The recent posts on View from the Wing and Points, Miles & Martinis focus on hotel stay elite status benefits. My focus is more on the value of points earned from Marriott stays for high value redemption opportunities. My analyses reveal Marriott Rewards has some competitive advantages to other major hotel loyalty programs; particularly for the truly frequent traveler with the ability to amass tens of thousands of points.
Here are six Marriott Rewards program strengths (besides Ritz-Carlton Hotels):
1. More hotels in lower categories than comparable market segment hotels in most other chains.Graphic is from Marriott Rewards pdf.
80% of Marriott Rewards hotels are in the bottom four hotel categories. Hilton HHonors distribution is skewed more to higher categories compared to Marriott Rewards.
This is easier to explain with an example.
JW Marriott Los Angeles LA Live is a Marriott Rewards category 6 hotel at 30,000 points per night and a AAA 4-diamond hotel.
Hilton Checkers Los Angeles is a AAA 3-diamond hotel and a Category 6 HHonors reward night at 40,000 points.
Marriott Rewards Silver elite member needs $2,500 in spend to earn 30,000 points. Hilton HHonors Silver elite member earning Points & Points needs $2,424 in spend to earn 40,000 points.
I would consider JW Marriott to be the better quality hotel for Los Angeles and it would certainly be a category 7 HHonors property at 50,000 points per night if it were a Conrad brand hotel.
In city after city a comparison of Marriott brand hotels to Hilton brand hotels will show Marriott has its hotels in lower categories along the scale of its eight reward categories compared to comparable market segment hotels in Hilton HHonors eight reward categories including Waldorf-Astoria. Most places where the Hilton brand hotel is a category 6 or 7 will have Marriott brand hotels of comparable market segment in Marriott Rewards categories 5 or 6.
Hilton HHonors has an advantage to Marriott Rewards for extended stay rewards with 15% to 25% discounts for any length of reward stay from 4 to 14 nights and even bigger discounts on 4-night stays for HHonors American Express card members. Marriott Rewards use to blow away the competition with its extended stay discounts, but dropped a progressively favorable reward chart for a simple 5th night free.
2. High Airline Miles Exchange Rate
Marriott Rewards has the best points-to-miles exchange rate of any hotel loyalty program for US airlines like Delta, United and US Airways. when exchanging 125,000 points into 50,000 miles. Unfortunately Marriott and American no longer partner for points-to-miles exchange.
The Marriott points-to-miles rate far surpasses Hilton HHonors. The value of Double Dip for HHonors Points & Miles earners is certainly a major route to earning airline miles aside from Hampton Inn and Homewood Suites stays and should not be overlooked.
Club Carlson is typically the second best program for points-to-miles exchange rates and perhaps is better for some international airlines than Marriott Rewards where 125,000 miles only earns 35,000 miles. Starwood is also a valuable program for airline miles, but its competitive advantage is predominantly through SPG American Express credit card spend earn rates rather than points earned from hotel stays.
Here is my Loyalty Traveler post for American Airlines point-to-miles exchange rate comparisons between hotel loyalty programs with links to posts for other US airlines.
3. Marriott Rewards Hotel + Airline Packages offer 1 point = 1 mile exchange rate.
Hotel + Air rewards take huge account balances of 200,000 or more points, but also offer the best value for points-to-miles exchange rates when combined with a 7-night hotel stay reward. My post from January 21, 2012 describes the range of hotel discount rewards in Marriott Rewards, Hilton HHonors and IHG Priority Club.
4. Marriott Rewards offers upgrades for 5,000 points per night at participating hotels available to all members. Some hotels also offer cash upgrades. The Marriott upgrade for points is probably a better value than most examples of HHonors Premium Room Rewards that generally have a relatively low redemption value (about $4 to $6 per 1,000 HHonors points).
IHG does not offer upgrades for points.
Hyatt and SPG have confirmed upgrade certificates, but these are limited to top elite members.
5. Marriott Rewards elite benefits often apply even when the hotel stay is booked through a third party site. Hilton HHonors counts reward stays for elite credit and that is generally a more valuable benefit for a loyalty member. But when a $100 Priceline winning bid puts you into a $300 Marriott hotel and you still receive benefits…that is what I call win-win!
6. Elite Nights credit with credit card and elite rollover nights and the ability for annual challenges lower the high bar for Marriott Rewards elite member tiers at 50 nights for Gold and 75 nights for Platinum.
Here is a post I wrote March 15, 2012 on Marriott Rewards Elite Challenge.
January 18, 2012 I wrote a post on Making Elite with Marriott, IHG and Hilton.
Most of my information about Marriott Rewards is based on comparative analysis of program features to other hotel loyalty programs and the experiences I read from high elite members.
I find there is good value for Marriott Rewards members even though I am not personally using Marriott Rewards much in my travels.
Related Post: Weighing in on the value of Marriott Rewards – Part 1 (3-26-12)