Best ways to redeem Marriott points
If you want to get the most value from Marriott Rewards, standard room nights are the way to go
One of the best features of the Marriott Rewards program is the versatility of its points. Not only do you have the option of redeeming points for a free night at any hotel within the world’s largest hotel network, but, unlike most competing hotel loyalty programs, you can transfer points to more than 40 frequent flyer programs without losing most of the value of your points.
With so many ways to redeem your rewards, how do you decide which option is the best? Our analysis shows that you’re best off using your points for free nights with Marriott, though a few other options – such as Marriott Moments and point transfers – can be a good value if you’re careful to run the numbers first.
In the following article, we give you an overview of all your redemption options with Marriott Rewards:
Marriott redemption options
|Point Value (cents)|
by the airline you use
by the airline you use
If you want to get the most bang for your buck with Marriott points, standard hotel nights are the way to go. The value of a free room night with Marriott is high (we estimate around 0.8 cent per point). In particular, hotel rooms in the lower ranges of the chart – categories 1 through 3 – offer a great opportunity to stretch your points. For instance, you can turn 80,000 points into a four-night stay at a category 3 hotel and score an additional night with Marriott’s free fifth night benefit.
Marriott standard room rewards
|Category||Points currently required||Off-peak rewards (coming 2019)||Peak awards (coming 2019)|
|8 (coming 2019)||85,000
Marriott is pretty generous with its standard room awards – it guarantees no blackout dates on its free night awards, which means you should be able to book a room with your points as long as the hotel has a standard room available. Unfortunately, some properties can restrict their inventory by limiting the number of rooms in the standard room category. However, our examination of the site suggests that you should be able to find reward availability at most properties, as long as you look far enough in advance.
Note that in 2019 Marriott will be adding peak and off-peak pricing to its rewards chart, as well as an eighth hotel tier. This means the highest level hotels will likely be getting more expensive, as well as rewards booked during peak travel times. On the plus side, you should be able to find more bargains on rooms booked off-peak.
If you’re looking for more than a standard room, Marriott also gives you the option to redeem your points for an upgraded room, such as a suite or a room with an oceanfront view. Upgrades start at 5,000 additional points on top of the standard rate and go up from there, depending on the regular rate, and you have to cover the entire price of the room with points.
The availability of upgrades varies by the property, and many locations don’t offer them at all. Also, unfortunately, upgraded rooms aren’t covered under the free fifth night benefit. But, the value of upgrades with Marriott is good – we found them to be worth around 0.7 cent per point on average.
Cash + Points
Marriott also allows you to use a combination of cash and points to pay for nights at some locations, giving you the flexibility to redeem a lower number of points. Unfortunately, you have to choose from a set amount of points and cash (so, unlike some hotel programs, you can’t choose the number of points you want to redeem), and the value of points when redeemed this way fluctuates wildly. While you can find great values using Cash + Points, you will also find terrible values, so be prepared to do some math.
Marriott allows you to transfer points to more than 40 frequent flyer programs at mostly a 3:1 ratio, with a 15,000-point bonus for every 60,000 points that you transfer. While you’ll usually lose some value on the transfer, this is a good option in case you need to top up your balance in a loyalty program account, or in case you don’t want to use your points on Marriott hotel stays. Plus, if you know your way around an airline award chart, you may be able to get an even better value than 0.8 cent per point. (For more information on transferring Marriott points, visit our point transfer page.)
Redeeming Marriott points for a travel package through the Marriott rewards program can be a good deal. Marriott Hotel + Air Packages offer seven nights at a category 1 through 8 hotel, plus 50,000 to 100,000 miles with any of Marriott’s airline partners, depending on the airline on the number of points that you redeem. If you redeem for a flight with United, you’ll also get 5,000 to 10,000 bonus miles.
If we subtract the number of points Marriott would require for a transfer to most of these airlines (120,000 for 50,000 miles or 225,000 points for 100,000 miles), the remaining points amount to a 6 to 40 percent discount on the cost of your room (except for hotel tiers 1 and 2, which result in an increase in price). By booking a travel package, you can significantly boost the value of your Marriott points, but it requires a serious stockpile of points: Redemptions start at 255,000 points and range all the way up to 750,000 points.
Our estimate also assumes that you will maintain the value of your points when you convert them to miles with a Marriott partner. However, as mentioned above, the value of the conversion varies with each partner – some of Marriott’s partners, such as Singapore Airlines, can be a great bargain, but many, unfortunately, are a poor trade off. To estimate the value of a travel package, you’ll need to figure in the value of miles with the particular airline that you wish to fly on. (See our article on transferring Marriott points for some mile estimates.)
Marriott Hotel + Air Packages
|Hotel tier||7 nights + 50,000 miles||7 nights + 100,000 miles|
Marriott’s instant redemption allows you to redeem your points as statement credits against the charges on your hotel bill. While it may sound convenient, it’s a terrible use of your points – points are worth only 0.2 cent apiece when redeemed this way.
You can redeem Marriott points for a certificate toward a variety of cruise lines, such as Norwegian and Carnival. Certificates come in increments of $250, up to the entire cost of the cruise. The redemption value for cruise certificates is poor, worth only 0.4 cent per point.
You can book car rentals with your Marriott points at car rental locations around the world. Unfortunately, the selection of car rental agencies is very limited (we found one to two agencies at the locations that we checked) and the redemption value is poor – worth only 0.4 cent per point on average.
Through the Marriott Rewards MORE shopping portal, you can redeem points for merchandise (as well as earn points on your purchases) with a variety of retailers, such as Macy's and Best Buy. Once you enable Marriott’s browser extension, you simply click on a link from the portal and shop on the retailer’s site as usual, then apply your points when you check out. While the shopping portal is a great way to earn extra Marriott points, it’s not a wise way to redeem them – points are worth only around 0.4 cent apiece.
With the Marriott Moments program, you can use your points to bid on experiences, such as private dinners with celebrity chefs, backstage tours and VIP seats at sporting events. While the value of Marriott moments depends on your final bid and also how much you value the novelty of, for instance, a hands-on basketball lesson with an NBA star, the list is worth a look. Many of the items on the list are unique experiences you won’t find anywhere else.
You can redeem points as cash donations to a selection of nonprofit organizations, such as the American Red Cross and UNICEF. Unfortunately, the value of Marriott points for charity donations is terrible, averaging only 0.3 cent per point. Not that we want to discourage your charitable impulses – you might pick an organization from the list and send a cash donation instead. This way, you get to keep your points for a more valuable redemption, and your donation is tax-deductible.
If you want to make things simple for yourself, redeeming your Marriott hotel points for free hotel nights – especially for rooms in the lower tiers – will net a consistently good value. That said, if you’re ready to crack out a calculator and do some digging, you can also find great redemption options among Marriott’s multitude of airline partners.
A great introduction to Marriott Rewards
|Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Credit Card
Why should you get it?
With 2 free night certificates for spending $3,000 in the first 3 months, 6 points per dollar on Marriott hotel purchases, 2 points per dollar on other purchases and a free night certificate on your card anniversary, you can easily score a few free hotel nights with the card in the first year.
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