When Marriott International Inc. acquired Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide Inc. back in 2016 to become the world’s largest hotel company, it was clear the launch of a new hotel loyalty program was imminent.
That’s because the purchase – which came in at a cool $13 billion USD – not only brought together 30 hotel brands under the single ownership of Marriott, but three loyalty programs as well: Marriott Rewards, Ritz Carlton Rewards, and the popular Starwood Preferred Guest program (more commonly known by its abbreviation SPG).
While there was a transitional period where you could still earn SPG Starpoints and Marriott Rewards points, in February 2019 Marriott did the expected; it combined and rebranded all its programs into one – Marriott Bonvoy. If you’re a frequent traveller, this new streamlined program brings more simplicity, as you can now use a single points program to book your hotel stays almost everywhere.
About the Marriott Bonvoy program
Marriott Bonvoy – born out of the merger of SPG, Marriott Rewards and Ritz Carlton Rewards – is the world’s largest hotel loyalty program.
Members of the Marriott Bonvoy program can earn and redeem Bonvoy points at over two-dozen hotel brands and 7,000 properties across 130 countries, including:
- All Marriott International properties (Marriott Hotels and Resorts, Ritz Carlton, Courtyard, Delta Hotels, Fairfield Inn, SpringHill Suites, AC Hotels, Gaylord Hotels, Residence Inn, Towneplace Suites); and
- All Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide properties (Starwood Hotels, St.Regis, Westin, Sheraton, Four Points, W Hotels, Le Meridian, Aloft, Element, Tribute Portfolio, Design Hotels).
With the merger comes more flexibility, as Bonvoy lets you redeem your points at more hotels than you ever could’ve as a Member of just SPG or Marriott Rewards alone. You can also take advantage of great Bonvoy Member perks like free wi-fi and keyless entry, and if you achieve Gold status, complimentary room upgrades.
While Marriott Bonvoy is first and foremost a hotel loyalty program, Bonvoy Members can also redeem points for flights, gift cards, merchandise, car rentals, and even transfer points to a number of partner airlines.
How to earn Marriott Bonvoy points
You can become a Bonvoy Member and earn Bonvoy points in one of two ways:
- By applying for the Marriott Bonvoy Credit Card; or
- By registering as a free Marriott Bonvoy Member online.
1. With a credit card
Being a Marriott Bonvoy credit card holder is one of the fastest and most straight-forward ways to rack up Bonvoy points. That’s because, with the Bonvoy Card from American Express, you’ll earn Bonvoy points on all your everyday purchases – not just on your Marriott-hotel related spending. So you’ll rack up points for every dollar you spend on groceries, refilling your gas tank, and eating out, as well as when booking hotel stays.
The Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card, which made our 2019 rankings as one of the best travel credit cards in Canada, also comes with additional perks including late check-outs, one free hotel stay every year, lost baggage and hotel burglary insurance, and a big sign-up bonus that on its own is enough to book upwards of 4 free nights at eligible hotels.
- Annual fee: $120
- Welcome offer: earn 70,000 Welcome Bonus points after you charge $1,500 in net purchases to your Card in your first 3 months of Cardmembership. Plus, earn a total of 5 points for every $1 on eligible travel & gas purchases in Canada for your first 3 months of Cardmembership (up to 15,000 points). Offers subject to change at any time.
- Earn 5 points in eligible Card purchases at participating Marriott Rewards hotels and 2 points on all other purchases
- Automatic Marriott Bonvoy Silver Elite Status
While the Marriott Bonvoy Card is the official branded credit card of Marriott Bonvoy, you can also earn Bonvoy points with almost any other American Express rewards card by strategically taking advantage of point transfers.
American Express Membership Rewards points, which you can earn on AMEX rewards cards like the American Express Cobalt, can be transferred to Marriott Bonvoy points at a 5:6 ratio. So, for every 1,000 American Express Member Rewards points you transfer, you’d get 1,200 Bonvoy points. It may not be as straightforward as using the co-branded card, but this transfer is a lucrative option that also lets you earn Bonvoy points on all your everyday purchases.
The card now also features a generous welcome offer of 70,000 Welcome Bonus points after you charge $1,500 in net purchases to your Card in your first 3 months of Cardmembership, plus the ability to earn a total of 5 points for every $1 on eligible travel & gas purchases in Canada for the first three months (up to 15,000 points). Offers subject to change at any time.
- Annual fee: $155.88 (charged at $12.99 monthly)
- Transfer points to Bonvoy at a 5:6 ratio
- Earn 5 points per dollar on “eats and drinks”: restaurants, coffee shops, bars, grocery stores, and food delivery
- Earn 2 points per dollar on “travel and transit”: gas, taxis, public transportation and travel (air, water, rail, or road transport, plus hotels)
- Earn 3x the points on eligible streaming subscriptions in Canada
- Welcome Bonus of 70,000 Welcome Bonus points after you charge $1,500 in net purchases to your Card in your first 3 months of Cardmembership. Plus, earn a total of 5 points for every $1 on eligible travel & gas purchases in Canada for your first 3 months of Cardmembership (up to 15,000 points). Offers subject to change at any time.
- Earn 1 point per dollar on all other purchases
- Transfer points 1:1 to several frequent flyer and other loyalty programs
2. As a Marriott Bonvoy Member without a credit card
As a free Marriott Bonvoy Member, signing up is easy but you’ll only earn points on your Marriott-related spending and on nothing else. Without the Marriott Bonvoy credit card, you’ll earn between 5 to 10 points per $1 USD (roughly $1.33 CAD) you spend on:
- Hotel stays at eligible Marriott Bonvoy hotels;
- Marriott Bonvoy hotel amenities, restaurants, and vacation packages;
- Marriott tours and events; and
- Available limited time offers from retailers partnered with Marriott Bonvoy.
Bonvoy points value and hotel redemptions
According to our calculations, we’ve estimated the average value of 1 Bonvoy point to be $0.0177 – or the equivalent of 1.17%. Since Marriott Bonvoy is first and foremost a hotel loyalty program, our average is based on hotel stay redemptions.
Our calculation is just an average though and point values do vary per hotel stay based on the Bonvoy rewards chart (below), which factors for: the time of the year; the price of the hotel; and the category of the hotel (which Marriott ranks on a scale from 1 to 8, with 8 being the most premium).
Along with the ability to book stays at thousands of hotels worldwide with no blackout dates, one of the biggest advantages of the Marriott Bonvoy program is that you’ll get one night free for every 5 days you book on points. That’s an automatic 20% boost in value. Redemptions can be made when booking hotel stays online or over the phone.
If you want to book a hotel stay on points but don’t have enough to cover the complete cost, Marriott Bonvoy also lets you use a mix of points and cash.
Bonvoy airline transfer options
Bonvoy points can be transferred to over 40 airline loyalty programs, including the likes of Aeroplan, Air China Phoenix Miles, AA Advantage Miles, and more. In most cases, you can transfer points at a rate of 3 Bonvoy points for 1 Mile.
The real advantage here is that Bonvoy will give you a bonus 5,000 miles for every 60,000 Bonvoy points you transfer. If you transfer fewer than 60,000 points, you’ll miss out on the bonus and, in that case, you could be better off sticking to using your Bonvoy points for hotel stays.
Aside from booking hotel stays, you can also use your points instantly to cover anything that can be charged to your hotel room – like your room service tab.
While it may be convenient, this option only lets you redeem 250 points for $1USD, so it doesn’t offer much bang for your buck – especially when compared to hotel stay redemptions. It’s therefore almost always better to save your points for full-fledged hotel stays rather than to chip away at your other hotel bills.
Redeem for flights or car rentals
Along with the ability to transfer points to airline loyalty programs, you can also use Bonvoy points directly to book flights through Marriott’s travel search engine. There’s plenty of flexibility here as you can redeem Bonvoy points to book flights on over 200 airlines, use points to cover the cost of taxes and fees, and even opt for a mix of points and cash.
But, the flexibility doesn’t make up for the fact this option offers considerably lower value for your Bonvoy points. In some cases, you’ll get half as much value out of flight redemptions when compared to hotel stay redemptions.
The ability to use points to cover the cost of car rentals is another nice touch, but in the same vein as flight redemptions, they offer far less value for your points.
Redeem for travel packages
Unlike redeeming for just a flight, taking advantage of Bonvoy’s travel packages (which combine flights and hotel stays together) can be a good deal.
Known as a Hotel + Flight Package, this option lets you do double duty and transfer Bonvoy points to airline miles plus book a hotel stay as part of one sweeping redemption. By using this package, you could save upwards of 15,000 points compared to if you transferred points and booked a hotel stay separately.
There are some caveats though. First, you’ll need a tonne of points to take advantage of this package (we’re talking at least 255,000). Second, Hotel + Flight Packages can only be booked over the phone and not online. Lastly, these packages are specifically for 7-day trips and for Bonvoy Members who plan on both transferring points into airline miles as well as redeeming for hotel stays. If you were thinking of using points just to book a hotel stay, this package won’t be the right fit for you.
Gift cards and merchandise
Most rewards programs don’t offer the best value when redeeming for gift cards, and the Marriott Bonvoy program is no different. To maximize the value of your points, avoid gift cards or merchandise and stick to what the Bonvoy program was made for: hotel stays or airline point transfers. You can view Bonvoy’s shopping catalogue here.