While I write a lot about the value of hotel loyalty programs, I’ve never written a post specifically about the best way to go about redeeming Marriott Bonvoy points, and how I use my points. So just as I wrote a guide to redeeming Hilton Honors points, in this post I wanted to share strategies for redeeming Marriott Bonvoy points for maximum value.
Basics of redeeming Marriott Bonvoy points
Let’s start by talking about the basics of redeeming Marriott Bonvoy points – how much should you expect to pay for free nights, are there blackout dates, how much are Marriott Bonvoy points worth, etc.?
I value Marriott Bonvoy points at 0.7 cents each
Personally I value Marriott Bonvoy points at 0.7 cents each. There’s no science to that, but rather I think that’s a fair, conservative valuation for what the points are worth. In other words, I won’t redeem my Bonvoy points unless I can get well over 0.7 cents of value per point. This also accounts for the ability to convert Marriott Bonvoy points into airline miles at a fair ratio.
It’s important to come up with a points valuation for yourself (it can be different than mine), so that you can decide whether to pay cash or redeem points for a hotel stay.
Marriott Bonvoy has dynamic award pricing
Nowadays Marriott Bonvoy no longer has an award chart, but rather has dynamic award pricing. That means that the number of points required for a free night stay can vary based on how much a stay would cost in cash. This was only introduced in 2022, and the policy is being rolled out somewhat slowly.
For 2022, there are still some limits on how much a hotel stay can cost with points, while starting in 2023, there will no longer be a minimum of maximum number of points required for a hotel stay.
As a general rule of thumb, you can expect that most properties cost somewhere between 5,000 and 120,000 points per night.
Marriott Bonvoy award blackout dates policy
Every hotel loyalty program has a different policy when it comes to blackout dates. Generally speaking, hotel loyalty programs let you redeem points for a stay as long as a standard room is available for sale. Unfortunately in the case of Marriott Bonvoy, there is a limited blackout dates policy.
What does that mean? Marriott Bonvoy doesn’t have blackout dates, but there are some capacity controls at times. On most days, most Marriott properties will make all standard rooms available for awards, though on a limited number of days, hotels can limit the number of standard rooms available for awards.
In other words, it’s possible that a hotel could have standard rooms available for sale if paying cash, but not with points. That should be the exception rather than the norm, though.
Marriott Bonvoy offers a fifth night free on awards
If you want to maximize your Marriott Bonvoy points, I recommend redeeming for hotel stays in five night increments. Marriott has a fifth night free policy for awards, or more accurately, it’s now called “Stay for 5, Pay for 4.”
When you redeem points for five consecutive nights at a property, you’ll only be charged the points for four nights. The cheapest of the five nights won’t be charged. You can use this back-to-back for multiple stays, so if you stay 10 nights, you could get two nights free.
Marriott Bonvoy points can be converted into airline miles
One cool thing about Marriott Bonvoy is that points can efficiently be converted into airline miles. Marriott Bonvoy has over three dozen airline partners, and points transfer at a 3: 1 ratio. You get a bonus of 5,000 miles for every 60,000 Bonvoy points you transfer, meaning that 60,000 Bonvoy points will typically get you 25,000 airline miles.
While this isn’t how I’d personally generally prefer to use my points, it’s not a bad use of points if you’re struggling to get good value with them otherwise.
Marriott Cash & Points usually isn’t a great value
Marriott has a Cash & Points program, whereby (as the name suggests) you can redeem part cash and part points toward a hotel stay. This comes with significantly more capacity controls than standard free night award redemptions, so it won’t always be available.
To see if Cash & Points is available, just search for regular free night award availability, and if it’s available, you’ll see it listed as an option. You can crunch the numbers with each redemption, but more often than not I find that this doesn’t represent a great value.
For example, take the Duxton Reserve Singapore, where the rate is either 43,000 Bonvoy points or 21,500 Bonvoy points plus 170 SGD (~ 122 USD). You’re essentially paying $ 122 to save 21,500 Bonvoy points, which is a decent deal, since I value those points at $ 150.
The catch? This isn’t a great redemption to begin with, since the revenue cost would only be $ 294.
As another example, take the Sheraton Grand Dubai, where the rate is either 35,000 Bonvoy points or 17,500 Bonvoy points plus 202 AED (~ 55 USD). You’re essentially paying $ 55 to save 17,500 Bonvoy points, which is a good deal, since I value those points at $ 123.
The catch? This also isn’t a great redemption to begin with, since the revenue cost would only be $ 131.
Essentially you’ll typically find that Cash & Points is sometimes a good deal compared to outright redeeming points, though often redeeming points at these hotels isn’t a good deal to begin with, since the revenue rates are typically low. Why? Cash & Points is capacity controlled, and typically only available when the hotel isn’t forecasted to be full, so those are also situations where cash rates might not be that high.
The Marriott Bonvoy award calendar is useful
I find Marriott Bonvoy’s calendar feature to be incredibly useful for deciding when it’s a good deal to redeem points. When you search a destination, just select the “Flexible Dates” tab, and then you can choose the month where you want to search availability.
You’ll then see award pricing for an entire month at a time, which is an easy way to see when you can get the best deal.
You can then also switch between the award calendar and the pricing calendar, to see when you’re going to get the best value. For example, in the case of the hotel I was searching, it’s interesting how both October 25 and November 1 cost 57,000 Bonvoy points, while when paying cash they cost 517 EUR and 412 EUR, respectively. Obviously you’d get a better deal redeeming points with the former option, in terms of value per point.
Earn Marriott Bonvoy elite status to get more value
When you do redeem points, you’ll of course want to get as much value on-property as possible. That’s where having elite status really helps, especially if you can earn Bonvoy Platinum Elite, Titanium Elite, or Ambassador Elite status. This is where benefits really start to get valuable, in terms of getting suite upgrades, receiving complimentary breakfast, and having access to Choice Benefits.
Keep in mind that Marriott Bonvoy status is pretty easy to earn in the United States with credit cards. You can easily earn up to 30 elite nights per year just for having two co-branded Marriott credit cards, including the Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card (review) and Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant ™ American Express® Card (review).
Pool Marriott Bonvoy points to maximize value
While not as generous as the policies of Hilton Honors or World of Hyatt, Marriott Bonvoy does let you pool points between accounts. You can do this with any other member, though you’re limited to transferring up to 100,000 points per calendar year, and you can receive up to 500,000 points per calendar year.
The best uses of Marriott Bonvoy points
With the basics of redeeming Marriott Bonvoy points out of the way, how do you get the most value from your points? Unfortunately this isn’t nearly as straightforward as it used to be. Back in the day when Marriott had a published award chart, it was easy to extract outsized value by redeeming at hotels during peak periods.
That isn’t so simple anymore, since Marriott now has dynamic award pricing, and pricing will vary even more starting in 2023.
I continue to redeem my Marriott Bonvoy points for free night redemptions in standard rooms, ideally for five nights (so one night is free). There’s no longer a consistent sweet spot in the way that there was before, but rather I’m finding some value with Bonvoy points for all kinds of redemptions.
Here’s how I generally think about it:
- The most luxurious hotels during the highest demand periods generally still represent a great use of points, at least compared to the cash cost; there are still some limits on Marriott Bonvoy’s award pricing
- Beyond that, you’ll often find the best value using points in markets during quieter periods, where the cash rates don’t shift hugely by season; this comes down to the economics of Marriott Bonvoy, as the program pays a lot less when members redeem points at properties that aren’t close to being full
Let me use the St. Regis Aspen as an example, as this is a popular ski resort. In the peak of winter, I can find a five night award stay for 478,000 Bonvoy points (including one free night), which comes out to an average of 95,600 Bonvoy points per night (which I value at ~ $ 669).
The cash rate, meanwhile, would be over $ 1,600 per night. Suffice it to say that redeeming points is quite a good value.
Another aspirational destination is the Maldives, so let’s also use the Ritz-Carlton Maldives as an example. During a busy period I can find a five night award stay for 468,000 Bonvoy points (including one free night), which comes out to an average of 93,600 Bonvoy points per night (which I value at ~ $ 655).
The cash rate, meanwhile, would be over $ 2,250 per night, so that’s an amazing use of points.
So for the time being luxury properties still do represent the best value, though it’ll be interesting to see how that evolves in 2023 and beyond.
Marriott Bonvoy is a popular hotel loyalty program, which I’ve been participating in for well over a decade. While the program isn’t nearly as useful as back in the day, there’s still value to be had.
Nowadays Marriott Bonvoy has dynamic award pricing, so there’s no longer an award chart. However, until 2023 many hotels still have a cap on how many points can be charged, so pricing isn’t totally outrageous, for the most part.
I continue to find the most value with Marriott Bonvoy to be booking luxury hotels in standard rooms for periods of five nights, especially hotels that would otherwise retail for $ 1,500 + per night.
What has your experience been with redeeming Marriott Bonvoy points?