2018 Marriott Rewards Program – WalletHub Editor’s Review
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While some of its sub-brands may not be top of mind, the Marriott name is familiar to most people. It’s one of the oldest and most expansive in the hotel industry, carrying with it an aura of legitimacy and expectations for a certain level of quality at the chain’s more than 4,000 worldwide locations.
What frequent travelers must determine, however, is the extent to which Marriott’s loyalty rewards program contributes to the chain’s overall popularity. In other words, does Marriott Rewards have 49 million members because it’s particularly lucrative or consumer-friendly relative to other hotel loyalty programs, or simply because Marriott is a dominant industry name to begin with?
It doesn’t ultimately matter for already-loyal Marriott customers, as Marriott Rewards is free to join and there’s little reason to refrain from doing so if your hotel decision is already locked in. In that case, your focus should be on maximizing earnings within the program’s framework. But if you have your pick of the hospitality litter, so to speak, then the program’s place in the hotel rewards hierarchy is crucial. With that in mind, we’ll break down the pertinent points for both types of groups below.
Marriott Rewards Pros & Cons
|Relatively valuable points when used to book free nights||Terrible redemption rates for merchandise and non-hotel travel accommodations|
|Elite-level members receive discounts on rewards night bookings||Confusing hotel categories and tiers|
|Decent, but unspectacular co-branded credit card||The amount you earn depends on what type of Marriott you stay in|
|International ubiquity with more than 4,200 properties in 80 countries||Elite rewards status is hard to earn without the Marriott Credit Card|
|Wide range of price points thanks to portfolio of popular sub-brands||Points expire after 24 months of account inactivity|
|No blackout dates on standard rooms||Travel redemption nuances and discrepancies on website confuse users|
How To Earn Marriott Points
Marriott Rewards members earn points on certain purchases made through the chain. As you’ll see below, exactly which types of transactions accrue points and the number of points you’ll receive per dollar spent depend on the particular Marriott-owned brand you’re shacking up with.
10 Points Per $1 Spent On:
Room Rates, Room Service, Spa Access & Other Marriott-Provided Qualifying Purchases
10 Points Per $1 Spent On:
5 Points Per $1 Spent On:
2.5 Points Per $1 Spent On:
Point Bonuses/Discounts: Marriott will often post special deals on its websites, whereby members have the opportunity to earn significantly more points for stays at certain Marriott locations or book certain rooms for significantly fewer points. This can be a great way to save money, but the timing has to be right and there’s certainly no guarantee of that.
Program Levels & Membership Perks
Every hotel rewards program has status tiers based on members’ brand loyalty. The more you stay/spend with a given hotel, the more perks you will get. The key is to figure out the value of these perks, within the context of your own spending habits, and then compare it to the cost of attaining them. We’ll break things down as they relate to Marriott below.
|Tiers||Annual Cost To Qualify||Primary Benefits||Secondary Perks|
|Rewards Member||Free||Every 5th rewards night is free||Free WiFi
No blackout dates
With Marriott Credit Card: $0 the first year; $85 per year thereafter
Without Marriott Credit Card: $1,507 (10 nights)
|20% point bonus on Marriott reservations
|Priority late checkout
All the benefits of Rewards Member status
With Marriott Credit Card: $5,274 the first year; $5,359 thereafter (35 nights, plus card fees)
Without Marriott Credit Card: $7,534 per year (50 nights)
|25% point bonus on Marriott reservations
Complimentary room upgrade
Hertz #1 Gold membership
Breakfast for two
All the benefits of Silver Elite status
With Marriott Credit Card: $9,040 the first year; $9,125 thereafter (60 nights, plus card fees)
Without Marriott Credit Card: $11,300 (75 nights)
|50% point bonus on Marriott reservationsUnited MileagePlus Premier status||Guaranteed room availability if you book at least 48 hours in advance (except at Marriott Vacation Club)
Platinum Elite arrival gift with each stay (complimentary food/drink and/or 200 – 1,000 bonus points)
All the benefits of Gold Elite status
Note: Annual costs to qualify reflect Marriott’s $150.67 average daily room rate, as of February 2015 (the most recent data available), and the fact that Marriott Premier cardholders receive 15 Elite credits (the equivalent of having stayed 15 nights) each year on their account anniversary.
Marriott Rewards Credit Cards
Marriott has two rewards credit cards: one for consumers and one branded for business use.
You can check out WalletHub’s review of the consumer version, the Marriott Premier Credit Card, for a more thorough breakdown, but the bottom line is that it offers a lot of value and certainly shouldn’t serve as a reason not to join Marriott Rewards. In fact, people who spend around $1,000 each year at hotels would earn roughly 8 free nights over the first 24 months they have this card. But it’s also not the best hotel rewards credit card on the market, so it shouldn’t necessarily serve as an outright reason to join Marriott Rewards if you’re not already a brand-loyal Marriott customer.
Marriott Premier Credit Card
Marriott Business Credit Card
The company’s enterprise solution, the Marriott Business Credit Card, offers 20,000 more bonus points than the consumer version; adds office supplies and telecom services to the list of purchases approved to earn 2 points per $1 spent; and costs $14 more per year (after the first account anniversary). Again, it’s a solid option if you’re a business owner whose company spends a lot with Marriott, but it isn’t all that remarkable otherwise.
How Much Are Marriott Points Worth?
People often get so caught up in earning more points or miles that they forget the other, more important side of the equation. Points and miles are “pretend” currencies, worth whatever a credit card company says they are. So, 100,000 points could be worth $1,000 or $10, depending on how many are needed to redeem for a given perk that carries a certain dollar value.
With hotel rewards cards, it’s important to determine how many points are needed for a free night. This, as it turns out, is not a constant based on the category of a particular Marriott-owned hotel, as the company’s website may lead you to believe. Rather, the value of a Marriott point fluctuates significantly based on demand. You’ll obviously need more points for more expensive rooms, but as you’ll see below, you can also expect to shell out more for weekend nights – especially during your destination’s peak travel season.
Point Values By Time Period & Destination
City-Specific Redemption Rates
|City||Marriott Hotels||Points Needed For A Free Night||Best Values||Worst Values|
|MOST POPULAR DOMESTIC DESTINATIONS|
|Courtyard Chicago Downtown/Magnificent Mile ($337.58 room for 35,000 points)
Fairfield Inn & Suites Chicago Midway Airport ($232.99 room for 25,000 points)
Residence Inn Chicago Wilmette ($185.19 room for 20,000 points)
|Renaissance Chicago O'Hare Suites Hotel ($138.52 room for 25,000 points)
Chicago Marriott Suites O'Hare ($175.90 room for 30,000 points)
Chicago Marriott at Medical District/UIC ($220 room for 35,000 points)
|The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, Autograph Collection ($742.93 room for 65,000 points)
Residence Inn Las Vegas Henderson/Green Valley ($155.68 room for 15,000 points)
|Renaissance Las Vegas Hotel ($122.08 room for 28,333 points)
Marriott's Grand Chateau ($159.41 room for 33,333 points)
|SpringHill Suites New York LaGuardia Airport ($449.88 room for 30,000 points)
Courtyard Lyndhurst Meadowlands ($219.09 room for 15,000 points)
|Newark Liberty International Airport Marriott ($183.64 room for 35,000 points)
Fairfield Inn & Suites New York Manhattan/Fifth Avenue ($222.67 room for 40,000 points)
|The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco ($735.09 room for 60,000 points)
Courtyard San Francisco Airport/Oyster Point Waterfront ($291.92 room for 30,000 points)
|San Francisco Airport Marriott Waterfront ($191.04 room for 35,000 points)
Courtyard Oakland Downtown ($204.22 room for 30,000 points)
|TownePlace Suites Clinton at Joint Base Andrews ($202.27 room for 7,500 points)
Residence Inn Largo Capital Beltway ($270.07 room for 15,000 points)
|Crystal City Marriott at Reagan National Airport ($123.17 room for 30,000 points)
Crystal Gateway Marriott ($145.77 room for 30,000 points)
|MOST POPULAR INTERNATIONAL DESTINATIONS|
|JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa ($546.21 room for 40,000 points)
The Ritz-Carlton, Cancun ($629.51 room for 50,000 points)
|CasaMagna Marriott Cancun Resort ($391.51 room for 35,000 points)
Courtyard Cancun Airport ($177.31 room for 15,000 points)
|London Marriott Hotel Park Lane ($614.46 room for 35,000 points)
London Marriott Hotel County Hall ($536.43 room for 45,000 points)
|Renaissance London Heathrow Hotel ($130.90 room for 35,000 points)
London Marriott Hotel Twickenham (188.39 room for 35,000 points)
|Paris Marriott Champs-Élysées Hotel ($984.95 room for 45,000 points)
Renaissance Paris Vendôme Hotel ($565.49 room for 45,000 points)
|Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport Marriott Hotel ($181.01 room for 35,000 points)
Courtyard Paris Boulogne ($159.85 room for 35,000 points)
|Tokyo Marriott Hotel ($315.63 room for 40,000 points)||The Prince Sakura Tower Tokyo, Autograph Collection ($555.40 room for 70,000 points)|
|Courtyard Toronto Airport ($121.04 room for 10,000 points)
TownePlace Suites Mississauga-Airport Corporate Centre ($106.32 room for 10,000 points)
|Toronto Airport Marriott Hotel ($106.17 room for 25,000 points)
Toronto Marriott Downtown Eaton Centre Hotel ($213.23 for 35,000 points)
WalletHub calculated Marriott point valuations by comparing room rates in 10 popular travel destinations – 5 domestic and 5 international – to the number of points needed to book a rewards night. We did this for all Marriott-owned hotel locations within 15 miles of the city center in each destination, applying the process to weekend and weekday dates in each destination’s high and shoulder tourist seasons.
Your primary (and best) redemption option is to exchange Marriott points for free hotel nights. Points tend to be worth more when you do so than when you use them for merchandise or other travel.
The problem is, Marriott adds a lot of unnecessary confusion to the process with its rewards night redemption table (see below). For starters, it lists nine hotel “categories” and only five “tiers,” with no apparent differentiation between the two provided. Digging through the FAQs reveals that the categories apply to Marriott Rewards, while the tiers apply to the Marriott-owned and -operated Ritz-Carlton Rewards. Simple, right?
The other important thing to note here is that Marriott’s redemption rates – both for tiers and categories – are only approximations that do not exactly equal the prices users are quoted when they actually go to book. Members must be sure to keep this in mind when planning their trips.
|Marriott’s Official Categories & Tiers|
|Category||Points Needed For Free Night(PointSavers Price)*||Tier||Points Needed For Free Night(PointSavers Price)*|
* Marriott markets redemption discounts – the ability to purchase free nights with fewer points than would normally be required – under the PointSavers banner. It’s certainly a good idea to look for PointSavers discounts when booking, but it’s not any sort of special program that you have to sign up for if that’s what you were thinking.
Upgrades are available starting from 5,000 points. But you may need to pay two or three multiples of that, depending on the hotel and the extent of the upgrade you have in mind. What’s more, you may not be able to use points for upgrades in international locations, as they often must be paid for in the local currency.
Flights, Rental Cars & Cruises:
Marriott enables you to pay for these types of travel accommodations using points in a couple of different ways.
- Air+Car: For starters, customers can book flights and rental car reservations through Marriott’s Air+Car redemption portal. Unfortunately, you won’t get your money’s worth with this approach. Points seem to be worth about half as much as those used to book Marriott stays.
RewardsPlus: Customers can convert their Marriott points into the rewards currencies used by the various air, rail and hotel brands that fall under United Airlines’ MileagePlus program. This includes United, obviously, as well as British Airways, Southwest Airlines, JetBlue, Virgin, The Continental Hotel of Las Vegas and more. But, as is the case with the aforementioned Air+Car option, using points in this manner would cost you money.
For instance, you would need 8,000 Marriott points to purchase 2,000 United miles and 24,000 points to get 10,000 miles. If you really think United miles are that much more valuable than Marriott points, you might as well get a United MileagePlus Explorer Credit Card.
This enables you to pay for purchases made while at Marriott locations using points instead of cash. You can get anywhere from $0.0022 per point (or a total of $5) when you spend 2,500 points to $0.0053 per point (or a total of $1,000) when you spend 190,000 points. In other words, this redemption strategy will never be a good deal.
You can buy a wide variety of merchandise using points in Marriott’s online shopping mall, but you shouldn’t even bother looking, as point valuations are very low. For example, a North Face backpack that you can buy elsewhere for around $100 costs 37,500 Marriott points. When you further consider that 40,000 points or miles equate to $400 with other credit cards, it’s clear this type of redemption is a bad deal.
Pointers & Potential Pitfalls
Making the most of a travel rewards program requires a bit of strategy and foresight. Here’s our biggest advice for prospective Marriott Rewards members:
Only Redeem For Free Marriott Nights: It’s important to think of hotel points in dollar terms. In other words, how much is whatever you’re redeeming for actually worth? Such an approach makes it easy to see that each point will go much farther when cashed in for a free night as opposed to airfare, rental car reservations and merchandise.
This ultimately does make sense. You are joining Marriott Rewards, after all. But it’s important to realize this from the start because while you may think you’re joining an all-in-one travel rewards program, there are far more efficient ways to accrue non-Marriott savings.
- Take Advantage Of Status Perks: The assorted small perks with which members are rewarded for their financial loyalty can be a big selling point for hotel rewards programs, but they are often forgotten by users as time goes by.
- Get The Marriott Rewards Card: If you’re truly serious about earning free Marriott stays, then you should make sure to have the chain’s co-branded credit card. It will enable you to rack up Marriott points without making reservations or in-hotel purchases, thereby making it more likely that you will have enough in your account when it comes time to put them to use. The Marriott Rewards Credit Card is also a relatively inexpensive way to attain elite Marriott status.
- Make Sure To Have A Separate Card For Everyday Spending, Too: The Marriott Card offers competitive earnings on hotel reservations (within the Marriott family) as well as purchases made at gas stations, restaurants, and drug stores. On everything else, you’ll actually reap below-average value. That’s why you should put an everyday rewards card into your wallet as well. Doing so rounds out your rewards arsenal, making it so you get your money’s worth on every transaction.
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