Bonvoy points are fairly easy to accumulate via both credit cards and hotel stays, but using them to book travel can get complicated and overwhelming in a hurry. Should you use your points to book hotel stays? Or use one of Marriott’s other options? And what counts as a “good redemption” for Marriott points?
We’ll explain everything below, but here are the main takeaways:
When in doubt, use Marriott points to book hotel nights, preferably for five consecutive nights.
Try to get at least 0.7 cent per point in value from your redemption — that’s our current value for Bonvoy points.
Don’t transfer your points or use them to shop for stuff, unless you have a particularly great redemption lined up.
» Learn more: Marriott Bonvoy program: The complete guide
The best ways to use Marriott Bonvoy points
Stay at Marriott hotels
Obviously, you can redeem your points for hotel stays. This is the simplest option and, for most travelers, the one that offers the best value. However, in order to get more out of your points, there are a few tips that you need to keep in mind:
Understand Peak and off-peak pricing
All the hotels in the Marriott portfolio are assigned a category. The higher the category, the more points your stay will require. On top of that, each property has peak and off-peak pricing. If it’s a busy time for the hotel, expect to redeem more points. If it’s the off-season for that property, you can expect to pay less.
Rooms start at 5,000 points per night for an off-peak Category 1 hotel and go as high as 100,000 points for a peak award at a Category 8 hotel.
Keep in mind that “peak” and “off-peak” does not necessarily map onto specific seasons throughout the year, but can apply to high-demand dates including weekends and specific holidays.
Marriott does not make it easy to tell when you’re looking at an off-peak or peak price. You’ll have to do a little homework, comparing the award chart to the number of points needed:
For example, the Courtyard Pittsburgh Downtown is a Category 5 property and the weekend rate displayed is 35,000, so we can deduce that it is a “standard” rate.
Just because a hotel is in a lower category doesn’t mean it’s bad. For example, we’ve stayed at a number of great Category 1 and 2 Protea hotels in Africa. Our favorite stay was at the Protea Hotel Kruger Gate, located at the entrance to Kruger National Park. This Category 2 property starts at 10,000 points per night.
On the flip side, some budget brands like Courtyard Marriott in Seattle and Portland clock in at 30,000 points per night or more.
In general, award categories reflect the normal cash prices for these rooms, but you can maximize your points by targeting locations and dates when these diverge, as we explain below.
How to get the most value from hotel bookings
Since award prices are relatively stable and cash prices can fluctuate greatly depending on demand, the trick is to find redemption dates when cash prices are high. For example, if you’re visiting a city during a busy time like a convention, cash prices will likely be high. That’s a perfect time to check for award availability.
If you’re not sure whether the redemption you’re considering offers good value, use this calculator:
If the value of the points needed to book the room is lower than the cash booking cost, you’re getting good value.
Redeem five consecutive nights
When you book a five-night award stay with your Marriott points, you’ll get the fifth night free. This applies across all Marriott hotels, for both peak and off-peak dates. This means you automatically get a 20% discount when booking five night award stays, and offers a strong incentive to target these longer redemptions
The reduced redemption rates shows up automatically when you book online, so you don’t have to worry about any rebates or coupon codes. The Marriott site will display a small reminder on the booking screen so you know you’re getting the free night:
Of course, accumulating enough points to book a five-night stay at a luxury property can be challenging, so the flip side of this strategy is to target longer bookings at lower award category hotels. That is, booking a five-night stay at a Category 1 property might offer better value than a one-night stay at a Category 7.
» Learn more: 10 great ways to use 50,000 Bonvoy points
Transfer to airlines
Unlike most hotel reward programs, Marriott Bonvoy lets you transfer points to participating airline programs. This might sound like a great way to use your points, but there’s a big catch: Most points transfer at a three-to-one ratio, meaning three Bonvoy points are converted to one airline mile.
Given that Marriott points are worth about 0.7 cent each, it’s hard to find examples where transfering them in this way makes any sense, financially.
Unless you are an adept travel maximizer with a specific air award redemption in your sights, we recommend avoiding this option.
Book Hotel + Air packages
Planning on staying seven days or more in the same location? An often underutilized feature of the Marriott Bonvoy program is the Hotel + Air packages. These packages start at 255,000 points and include a seven-night hotel stay and either 50,000 or 100,000 airline miles in the program of your choosing.
With dozens of partners to choose from, redeeming points for one of these packages should be a breeze. Some partners you may know of include American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Southwest and Delta Air Lines. Lesser-known partners include JAL Mileage Bank, Asiana Club, Avianca LifeMiles and Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles.
If you fly on United Airlines, you can take advantage of the United and Marriott partnership called RewardsPlus. When you redeem your points for the United package, you’ll get a 10% bonus, up to 10,000 extra United Airlines miles.
Use points advance
See a good deal and want to snag the price but don’t have enough points in your account? Marriott will let you make a reservation in advance without having the required points in your account.
Under the Points Advance program, you can snag that sought-after room — as long as you’ve got the points in your account 14 days before arrival, you’re good to go. Marriott will, for all intents and purposes, trust that you’re going to earn the points before you get there. If you don’t have the points needed and complete the reservation before that time frame, the room will be canceled.
There is one caveat that is important to mention in regards to Points Advance bookings: Many luxury hotels have restrictive cancellation policies that are earlier than the 14 days imposed by Points Advance. For example, the Al Maha Desert Resort in Dubai has a penalty-free cancellation policy of 30 days before arrival. Make sure you know the rules for each property you’re booking.
Purchase Marriott Bonvoy Moments
Want to head to the Super Bowl? How about a concert from the luxury box in Madison Square Garden? With Marriott Bonvoy Moments, you can use your points to bid on experiences that may otherwise be unattainable.
The worst ways to use your Marriott Bonvoy points
You can use your Bonvoy points to buy stuff through a shopping portal, but it’s usually not a good idea.
There is no set cent-per-point value for Bonvoy points used in this way, so you’ll have to compare the cash price for each item manually, and the value will almost certainly be lower than our 0.7 cent value. That is: Using Bonvoy points to shop is a rip-off, but is an option if you desperately need to burn through them.
The bottom line
The Marriott Bonvoy program is one of the largest hotel rewards programs in the world, and deciding how to redeem points can feel like a huge challenge. Our recommendation is to keep it simple: Use Bonvoy points to book Marriott hotels, and try to get above-average value by using points instead of cash during particularly high-demand dates.
Hotel points don’t have to just be for hotels anymore. While you can still redeem them for a stay and get great value, you can also use them for flights and experiences that make Marriott Bonvoy points one of the more flexible currencies out there in the miles and points world.
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