While I write a lot about the value of hotel loyalty programs, I̵[ads1]7;ve never written a post specifically about the best way to redeem Marriott Bonvoy points and how I use my points. So just like I wrote a guide to redeeming Hilton Honors points, in this post I wanted to share strategies for redeeming Marriott Bonvoy points for maximum value.
Marriott Bonvoy Points Redemption Basics
Let’s start by talking about the basics of redeeming Marriott Bonvoy points – how much should you expect to pay for free nights, are there blackout dates, how much are Marriott Bonvoy points worth, etc.?
I value Marriott Bonvoy points at 0.7 cents each
Personally, I value Marriott Bonvoy points at 0.7 cents each. There’s no science to it, but rather I think it’s a fair, conservative valuation for what the points are worth. In other words, I won’t redeem my Bonvoy points unless I can get well over 0.7 cents of value per point. This also accounts for the ability to convert Marriott Bonvoy points into airline miles at a reasonable rate.
It’s important to come up with a point evaluation for yourself (it may be different than mine) so you can decide whether to pay cash or redeem points for a hotel stay.
Marriott Bonvoy has dynamic pricing
Today, Marriott Bonvoy no longer has a price chart, but rather has dynamic pricing. This means that the number of points required for a free night can vary based on how much a stay would cost in cash. This was only introduced in 2022, and the policy is being rolled out somewhat slowly.
For 2022, there are still some limitations on how much a hotel stay can cost with points, while starting in 2023 there will no longer be a minimum and maximum number of points required for a hotel stay.
As a general rule of thumb, you can expect most properties to cost somewhere between 5,000 and 120,000 points per night.
Marriott Bonvoy award for blackout dates
Each hotel loyalty program has different policies regarding blackout dates. Generally speaking, hotel loyalty programs allow you to redeem points for a stay as long as a standard room is available for sale. Unfortunately in the case of the Marriott Bonvoy, there is a limited blackout date policy.
What does that mean? Marriott Bonvoy does not have blackout dates, but there are some capacity checks at times. On most days, most Marriott properties will make all standard rooms available for rates, but on a limited number of days, hotels may limit the number of standard rooms available for rates.
In other words, it is possible that a hotel may have standard rooms available for sale if you pay with cash, but not with points. That should be the exception rather than the norm.
Marriott Bonvoy offers a fifth night free with rates
If you want to maximize your Marriott Bonvoy points, I recommend redeeming for hotel stays in five-night increments. Marriott has a fifth night free policy on rates, or more accurately, it’s now called “Stay for 5, Pay for 4.”
When you redeem points for five consecutive nights at a property, you will only be charged points for four nights. The cheapest of the five nights will not be charged. You can use this back to back for multiple stays, so if you stay 10 nights you can get two nights free.
Marriott Bonvoy points can be converted to airline miles
A cool thing about Marriott Bonvoy is that points can be effectively converted to airline miles. Marriott Bonvoy has over three dozen airline partners, and points transfers at a ratio of 3:1. You get a bonus of 5,000 miles for every 60,000 Bonvoy points you transfer, which means 60,000 Bonvoy points will typically get you 25,000 airline miles.
While that’s not how I personally prefer to spend my points, it’s not a bad use of points if you’re otherwise struggling to get good value with them.
Marriott Cash & Points are usually not a great value
Marriott has a Cash & Points program, where (as the name suggests) you can redeem part cash and part points for a hotel stay. This comes with significantly more capacity checks than standard free night award redemptions, so it won’t always be available.
To see if cash and points are available, simply search for available free night rates and if available, you’ll see it listed as an option. You can crunch the numbers with each redemption, but more often than not I find this doesn’t represent a great value.
Take the Duxton Reserve Singapore for example, where the price is either 43,000 Bonvoy Points or 21,500 Bonvoy Points plus SGD 170 (~US$122). You’re essentially paying $122 to save 21,500 Bonvoy points, which is a decent deal since I value those points at $150.
The catch? This isn’t a huge redemption to begin with, as the revenue cost will only be $294.
As another example, take the Sheraton Grand Dubai, where the price is either 35,000 Bonvoy Points or 17,500 Bonvoy Points plus 202 AED (~55 USD). You’re essentially paying $55 to save 17,500 Bonvoy points, which is a great deal since I value those points at $123.
The catch? This isn’t a huge redemption to begin with either, as the revenue cost will only be $131.
Basically, you’ll usually find that cash and points are sometimes a good deal compared to outright redemption of points, although redeeming points at these hotels is often not a good deal since the earning rates are usually low. Why? Cash & Points are capacity controlled, and are usually only available when the hotel is not predicted to be full, so there are also situations where cash prices may not be that high.
The Marriott Bonvoy award calendar is helpful
I find Marriott Bonvoy’s calendar feature incredibly helpful in determining when redeeming points is a good deal. When searching for a destination, simply select the “Flexible Dates” tab and then select the month you want to search for availability.
You will then see prices for an entire month at a time, which is an easy way to see when you can get the best deal.
You can then also switch between the price calendar and the price calendar, to see when you should get the best value. For example, in the case of the hotel I applied for, it is interesting how both October 25th and November 1st cost 57,000 Bonvoy points, while when paying in cash they cost EUR 517 and EUR 412 respectively. Of course, you’ll get a better deal redeeming points with the former option, in terms of value per point.
Get Marriott Bonvoy elite status to get more value
When redeeming points, you’ll naturally want to get as much value on the property as possible. This is where elite status really helps, especially if you can earn Bonvoy Platinum Elite, Titanium Elite or Ambassador Elite status. This is where the benefits really start to become valuable, when it comes to getting suite upgrades, receiving free breakfast and accessing Choice benefits.
Remember, Marriott Bonvoy status is fairly easy to earn in the US with a credit card. You can easily earn up to 30 elite nights per year just for holding two co-branded Marriott credit cards, including the Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card (Review) and the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Short (review).
Pool Marriott Bonvoy points to maximize value
Although not as generous as the policies of Hilton Honors or World of Hyatt, Marriott Bonvoy allows you to collect points between accounts. You can do this with any other member, although you are limited to transferring up to 100,000 points per calendar year and you can receive up to 500,000 points per calendar year.
The best use of Marriott Bonvoy points
With the basics of redeeming Marriott Bonvoy points covered, how do you get the most out of your points? Unfortunately, this is not nearly as easy as it used to be. Back in the days when Marriott had a published price chart, it was easy to extract outsized values by redeeming at hotels during peak periods.
It’s not that simple anymore, as Marriott now has dynamic pricing, and prices will vary even more starting in 2023.
I continue to redeem my Marriott Bonvoy points for free night redemptions in standard rooms, ideally for five nights (so one night is free). It’s no longer a consistent sweet spot in the way it used to be, but I rather find value in Bonvoy points for all kinds of redemptions.
This is how I generally think about it:
- The most luxurious hotels during peak demand periods generally still represent a large use of points, at least compared to the cash cost; there are still some limitations on Marriott Bonvoy’s pricing
- Beyond that, you’ll often find the best value by using points in markets during quieter periods, where cash prices don’t change much seasonally; this comes down to the finances of Marriott Bonvoy, as the program pays much less when members redeem points at properties that are nowhere near full
Let me use the St. Regis Aspen as an example, as this is a popular ski resort. At the peak of winter, I can find a five-night award stay for 478,000 Bonvoy points (including one free night), which averages out to 95,600 Bonvoy points per night (which I value at ~$669).
The cash rate, meanwhile, will be over $1,600 per night. Suffice it to say that redeeming points is pretty good value.
Another aspirational destination is the Maldives, so let’s also use the Ritz-Carlton Maldives as an example. During a busy period, I can find a five-night award stay for 468,000 Bonvoy points (including one free night), which averages out to 93,600 Bonvoy points per night (which I value at ~$655).
The cash rate, meanwhile, will be over $2,250 per night, so it’s a fantastic use of points.
So for now, luxury properties still represent the best value, although it will be interesting to see how that develops in 2023 and beyond.
The bottom line
Marriott Bonvoy is a popular hotel loyalty program, which I have participated in for well over a decade. While the program isn’t nearly as useful as it used to be, there’s still value to be had.
Today, Marriott Bonvoy has dynamic pricing, so it is no longer a price chart. But until 2023, many hotels still have a cap on how many points can be charged, so the prices are mostly not completely outrageous.
I continue to find the most value with Marriott Bonvoy booking luxury hotels in standard rooms for periods of five nights, especially hotels that would otherwise sell for $1,500+ per night.
What has been your experience redeeming Marriott Bonvoy points?