4 hotel, generally about $80-$140.
- 50,000 points if you spend $1,000 in the first three months, which will get you a night at the Ritz (with possibly a few points left over, a week at a Cat 1 property or something in-between).
- There’s no annual fee the first year but for every year you renew at $85, you’ll get a free night in a Cat 1-5 hotel ($100-150).
Other benefits are pretty straightforward:
- Five points per dollar spent at Marriott; two on airlines, car rentals and restaurants; one everywhere else
- 15 credits toward elite status, which gets you silver status, and one more credit for every $3,000 in spend
- No foreign exchange fee
Full disclosure policy: I have a link for the personal card and may receive compensation if you are approved. Just go here, scroll down and click on the third banner (miles and travel). The card is on the second page. I am very appreciative if you use my link.
When booking a hotel, always check out Marriott’s bonus offers page. As of now, there are 262 offers, ranging from Aberdeen to the Virgin Islands (Alas, there was nothing in Zambia to give me A to Z.) You could end up with bonus points, a discounted rate or a free meal.
Finally, there are a few more ways to earn points that I will categorize as “odds and ends.” They include:
- Social Media: Far be it from Marriott to miss out on the social media phenomenon. And while Marriott’s “Get in on the Game” is not nearly as profitable as JetBlue’s badges program, a few points here and there never hurt. Free is free.
- Book an event: Holding a conference, wedding, seance, etc.? Marriott will happily shell out points to book through them.
- Referrals: I actually didn’t know about this method when I started writing this post, but it’s somewhat clever. You can refer up to five new members each year, and both you and your referral earn 2,000 points for each of your referral’s first five stays. That’s a possible 50,000 points per year for sending out some emails.
- Buying/gifting/transferring points: An absolute last resort is buying or gifting (Transferring points to a spouse/domestic partner is free.). They’ll charge you 1.25c per point, but if you need points to keep your account active or to round up to an award, so be it.
- United Airlines elite members can convert miles to MR points 1 for 1, up to 50,000 per year.
Bottom Line: Earning points at Marriott is not difficult. Work it right and you can be staying several nights per year for free.
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