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Marriott Bonvoy is the loyalty program for Marriott Hotels, where you can earn and redeem points for stays at over 5,700 hotels worldwide. Marriott Bonvoy was introduced in 2018, after Marriott combined their three separate programs — Marriott Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) and The Ritz-Carlton Rewards — into one loyalty program.
1. Transferring Marriott Bonvoy points to airlines
One sweet spot unique to Marriott is transferring your points to airlines. A few other types of hotel point currencies from other hotel chains can be transferred to airline miles (and vice versa), but it's typically a poor use of miles and points. That's not necessarily true though for Marriott, where its airline transfer program is surprisingly useful at reasonable redemption rates.
Marriott has partnered with over 40 different airlines, and in most cases, you can transfer points at a 3:1 ratio. You do need to transfer in increments of 3,000 Marriott Bonvoy points. The only airlines that transfer at a ratio other than 3:1 are Air New Zealand (200:1), JetBlue (6:1) and United MileagePlus (3:1.1).
You also get a bonus of 5,000 airline miles if you transfer at least 60,000 Bonvoy points. That makes 60,000 Bonvoy points equal to 25,000 airline miles in most cases. If you’re planning on taking advantage of this Marriott sweet spot, you’ll definitely want to maximize this bonus by transferring in 60,000-point increments.
» Learn more: Why I love Marriott Bonvoy
2. Fifth night free at low-level Marriotts
Another Marriott sweet spot is booking five-night award stays at low-level (Category 1-4) Marriott hotels. When you redeem Marriott Bonvoy points, you’ll get the fifth night free.
Whether you're staying at a swanky St. Regis or a more affordable Fairfield Inn, that's effectively a 20% discount when you book on points.
How peak pricing factors into fifth night free
Marriott hotels now price at either off-peak, standard or peak rates — and unlike other programs where peak or off-peak is determined in advance by a calendar, Marriott hotels implement this variable pricing by the night. So a multi-day stay may have different prices on each night.
During a five-night Marriott award stay, you’ll get the lowest-priced night for free (which may be any night of the stay). You’ll find a sweet spot by using that fifth night free at low-level Marriotts, where award nights can be had as low as 5,000 points and top out at only 30,000 points even during peak times.
Here’s one example of a Category 3 hotel where using the fifth night free gets you really nice value at an Autograph-branded hotel in Australia:
You’ll get five nights for 80,000 points (four nights at 20,000 with the fifth night free). Compare that to booking these same nights with cash — where it would cost over $1,800. That’s a value of 2.3 cents for each Bonvoy point, which is more than double NerdWallet's valuation of 0.7 cent per point.
3. JW Marriott hotels in Asia
JW Marriott is one of Marriott’s luxury brands, and many JW Marriott properties are in the high reaches of the award chart. One place where you can find JW Marriott luxury at more reasonable prices is in several countries in Asia. Check out some of these options for Category 4 or lower JW Marriotts in Asia:
JW Marriott Absheron Baku (Azerbaijan) - Category 4.
JW Marriott Beijing - Category 4.
JW Marriott Shanghai Changfeng Park - Category 3.
JW Marriott Surabaya (Indonesia) - Category 2.
JW Marriott Hotel Kuala Lumpur - Category 3.
JW Marriott Hotel Hanoi - Category 4.
JW Marriott Ankara - Category 2.
JW Marriott Bengaluru - Category 4.
Consequently, a five-night stay at standard rates at these JW Marriotts would only set you back:
50,000 total points (Category 2).
70,000 total points (Category 3).
100,000 total points (Category 4).
» Learn more: Your guide to the Marriott Bonvoy award chart
4. Category 1 AC Hotels in Spain
Marriott’s AC Hotel brand is billed as “the perfectly precise hotel,” and is mostly focused in Europe. There are 10 different Category 1 AC Hotels in Spain that are found throughout the country, including in Badajoz, Murcia, Guadalajara (one hour outside Madrid) and more. Yes, some of these locations are a bit off the traditional tourist path — but they could be a perfect option for a low-cost trip through Spain.
Category 1 hotels cost between 5,000 and 10,000 points per night depending on whether you’re booking on an off-peak, standard or peak date. With the fifth night free, you could stay five nights at one of these hotels for as low as 20,000 points total. There are also plenty of other AC Hotels in Category 2, 3 and beyond, mostly in Europe or the United States.
The bottom line
What constitutes a sweet spot will of course depend exactly on what you value most while traveling, but hopefully you now have a few ideas on how you can spend your Marriott Bonvoy points, as well as how to integrate the fifth night free benefit into certain geographical sweet spots.
Photo courtesy of Marriott International.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card