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Change is in the air with several major hotel loyalty programs. The latest comes from Marriott, one of the largest hotel chains in the world. After acquiring Starwood several years ago, it recently combined the Marriott Rewards, Ritz-Carlton Rewards and the Starwood Preferred Guest Programs under a single new name, Marriott Bonvoy.
What will this mean for hotel guests and those who hold one of the many credit cards associated with these brands? Here's what you need to know.
Which Hotel Brands Are Included?
While the program's new name has generated mixed feeling among travelers, few can complain about the number of options now under the Bonvoy umbrella. The Marriott Bonvoy rewards program includes all the brands that were part of the Marriott Rewards program, including the upscale JW Marriott, Courtyard by Marriott business hotels and midrange Springhill Suites. It also includes all of the properties that had been part of the Starwood Preferred Guest program, such as the high-end Westin and St. Regis, midrange Sheraton and the budget-friendly Aloft brands. Finally, Marriott took the opportunity to integrate the Ritz-Carlton Rewards program into the new Bonvoy brand as well.
Combining Your Rewards Accounts
You may be one of millions of travelers who have accounts with Marriott Rewards and Starwood, or with Ritz-Carlton Rewards and Starwood (previously you couldn't have had both a Marriott Rewards and a Ritz-Carlton Rewards account at the same time). Before Bonvoy, it was possible to link your Marriott or Ritz-Carlton Rewards account to your Starwood account. This was convenient, as it would allow you transfer points between these programs so you could utilize either one.
With the new Bonvoy program, you'll need to go to Marriott's account merge page to request to combine accounts. Once you combine your accounts, you'll conveniently have a single login, and your elite night stay credits will be combined. Plus, you'll be able to book hotels and redeem points at a tremendous number of hotels—a total of more than 6,700 properties around the world.
How to Earn Marriott Bonvoy Points
If you were already a fan of the Marriott Rewards program and you're unsure how the new Bonvoy program will work, don't worry. Bonvoy is largely just a rebranding of the old Marriott Rewards program, and you'll still earn points the way you did previously. For example, you earn 10 points per dollar spent on eligible hotel charges, with the exception of three brands: At Element, Residence Inn and TownePlace Suites hotels, you'll only earn five points per eligible dollar spent.
And as you'll see below in greater detail, you can also earn points through Marriott's co-branded credit cards, which now carry the Bonvoy brand. Other ways to earn Marriott Bonvoy points include hosting meetings and events and participating in the Rewarding Events program. You can also earn points with travel partners such as Hertz and CruisesOnly.
How to Redeem Marriott Bonvoy Points
Just like earning points, you'll be able to redeem your Marriott Bonvoy points much like you did with the Marriott Rewards program. However, Marriott will be introducing Off Peak and Peak awards soon (no time frame has been announced). Currently, Marriott offers eight different hotel categories that allow you to redeem between 7,500 to 85,000 points per night. The new Peak and Off Peak awards will raise or lower the amount of points needed by 15% to 33%, depending on the award category. For example, a Category 4 award has a standard price of 25,000 points, but it will change to 20,000 points Off Peak and 30,000 points during Peak times.
Other options for free night awards include PointSavers, which are highly discounted award categories, and Cash + Points awards, which allow you to combine approximately half the points normally required with a cash co-pay. To make things even more confusing, both the PointSavers and the Cash + Points awards will also have Peak and Off Peak prices. With eight award categories, three types of awards and three different award levels, that adds up to a whopping 72 different possible prices! To get all the details, make sure to check out Bonvoy's award charts.
Another award option that was popular with the Starwood program is transferring your points to frequent flyer miles. The new Marriott Bonvoy program allows you to transfer your rewards to miles with 40 different airline programs at a 3-to-1 ratio. And when you transfer your points to miles, Marriott will add a 5,000-mile bonus for every 60,000 points transferred. You also get a 10% mile bonus when transferring points to United MileagePlus miles.
Marriott Bonvoy points can also net you some pretty special non-travel awards. If you're the kind of person who loves attending special events, the Marriott Moments program could be for you. It offers you the chance to redeem your points for tickets and VIP experiences at concerts, sporting events and culinary experiences. Examples include Coachella tickets with backstage access, a private dinner with a celebrity chef or a luxury suite for an NHL hockey game. Finally, you can redeem your points for merchandise or gift cards from dozens of shopping partners.
The New Marriott Bonvoy Credit Cards
The biggest shakeup users will see under the new Bonvoy program is with credit cards. If you have a Starwood Preferred Guest® card from American Express, then you'll receive the new Marriott Bonvoy card. In the meantime, your existing card will continue to work, plus you'll get a free night award each year on your account anniversary. Likewise, if you have Starwood Preferred Guest® Luxury card from American Express, your account will be transitioned to the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card from American Express. Those who have a Ritz-Carlton® Rewards Card from Chase, will receive a card rebranded as or The Ritz-Carlton card from JPMorgan. And if you have a Chase Marriott Rewards® Business card, then you'll receive the Chase Marriott Bonvoy Premier Plus Business card.
New applicants now have the choice of three new credit cards:
- Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card from Chase, with a $95 annual fee
- Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card, with a $450 annual fee
- Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card, with a $125 annual fee ($0 for the first year, then $95 annual fee if your application is received before March 28, 2019)
Change Is Good
Whatever you think of the Bonvoy name, it's probably a good thing Marriott has combined these three programs. It also makes sense that they've kept most of the terms the same, and given consumers additional credit card options to earn rewards. Nevertheless, it could take you a little time to combine your accounts and learn more of the details. But by taking a few minutes to work through this new system, you'll be able to make the most of your hotel rewards when you travel.