If you’ve seen any of my adventures on Instagram or Twitter, then you already know how much this girl loves to travel! The most frequent question I’m asked online is, “How are you able to travel so much?” That’s a good question! Sometimes I can’t even believe it. If I told you Marriott points helps me travel, would you believe it?
When I first started traveling 170+ days/yr, I kept hearing of all the perks and rewards that came with having a hotel membership. After doing my research, it seemed like the way to go.
So, I gave it a shot and started signing up for different ones. Before I knew it, I had several hotel memberships under my belt.
Then, I met my then partner who introduced me to one more… Marriott Bonvoy, Marriott’s rewards program. I did a lot of traveling but he did even more than me (300 days/yr) and reached Marriott’s highest status (Ambassador).
He was getting perks up the ying-yang and I was like, “Heck yeah! Give me some of that!” So, I signed up, too. I wasn’t gonna let him have all the fun. 😉
While I was just starting to build my status, I was watching him rack up so many points and perks that he would use toward some of our vacations, many of which were compensated for with points. We would do a lot of traveling together throughout our relationship.
FYI, this is NOT a sponsored post
The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly
Before we dive into any stories or reviews, I thought you should know… As of this posting, this blog is not sponsored. Any products or services reviewed were paid for out of my own pocket unless otherwise noted.
[This post was originally posted February of 2021. Updated January of 2022]
Hotel Perks for Dummies
I was getting the hang of the whole travel rewards thing. But, I was still very much like, “How do I build points?” At first, it all seemed like a secret honestly. It’s not exactly like anyone walks you through it. Not unless you ask for help but you don’t know what you don’t know, right?
Needless to say, the world of travel rewards was very unfamiliar to me and quite intimidating…
All I knew was that it seemed like there were perks in store for my partner and me on every trip we took… just for being a member. The benefits ranged from free nights and bonus points to gifts, lounge access, complimentary breakfast, very early (& flexible) check-ins and late checkouts, and more.
At first, it seems a little mind-boggling. There’s a lot of info to remember if you want to reap the benefits of your membership. Or, at least one would think.
You’re like, “So, wait.. how many nights do I have to rack up to get a free stay?”. “At what level do I get free breakfast?”… “How come this hotel doesn’t honor my status benefits… wtf??”
At one point I thought to myself, “Maybe a hotel membership isn’t right for me after all”. I always felt like there was something that I didn’t know. And I hated that feeling. I needed Hotel Perks for Dummies.
But, then something happened and it just clicked. It’s as if I had been overthinking it all along. Wouldn’t be the first time. That’s kinda my personality defect actually.
Suddenly, the world of hotel rewards wasn’t nearly as intimidating as it once had seemed.
Hotel Perks are Exciting
Over time, I’ve experienced the excitement that comes with getting to the next level in my membership and unlocking the benefits that status has to offer such as lounge access, free nights, welcome gifts, and more!
Just for being a member of Marriott and it’s free to sign up! Just like you can’t win if you don’t play, you can’t earn if you don’t sign up. 😉
Somehow, when my ex and I traveled together, we managed to get a lot of the hotel stays for free as a result of our clever planning and leveraging the beauty of rewards programs like crazy which worked in our favor.
None of the trips were sponsored for the record.
Needless to say, since first becoming a member several years ago, I’m hooked and have never looked back. Loyalty has paid off.
If it sounds like I’m trying to convince you to sign up for a Marriott Bonvoy account….. Well, that’s because… I absolutely am! You pay good money to travel. You shouldn’t have to miss out on the benefits (that are practically owed to you for being a loyal customer) just because you don’t understand how it works. After all, we don’t know what we don’t know, right? 😉
You’re Not a Dummy If You Don’t Know This Stuff
But, just because I’m a frequent traveler doesn’t mean I haven’t made my share of boo-boos along the way.
When I first started leveraging travel rewards, I had no idea what any of the jargon meant. It was basically a foreign language to me.
I could have been had Ambassador status like 3x over by now. Unfortunately, like so many first starting out in their “travel reward journey”, I just failed to grasp how it all worked.
Now that I have a much better understanding of it all, I realize that it just takes a little bit of patience. And you’ll get there too.
I am like the least tech-savvy person of anyone I know and am very much an instant gratification type of person. But, I’ve figured it out.
So, I’m pretty sure that if I can do it, you can too!
You Can Get in on the Perks Too!
The question isn’t, “Can my vacation get better than this?” It’s, “How can my vacation get better than this?”
My goal is to help you live your best life. So, I’m going to share with you some fairly easy and super awesome tips to maximize your rewards when you travel.
Before you know it, you too will be racking up points, free stays, perks like lounge access, early check-in/late check-out (perfect for you a late night on the towners & last minute sightseers), suite vouchers, and so much more!
There are just a few things you need to know first.
I promise to keep things layman’s term friendly and not scare ya.
This blog will be the no-nonsense Spark Notes version of Travel Rewards. Don’t know about you babe, but that’s how I got through most of my English classes. 😉
And now it’s time to see if a Marriott Bonvoy membership is right for you!
Here are some of the ways I get free stays and have been able to travel 170+ days/yr. for the last several years. You’re about to leverage rewards like a pro.
Here we go!
A Crash Course in Hotel Rewards
In my last blog, Marriott Bonvoy Membership: A Real Girl’s Guide to Marriott Hotels and Resorts, I gave you a quick intro to the Marriott brand and shared the different hotel categories (which determines the type of trip you have and what it’ll cost ya- points &/or cash).
This blog will go into a bit more detail on Marriott’s perks and tips. I want you to get the most out of each trip.
Marriott Bonvoy Program
Maybe you’re after a hotel brand with membership perks, the most bang for your buck, the style and aesthetic you’re into, or hotels in each of the cities you travel to.
Or, maybe no one introduced you to the world of travel rewards until now.
Marriott is great. Yes, I have affiliate links in this blog. But also yes, so do I for every other hotel chain so I’m not biased.. not that I am anyway.. I’ve given bad reviews for free products I’ve received in the past.
What I Love About Marriott
I’ve been loyal to Marriott for several years now. Not because they’re paying me (this isn’t sponsored). I’ve just had great experiences. Here are a few of my favorite benefits.
- Marriott Rewards and Perks
It pays to be loyal! Literally. There are so many benefits to having status with Marriott.
- Large Range Hotels
Marriott is currently the largest hotel chain with over 7,000 properties to choose from across 30 different hotel brands. I’ve never had an issue finding a Marriott property in the city I was traveling to.
Depending on the type of trip you’re taking, you can choose a hotel with a boutique feel or a luxury brand like The Ritz while still racking up points which is awesome!
I’ve found Marriott to be pretty consistent in terms of customer service and cleanliness, even at their lower-tiered properties like Residence Inn.
Don’t get me wrong, I love supporting small businesses but there’s something to be said about chains who deliver consistency every time. You know what you’re getting. And if you don’t, they have the means to correct the situation.
You can see all the different hotel brands and their levels here.
But, not all hotel experiences are created equal. There were definitely some so-so hotels I’ve stayed at too which you can read about in Part 3 and Part 4 of this Marriott series where I share a few of the recent trips I’ve taken and rate each of my hotel’s stays. Some were a boom, others a bust! You’ll just have to read to find out! 😉
What is the Quickest Way to Earn Points with Marriott?
How do I travel so frequently without paying out a small fortune?? Well, I honestly still do… but, I also got a lot of stays for free (not sponsored).
It’s called Double Dipping!
No, don’t go for the community ketchup with your saliva-laced french fry, gross.
I mean double dip as in… get perks from two different sources with the same purchase!
It’s all about leveraging reward programs that have partnered up with Marriott.
Let’s say you’re flying with United Airlines.
Do you know how you get miles per dollar spent on the flight? Well, you can also earn Marriott Bonvoy points for that flight also through something amazing called…
Say it with me, “reciprocal agreements”.
It’s fantastic because you’re getting perks from 2 different sources for the price of 1! Voila, double rewards!
So, the myth shattered. Double dipping is not just the act of dunking finger food in sauce twice. Boom.
But, you don’t just earn points for flights taken.
So, you’ll get benefits with Marriott as well as Marriott’s partners when you’re signed up with both rewards programs. And, the good news? It’s absolutely free to sign up.
Real Girl Review Tip: Before Booking Your Hotel
Before booking a Marriott property, do a quick online search for cheaper rates. (i.e. Hotels.com) Marriott offers a “look no further best rate guarantee” but, you have to book with them directly which you can do here.
If you find a cheaper rate elsewhere for the same hotel, room type, and dates within 24 hours of making your reservation and you’re approved, you qualify for Marriott’s price match guarantee + an additional 25% discount off your stay OR 5,000 Marriott Bonvoy points. It’s up to you. Fill out the claim form here.
Time to Leverage Those Rewards Even More Baby!
At first, it seems really trivial.. racking up rewards… but, we all make purchases every day. We may as well be getting points for it and earn free stuff! Right?
And, not just toward Marriott’s free hotel stays.
I’m also talking… free car rentals, flights, dining experiences, and much, much more!
But, just how exactly do you manage to get things for free? Where do you start?
I’ve got you covered. By the end, you’re going to be like, “Girl.. I need a vacation”. 😉
For the record, I’m not trying to sell you. I just wish that someone had given me this info in basic easy to follow terms in a way that didn’t make me want to rip my hair out.
Now, we’ll talk more about travel rewards:
But, before we get into any of this super cool stuff though, let’s start with the basics…
What Are “Marriott Points” and Why Do We Want Them?
It may seem obvious but, with each completed Marriott stay, you earn points.
The higher your Marriott status, the more points you rack up through what’s called a “point multiplier”.
So, starting out, you may not rack up that much at the lowest statuses but at some point, you’ll reach a certain status and start racking up points like crazy which you can then use toward things like free stays.
But, there are so many different ways to rack up Marriott Bonvoy’s points. Not just hotel stays.
So, how do we earn them? From credit card purchases, flights, car rentals, dining, etc.
Want to learn more? Follow me!
Marriott’s Reciprocal Agreements
Currently, Marriott has agreements with these two airlines:
Let’s talk about each…
Marriott and United Airlines
My ex and I traveled with United quite a bit and loved getting miles from Marriott stays and points with United flights we took. Gotta love double dipping baby!
If you’re a member of both programs, you’re eligible for the following perks:
You get double status when you fly United and stay at Marriott. So, if you have Premier Gold status with United, you automatically get free Gold Elite Status with Marriott.
Get 10% more when you convert your Marriott Bonvoy points into United miles.
Hotel deal + air miles. Umm.. hello?! Yes!! More of that, please.
Get 10% more miles when you redeem Marriott points for travel packages. See packages here. When you choose to fly with United, you can earn up to 10,000 extra miles.
Book a Marriott Bonvoy hotel within 90 days of your flight here. Just select “book hotel” below your upcoming flight. You’ll earn miles after you’ve completed your stay with Marriott Bonvoy.
Convert United miles into Marriott Bonvoy points at a 1-to-1 ratio. Convert up to 100,000 miles into Marriott Bonvoy points each calendar year.
Offer only available for MileagePlus Premier members.
Double Dip Even More with United Airlines’ Credit Card
The United SM Explorer Card works great with Marriott.
Marriott and Emirates
If you’re a member of both programs, you’re eligible for the following perks with Marriott and Emirates:
Emirates Skywards Silver, Gold, and Platinum members earn 1 Mile for every $1 spent at a Marriott Bonvoy property.
If you’re an Emirates Skywards Gold and Platinum member, you enjoy the following:
• 4 p.m. Late Checkout
• Access to Elite check-in
• Complimentary in-room Wi-Fi
Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite, Platinum Elite, Titanium Elite, and Ambassador Elite members earn 3 points for every $1 spent on Emirates flights (on top of Skywards Miles).
If you’re a Marriott Bonvoy Platinum Elite, Titanium Elite, or Ambassador Elite member, you enjoy the following:
• Elite in-airport benefits (including priority check-in and priority boarding)
Learn more about what you get from the Marriott & Emirates partnership here.
How to Transfer Marriott Bonvoy Points into Miles with Another Airline
Maybe you’re going somewhere that these two airlines (United & Emirates) don’t have flights for. Or, you just prefer to fly with a different airline.
You can transfer your Marriott Bonvoy points to miles. It’s like magic!
And guess what? Over 40 airlines participate.
You can convert the points to miles here.
How Many Marriotts Points to Miles Do I Get?
For every 60,000 points you convert, you get 5,000 bonus miles.
The reciprocal agreement lingo may be total gibberish to you and that’s completely fair. I didn’t always understand it myself. So, don’t feel bad if you don’t get it just yet. If you’ve made it this far, you’re amazing. 😊
What are the Best Ways to Earn Points and Maximize Your Marriott Bonvoy Membership?
So, you know that you can get double rewards by booking with one of Marriott’s partners or with Marriott directly.
But, that’s not the only way to get rewards.
On most Marriott Bonvoy hotels, you’ll earn 10 points for every $1 spent. Free nights start at 7,500 points. More info here.
There are over 7,000 Marriott Bonvoy properties to choose from across 30 hotel brands.
Each falls under a category that’ll tell you the price and style of a given hotel.
Ready to plan your trip? Explore hotels and book your stay here.
Real Girl Review Tip
Business Travel Rewards
Do you do a lot of business travel?
Rather than having your company book the trip for you, something amazing that you may be able to suggest is to book the travel accommodations yourself and have your company reimburse you.
That way, you can use your Marriott or other travel credit card = rewards. Plus, you get to earn points on hotel stays as well as miles for flights.
You’ll rack up points quickly! Bingo babe, that’s what we want!
For more info, read on.
You can even earn points for business meetings or for your wedding you held at a Marriott Bonvoy property!
Do you know how many points you could earn if $1 = 10 points?
Let’s say your wedding is $25,000 = 250,000 points! That basically racks up enough free nights at a nice hotel for a honeymoon. Hello…
Start earning for events here.
We all have to eat anyway, we may as well be earning points for it, am I right?!
You get 6 points for every $1 spent. 11,000 restaurants to choose from.
Earn 1,000 bonus points in your first 30 days here
Tip: Double dip by charging all food, store, and other purchases to your hotel room. At the end of your stay, pay with your Marriott or other travel credit card (below). Those purchases you charged to the room will convert to points after your stay. AND, by paying with your credit card, you get bonus rewards!
Earns Points for Car Rentals
Learn more here.
Earn Points for Cruises
Just learned about this recently. Really cool actually. When you book a cruise through Marriott, you can get perks like bonus points and deals.
You can even use your Marriott Bonvoy points for your cruise! And they have a 110% Price Match Guarantee which is awesome!
If you find a cheaper cruise price listed elsewhere, they’ll refund you 110% of the difference.
More info here.
You can check out the different cruise lines offered (different types- luxury, destination-specific, themes, etc.) and book your cruise here.
How to Maximize Rewards with a Travel Credit Card?
There are also perks that come with making a purchase or hotel booking with a Marriott credit card (or other travel credit card which I’ll get into in a bit).
So, to use the same example from earlier but take it a step further, my ex and I wouldn’t just book a United flight and convert my miles into Marriott points to use toward future hotel stays.
Nahhh… We’d use a Marriott credit card to get even more rewards and deals! Depending on the card, you get free night certificates, sign-up bonus points, a point multiplier, and more. More info here.
It takes double dipping to a whole new level.
Earn Points with a Marriott Credit Card™
My ex had the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card from Chase and always raved about it. Quite frankly, I did too. We got a lot of free trips.
When you use the card to make purchases, the points add up pretty quickly because of the point multiplier. What does that mean? More free nights!
Before my ex and I knew it, we’d have enough for a 2-week vacation.
I’m not here to talk about all the credit cards you should sign up for but if you’re looking for a quick way to rack up points with Marriott and earn free hotel stays immediately, Marriott credit cards are a great way to go.
Marriott has several credit cards for you to choose from that range from basic, mid-level, and luxury.
Depending on what type of travel you do and what you’re looking for in a credit card, you can have great perks like automatic status, free nights certificates, and a point multiplier for purchases made with the credit card!
Now, you just have to see if one of these credit cards is right for you!
- Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card
Best for business travelers
- Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card
- United Explorer Credit Card
Best for anyone really
- Marriott Bonvoy Bold™ Credit Card
Best for no annual fee
- Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card
Best for luxury travelers, heftier annual fee ($450) more luxurious perks
Compare Marriott cards here.
Real Girl Review Recommends : Starter Credit Card
If you’re new to the game and unsure which credit card to get, I’d consider starting off with the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card. It’s the best “overall”.
What if I Don’t Want to Stick to One Hotel Brand?
Marriott is fantastic but if you’d prefer to be flexible when you travel, you certainly don’t have to stick to just one hotel brand.
I love Marriott because I travel a lot and like to rack up the points and get the perks! Being loyal allows me to do that.
But, what’s right for me may not necessarily be right for you.
If you would rather keep your travel options open and not commit to a specific hotel brand, you’re better off getting a credit card that you can use at any hotel or airline.
People often rave about the Chase Sapphire Reserve card (below).
There are a lot of options. Some of the best travel credit cards out there are:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Best for any hotel
- Chase Sapphire Reserve®
- United Explorer Credit Card
Best Marriott rewards partner
- Capital One Venture Rewards (no annual fee)
- Bank of America Travel Rewards
- Wells Fargo Propel American Express
- Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card
And there you have it! Marriott points & travel rewards in a nutshell!
Stay tuned for my next blog as I share a few of my recent trips and my favorite and not-so-favorite Marriott stays. As always, I’ll review them all, the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Which way(s) would you like to earn points?
I love hearing from my readers! If you enjoyed my post, leave a comment below!
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