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Marriott’s hotel loyalty program got off to a bit of a rocky start after the program merged with Ritz-Carlton Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest under the newly renamed Marriott Bonvoy umbrella. I had been a part of the SPG program before the merger and wasn't sure how to feel about the new program. Even though the merger process hasn’t been smooth, I’ve since come to appreciate Marriott Bonvoy and the perks it has to offer.
Marriott Bonvoy represents a massive portfolio of properties at all price and comfort levels worldwide. I like to know I can use my points to go big at the Ritz-Carlton but also have the option to keep it budget-friendly at a low- to mid-tier Marriott property that’s still going to be comfortable and clean.
The other major reason Marriott Bonvoy is a personal favorite is its huge footprint, with over 7,000 hotels participating in the program. This means that if you consider Marriott hotels for hotel stay needs, you can usually find comfortable and well-reviewed hotels that are available at a relatively low rate no matter where in the world you're traveling.
» Learn more: 10 great ways to use 50,000 Bonvoy points
Marriott elite status
There are six status tiers to the Marriott Bonvoy program, and you have to do either some serious traveling or spending to move up the levels. But there's one great perk that you receive as soon as you sign-up for the program: free Wi-Fi. And, the Marriott Bonvoy program is free to join.
There are few things I find more annoying than spending big on a nice hotel room and then still getting hit up for fees with every step I take, so knowing that I can get into my room and jump on the internet without making another charge on my credit card is a small perk that I appreciate.
» Learn more: Find the best hotel credit card for you
The multiple tiers also mean that it’s easy for me to maintain some level of status, even during a year where I’m traveling less. The lowest Silver Elite level status can be achieved after only ten qualifying nights in one of their hotels and offers late checkout and a 10% point bonus on stays.
One of my favorite hotels in the Bonvoy program is the Westin St. Francis on Union Square in San Francisco. I usually stay here when visiting my family during the holidays when the hotel is packed to capacity. The last thing I want to do after my wife and I drive up from Los Angeles is wait in a line that can run dozens deep before we can check in.
Fortunately, Marriott Bonvoy members can use mobile check-in before they even arrive at the hotel, and a designated clerk will greet you and give you your key when you arrive. If you’ve booked a Grand Deluxe King City View room, you may then ascend over 20 floors to the club level, where you can enjoy some of the best views of a beautiful city.
Using Bonvoy credit cards
Another strength of the Marriott Bonvoy program is its affiliated credit cards. For example, the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card offers a meaty welcome bonus: Earn 75,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. Terms Apply. It also automatically gives you Silver Elite status. This card has an annual fee of $125. The card also has some excellent bonus categories, offering 6 points per $1 spent at Marriott properties, 4 points per $1 spent at U.S. restaurants, U.S. gas stations, wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers, and on U.S. purchases for shipping, and 2 points per $1 for all of your other spending. Terms apply.
» Learn More: Which Marriott Bonvoy Credit Card Should I Choose?
These points become even more valuable because most Marriott Bonvoy hotels also offer 10 points per dollar spent at most of their brands, regardless of which credit card you put it on. So if you’re already planning to stay at a Marriott property, paying for your stay with a Marriott Bonvoy credit card can earn you some serious points. As a frequent traveler who hits a number of hotels in the Marriott portfolio, I’m able to rack up points fast.
One downside to watch for
Of course Marriott Bonvoy, like any program, does have some downsides and hassles to deal with. One of the biggest is that the “no blackout dates” policy is uneven. While Marriott claims their program has no blackout dates, it makes an exception for a large number of hotels in its portfolio that it refers to as “legacy hotels. So it's still possible you'll find yourself struggling to find rewards-eligible rooms during desirable travel dates.
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 2020, including those best for:
Airline miles and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
Flat-rate rewards with no annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Premium travel rewards: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card
Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice: Find the best hotel credit card for you Snag these hotel loyalty perks, even if you’re disloyal Earn more points and miles with these 6 strategies