Reconsidering the Marriott Bonvoy Program – Why I’m Probably Heading Back
Whether I knew it or not at the time, our last stay at a Marriott hotel was several years ago (until recently). We stayed at a TownePlace Suites for a couple months after relocating. It was the only time I ever redeemed Marriott points, but I used all of them! We enjoyed the Category 2 property – primarily because we were upgraded to a one bedroom suite with a separate den, in addition to the kitchen we planned on. With that unsexy, but highly useful, points redemption, I felt we had peaked with the Marriott program. For a few other reasons, some which I mention below, we gave up on Marriott after that stay. But now, I’m considering the Marriott Bonvoy program again. Here are the reasons why.
UPDATE: Less than a day after this article’s release, we’ve heard that Marriott is moving to dynamic pricing in March 2022. Below still applies for my situation, but I admit using the FNC’s will be a bit more challenging with the news.
Some of these offers may have changed since posting.
An Offer I Can’t Refuse
It’s not backed by Vito Corleone, but I find the current Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex offer a no-brainer to pursue. Amex is currently providing 125k Bonvoy points with $5k spend within the first three months of holding the card. If that isn’t enough, new cardmembers also obtain two free night certificates redeemable at Marriott properties which normally charge up to 50k points per night. And last, but certainly, not least – the excellent Amex referral bonuses! By simply referring me to any Amex card, my wife will obtain 15k Membership Rewards plus an extra 4x points on up to $25k spent in the next three months. The welcome offer is juiced, and the 50k FNC’s are much more feasible to use at a variety of properties. This is probably the time for us to dive back in.
The Future Is Bright
As solid as the Bonvoy Business Amex card offer is, the Amex Brilliant card is pretty attractive, as well. The offer on that card is currently at 150k points on $5k spend, plus a free night certificate good for up to an 85k point property. Rumors have swirled about the hefty $450 annual fee increasing, but so has talk about increasing benefits which far outweigh the potential new fee. And the key for me is I’m still eligible for this card after applying for the Business version. Therefore, I can substantially plus up my paltry Bonvoy balance in a short period with these two cards. These offers are the wake up call for the next item I’ll discuss.
My Hubris Has Obstructed Rewards
I largely gave up on Marriott around the time of the Starwood merger a few years back. I had historically been a top-tier SPG member and enjoyed their program for years. I’d become accustomed to the impressive value of SPG points, both on the earning and redemption sides. I don’t recall the exact calculation, but I remember the obvious SPG point devaluation based on the evolving earning and redemption structure. That’s where my withdrawal from SPG (and Marriott) started. Looking back now, I realize I’ve been good-old-daysing it ever since that point. I had gotten such great value out of SPG, I couldn’t get over that the next iteration was worse than the previous one.
I now realize that I’ve been passing up on solid rewards by holding onto the past and pouting about the current version of the program. Sure, the rewards may not be as valuable as before, but they’re still worth earning and redeeming in my situation.
There’s More to Life Than Breakfast
If the effective SPG devaluation was the beginning of the end with my previous Marriott life, the breakfast mess was the final straw. Marriott, lest we forget, created the most convoluted breakfast benefit upon the SPG merger, for elites and others. I, admittedly, still don’t get it, but I’ve come to the conclusion it doesn’t matter enough to me! It’s a freaking disaster, in my opinion, but I shouldn’t give up on Marriott’s rewards just because the breakfast benefit is confusing or less beneficial than other chains’. I’m now at peace collecting a bunch more Marriott points and figuring out breakfast as I go along.
A Pleasant Experience Recently
I just burned some Amex Platinum Fine Hotels and Resorts credits at the Ritz Carlton Tysons Corner. I had an excellent experience at the property. Of course, the FHR benefits skewed the stay a bit, but it reminded me I should probably try again with Marriott. Back in my previous Marriott life, I do recall receiving consistently exceptional customer service, particularly from their full service hotels. Why turn that down?
I’m increasingly curious about Marriott properties – new, old, and upcoming. The Swan Reserve is at the top of my list to check out. I’m interested in legacy SPG properties to see how they’ve evolved (or not) since joining Marriott. While many may consider the brand mundane, I’ve always loved Sheraton hotels and am interested in staying there more. We’ve stayed in a variety of St. Regis hotels, and I’m excited to explore their newer properties and older, familiar ones again. We absolutely loved The Royal Hawaiian before kids, and we look forward to experiencing it a second time, this time with them.
Strengthening Our Travel Freedom
Maximizing our travel freedom is a huge priority for us. By acquiring more points with more chains, our loyalty is less dependent on any one program. When any one hotel program devalues, it’s less of a hit when I have plenty of other programs to depend on. I’ll keep adding more points and programs to mitigate.
I Fell into Earning Bonvoy Points
Without any significant effort, I’ve ended up earning Bonvoy points. All of these earnings are from free spend opportunities – primarily via Amex benefits. Thanks to the Uber/Marriott partnership and Amex Uber credits on the American Express Gold and Amex Platinum cards, I’m earning 2x on Uber Eats orders without going out of pocket. And I earned thousands of points from my recent Ritz-Carlton stay on FHR credits. These earnings are relatively insignificant. But only after earning these points did I initially decide to research the updated Marriott Bonvoy program more deeply.
What’s next? I’ll apply for the Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex card. Watch – after this much thought and writing, I’ve probably jinxed myself, and I won’t get approved. Regardless, reflecting has reminded me to get over a lot of stuff now and then. Devaluing programs, confusing benefits, myself, even the passage of time. At this point, I have enough points for a stay at a Category 1 or 2 property, anyway, so I guess I’m invested at a very minor level. I’m excited to see what happens next. How do you currently feel about the Marriott Bonvoy program? How has your opinion changed over time?
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