Marriott is now the largest hotel chain in the world with over 30 different brands. Where ever you go, chances are there is a Marriott nearby, so it’s a good program to get to know. Marriott Rewards actually includes 3 separate programs – Marriott, Ritz Carlton and Starwood Preferred Guest. Starwood was acquired by Marriott last year so I expect these programs to eventually be combined into one, but probably not until next year. While Starwood is technically part of Marriott, as of now, their rewards programs are separate.
Earning Marriott Rewards Points
- Hotel Stays: You can earn Marriott Rewards points at over 4,000 Marriott properties worldwide and participating Ritz Carlton properties. Staying at all but 2 brands will earn you 10 points per dollar spent (note some brands only award points for room rates)
- Marriott Rewards Premier Visa from Chase: With this card, you will earn 5 points per dollar spent at over 5,700 participating Marriott and Starwood hotels. Earn 2 points per dollar on airline tickets purchased directly with the airline, at car rental agencies, and restaurants. Earn 1 point per dollar on everything else. There is currently an 80,000 point bonus when you spend $3,000 on the card in the first 3 months.
- Transfer from Chase Ultimate Rewards: Chase points transfer 1:1 to Marriott. Earn Chase Ultimate Rewards Points through credit cards like Chase Sapphire Preferred as well as through Shopping Portals.
- Transfer from Starwood Preferred Guest: SPG points transfer at a 1:3 ratio to Marriott points. That means for every 1 SPG point you transfer, you will receive 3 Marriott points! You can earn SPG points through hotel stays and the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Card.
- Transfer from American Express: Now that SPG is part of Marriott, you can transfer American Express points into Marriott points through SPG. You can transfer Amex points into Starwood Preferred Guest points at a 3:1 ratio (.333 Starwood points for each Amex Point). Then transfer those SPG points into Marriott points at a 1:3 ratio (1 Starwood point turns into 3 Marriott points).
- Shop Through Marriott Shopping Portal: These points take FOREVER to post and most of the time I had to chase Marriott for the points so use this portal with caution. There are better shopping portals to use, in my opinion.
Using Marriott Rewards Points – Hotel Stays
There are many ways you can technically use your Marriott Rewards points including purchasing gift cards and transferring to an airline. Those typically offer horrible redemption rates so I don’t recommend them at all.
Marriott offers 9 categories of hotels and 5 additional tiers for Ritz Carlton properties. Each category or tier costs a specific number of points to book. When you book 4 consecutive nights with points you will receive the 5th night FREE!
Using Points – Travel Packages
This is a fantastic way to use your Marriott points. A Marriott Hotel + Air Package allows you to use your points to purchase a 7 night stay at a Marriott or Ritz Carlton property plus a stash of airline miles. The package prices vary based on the category of hotel you choose and how many airline miles you want. Packages start at 200,000 points. I recently wrote about how I purchased a Hotel + Air Package. Do not use these packages for Category 1-4 hotels. You will be throwing points away.
Using Points – Transfer to Starwood Preferred Guest
Now that Marriott has acquired Starwood Hotels, you can transfer points back and forth between the two programs. For every 3 Marriott points you transfer, however, you will only get 1 Starwood Starpoint. Depending on the Starwood hotel you would like to book , this can still give you a good redemption value.
There are lots of ways to look at how to value a reward program’s points. It isn’t an exact science and can be very subjective. I use The Points Guy’s Monthly Point Valuations as a loose guide to the value I should be getting from my points. He values Marriott points at .7-.9 cents per piece. Use this as a guide, but remember it’s just an estimate.
When I redeem points for a hotel, I want it to be worthwhile and sometimes, it makes more sense to pay cash for a room. For example, we stayed at the Marriott Stanton South Beach last October. The cash rate we paid for one night was $223 (including taxes and fees) . This is a category 9 hotel requiring 45,000 points for one night. That means I would have only gotten .5 cents per point if I had used points for this stay.
However, with all of that said, if points can get you to a destination that you want or need to be that couldn’t otherwise happen then it’s a valuable redemption for you. As much as I love getting great value out of my points, sometimes it doesn’t happen – and that’s ok! It’s all just a game. Happy Travels.