Marriott Bonvoy is the hotel loyalty program of choice for many Canadians, both for hotel bookings and for its flexibility to transfer to a huge variety of airline partners.
Since merging with Starwood Preferred Guest, Marriott Bonvoy has joined the ranks of programs that run frequent promotions on purchasing points directly from the program. As of today, they’ve just launched their latest promotion for anyone looking to boost their points balance.
Buy Marriott Bonvoy points with 40–50% Bonus
From now until March 22, 2021, Marriott Bonvoy is offering up to 50% bonus on points purchases. The 50% bonus is targeted at certain users, with remaining users receiving only a 40% bonus.
Typically, Marriott charges 1.25 cents per point (USD) to buy directly from the program. With this promotion, the rate improves to:
- 0.83 cents per point (USD) if you’ve been targeted for the 50% bonus
- 0.89 cents per point (USD) if you’ve only received the 40% bonus
These rates are competitive, although not quite on par, with our current valuation of 0.7 cents per Bonvoy point (USD).
This bonus ranks among one of the better ones historically, especially if you’ve been targeted for the 50% bonus. However, we’ve also seen Marriott go as high as 60% on these promotions before, so I’d wait for a 60% bonus to come around if you aren’t in a major rush to buy points.
How many Marriott Bonvoy points can you buy?
Starting in 2021, Marriott Bonvoy imposes a limit of 100,000 points purchased per calendar year, up from 50,000 previously.
This limit includes points purchased for yourself, plus points you receive that were purchased and gifted by others. Previously purchased points do count towards the limit.
If you max out this promotion, it’ll cost US$1,250 for either 140,000 or 150,000 points, depending on whether you’ve received the 40% or 50% bonus.
Which credit card should you use to buy Marriott Bonvoy points?
Marriott sells points through an external vendor, Points.com. They don’t count as a travel purchase, and there’s no extra benefit to using a co-branded Amex Marriott Bonvoy card issued in Canada or the US.
Instead, I’d suggest any card with a high base earn rate, or one where you’re working on meeting the minimum spend requirement.
Who Should Buy Marriott Bonvoy Points?
Buying points can be a good way to top up your account if you’re keen to make a redemption soon.
Booking a High-Value Aspirational Hotel
The Marriott Bonvoy portfolio contains some of the most exceptional hotel brands in the world, including Ritz-Carlton, St. Regis, and EDITION, among others.
With sky-high cash prices, booking on points can bring these experiences within reach. The best of the best, Category 8, go for 85,000 points per night at the standard rate. Compare that to the cash price at the Luxury Collection’s Al Maha Desert Resort Dubai, which can easily exceed $2,000 (CAD) per night!
At a cash price of US$708 for 85,000 points (under the 50% bonus), it definitely makes sense to buy points instead of pay cash if a luxury booking is on your radar, whether for a top-up or to fund the entire stay.
Or if the desert isn’t your style, you could indulge in decadence at the JW Marriott Maldives. Even with “relatively” more reasonable prices closer to $1,000 (CaD) per night, a points booking is still the way to go.
With Marriott Bonvoy’s “Stay 5, Pay for 4” benefit on points bookings, the total points cost would be 340,000 points for five nights.
At this rate, you’re getting over 3 cents per point (CAD) in value at Al Maha, or 1.62 cents per point (CAD) in value at JW Marriott Maldives, well above both the nominal valuation of a Bonvoy point and the cash cost of a points purchase.
Of course, you’ll want to ensure you’ve lined up the award availability at the hotel before pulling the trigger on a points purchase, especially if you’re trying to maximize the fifth-night-free benefit.
Quick Top-Up for Any Upcoming Redemption
For travellers with more humble taste, the top of the Marriott Bonvoy chart isn’t the only place to find good value.
At the end of the day, as long as the value of your redemption is above the acquisition cost of 0.83 or 0.89 cents per point (USD), you’ll come out ahead on any booking.
For example, at the lower end, the Courtyard Phnom Penh offers better value on points that with cash. A Category 2 hotel, it costs 13,000 points per night at the peak PointSavers rate. Against a nightly cash price of CA$169, this is a value of 1.3 cents per point (CAD).
However, the value proposition in buying Bonvoy points for lower-end redemptions is less clear-cut than the aspirational goals. It’s heavily dependent on finding a discrepancy between the cash price and the points price, and that can often be hard to predict.
Therefore, since Bonvoy points are rather easy to earn anyway, I’d recommend exhausting the cheaper sources first before buying points outright.
Transfer to Exclusive Airline Partners
Marriott Bonvoy has over 40 airline partners. For most programs, Bonvoy points can be transferred to airline miles at a rate of 3:1, with a 5,000-mile bonus for transferring in increments of 60,000 Bonvoy points.
By buying Bonvoy points at 0.83 cents per point (USD) and transferring to frequent flyer programs, you’re effectively purchasing airline miles for just under 2 cents per mile (USD).
This is certainly quite expensive, but the real benefit is gaining access to exclusive airlines.
For example, Singapore Airlines doesn’t make First Class award space bookable for partner programs like Aeroplan. Usually, you can only book Singapore Suites with their own KrisFlyer loyalty program.
And with few transfer partners in Canada (HSBC Rewards is the only other one), Marriott Bonvoy can provide a rare gateway to sample this luxurious experience.
Other niche transfer partners include Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan for its unique partner-based sweet spots, ANA Mileage Club for its generous round-the-world award ticket, or Korean Air SKYPASS or other members of the SkyTeam alliance with a weaker footprint in the credit card industry.
Multi-player Mode: Pool Points Among the Family or Household
One of Marriott Bonvoy’s is the ability to transfer points freely between accounts. Each member may send up to 100,000 points per calendar year, and receive up to 500,000 points per calendar year.
If you have elite status on the primary account in your household, it’s ideal to pool your points in the elite member’s account to make bookings, especially for high-end properties where the perks of hotel status really shine.
Once you’ve hit your points purchase cap on your main account, you can buy more points on another account to take advantage of any remaining transfer room. Note that members must be enrolled for 30 days and have some activity on their account before they are eligible to purchase points.
Other Ways to Earn Marriott Bonvoy Points
Marriott Bonvoy shuffles their hotel categories on an annual basis, so it can be a risky proposition to commit money to their loyalty program if you aren’t imminently planning a booking.
If you aren’t in a rush to acquire Bonvoy points but would like to slowly build your balance for a bigger redemption down the road, I’d recommend looking at credit card opportunities first.
Canadian Credit Cards by American Express
American Express issues two co-branded Marriott Bonvoy cards in Canada:
- American Express Marriott Bonvoy Card: Earn 51,000 Marriott Bonvoy points upon spending $3,000 in the first three months, with an annual fee of $120.
- American Express Marriott Bonvoy Business Card: Earn 51,000 Marriott Bonvoy points upon spending $3,000 in the first three months, with an annual fee of $150.
At 0.24 and 0.3 cents per point (CAD), respectively, both cards represent a very favourable acquisition cost compared to today’s valuation of 0.9 cents per point (CAD).
American Express Membership Rewards can also be transferred to Marriott Bonvoy at a rate of 1:1.2. Both tiers of MR points are eligible; however, the higher tier is more valuable for airline transfers, so I prefer to use the less-flexible Membership Rewards Select points for Bonvoy transfers:
- American Express Cobalt Card: Earn 45,000 MR Select points upon spending $3,000 in the first three months and $500 each month in the first year, with an annual fee of $120.
- Converted to Marriott Bonvoy, this becomes 54,000 Bonvoy points, or more with 5 MR Select (or 6 Bonvoy points) earned per dollar spent on groceries and dining.
- American Express Business Edge Card: Earn 40,000 MR Select points upon spending $5,000 in the first three months, with an annual fee of $99.
- Converted to Marriott Bonvoy, this becomes 48,000 Bonvoy points.
After transferring points to Bonvoy, the annual fees represent acquisition costs of 0.22 or 0.21 cents per point (CAD). Indeed, all four of the above cards offer good value for the Marriott Bonvoy program.
US Credit Cards by American Express & Chase
South of the border, American Express issues two co-branded Marriott Bonvoy cards:
- American Express US Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card: Earn 75,000 Marriott Bonvoy points upon spending US$3,000 in the first three months, with an annual fee of US$450 (offset by a US$300 annual Marriott credit).
- American Express US Marriott Bonvoy Business Card: Earn 75,000 Marriott Bonvoy points upon spending US$3,000 in the first three months, with an annual fee of US$125.
We’ve seen bigger bonuses before, recently up to 125,000 Bonvoy points and automatic Platinum Elite status for a year. Because Amex bonuses are strictly once-in-a-lifetime in the US, it’s best to wait for an elevated bonus before you apply.
In addition, Chase has also partnered with the hotel chain, offering two co-branded personal cards on the Visa network:
- Chase Marriott Bonvoy Bold Card: Earn 30,000 Marriott Bonvoy points upon spending US$1,000 in the first three months, with no annual fee.
- Chase Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Card: Earn 75,000 Marriott Bonvoy points upon spending US$3,000 within the first three months, with an annual fee of US$95.
Overall, the Chase Bonvoy Boundless is the cheapest way to acquire Bonvoy points, with its annual fee representing a cost of 0.13 (USD) cents per point.
That said, all of the above cards are quite compelling once you consider the annual free night awards you earn. The exception would be the Chase Bonvoy Bold, which offers a low total value while counting against Chase’s 5/24 rule.
Also, keep in mind that if you’ve received the welcome bonus on an Amex US Marriott Bonvoy card within the last 24 months, you’re not eligible for the Chase offers, and vice versa. So even though there are many ways to earn Bonvoy points from US credit cards, you’ll have to choose just one that suits you best in the short term.
With so many other ways to collect Marriott Bonvoy points, I wouldn’t rush to speculatively buy points for 0.83–0.89 cents per point (USD). But if you need to push your balance over the hump for an upcoming dream redemption, this 40–50% bonus is a great way to make it happen.
If you’re interested, make sure to purchase Marriott Bonvoy points before March 22, 2021 to take advantage of this offer.