An Introduction to the Marriott Bonvoy Hotel Loyalty Programme

Jun 21, 2019

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You may be familiar with Marriott Hotels & Resorts — the company has hundreds of locations around the world. But what you may not be aware of is that Marriott’s loyalty programme is now the world’s largest hotel programme with a massive 6,700 participating properties in more than 100 countries worldwide. This means that if you have considered focusing on a hotel loyalty programme, Marriott can offer more properties than any other.

If you are an avid traveller and have mastered airline loyalty programmes for your flying needs, you will also need somewhere to rest your head. So considering an appropriate hotel loyalty programme is important, too.

Marriott Bonvoy

The name of Marriott’s loyalty programme is called ‘Bonvoy’. The group became the world’s largest following the merger of Marriott International with Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide. The new group boasts 30 different brands, which Marriott categorises as follows:

About half of these brands have properties in the United Kingdom.

The EDITION Times Square. (Photo by Nick Ellis / The Points Guy)

Earning Points

You can earn Marriott Bonvoy points in a number of ways:

  • Staying at any Marriott Group property that participates in the Bonvoy programme (most do)
  • Spending on a credit card that earns Marriott points directly. In the UK, this is the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express UK, which has not yet been rebranded as a Marriott Bonvoy credit card
  • Transferring Membership Rewards points from American Express UK at a rate of 2:3 (2,000 Membership Rewards points will become 3,000 Bonvoy points)
  • Hertz car rental
  • CruisesOnly
  • Purchasing Bonvoy points
  • Transferring Diners Club Rewards at a rate of 1,250:1,500
The JW Marriott Singapore. (Photo by The Points Guy)

Redeeming Points

Once you’ve earned enough Bonvoy points, you can use them to redeem at thousands of Marriott properties. Each property is assigned a category number — luxury properties like EDITION are a high category, while cheaper properties like Aloft and Moxy are assigned a much lower category number.

The higher the category, the more points required, while the lower the category, the fewer points you’ll need. Later this year, Bonvoy also intends to breaks stays down into peak and off peak periods.

TPG UK currently values Bonvoy points at 0.7p each. So if you redeem 20,000 points for a hotel night, we value those points to be worth around £140. If cash rates for the same room at the same property are, say £200, you’re getting good value from redeeming Bonvoy points.

If you redeem points for five or more consecutive nights, you’ll receive the fifth night free. On a rotating basis, Marriott identifies certain properties to place in its PointsSavers promotion, where award stays cost fewer points for a limited amount of time. Finally, you can use the programme’s Points Advance functionality to reserve an award stay when you’re short on points, which is a great way to confirm a room at a property before you earn enough points to cover the stay.

There are also other ways to use Bonvoy points including:

  • Upgrade a paid or award night for 5,000 points to a higher room category, although some hotels struggle to process these upgrades
  • Reduce your hotel bill by redeeming Bonvoy points, though the value you receive will be less than half the TPG UK valuation
  • Book air travel or rental cars directly with your points, although again, the value you receive will be less than half the TPG UK valuation.
Boscolo Exedra Nice, Autograph Collection. (Photo by Ben Smithson / The Points Guy)

Bonvoy Status Levels

Like an airline loyalty programme, Bonvoy has different status levels based on how many nights you stay each year:

Status Level

Nights required each year to earn

Benefits

Silver Elite 10 Late checkout and 10% bonus
Gold Elite 25 2pm late checkout, 25% point bonus, welcome gift, room upgrade (subject to availability), enhanced internet
Platinum Elite 50 4pm late checkout, 50% points bonus, breakfast (certain properties), room upgrade including to Suites where available), lounge access
Titanium Elite 75 All of the above, plus 75% point bonus, additional for Suite upgrades at Ritz-Carlton properties
Ambassador Elite 100 nights + $20,000 spend All of the above plus dedicated Marriott agent Ambassador service, ‘Your24’ meaning you can check in at anytime and the room is yours for 24 hours.

Best Uses of Bonvoy points

Like airline miles, we think the best uses of any mileage currency are by redeeming them for luxury travel experiences and obtaining outsized value by doing so. For example, luxury hotels in destinations like the Maldives have prohibitively high room rates that be can £700+ a night. So if you gasp at the thought of spending that much on a hotel, no matter how magical the destination, it can be a fantastic use of Bonvoy points.

If something tamed is more your style, you can also get some good value by using Bonvoy points to stay at lower-level properties. Given the program’s fifth night free benefit on award redemptions, you can get entire stays for free, which is a great perk — especially for families.

Why Choose Bonvoy?

Like airline programmes, each hotel group programme is different, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. A big difference between airline and hotel programmes though, is that while airlines can belong to a number of different loyalty programmes in terms of codeshares and alliance partnerships, each hotel only belongs to a single hotel programme. This means if you are staying at any of the 30 Marriott brands, it’s Bonvoy or nothing.

So, it’s probably better to consider the hotels themselves before choosing a hotel loyalty programme — if you like the footprint of Marriott properties around the world (i.e. does it have properties where you currently stay or would like to stay), as well as liking some of the more aspirational properties like St. Regis, you might wish to focus on the Bonvoy programme.

Bonvoy has more properties than any other hotel programme, but that does not necessarily mean it is the best programme or has the best properties. Like different airline programmes, it depends on your individual travel patterns and preferences to determine if one programme is better than the other. If there’s more Hyatt or Hilton group properties you would like to stay in the destinations you want to visit, you might consider Hilton Honors or World of Hyatt programmes instead.

Additionally, following the merger with the Starwood Preferred Guest programme, the Bonvoy has struggled with some integration issues for members. Between outages, blackouts and poor customer service, the Bonvoy programme has some room for improvement. If you’re eyeing the programme, that is important to keep in mind.

The St. Regis Hong Kong, a Marriott Bonvoy property (Photo by Zach Honig / The Points Guy)
The St. Regis Hong Kong, a Marriott Bonvoy property (Photo by Zach Honig / The Points Guy)

There’s a lot of complexity to the Bonvoy programme, so this guide serves as an introduction to our TPG UK readers. We will be diving into some of the complexities of the programme soon.

Featured image by Marriott International

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