A Simple ‘Trick’ To Unlock Big Value From Marriott Points…

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It’s fair to say that the launch of Marriott Bonvoy hasn’t been one of the travel industry’s greatest triumphs. Between the myriad IT issues and poor customer service, many members are far from happy. Amid the chaos and irritation, it is sometimes easy to forget that the value of Marriott Points is actually still quite high…

Here at InsideFlyer, we’ve always been bullish about the ‘floor’ value of Marriott Points, because one thing that the new programme has done well is keeping the old SPG transfer ratios to a vast range of frequent flyer programmes. 60,000 Marriott Points gets you 25,000 airline miles of your choice – or more if there’s a transfer bonus on. As long as you transfer to a high-value programme like Alaska or United, it doesn’t make sense to value Marriott Points much below 0.6p each.

One area of value that I haven’t paid sufficient attention to though, is simply using Marriott Points for hotel stays (duh)! In particular, you can get tremendous value from your points by taking advantage of Marriott’s ‘5th night free’ policy on award bookings.

100,000 Marriott Points, or £2,000?

Recently I needed to book a hotel in New York and it was one of those times when cash rates at hotels anywhere remotely convenient were through the roof. Points rates with Hilton and IHG weren’t much better either.

Marriott though, still has a significant number of Category 4 hotels in New York, which only require 25,000 points per night. If you’re happy staying either downtown (near Wall Street, Battery Park, Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge, etc), or just across the East River from midtown Manhattan near Long Island City in Queens (10-15 minutes on the subway from Times Square!), you’ve got at least a dozen Category 4 options to choose from.

Many of these hotels are quite new and as nice (maybe nicer) than similar Marriott hotels in midtown that require 35,000-50,000 points per night. The Moxy NYC Downtown, for instance, looks modern, comfortable and well-located – flexible cash rates for the dates I was looking at averaged ~£340 ($427 USD) without tax, so it can get very expensive. 5 nights would therefore have set me back almost £2,000 ($2469.71) once tax was included!

Instead, I could choose to use 100,000 Marriott Points instead – because the 5th night is free when using points, you only pay 4 x 25,000 points for the whole stay.

That works out roughly at a redemption value of about 2p per Marriott Point – more than 3 times the ‘floor’ value we assign to them.

Would I have spent £400 per night to stay at this particular hotel? No, but to have spent much less per night on the dates required I would have had to accept a considerably worse hotel and a significantly less convenient location and still paid quite a lot of money. Therefore, it’s surely fair to say that the ‘real’ redemption value must be more than 1p per Marriott Point – and that’s still an excellent deal.

Bottom line

Taking advantage of Marriott’s 5th night free policy can turn a good redemption into a great one. 25,000 Marriott Points per night for a decent hotel in New York is already better value than comparable redemptions with the other chains, so being able to reduce it to an average of 20,000 points per night is remarkable.

Do you still value Marriott Points highly, or have the IT (and other) failures put you off?


  1. Laurie says

    I think you mean Long Island City in Queens. Long Island is a lot further than 20 mins from Times Square!

    • Joe Deeney says

      Yes, maybe should have been clearer – although Long Island City / Queens is of course on Long Island 🙂 Will amend for clarity.

  2. Vino says

    Do you think hotel redemptions have more value? Or is it better to convert them into air miles for business or first class redemptions?

    • Craig Sowerby says

      It depends on your perspective. If you ascribe value based on retail price, you might prefer flights. However if you compare to the cost of acquiring miles through alternative methods (i.e. just buying them or doing credit cards) then hotel points are almost always more valuable as free hotel nights.

      Some people also prefer luxury on the 8-hour flight, and to stay in a cheap Airbnb. Others prefer to slum it for the flight (or already have enough miles) but stay in a 5-star hotel suite for a week.

      I have been putting off writing a post about this subject. Hopefully I’ll get around to it soon…

    • Joe Deeney says

      It’s a good question, with an unfortunately complicated answer that essentially boils down to “it depends”.

      First of all you need to decide what you mean by “value” (if you would genuinely pay cash for First Class flights, then the value of miles can be enormous, but most people wouldn’t spend the cash, so it seems unreasonable to set the value that high. In the same way, with hotels, do you set the value of your redemption at the cash price, or would you have sought out a cheaper alternative if you had to pay cash? If so, how much do you value the difference between the cheaper option you would have paid for and the better option your points have got you, but that you wouldn’t have paid cash for). These calculations are different for different people depending on their circumstances, but can also be different for the same person depending on the particular ‘type’ of trip they are looking at (eg. honeymoon vs quick weekend away).

      Once you’ve pondered all that, there are also additional factors like how many points/miles you have or could get (the best airline redemptions tend to require a lot of miles, whereas a night or 2 at very nice hotels might be much more easily attained. Therefore, even if the best airline redemptions objectively offer better value than the best hotel redemptions, they are no good to you if you’ll never collect enough miles for them). Etc Etc.

      Hope that (sort of!) helps.

  3. Laurens says

    Don’t underestimate the value of lower-end redemptions. There are still quite a number of category 1 AC hotels in Spain, and there are two left in Italy. My wife and I spent 5 nights in Brescia for 30,000 Marriott reward points, cash rates were some 600-700 euro at the time for 5 nights, so that’s at least 2 cents per point.

    • Joe Deeney says

      Great Point – Earlier in the year I booked 3 rooms for 5 nights at the AC Macka in Istanbul (excellent location in Besiktas and pretty decent hotel) for a total of 90k points (30k per room). Cash rates and other points rates in Istanbul are often very good value, but it was still a ridiculously good redemption despite the competition.

  4. Mike G says

    This article raises a good point, one that I’ve been thinking of myself. I would estimate that 9 times out of 10 I’ve been able to book hotel awards on the dates I need them. My hit rate with award flights is probably more like 1/10. Maybe even lower.

    For example, I just booked five nights at the Hilton Mauritius, for next February half term (so peak season), with no issues. I didn’t even bother looking for business award flights, as I know that whatever availability there might have been was snapped up months ago.

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