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How to use Marriott Points Advance — book hotels even if you don’t have the points

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Lots of the best Marriott resorts, like the St Regis Maldives and W Bali, don’t have “regular” hotel rooms. They’ve instead got nothing but gorgeous gigantic suites. Once upon a time, you couldn’t book these hotels through the Marriott website; you had to instead call to book these special accommodations.

Marriott’s lightened up significantly since then. Not only can you book these awards online, but you can reserve them even if you don’t currently have the points balance to swing it. That’s right, you can secure a room even if you have zero points — then you can earn them at your leisure with the best Marriott credit cards (or plenty of other ways).

There is one big catch. I’ll give you a quick guide for how to use Marriott Points Advance for any Marriott hotel room, and explain its pitfall.

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Reserve the St. Regis Maldives for as little as 56,000 points per night! (Photo by Joseph Hostetler/Million Mile Secrets)

How to use Marriott Points Advance to reserve any Marriott hotel

You can utilize Marriott’s “Points Advance” program to reserve a hotel even if you don’t have the points to cover the bill. To maintain your reservation, you must have sufficient points in your account 14 days before your stay. So if you have nowhere near the points you need, you can reserve a hotel 10 months down the road, and have 9.5 months to collect the points.

To use it, simply find the hotel at which you want to stay, and begin to book it with points.

If you don’t have sufficient points, an orange box will draw your attention to the Points Advance feature (you can’t use Points Advance if you have enough points for your stay). You can make your reservation exactly the same way as normal — no hoops to jump through at all! However, you’ll need to check a box acknowledging that you understand this is a Points Advance reservation.

The bad news: Marriott Points Advance won’t secure the price

Did you catch that subtle caveat in the fine print at the bottom of the above page?

“…Points Advance reservations only hold a room, and the points rate may increase or decrease…”

You can reserve any Marriott hotel room before you have the points. But Points Advance will not lock-in your current rate. The Marriott award chart enforces three rates:

For example, you may reserve a Category 7 hotel at the standard rate of 60,000 points per night with Points Advance. However, by the time you’ve earned the points for your stay, the rate may have changed to Peak pricing, which is 70,000 points per night. You’d need an extra 10,000 points per night to fulfill your reservation. Or worse, the Marriott hotel you’ve selected may raise in category, meaning you’ll need more points for your reservation.

Of course, the opposite could also happen. Your rate could drop to off-peak pricing — or the hotel could drop in category.

Why you should use Marriott Points Advance

The big win here from this feature is that you can always ensure there is available reward space for your desired dates. If you’re eyeing a popular hotel, like a ski weekend at a mountain resort, those rooms often sell quickly. Points Advance is the adult version of proclaiming “Dibs!!” on reward space in the event that you want it later.

You can’t possess more than three Points Advance reservations at once, and your check-in date must be at least 30 days from the reservation date. If you realize you won’t be able to fulfill the points obligation by 14 days before check-in, you can cancel the reservation as normal, and the award space will be released out into the wild.

How to earn Marriott points before your stay

If you’ll have trouble earning Marriott points for your stay, here’s some great news for you. Marriott allows members to transfer up to 100,000 points between any two accounts each calendar year. And each account can receive transfers from multiple accounts for a maximum 500,000 points per year.

In other words, you and a travel buddy (or two or three or four) can open a Marriott credit card, earn its welcome bonus, and then combine points to help you reach your goal faster. To combine your points, you’ll need to call Marriott.

Here are the current Marriott credit card offers. If both you and a travel buddy both open a card or two, you’ll have enough points for several days in a five-star hotel in no time.

There are other ways to earn Marriott points (read our post about how to earn Marriott points), but opening a Marriott credit card is by far the quickest.

Bottom line

Marriott Points Advance reserves available award space for you. It does not book the room, and it does not lock-in a certain award price. Nothing is truly secured until you achieve the amount of points necessary for your reservation.

Despite this downfall, Points Advance can be very handy for pouncing on popular hotels that tend to quickly sell out. Let us know your experience with Marriott Points Advance, and subscribe to our newsletter for more helpful posts like this delivered to your inbox.

Lead image by Joseph Hostetler/Million Mile Secrets

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! :)