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Free hotel nights and award flights: The best uses of Marriott Bonvoy points

There are a number of ways to get great value from Marriott points for both flights and hotel stays.

Zhao Liu | iStock Unreleased | Getty Images

The offer mentioned below for the for the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card is no longer available.

Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more.

After years of growth and mergers, Marriott now offers travelers one of the largest and most diverse hotel portfolios of any hotel brand. There aren't many similarities between a Ritz-Carlton and a TownePlace Suites. But, one common aspect connects all hotels in the Marriott portfolio: the Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program.

With 30 brands and over 8,100 hotels to choose from, the best use of Marriott Bonvoy points depends on where you want to go and how you like to travel. However, we've got tips and tricks to help you make the most out of using your Bonvoy points.

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How to earn Marriott Bonvoy points

Marriott members have plenty of ways of earning Bonvoy points — from staying at Marriott hotels to Marriott credit cards. You can even transfer points from other loyalty programs to Marriott Bonvoy.

The most obvious way of earning Bonvoy points is by staying at a Marriott-branded hotel. Members generally earn 10 Bonvoy points per dollar spent — except at some extended stay brands where the rate is just 5 points per dollar. Elite members earn up to a 75% bonus on top of that. And, thankfully, it's easy to get elite status through Marriott credit cards.

Lots of value from Marriott Bonvoy credit card offers

Whether you're just getting started with the Marriott Bonvoy program or a lifetime elite, now's a great time to boost your Bonvoy account. All four Marriott co-branded cards are currently offering welcome bonuses. Beyond the welcome offers, each card offers cardholders Bonvoy elite status. And most of these cards offer an anniversary Free Night Award every year after your card renewal month — making these cards a long-term keeper.

You can read all about the Marriott credit cards, but here's a quick summary of the current welcome offers:

  • Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card: Earn 3 Free Night Awards (each night valued up to 50,000 points) after spending $3,000 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card: Earn 185,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after you use your new Card to make $6,000 in purchases within the first 6 months of Card Membership.  Terms Apply.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card: Earn five Free Night Awards after you use your new Card to make $8,000 in eligible purchases within the first 6 months of Card Membership. Redemption level up to 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy® points for each bonus Free Night Award, at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy®. Certain hotels have resort fees. Offer Ends 3/20/24.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Bold® Credit Card: Earn 30,000 Bonus Points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

Transferring points from other loyalty programs

If you don't have enough Bonvoy points for a redemption, you can top off your account with a transfer from either American Express Membership Rewards or Chase Ultimate Rewards® points. Or, if you have United Premier elite status, you can transfer up to 100,000 MileagePlus miles to Marriott Bonvoy each year.

Membership Rewards transfer to Marriott Bonvoy at a rate of 1:1. To boost your Membership Rewards balance, if you're a new card member for the American Express® Gold Card and spend $6,000 on eligible purchases with your new card within the first 6 months of card membership.

Chase Ultimate Rewards also transfer to Marriott Bonvoy at a 1:1 ratio. That means the current 60,000-point bonus you earn after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening on the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card can net you another 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points.

However, there are generally more valuable uses of Chase points and Amex points. So, you'll only want to transfer points to Marriott when you need to top off your account or if you really desire a redemption with them.

The best uses of Marriott points

Marriott offers great redemptions for all types of travelers. Luxury travelers can use Bonvoy points to book incredible stays at St. Regis or Ritz-Carlton properties. Price-conscious travelers can stretch their points at Four Points or Courtyard Hotels. And if you need to be somewhere for a while, Marriott offers a range of extended stay hotels.

5th night free awards

One of the best ways to use Marriott Bonvoy points is for stays of at least 5 nights. If you redeem Bonvoy points for a stay of 5 or more consecutive nights, you'll get the cheapest night for free. There are no tricks to scoring this free night. Just log into your Bonvoy account and search for an award stay of 5+ nights. Marriott will automatically discount the least-expensive night to zero points.

In my own travels, I've found that Marriott 5th night free perk can come in handy for a variety of trips — from the Marriott Karachi during a friend's wedding, to exploring the wonders of Kruger National Park in South Africa for just 45,000 points total for a 5th night free stay.

Cheap Marriott award nights

Marriott Bonvoy award nights price as low as 5,000 points per night. To get such a great deal you'll need to book a Marriott Category 1 hotel during off-peak nights. Note that Marriott plans on getting rid of its award chart in March 2022, so award pricing will vary more once the new system is implemented.

Marriott currently offers 278 Category 1 hotels scattered around the world — including 34 here in the United States. Examples include Fairfield Inn hotels from Wyoming, to North Carolina and an Aloft in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Understandably, attractive Category 1 hotels are hard to find. After all, these hotels sport enticing award rates for a reason. But, depending on where you travel, you can really stretch your points at a nice Category 1 hotel. For example, here's an option to book a 5th night free at a Le Meridien in Kochi, India, for just 22,500 Bonvoy points total:

Overwater villa in the Maldives for just 30,000 points per night

One of the most spectacular uses of Marriott Bonvoy points at the moment is for an overwater villa in the Maldives. The Le Meridien Maldives Resort is currently just a category 5 property, so award nights range from 30,000 to 40,000 Bonvoy points per night.

Best of all, the hotel will let you book overwater villas as part of a standard points redemption. That's right, you can book an overwater villa in the Maldives for just 30,000 points per night!

But, you aren't going to travel all the way across the world for one night. If you can find off-peak dates, you can book a 5th night free for as few as 120,000 points total. But, you'll generally need to pay between 130,000-140,000 points per 5-night stay.

Between the sign-up bonus and the spending required to earn that bonus, new Marriott Boundless cardholders will earn free nights and many points — putting a 5th night free stay in the Maldives easily within reach. If five nights isn't long enough in paradise, you can wait and use the 35,000-point Free Night Award earned every year after account anniversary to extend your stay to six nights.

Say 'bula' to a resort in Fiji

Another affordable Marriott resort in a wonderful destination is the Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay. This resort opened in 2017 and features the only overwater villas on Fiji's main island of Viti Levu.

As a Category 5 property, award rates vary from 30,000 to 40,000 points per night. That means you can book a 5th night free award for as few as 120,000 points. A 5-night stay in Fiji is easily within reach from just the free night portion of the Marriott Boundless credit card sign-up bonus.

It's a pricey upgrade to book to the resort's overwater villas. However, as I found from my stay at the resort in June 2019, the "base room" bookable with points sports excellent views of the lagoon and overwater villas.

Ski-in ski-out using Marriott points

As the weather turns cooler, winter sports lovers may be counting down the days until they can hit the slopes. Marriott offers ski resorts in prime locations in the Rocky Mountains and other ski-friendly areas around the world.

Luxury skiers can use the Free Night Award earned through the Marriott Brilliant welcome offer at the spectacular Category 8 The St. Regis Aspen Resort.

However, additional nights at the St. Regis Aspen — or Marriott's other Category 8 ski resort hotels — will burn through your stash of Bonvoy points in a hurry.

Thankfully, Marriott has more affordable hotels for powder junkies. You can redeem Bonvoy points at five Category 6 hotels located in U.S. ski resorts:

  • Marriott Grand Residence Club, Lake Tahoe, California
  • Marriott's Timber Lodge Marriott's Timber Lodge in South Lake Tahoe, California
  • Marriott's Mountain Valley Lodge at Breckenridge, Colorado
  • Viewline Resort Snowmass, Autograph Collection in Snowmass Village, Colorado
  • Marriott's MountainSide in Park City, Utah

For a ski-in ski-out experience, book Marriott's MountainSide in Park City. As a Category 6 hotel, award nights range from 40,000 to 60,000 points per night.

Those traveling in a group can pay a few more Bonvoy points to upgrade to a 2-bedroom villa. For example, book a 5-night stay in a 2-bedroom villa in April 2022 for 220,000 points total after a fifth night free:

Transfer to airlines

For some travelers, the best Marriott Bonvoy redemptions don't even involve hotel stays. Marriott isn't the only hotel loyalty program that allows point transfers to airlines, but it's certainly the most valuable for these types of transfers.

Bonvoy points transfer to 40 airlines at a general rate of 3 points to 1 mile. Even better, you'll get a 5,000-mile bonus for transferring at least 60,000 Bonvoy points. That means you'll get 25,000 miles for every 60,000 Bonvoy points transferred to most airline mileage programs.

You can take advantage of this transfer bonus to unlock some incredible awards. For example, transfer 120,000 Bonvoy points to net a total of 50,000 Alaska Mileage Plan miles. That's enough to fly in Cathay Pacific's excellent business class to Asia. Even better, Alaska allows a free stopover on international awards. So, you can fly to Hong Kong and build in as long of a visit as you want before continuing to another destination in Asia.

Bottom line

Between an expansive hotel portfolio and wide-ranging brands, Marriott likely has a hotel where you want to go and how you want to stay. Now's a great time to give the Bonvoy program another look as every Marriott co-branded card is offering a valuable welcome offer.

Catch up on Select's in-depth coverage of personal financetech and toolswellness and more, and follow us on FacebookInstagram and Twitter to stay up to date.

Information about the Marriott Bonvoy Bold® Credit Card, Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card has been collected independently by Select and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication. 

For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card, click here.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.
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