When Should I Pay Cash or Redeem Points with Marriott Bonvoy?

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Marriott Bonvoy is perhaps the hotel chain where the decision to use points or pay cash is hardest. Having previously looked at Hilton Honors and World of Hyatt, today I’ll look at Marriott Bonvoy.

Step One Is Always Maths (Sorry!)

Marriott Bonvoy allows members to book standard rooms using points. Some hotels also allow you to use points for suites or other preferred rooms, but most hotels only offer standard rooms when redeeming your points.

It doesn’t matter whether you book using points or whether you pay cash – you will get the same room. And if you enjoy elite status, you will have the same chances of receiving an upgrade. So you really are just comparing two different payment methods.

Here’s an interesting example from the Renaissance hotel in Cancun, Mexico…

It is VERY IMPORTANT to include all service charges and taxes, because you will NOT have to pay these on a full award stay with Marriott Bonvoy. However you DO need to pay any resort fees (or similar) and any local taxes, even when spending points.

In this example, I could pay 160,000 points in total, or $1,875 in total.

You simply divide one by the other in order to calculate a “cents per point” – $1875 / 160,000 = 1.17 cents per point.

Is That Good Or Bad?

It depends on your own perspective…

But I like to compare this to the cost of BUYING points from Marriott Bonvoy. The most common promotion allows you to buy Marriott points with a 50% bonus, working out to 0.83 cents per point. So this provides a valuable reference point.

Since you could buy Marriott points for 0.83 cents and redeem them for 1.17 cents in my example above, you are probably on the right track…

But You Earn More Points When Paying Cash For Your Room

… yes you do. Especially when there are interesting promotions happening. With Marriott, only paid stays qualify for promotions, even when the promotion offers a fixed number of points per night / stay.

If you pay cash for my Mexican example, your rate would be $1,506 pre-tax. Without elite status or other bonuses, you would therefore earn:

  • 10 base points –> 15,060 points

So Your “Opportunity Cost” Is Higher

By redeeming points instead of paying cash, you could be forgoing the chance to earn at least 15,060 points. So, your “opportunity cost” when redeeming points is actually 175,060 points (160,000 +15,060). Compare that to the $1875 cash cost and you’d be getting 1.01 cents.

I hope that it’s not getting too complicated, but it does demonstrate that, depending on what promotions are available, you might want to buy points during the next 50% bonus promotion…

Don’t Forget Airline Miles Conversions

Marriott is unique among the major hotel chains, because it allow conversions of hotel points into airline miles at an attractive rate of 3:1 (with a bonus for converting in chunks of 60,000 points). If you convert exactly 60,000 Marriott points, therefore, you will receive 25,000 miles. Airline miles have wildly different values, however. I am usually quite willing to convert Marriott points into miles with Alaska Mileage Plan or Turkish Miles & Smiles. But I would never even contemplate Avios or Avianca Lifemiles…

The possible valuation of miles adds even more complication to the analysis. Rather than go down into that rabbit hole, it’s simply worth remembering that Marriott points have a floor valuation – which is 25/60 of whatever you think your favourite miles currencies are worth.

When Should I Spend My Marriott Points?

I usually need to book a five night stay to entice me to spend my Marriott points on a hotel stay (click here for details of Marriott’s fifth night free benefit).

As a result, my rule of thumb is:

  1. 1 cent of value or higher –> ALWAYS use points (I can buy more later if needed)
  2. 0.8 – 1.0 cents of value –> PROBABLY use points (unless there is a double or triple point promotion)
  3. less than 0.8 cents of value –> ALMOST NEVER use points (the points would be worth more to me as airline miles)

Bottom Line

The rule of thumb I highlighted above works really well for me. Even though my Marriott points balance does tend to increase over time – meaning that redemption opportunities are fewer than I would like – my balance always drops down when I need a substantial number of miles to book my next international flight in Business or First Class…


  1. Stuart says

    $$$$, thought you were a UK site… Nothing wrong with going after the US but we still use ££££, please make the conversion effort, GSTP always does

    • Joe Deeney says

      Hi Stuart,

      We normally absolutely do whenever relevant (eg. any deals priced in USD). The issue here is that Marriott Bonvoy works out the points earned from the pre-tax USD equivalent, regardless of currency. Given how much the USD has devalued against GBP over the last year (and how much currency fluctuation we are likely to continue to see), putting in GBP figures could quickly become quite misleading, as those are the ones people would take more notice of.

      To work out how many points you’re going to earn (and therefore whether to pay cash or points), you need to use the USD figure.

      • Craig Sowerby says

        Yes, I would love to find a not-confusing way to do it all in GBP. But when you buy points in USD and you earn points based on USD, the simplest examples always involve US dollars.

    • Tom Sumner says

      Steady on Stuart. There are native tribes in the deepest Amazonian jungle, untouched by Western civilisation, that do a more convincing impersonation of “being British” than GSTP.

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