The best ways to use Marriott points

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I’m going to let you in on the best ways to use Marriott points.

If you don’t choose any of these redemption options, you’re better off investing in another points program. And if you want to know every option for using Marriott points, check out our post on how to use Marriott points.

Otherwise, you’ll be wanting to open Marriott credit cards to earn their giant welcome bonuses. My wife and I collectively have five Marriott cards — and we keep them open because of their ongoing benefits!

If you know the best ways to use Marriott points, you can harness their power to fly to Thailand and stay there, all for free. (Photo by mikolajn/Shutterstock.)

Best ways to use Marriott points

You can buy gift cards, reserve rental cars and purchase merchandise with Marriott points. But don’t do it. You’ll get the absolute best value for your points by using them for free hotel stays or award flights.

Beautiful five-star hotel stays

This is the reason most of us begin collecting hotel points — to stay for free at expensive, beautiful, exotic hotels that we wouldn’t be able to afford with cash.

Earning Marriott points with cards like the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card is the quick path to free five-star hotels. For example, I used 35,000 Marriott points to stay at the stunning JW Marriott El Convento in Cusco, Peru, after my hike to Machu Picchu.

The JW Marriott hotel in Cusco, Peru, which is a restored 16th-century convent. (Photo by Joseph Hostetler/Million Mile Secrets.)

Just remember, many five-star hotels have rates that vary dramatically from season to season. For example, the St. Regis Deer Valley (a popular ski resort) charges as little as $350 in the fall. But once the ski season begins, you’ll have a hard time finding a rate under $1,000. Award nights at this hotel cost a lot at 85,000 points per night, so you get much better value for your points if you use them during ski season.

Always check the cash price of a hotel before you burn a ton of points, and read this post to better understand the value of Marriott points.

Practical hotel stays

My favorite way to get the most value for my points is to stretch them by using them for “low category” hotels. For example, I stayed at a TownePlace Suites just west of Chicago for only 7,500 points per night. The room consistently sells for over $90, so I received a solid value of 1.2 cents per point ($90/7,500 points).

A perfectly adequate room — for just 7,500 Marriott points per night. (Photo by Joseph Hostetler/Million Mile Secrets)

Remember, if you were to open the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card, you’d receive a welcome bonus of 75,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. You could stay at a cheap hotel like this for at least 10 nights.

Fifth hotel night free

Marriott gives you an incentive to burn your points at their hotels: When you book five consecutive nights with points, you’ll get the fifth night for free. For example, here’s the price of four nights at the AC Hotel Cincinnati at the Banks — a cost of 25,000 points per night.

And here’s how much it costs to book the same hotel for five nights. As you can see, it’s the same price because you get the fifth night for free.

This feature is especially handy if you’re staying at a high-priced hotel, like a Ritz-Carlton or St. Regis which can cost 85,000 points per night. I used this fifth-night-free perk to save 60,000 points on my recent trip to the St. Regis Maldives.

You can use the fifth-night free perk at any Marriott property, including the luxurious St. Regis Maldives. (Photo by Joseph Hostetler/Million Mile Secrets)

Transfer points to airlines in increments of 60,000

You can transfer Marriott points to 40+ airlines at a decent transfer ratio of 3:1 (unless otherwise specified below).

Aegean AirlinesAeroflotAeroMexicoAir Canada
Air ChinaAir New Zealand (200:1)Alaska AirlinesAlitalia
ANAAmerican AirlinesAsiana AirlinesAvianca
British AirwaysCathay PacificChina Eastern AirlinesChina Southern Airlines
Copa AirlinesDeltaEmiratesEtihad
Flying Blue (Air France / KLM)Frontier AirlinesHainan AirlinesHawaiian Airlines
IberiaJapan AirlinesJet AirwaysJetBlue (6:1)
Korean AirLATAMLufthansaQantas
QatarSaudia AirlinesSingapore AirlinesSouth African Airways
SouthwestTAPThai AirwaysTurkish Airlines
United Airlines (3:1.1)Virgin AtlanticVirgin Australia

That means if you transfer 3,000 Marriott points to popular carriers like American Airlines, Southwest or Alaska Airlines, you’ll receive 1,000 miles. This is a great deal, as Marriott points are generally way easier to earn than many airline’s reward currencies.

There’s a secret bonus that can make the transfer ratio even better. When you convert your Marriott points in increments of 60,000, you’ll end up with 25,000 miles instead of 20,000 miles, because Marriott will automatically send a bonus 15,000 points to the airline, giving you 5,000 extra miles. These bonus miles make the ratio 2.4:1 instead of 3:1, which is a significant improvement.

If you’re going to transfer Marriott points to airlines, it’s clearly best to transfer them in increments of 60,000. Read this post if you want to learn how to transfer Marriott points to airlines.

Also, note that this strategy is really only effective when booking business or first class flights. For instance, Alaska Airlines’ miles are difficult to acquire, but you can transfer Marriott points to the airline. Alaska has a fantastic partner award chart and is primed for those who want to fly to Asia in a premium cabin. For instance, you can fly Cathay Pacific business class to Asia for just 50,000 Alaska miles one-way.

You can transfer Marriott points to Alaska Airlines and book a business class flight to Asia for an incredibly competitive rate. (Image by JT Genter).

You don’t generally want to transfer Marriott points to airlines for a simple domestic flight. Here’s why:

  • It generally costs about 25,000 miles to book a domestic round-trip flight
  • You’d have to transfer 60,000 points to an airline to receive 25,000 airline miles
  • We value Marriott points at 0.8 cents each, so 60,000 points = $480

Unless the flight you intend to book costs at least $480, it’s best not to use Marriott points.

Bottom line

Marriott points are easy to earn and easy to redeem, both for free hotels and free flights. But there are only a few particular ways you’ll get the absolute most from your points:

  • Select luxury resorts
  • Bottom-of-the-barrel hotels
  • Stays of five nights or more
  • Business or first-class award flights

Leave any questions in the comments. And remember to subscribe to our newsletter for more tips on how to be smart with your miles and points.

Joseph Hostetler is a full-time writer for Million Mile Secrets, covering miles and points tips and tricks, as well as helpful travel-related news and deals.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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