How to Use the Free Marriott Bonvoy Program to Save on Hotel Stays

A photo to accompany a story about the Marriott Bonvoy program Hunter Newton / NextAdvisor

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Marriott is the world’s largest hotel chain, with a massive footprint consisting of over 30 brands and 7,000 properties in 31 countries. Some of its notable brands include the St. Regis, Ritz-Carlton, Sheraton, and its namesake, Marriott Hotels.

And while we may not all be ready to safely return to traveling — the CDC still advises against non-essential travel — it’s free to join the hotel chain’s loyalty program, Marriott Bonvoy, and familiarize yourself with what it offers. 

Whether you stay at Marriott properties frequently or every once in a while, signing up for the Marriott Bonvoy program can help you save money on your travels when it’s safe to do so again.

What Is Marriott Bonvoy?

Marriott Bonvoy is Marriott’s free loyalty program. Once enrolled, you can earn and redeem Bonvoy points at any hotel within the Marriott portfolio of brands.

Members get perks such as exclusive member rates, enhanced Wi-Fi, and mobile check-in services. You may also qualify for elite status depending on how many nights you stay in Marriott hotels throughout the course of a year. There are five levels of Marriott elite status: Silver, Gold, Platinum, Titanium and Ambassador. Depending on your status level, you could be entitled to more perks such as lounge access, free room upgrades, breakfast and more.

How to Earn Marriott Bonvoy Points

There are a handful of ways to build your balance of Bonvoy points.

Staying in Marriott Hotels

The traditional way to earn Bonvoy points is by staying in any hotel within the Marriott portfolio. All Marriott Bonvoy members earn 10x points per dollar for qualifying charges on stays at qualifying Marriott hotels.

Notable exceptions to that rule include Element, Residence Inn and TownePlace Suites properties, which earn five points per dollar. Marriott Executive Apartments and ExecuStay properties earn 2.5 points per dollar on qualifying room rates.

Spending on a Co-Branded Credit Card

Another quick and effective way to earn Marriott points is by spending on one of four Marriott co-branded credit cards. Marriott has partnerships with two major issuers, American Express and Chase. 

The cards only make sense for diehard Marriott loyalists, though, or for people who plan to spend significant time at Marriott hotels in the future, since their perks and earning structure are geared uniquely towards the hotel chain. If you aren’t loyal to Marriott, but still want a card offering travel perks that will come in handy once safe, mass travel returns, go with a more generic pick such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred

These cards include the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card, Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card, Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card and the Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card.

They vary in terms of earning rates and perks, but all will earn bonus Bonvoy points when used to book qualifying Marriott stays. This is in addition to the points you’ll earn on those stays, so your total can grow faster.

Buying Points

You can also purchase Marriott Bonvoy points for $12.50 per 1,000 points. You usually won’t get much value out of buying points, so if you absolutely need Bonvoy points to redeem for a stay we recommend waiting for one of the frequent Marriott promotions, when the price of points decreases.

Referring Friends to the Program

A smart tactic to boost your Bonvoy balance is to refer your friends to the Bonvoy program. Every calendar year, you can refer up to five new members. In turn, you’ll each earn 2,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per stay for their first five stays.

Dining Out

Similarly to many airlines’ dining programs, you can earn Marriott Bonvoy points by dining at (or ordering takeout or delivery from) restaurants. With Marriott’s “Eat Around Town” program, elites can earn 6x points per dollar, and members 4x points per dollar, at qualifying restaurants. Just be sure to connect your credit card (or even debit card) to your account and use it when you pay for your meal.

To maximize your rewards, we recommend using a credit card that earns bonus points on dining, such as the American Express® Gold Card.

Renting a Hertz Vehicle

Through Marriott’s Tours & Activities program, you can earn up to 2,000 Marriott points per Hertz rental, and you may get a discount on the base rental rate.

Buying a Bed

Yes, you read that correctly. You can earn up to 10,000 Marriott Bonvoy points by buying a bed from any of the 13 online retail stores for Marriott’s various brands. The beds are the same as you’ll find in the hotels with that brand; if you like the bed you slept in at a W Hotel, for example, you can buy it online.   

How Much Are Marriott Points Worth?

Similarly to Hilton Honors points, Marriott Bonvoy points are worth less than credit card points, such as those from Chase Ultimate Rewards or American Express Membership Rewards. They’re also worth less than airline miles, such as Delta Air Lines SkyMiles.

That said, you can transfer Marriott points to airlines to redeem for free flights. Some of Marriott’s partners include United Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and JetBlue Airways. Most partners have a transfer ratio of 3:1, meaning that for every 3 Marriott Bonvoy points you transfer, you’ll get one airline mile. This is a relatively poor use of Bonvoy points; in most cases, you’ll get the most value out of them by using them on Marriott hotel stays.

How to Use Marriott Bonvoy Points

To redeem your Marriott Bonvoy points, you’ll have to log into your Bonvoy account first. Enter your desired property, city and dates in the search bar, as well as the number of guests. Be sure to check the box next to “Use Points/Certificates” before you search.

From here, you’ll be able to browse properties in your desired city, as well as see what the going points rate is. Bonvoy members receive a fifth night free on all stays booked with points.

You can also use the flexible dates function to search by month. To do so, click on the date in the search bar, and then click “Flexible Dates.”

If you have some flexibility in your travel plans, it’s worth checking this function as it can shave off some points from your total.

All Marriott hotels are grouped into categories, ranging from 1 to 8, depending on the services offered and category of hotel, with 1 being the most budget-friendly and 8 being the most luxurious. The chain publishes an award chart, which can help you understand how many points you can expect to pay depending on which category your desired hotel falls into. Rates include off-peak, standard and peak pricing. 

Because Marriott hotels come in a range of categories, up to luxury, the cost of one night in Bonvoy points can go from a low of 5,000 for off-peak nights in a Category 1 property to a maximum of 100,000 for peak pricing a top-tier Category 8 hotel.   

Marriott Bonvoy points expire after 24 months if there has been no activity in your account. Accounts that have been inactive for five years may be deactivated.    

Marriott Bonvoy Elite Status

As mentioned, Marriott has an elite status program with five tiers. As with all elite status programs, the more you stay in Marriott hotels over the course of a year, the more perks you’ll get.

All Marriott Bonvoy members receive the fifth night free when booking an award stay, as well as an Ultimate Reservation Guarantee. With this benefit, if for some reason Marriott is unable to honor your reservation, they will pay for accommodations at another nearby hotel and pay you for the inconvenience.

Other benefits, though, depend on your status level. We’ll take a closer look.

Silver Elite

You’ll earn Silver elite status with Marriott after completing 10 qualifying nights in a calendar year. With it, you’ll get:

  • 10% bonus on award stays
  • Late checkout (depending on availability)

Gold Elite

To earn Gold elite status, you’ll need to stay 25 nights in a calendar year. You can also get Gold elite status as a perk of some premium credit cards, such as The Platinum Card® from American Express.

In addition to the Silver elite status perks, you’ll also get:

  • Enhanced internet access
  • 25% point bonus
  • 2 p.m. late checkout (depending on availability)
  • Room upgrades depending on availability (excluding suites)
  • Welcome gift of points

Platinum Elite

Platinum elite members earn their status after staying 50 qualifying nights in a calendar year. They get all the same benefits as Gold elites, plus:

  • 50% points bonus
  • Room upgrades depending on availability (including suites, except at Ritz-Carlton properties)
  • Lounge access
  • Guaranteed 4 p.m. late checkout
  • Welcome gift of points, breakfast, or amenity
  • Annual choice benefit

Titanium Elite

Titanium elite members will earn their status after 75 qualifying nights. In addition to the above Platinum benefits, they will also get:

  • 75% points bonus
  • 48-hour guaranteed availability
  • United MileagePlus silver elite status
  • Second annual choice benefit

Ambassador Elite

The highest level of Marriott status, Ambassador requires 100 qualifying nights in a year and $14,000 worth of qualifying spending at Marriott hotels.

In addition to Titanium benefits, Ambassador elite members get:

  • A personal “ambassador” to help you book and manage your stays
  • You24 benefit, where you can choose your 24-hour check-in and check-out time