Highlight the key aspects of the Marriott Rewards program in Canada, including where to sign-up, how to earn and redeem points, and the program’s relationship with Starwood Preferred Guest.
- Understand the Marriott and Starwood merger, and what it means to the program
- Know the different status levels in the program, and what benefits are offered
- Know how to earn Marriott Reward points in Canada, including participating transfer partners
- Have a basic understanding of the Marriott Hotel+Air packages available
- Beginners Guide
In late 2016 Marriott finalized the takeover of Starwood Hotels and Resorts, and with that, became really relevant for Canadian travellers, as well as the largest hotel company in the world. Up until the merger, the Marriott program was fairly insignificant in Canada due to limited ways to earn points combined with rather underwhelming properties worldwide. In my opinion, Marriott wasn’t competitive with other chains like Starwood Preferred Guest or Fairmont.
Benefits For Marriott Rewards Members
Marriott has four levels of status in their program:
- Rewards Member
- Silver Elite
- Gold Elite
- Platinum Elite
While a lot of hotel programs reserve their best benefits for top-tier members, I find Marriott Gold to be very rewarding for a mid-tier status.
Guaranteed late checkout, lounge access, room upgrade, and complimentary in-room internet access are all benefits I value tremendously whether traveling for business or pleasure, and can provide a lot of added value.
How To Get Marriott Hotel Loyalty Status
For Canadians, there are two simple ways to get status:
- Stay at Marriott properties:
- Silver Elite – Stay 10 nights or more/year
- Gold Elite – Stay 50 nights or more/year
- Platinum Elite – Stay 75 nights or more/year
- Get automatic Gold status in Starwood Preferred Guest and Marriott Rewards Program through the American Express Platinum Card or American Express Business platinum Card
Since the merger, Marriott has given Starwood Preferred Guest Elite members reciprocal status (and vice versa), meaning anyone with SPG Gold status through their American Express Platinum Card will also receive Marriott Gold status by linking their reward accounts online.
How To Earn Marriott Reward Points
Before the merger, the only easy way for Canadians to earn Marriott Reward points was through credit card spend on the Chase Marriott Rewards Visa (recently discontinued, with no replacement Marriott credit card in Canada) or by staying at any participating Marriott property worldwide. To earn Marriott rewards on everyday spend, The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit card from American express is the best option in Canada, with 3 Marriott Reward points earned for every $1 in card spend (1 SPG converts to 3 Marriott Reward points).
Since the merger, Marriott has made transfers between Starwood Preferred Guest and Marriott Rewards quick and easy. SPG points transfer to Marriott Rewards at a ratio of 1:3, and Marriott transfers to SPG at a rate of 3:1. Now Canadians can earn points by staying at any Marriott or Starwood hotel worldwide (a significant number of properties) or earning Starwood points through their American Express credit card and transferring at a favourable rate to Marriott.
Alternatively, with the new partnership between Marriott and Starwood, there is now a way to transfer American Express Membership Rewards to Marriott at a rate of 1:1.5. American Express Membership Reward points are transfer partners with Starwood preferred guest at a 2:1 ratio. To convert Membership Reward points to Marriott, you could first transfer to SPG at 2:1 and then SPG to Marriott at 1:3. This effectively means Membership Reward points transfer to Marriott Rewards at a 1:1.5 ratio, which could provide very good value for certain redemptions.
Unlike many reward programs, Starwood allows free transfers between household accounts (must have the same address on file for at least 30 days prior to initiating a transfer), and Marriott allows transfers between any account holders up to a certain amount per year, creating a very unique opportunity to pool points with friends or family with no charge.
The Marriott Flight + Hotel Program
The Marriott Rewards program has one secret weapon that blows all other programs away: The Marriott Hotel and Air Packages
Like SPG, Marriott Rewards can be transferred to airline partners, although the transfer rate is much less desirable than Starwood and doesn’t represent very good value, except when taking advantage of Marriott Hotel+Air Packages. Essentially, Marriott is allowing you to redeem your hotel points for airline miles, and also including a 7-night hotel stay at any of their properties around the world. Redemption rates vary by different airline programs, and category of hotel. You can see the conversion rates below.
The following chart applies to United Airlines only, and has the best transfer rate (although United doesn’t often have the best redemption rates):
This chart applies to: Aeromexico, Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, British Airways, Copa Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, GOL/Varig, Hawaiian Airlines, Iberia Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, and is likely the best option for most Canadian travellers:
The next chart applies to: Aeroflot, airberlin, Air China, Air France/KLM, Alitalia, ANA, Asia Miles, Asiana Airlines, Avianca-TACA LifeMiles, China Eastern, China Southern, Emirates, Etihad Airways, Japan Airlines, Jet Airways, Korean Air SKYPASS, LAN, Lufthansa Miles & More, Multiplus, Qantas, Qatar Airways, Saudia Airlines, Singapore Airlines, South African Airways Voyager, TAP Air Portugal, Turkish Airlines. As you can see the transfer rates are not ideal, although could be useful for specific redemptions:
The following chart is applicable to Southwest Airlines only, and will not be of much use to Canadian travellers:
The last chart is for JetBlue and Virgin America, which will also be of little use for Canadians:
As a Canadian, I would most likely be looking at Hotel+Air package 1, but could also find a lot of use with the RewardsPlus Package for specific redemptions. Also keep in mind that airlines periodically offer bonuses on transfers from hotel programs, and the Hotel+Air packages aren’t excluded, meaning you could earn thousands of additional airline miles at no additional cost during a transfer promotion. Also good to know, you can redeem for a category 1-5 hotel and upgrade at the time of booking with additional points for a higher level property.
Lets say for example, you redeem 270,000 Marriott Reward points for 120,000 Alaska miles and a 7-night stay in a category 1-5 hotel, but don’t have plans for the hotel stay at the time of redemption. If in 6 months you decide you want to stay at a category 8 resort in Hawaii, you can call Marriott and redeem the difference to upgrade your certificate. In this example, an upgrade from a category 1-5 hotel to a category 8 would be 90,000 Marriott points, or 30,000 SPG.
Important Notes About The Marriott Rewards Program
- 7-night hotel stays can’t be split up, must be used consecutively at the same property, which can be a challenge for some, though great if you’re planning a week in one destination
- The 7-night hotel certificate does not need to be redeemed at same time as airline miles. This is a huge bonus! Marriott simply credits your account with a 7-night stay certificate and airline miles get deposited separately.
- 7-night stay certificate is valid for one year only, though I’ve read many accounts where Marriott has extended that by an additional year.
- Transfers to airline partners are not instant, and vary from airline to airline. Marriott states in the fine print it could take 4-6 weeks for the transfer to complete, but in reality usually takes a week. This can be tricky as reward space can come and go quickly, so you’ll need to plan ahead and be patient. Marriott does offer an expedited service for a small fee, though still not an instant transfer.