So this is what we’ve got to live with now. Marriott Bonvoy, the much-loved, but no longer with us, Starwood Preferred Guest program entered Marriott Rewards. The baby that was born of those two became the new program. Along with a little side-action from The Ritz-Carlton Rewards.
Before we get going, I don’t know about that name. Its like a cruise director from the 60’s got put in charge of Marriott’s marketing department and decided to pay homage to their former career. “Oh, hey guys, I know I’m new here, but a few decades ago, when old people got love drunk on gin and tonics used to cruise to the Bahamas, we’d get them all hot and bothered by wishing them bon voyage. It both made their journey feel worldlier, being French in origin, and all and exclusive”. If we could just work in some social justice, we’d have the perfect recipe for some white people crack. And thus, the branding Bonvoy was had. Or so legend has it.
The program itself is very similar to most hotel loyalty programs in the fact that it is category, not price, based. In other words, each of every one of Marriott’s 6700+ properties are assigned a category that drives it award redemption price. With this in mind, without even looking at any real-world numbers, we can draw one immediate conclusion. Your most lucrative Bonvoy point redemptions will come when hotel prices are highest. Think the summer travel season for leisure properties.
Sometime later this year, Marriott will change to a new peak/ off-peak pricing schedule. But for now, it’s just one price per category.
Even though that last category, 8, officially costs 85k, temporarily, one can book for the lower category 7 rate until March 5th, 2019.
That date, 3/5, brings us to our next talking point, as it’s also the date that many hotels will be changing categories. For the most part, the changes follow the theme of almost all loyalty program changes over the last several years. With a few exceptions, the new categories will make redemptions more expensive for the Bonvoy member.
In total, 323 properties will be re-assigned, or, a little under 5% of their 6700+ worldwide hotels and resorts. Of these 323 changes, 286, or 88.5% are increasing while 37, or 11.5% are decreasing. Finally, only a single category 8 hotel is devaluing to a category 7; The St. Regis Osaka. Ultimately, only representing 5% of the hotel’s worldwide properties means this change isn’t a massive devaluation. It is however, just one more example that things are getting more expensive, not cheaper. And that statement isn’t meant only for Marriott.
How Much are Marriott Bonvoy Points Worth?
Getting into our actual valuations, and things look pretty good. To provide some context, prior to re-evaluating Marriott Bonvoy in the face of the re-brand, I found Marriott Rewards to be worth exactly 1¢ each. This was actually already on the high end of the hotel spectrum. By comparison:
- Choice Privilege points are worth .25¢ each
- Hilton Honors, .38¢
- IHG Rewards Club Points, .44¢
- World of Hyatt Points, .9¢
This provides a category average of just .594¢.
So, without any further delay, how much are Marriott Bonvoy points worth in 2019? 1.11¢. That’s right, we’re up 11% since we last took a look back in August. Although the travel industry has given us little to be excited about over the couple years as we’ve seen devaluation after devaluation, this little uptick isn’t really cause for celebration. Why? Because it’s likely just seasonal. Remember earlier when I mentioned that a category-based loyalty program tends to produce the most value when prices are high, well, we’re heading into the summer travel season whereas a valuation in August meant we were heading into winter. So make of that what you will.
Where this Number Came From
Of course, none of this should take away from the fact that Marriott Bonvoy points are the most valuable hotel award currently available. Averages aside for a moment, let’s talk about what we found. Unlike the valuation of an airlines award currency, I can’t use the lowest cost cash alternative as my denominator. Unlike airline routes, hotel rooms aren’t semi-generic products. A coach seat is more or less the same on British Airways, Delta or American. They’re all shit. Just slightly less stinking versions of one another. The same can’t be said about a hotel room. With that in mind, I have a standardized basket of cities that I look at for all hotels. New York, Austin, Rome, Singapore, Bangkok, Toronto, London, Beijing, LA and San Juan. I chose these cities based on geographical diversity and size, they’re all big enough to have some representation from each major hotel operator. For anyone curious, my full valuation methodology is available here.
Because it makes a big difference to Marriott’s valuation, I will mention one specific aspect of my valuation procedure here. I always look at the total cost of a full week, Sunday through Saturday. It’s important to Marriott aficionados, because when booking an award stay through the program, one always get the 5th night free. Consider this, a category 6 hotel costs 50,000 points per night. 5 night should therefore theoretically cost 250,000 points. But because of that 5th night free perk, will only cost 200k. That makes a huge impact on the final numbers.
Further Value Breakdown
Our best redemption for the month comes from a week-long stay at The Ritz-Carlton New York Central Park, a category 7 property. The currently advertised rate for a standard room with a king-bed is $8,623. This stay is also bookable for 300,000 points plus $21 in taxes and fees. This provides a redemption value of 2.87¢ per point. That would be decent for an airline mile, but the fact that it’s a hotel point means it’s outstanding. Normally, I would consider anyone who converted an Ultimate Reward to a hotel point on a 1:1 basis on the slower end of the spectrum. But with a redemption like that lined up, I would have to say good job.
Our worst redemption came from a week-long stay at the JW Marriott LA Live. This was bookable for $1970 in cash or 250,000 points plus $4.50. Giving us a redemption value of .79¢.
I also like to look at the bell-curve, or, normal distribution of redemption values. This gives us an idea of where most redemptions will fall. If you haven’t zoned out by now, you’ll notice the average line right in the middle of the curve says, 1.24¢, not the 1.11 I mentioned earlier. That’s due to my universal reduction factor. If you’d like to know more about that, head to valuation method page.
We can see this is a steep and narrow curve. This means your likely redemption values are going to be relatively tightly bound. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. For someone who prefers reliability over upside, it might actually be good. While the opportunity for ultra-high value award redemptions doesn’t really exist, neither does the chance of a very poor one. To illustrate what I mean, take a look at the bell-curve that United MileagePlus generates.
It’s comparatively much wider. In other words, redemption values are all over the place. On the right, we can see there’s an outside shot at some +5¢ redemptions, but you can also get ripped-off if you’re not careful over on the left. I’d like to think people pay more attention when redeeming, but experience and horror stories tell me differently. I guess I should appreciate these naive people because they keep programs profitable and thus enable us to snag those saver-level business-class awards.
Marriott Bonvoy Status
Now that we see Marriott Bonvoy point redemptions are likely to be in the 1¢ range, what about status? I’ve always viewed this side of the game with a little bit of a side eye. Just too many what’s, if’s and maybe’s for me to ever get too excited. Let’s start with what everything has in common. Exclusive Member Rates, Mobile Key, No Blackout Dates, Cash+Points Availability, Instant Redemptions, in-room WiFi and Pointsaver awards. Everyone from a basic member to an Ambassador Elite will receive these benefits. All other tiered benefits are listed below.
Marriott Bonvoy Status Tiers
|1||Exclusive Member Rates||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|3||No Blackout Dates||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|8||Dedicated Reservation Line||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
Other Ways to use your Bonvoy Points
If you find yourself with a plethora of Marriott Bonvoy Points and you want to help your homeboys out, Marriott will allow you to transfer up to 100,000 points annually. But they don’t make it easy. Because they’re either too cheap or too unwilling to setup an online self-service system, one must call member support. Furthermore, according to all forum accounts, one will be put on hold for an unreasonable amount of time plus pay a $10 transfer fee. Unless of course you are Gold Elite or better. Just Marriott’s way of advertising a program benefit and then giving you a little backhand across the face when you actually try to use it. Worth mentioning here is that the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant from American Express grants you an appropriate elite status, as does the Bonvoy Boundless from Chase if you happen to be suckered into spending $35,000 on the later card.
Airline Transfer Partners
If you don’t feel like being the points Santa Claus, and you don’t plan on staying at any Marriott properties, transferring them to an airline is also an option. Though not a good one. It’s not a one to one transfer, it’s three to one. Meaning that at a valuation of 1.11¢, you’d need to believe in the ability to redeem on the airline side for at least 3.33¢ per mile to break even. All that said, if you’re in a bind, it is an option. If there’s one good thing to be said here, it’s that the number of transfer partners is huge. 44 at the time of filming. Which, if you consider Marriott to be a transferable currency, which it psueudo-is, makes it the one with by far the largest number of partners.
Marriott Bonvoy Airline Transfer Partners
|Air Canada Aeroplan||3:1|
|Air China Phoenix Miles||3:1|
|Air France/KLM Flying Blue||3:1|
|Air New Zealand Airpoints™||200:1|
|Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan®||3:1|
|ANA Mileage Club||3:1|
|Asiana Airlines Asiana Club||3:1|
|British Airways Executive Club||3:1|
|China Eastern Airlines Eastern Miles||3:1|
|China Southern Airlines||3:1|
|Copa Airlines ConnectMiles||3:1|
|Frontier Airlines EarlyReturns®||3:1|
|Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles®||3:1|
|Japan Airlines JAL Mileage Bank||3:1|
|Jet Airways JetPrivilege®||3:1|
|Korean Air SKYPASS||3:1|
|LATAM Airlines LATAMPASS||3:1|
|Lufthansa Miles & More||3:1|
|Qantas Frequent Flyer||3:1|
|Qatar Privilege Club||3:1|
|Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer®||3:1|
|South African Airways Voyager||3:1|
|Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards®||3:1|
|TAP Air Portugal||3:1|
|Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles||3:1|
|Virgin Atlantic® Flying Club||3:1|
|Virgin Australia Velocity Frequent Flyer||3:1|
The last thing I’ll cover is the ability to purchase gift cards with your Marriott Bonvoy points. You shouldn’t do this. To give an example of what I’m going on about, consider the price of a $100 Amazon gift card. How much do you think this should cost? 10,000 points for a valuation of 1¢ each? That would be reasonable. 15,000 for a value of 2/3¢, wouldn’t be great. The answer is none of the above. Marriott charges a redonculous 30,000 Bonvoy points for a redemption value of just .33¢ per point. Just ridiculous and frankly an insult to program-members.
Side note: why are there approximately 4 re-directs after one clicks on the gift card link on Bonvoy’s desktop site? For a second, I thought I clicked the wrong porn link and I was about to be sent to popup window purgatory.
Moving down in value once more, and one can redeem for airfare directly via Marriott’s travel portal, but the redemption rates are horrible. Typically, you’ll see about .39¢ per point. Consider this among your options of last-resort.