16 Nights In A 5-Star Hotel With The Marriott Bonvoy™ American Express® Card For Canadians

March 4, 2020
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The Marriott Bonvoy™ American Express Card is one of the best travel cards in Canada, hands-down. It comes with an exceptional welcome bonus of 60,000 points (required spend: $3,000, conditions apply)—which we’ll show you how to turn into 16 nights at a 5-star hotel—an additional free hotel night every year after the first year, and an impressive travel insurance policy to keep you and your belongings safe and secure.

With an annual fee of just $120, this card pays for itself several times over, even for infrequent travelers. Even if you plan to spend just one night per year in a hotel, the Marriott Bonvoy Card provides excellent value year after year.

So why is everyone talking about the Marriott Bonvoy™ American Express® Card for Canadians these days?

A few reasons. For starters, its 60,000 points welcome bonus is seriously impressive. On top of that, the Marriott Bonvoy program is one of the most flexible travel rewards programs out there, right up there with American Express' own Membership Rewards points program.

But the card isn’t only good for hotels—it offers plenty of benefits for those who want to fly, too. Whether it’s buying a flight with your points or staying covered with the card’s travel insurance, there’s a lot you’ll learn to love about the Marriott Bonvoy Card.

#1 Features & Benefits

Welcome Bonus Points60,000
Marriott Bonvoy™ Points Earned Per $1 Spent At Marriott Properties5
Marriott Bonvoy Points Earned Per $1 Spent On All Other Card Purchases2
$120 statement credit when you charge $10,000 in net purchases to your card in your first 12 months of card membership
Travel Insurance
Referral Bonus Points10,000
Additional CardsFree
Free Night Award
Marriott Bonvoy™ Silver Elite Status
15 Elite Night Credits Per Calendar Year
Annual Fee$120

The card also comes with additional American Express benefits that come with all of their cards. These include Front Of The Line, which offers cardholders advanced access/tickets to concerts, sporting events and shows across Canada.

Let’s break down some of the items in the table above.

Benefit #1: The Welcome Bonus

The welcome bonus on the Marriott Bonvoy Card is 60,000 points when you spend at least $3,000 on the card in the first three months ($500 per month).

How Much Is The Welcome Bonus Worth?

It all depends on how, when and where you use your points. As a very conservative estimate, we value Marriott Bonvoy points at 0.8 cents apiece. At this valuation, the bonus is worth $480, quadruple the annual fee. And there are ways to get much better value for your points. As you'll see in the case studies below, it's possible to make this welcome bonus worth well over $1,000.

Benefit #2: Points Earn Rates

Every time you use your card you'll earn additional Marriott Bonvoy points. There are two different earn rates, depending on what you're buying.

5 Points Per Dollar On Eligible Marriott Purchases

If you use your card to pay for hotel rooms, amenities, and anything else chargeable to your room, at any of the 30+ hotel brands affiliated with the Marriott Bonvoy program, Amex will reward you with 5 Marriott Bonvoy points for every $1. You'll also get the same rate for purchases in any physical or virtual store owned and operated by Marriott Inc. or its partners. Marriott will also reward you for those purchases, allowing you to double-dip.

Marriott is very generous with its loyal guests, and it awards 10 points per dollar spent to basic Members in most of its participating brands. Add the two together and you’re earning 15 points per $1—which we value at at least 12 cents, or a 12% return—with your Marriott Bonvoy Card.

2 Points Per Dollar On All Other Purchases

If you book a room through a third-party travel agent, or if you make a purchase in any store or merchant that’s not a part of the Marriott family, you'll earn 2 points per dollar spent. This is still a great earn rate: if you get 1.5 cents per point as redemption value (more on that below), you’re saving 3% on every purchase, which is more than what's possible with most other credit cards.

Benefit #3: Referral Bonus

Why would you want to keep this gem of a credit card a secret, when you can earn points by telling your friends about it? Another way of quickly earning Marriott Bonvoy points is with the referral bonus. When you sign up to your new Marriott Bonvoy Card, you’ll get a personal referral link, which you can use to refer friends, family members and colleagues to the card. If Amex approves them for a Marriott Bonvoy Card of their own, you’ll receive a 10,000 points bonus.

That’s 10,000 points just for telling your friends about one of the best travel cards in Canada today!

This benefit is capped at 160,000 points per year, so you're limited to an annual maximum of 15 approved referrals. Don’t let this get you down though, because those 160,000 points, plus the 60,000 points welcome bonus, can get you weeks worth of nights in some of the most beautiful hotels around the world.

Benefit #4: Free Additional Cards

Additional supplementary cards are a great way to earn points faster. Amex allows for up to 9 additional cards, free of charge, so you can share your credit with your family or even with employees. In the latter case, it may make more sense to sign up to the Marriott Bonvoy™ Business American Express Card, since it includes a special policy to protect you against unauthorized charges made to your card by unscrupulous employees.

#2 Four More Special Marriott Bonvoy Benefits

Special Benefit #1: The Marriott Bonvoy Amex Card Free Night Award

On top of the 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points that come with your Marriott Bonvoy Amex Card, you also receive one free hotel night every year after the first year with a redemption value of up to 35,000 points (Category 1-5 hotel). (Remember, if you don’t know what we mean by Category 1-5, we’ll explain below.) There’s no spending requirement for this free night—you'll get it every year after your first card anniversary regardless of how often you use your card—making it an exceptional value.

What can you use this award on?

How about a night at the swanky Avalon Hotel Beverly Hills, a member of Design Hotels?

The stunning pool at the Avalon Hotel in Beverly Hills, a member of Design Hotels

Or the Moxy Amsterdam, a new design hotel in one of Amsterdam’s hippest districts?

The beautifully-designed Moxy Hotel in Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Or the Sheraton in Bali, with its infinity pool overlooking the ocean?

The infinity pool at the Sheraton Bali Kuta Resort in Bali, Indonesia

As you can see, the opportunities are truly endless for this benefit, as there are currently over 6,800 hotels around the world in Marriott's Categories 1 through 5. And if you haven’t already clued in, a Category 5 hotel can easily go for $300-500 per night, meaning your $120 annual card fee is worth several times its value through this free night benefit alone.

Are you starting to see why Canadians love the Marriott Bonvoy Card so much?

Special Benefit #2: Marriott Bonvoy Elite Status

As soon as you get your Marriott Bonvoy Card, you’ll be upgraded to Marriott Bonvoy Silver Elite status, which gives you lower hotel rates, late checkout, free internet, a dedicated customer service line, and 10% more points from Marriott at its properties.

If you manage to spend $30,000 on your card in a year, you’ll be upgraded to Gold Elite Status, where you’ll earn 25% more on purchases at Marriott properties, complimentary room upgrades, and 2 p.m. checkout on your hotel stays.

There’s more to Marriott Bonvoy elite status than Silver and Gold. We’ll be covering all the elite Statuses in the sections below.

Special Benefit #3: 15 Elite Night Credits

Not only does the Marriott Bonvoy Card reward you with Silver Elite status in the Marriott Bonvoy program, but it also gives you a head start toward achieving higher levels in the loyalty program. Every year you keep your card, you’ll receive 15 complimentary Elite Night Credits, which get you that much closer to reaching the milestones necessary for reaching Gold, Platinum, Titanium, and Ambassador Elite statuses.

Special Benefit #4: 5th Night Free

This isn’t technically a benefit exclusive to the Marriott Bonvoy Card, but it’s so good that it’s still worth pointing out here: every time you book a Marriott hotel for 4 nights, they give you a 5th night for free!

It doesn’t matter how you paid for those nights, whether with points or with cash, or whether they are free night awards, like the one that comes with your Marriott Bonvoy Card.

This is most Marriott Bonvoy cardholders' favourite benefit, and we're going to use it to our full advantage to get 16 nights in 5-star hotels with your card.

#3 How To Use Your Marriott Bonvoy Points

You have a few options when it comes to using your Marriott Bonvoy points:

  1. Hotel Stays: The best way to use your Marriott Bonvoy points—hands-down—is on hotel stays. As you’ll see in the case studies below, your card is worth up to 16 nights in a 5-star hotel if you use it wisely. We’ll show you how.
  2. Flights: Flights are the second-best way to use the 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points that come with your Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card for Canadians. We show you below how to get a roundtrip flight anywhere in North America with your points.
  3. Marriott Moments: We won’t talk about Marriott Moments in-depth here, since our focus is on hotels and flights, but you can expect things like VIP Super Bowl parties, private dining with celebrity chefs and more. Here’s the full list of Marriott Moments that you can choose from.

But First…You Need To Understand Redemption Categories

#4 An In-Depth Look At Marriott Bonvoy™ Hotel Categories

Marriott has its properties separated into different “Categories,” with each property falling into a category from 1-8. Put simply, lower Categories correspond to cheaper hotels, but as we’ll see, some creativity enables you to find some truly exceptional properties at the low end of the redemption chart, making your points go much, much further.

Booking a hotel in a given category is as simple as consulting Marriott’s redemption chart below. In brackets we’ve included the PointSavers rates, which are promotional prices 10-20% lower than the regular price that you can sometimes take advantage of. Marriott hasn’t released their peak and off-peak season dates yet, since this is a new setup for them. Sign up for our email list at the bottom of this post if you want our tips for how to book off-peak dates.

Hotel CategoryOff PeakStandardPeak
15,000 (4,000)7,500 (6,000)10,000 (8,500)
210,000 (8,000)12,500 (11,000)15,000 (13,000)
315,000 (12,000)17,500 (16,000)20,000 (18,000)
420,000 (17,500)25,000 (22,500)30,000 (27,500)
530,000 (27,500)35,000 (32,500)40,000 (37,500)
640,000 (35,000)60,000 (45,000)60,000 (55,000)
760,000 (45,000)60,000 (55,000)70,000 (65,000)
870,000 (65,000)85,000 (80,000)100,000 (90,000)

(Note: Marriott announced an update of the Off Peak and Peak redemption rates coming next September 14th. We'll keep you up to date on what that means to you once the changes are officially released)

There are over 7,500 Marriott Bonvoy properties to choose from, spread all over the world. If you want to use the points you’ve earned with your Amex Marriott Credit Card, you can plan ahead by searching for your ideal hotel in Marriott’s hotel directory, where you can filter results by category, brand, amenities and more.

Let me show you examples of some of the best hotels you’ll find within each category.

Marriott Category 1 Hotels

Off Peak Standard Peak
5,000 (4,000) Marriott Bonvoy points 7,500 (6,000) Marriott Bonvoy points 10,000 (8,500) Marriott Bonvoy points

This is the lowest category in the Marriott Bonvoy program. If you manage to book a room with the PointSavers rates during the Off Peak season, you’ll only have to trade in 4,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night.  Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean that you’ll be staying in a shack!

Far from it! In this category, you can find awesome new properties like the 5-star Four Points by Sheraton Bijie we mentioned above. There aren’t many 5-star hotels in this category, but there are plenty of 4-star hotels around the world like the brand-new 4-star Protea Hotel Pretoria Loftus Park by Marriott (South Africa).

Visit one of the most interesting cities in South Africa and stay at the Protea Loftus Park enjoying its rooftop pool, great spacy rooms and beautiful views of Pretoria.

As a matter of fact, almost all Protea hotels and resorts in South Africa belong to Category 1 and are 4-star hotels. There are almost 400 high quality Category 1 hotels to choose from worldwide (396 to be precise) located in many major cities, as well as in less popular destinations. Since price is primarily about location (and then quality, of course), Category 1 hotels in big expensive cities like New York are bound to be mostly Business hotels like the 3-star Fairfield Inn & Suites East Greenbush.

Planning a business trip to New York? A great inexpensive choice is the Fairfield Inn & Suites Albany East Greenbush

Marriott Category 2 Hotels

Off Peak Standard Peak
10,000 (8,000) Marriott Bonvoy points 12,500 (11,000) Marriott Bonvoy points 15,000 (13,000) Marriott Bonvoy points

You can that see the price tag on these hotels start off where category 1 left off. As you would expect, Marriott category 2 hotels tend to be a bit more expensive than category 1, and I’m not just talking about prices in points, but about regular room rates as well. There are almost four times as many Marriott Bonvoy Category 2 properties as there are Category 1 Hotels.

If you’re thinking of a long business trip to Belleville, Ontario, you should definitely consider staying at the TownePlace Suites Belleville. This spanking new 3.5-star hotel is Belleville’s first extended-stay hotel. You won’t even have to leave your dog behind, as this hotel is pet-friendly, includes free high-speed internet and complimentary breakfast.

The exterior of the TownePlace Suites hotel by Marriott in Belleville.

Of course, if you’re looking for first-class amenities, it’s only obvious that you should also find 5-star hotels in this category. One example is the beautiful Yogyakarta Marriott Hotel.

The 5-star Yogyakarta Marriott Hotel

This 5-star property, located at the heart of Java’s cultural, artistic and intellectual heritage center, is a wonderful example of all you can get for as little as 8,000 points per night. Experience Indonesian and Javanese culture at its purest while going to bed every night in the best lodgings around.

With your Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card, you could spend:

Between 3 and 6 nights with the welcome bonus

+ 1 more night from the Fifth Night Free benefit

+ 1 annual free night award = 5 to 8 nights

That’s over a week in a popular destination in Java, at a 5-star hotel for only $120!

Pair your Marriott credit card Canada with one of Amex’s best travel cards, like the Platinum Card or the Cobalt Card, and you’re set for your dream vacation or honeymoon!

Marriott Category 3 Hotels

Off Peak Standard Peak
15,000 (12,000) Marriott Bonvoy points 17,500 (16,000) Marriott Bonvoy points 20,000 (18,000) Marriott Bonvoy points

On the third step of the Marriott redemption chart, you’ll be paying a minimum of 12,000 and a maximum of 20,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night. Consequently, your welcome bonus alone can get you between 2 and 4 nights. In the latter case, you can add the fifth extra night, and in both cases, you can also count in your annual free night award, totaling 3-6 nights for only $120.

Where can you use those nights? At any of the 2,164 hotels that make up the third category.

If you’re thinking of visiting the Pacific islands, why not stop at Bali and stay at the Fairfield by Marriott Bali Kuta on Sunset road.

It’s a brand new hotel in a strategic zone at the heart of the city. It’s great for both business and leisure, plus, it’s only a couple of minutes away from Kuta Beach, so if you want to hit the surf in Bali, this is also a great choice.

Marriott Category 4 Hotels

Off Peak Standard Peak
20,000 (17,500) Marriott Bonvoy points 25,000 (22,500) Marriott Bonvoy points 30,000 (27,500) Marriott Bonvoy points

Now that we’re at category 4 hotels, numbers start to decrease as exclusivity starts to climb. After peaking at over 2,000 hotels in the previous category, this one includes a not-so-humble 1,700 properties, 138 of which are brand new or were recently renovated.

Going to Hawaii can be expensive, but staying there doesn’t have to be, especially considering that you can stay at the Sheraton Kauai Coconut Beach Resort, a newly renovated property formerly known as the Courtyard by Marriott Kauai, at Coconut Beach. It’s set to reopen its doors this September, so you could be among the first to book a couple of nights in this beautiful resort, right in the middle of one of Hawaii’s beautiful beaches.

Enjoy the scenery and relax at the Marriott Kauai’s infinity ocean-view pool.

Marriott Category 5 Hotels

Off Peak Standard Peak
30,000 (27,500) Marriott Bonvoy points 35,000 (32,500) Marriott Bonvoy points 40,000 (37,500) Marriott Bonvoy points

Now that we’ve passed the middle of the rewards chart, we’re looking at more and more exclusive hotels every time. This exclusivity arises from not only hotel quality and star rating, but also from the location of the properties.

There are 1,186 Marriott Category 5 hotels to choose from. This is the highest category you can use your Annual Free Night Award on, in standard season and at a standard rate (without the PointSavers rate). However, you won’t be able to redeem that benefit if you’re thinking of using it during the Peak season – remember that it’s worth a maximum of 35,000 points.

From this Category onwards, it becomes even easier to find luxury 5-star hotels and resorts. If you’re a coffee enthusiast (or maybe even a coffee snob), then you probably know about the world-famous Panamanian Geisha coffees. Why not book a trip to Panama, take a tour of the most famous coffee estates such as the Hacienda La Esmeralda, and stay like a VIP at The Santa Maria, a Luxury Collection Hotel and Golf Resort, in Panama City.

Poolside at The Santa Maria
One of the Santa Maria’s beautiful rooms with a view of the resort’s golf course

In this category, it’ll also be easier to find spas, golf courses around the world, beach resorts with stunning balcony views and much more.

Marriott Category 6 Hotels

Off Peak Standard Peak
40,000 (35,000) Marriott Bonvoy points 60,000 (45,000) Marriott Bonvoy points 60,000 (55,000) Marriott Bonvoy points

You’ll find lodgings at great locations in this category, like the W New York I mention further down this post.

Stepping up on exclusivity, there are only 393 hotels around the world that made it into this category. As the third highest-ranking Marriott category, 5-star hotels start becoming mainstream. However, there are also lower class hotels that offer unique activities like the nine 4-star ski-resorts in this category. Three of them are right here in Canada, and include The Westin Trillium House, Blue Mountain hotel, at the foot of the Blue Mountains in Ontario. The other six are in the US.

The Westin Trillium Blue Mountain hotel with its amazing scenery during the summer.
Hotel view during the winter with its hot tub that’ll keep you warm no matter how cold it is outside.

If skiing or snowboarding is your thing, these category 6 properties will be the cherry on top of your trip. Of course, there is much more than skiing among the almost 400 category 6 hotels. You’ll also find 5-star beach resorts, business hotels at the heart of the most important financial capitals and cities in the world and much more. If you have the points, don’t miss out on the opportunity to experience some of the best hotels Marriott Bonvoy has to offer.

One important note about this category is that, technically speaking, you could use your annual free night award if you manage to book a room with the PointSavers rate during the off peak season. This is the absolute highest category for which you will be able to use this benefit, but it’s really hard to accomplish because most Category-6 hotels don’t frequently offer PointSavers rates. That’s the reason why I said before that the free night award is only redeemable for up to Category-5 hotels.

Marriott Category 7 Hotels

Off Peak Standard Peak
60,000 (45,000) Marriott Bonvoy points 60,000 (55,000) Marriott Bonvoy points 70,000 (65,000) Marriott Bonvoy points

This category engulfs all the runner-ups that didn’t make it to the top of the Marriott redemption categories. With a points-per-night value of 45,000 to 70,000 Marriott Bonvoy points, you can rest assured that you’ll be looking at some of the best hotels in the world, second only to the most exclusive VIP properties on earth.

I’ll only mention a couple of examples here, to give you a good oversight of what you can find in this category. One of the most highly-rated hotels in Quebec, the 5-star Ritz-Carlton Montreal, is a Marriott Category 7 hotel.

Stunning suites like this one, with its hardwood flooring, king-size bed and great views of downtown Montreal, make this hotel a gem.

Divine rooms for every taste, a spacious and richly decorated lobby, spa, in-house restaurant, in-house swimming pool and many more amenities, along with world-class service, make up for its hefty price tag. This sort of comfort isn’t cheap, though, and the lowest room-rates will only be a couple of dollars short of $1,000 if paid in cash. The best rooms, like corner executive suites on a high floor with a fireplace, will go for close to $2,000 per night!

This hotel is a clear example of the level of luxury that comes with being a Category 7 hotel. This category only counts 166 hotels. If you thought being in front of the new World Trade Center was something, wait to hear where Category 7 can take you.

The recently renovated London Marriott Hotel County Hall lies in the bank of the River Thames in London, right in front of the iconic Big Ben, the House of Parliament and the Palace of Westminster, and right next to the London Eye. You could make postcards just by taking pictures right from your room window.

The Presidential Suite at the London Marriott Hotel, with its mix of both modern and traditional English style decoration.
The exterior view of the hotel, formerly the London County Hall

This massive six-story, 192-room, and 14-suite hotel is a historic landmark in the UK. As in the case of the Ritz-Carlton Montreal, a suite in this wonderful property can go for over $2,000 a night.

Marriott Category 8 Hotels

Off Peak Standard Peak
70,000 (65,000) Marriott Bonvoy points 85,000 (80,000) Marriott Bonvoy points 100,000 (90,000) Marriott Bonvoy points

We’re finally at the top of the chain. I won’t bore you with more of the same arguments. Category 8 hotels are as high in quality and location as they are expensive. These hotels are really only for the rich and powerful. However, if you add up the Marriott Bonvoy Card’s welcome bonus of 60,000 points with $3,000 worth of eligible purchases at Marriott properties, which can earn you an extra 22,500 points, you might just make the cut and be in line for the experience of a lifetime, even if it is for only one night during the off peak season.

If that’s the case, or if your wallet can stand it, here are some of the most spectacular hotels and resorts that made it to the top of Marriott’s hotel categories, which houses only 69 hotels:

The St. Regis Bora Bora Resort in French Polynesia

Breathtaking, beautiful and stunning don’t come close to describing this amazing complex. It really doesn’t matter which one of the 90 over-water suites you choose. They all seem to float on top of Bora Bora’s perfect turquoise lagoon, and they all offer incredible views.

Only the two two-bedroom suites with a pool seem to stand out from the rest, with a clear 180-degree view of nothing but beautiful mountains, the lagoon and the Pacific Ocean. You only need to take a couple of steps and you’re in the water. The entire lagoon feels like one giant saltwater swimming pool.

If this isn’t in your bucket list, than I don’t know what is. However, it’ll take a little bit of saving up to afford it. The bare minimum will be of roughly around $1,000, but during peak season? It can reach a staggering $7,000 a night. Oh, and you also have to get there, of course, which is quite costly as well.

The Al Maha Desert Resort and Spa in Dubai

Ok, maybe a tropical paradise isn’t what you crave the most. There are plenty of other options like the Luxury Collection Al Maha Desert Resort and Spa in Dubai. In a city where everything screams luxury, you’d expect the finest high-end hotels, and the Al Maha delivers.

View of the desert from one of the suites with its own private controlled-temperature swimming pool.

This hotel in the middle of the desert immediately feels like an oasis. It offers a full-service spa, on-site restaurant, meeting rooms and business amenities, and the possibility to enjoy one-of-a-kind desert activities like camel and horseback riding and even falconry! All that for a “modest” rate of somewhere around $1,800 a night.

The W Koh Samui in Thailand

Marriott Category 8 hotels go beyond 5-stars to reach heights of their own. Even though its price is not as high as St. Regis Bora Bora I just mentioned, the W Hotel at Koh Samui is another beach paradise that takes luxury to another level. This luxury boutique hotel features residences that are more like fully equipped luxury apartments than hotel suites.

Gorgeous 270-degree views of the Gulf of Thailand from the Woobar at the W Koh Samui

An example of what I just said is the WOW Ocean Heaven, which is a private, two-bedroom, and two-story residence with a private infinity pool, equipped kitchen and pantry, and a modern look.

The private WOW Ocean Heaven villa. It does seem like the hotel’s lobby, but it’s actually just the private living room area of the residence.

It also houses five bar/lounge/restaurants that span grill, international and Japanese cuisine. A full-service spa with beauty and health treatments, an herbal sauna as well as business solutions like meeting rooms and fully equipped business centers and services, make the $600-$3,000 rates of the simpler villas seem pretty reasonable. However, villas like the one in the last picture can go for as much as $3,000 a night during peak season.

You can see that there’s a clear difference between both the quality and the price of the different Marriott hotels in each category. If you’re an average Canadian who still hasn’t reached an income big enough to afford the best hotels in the world, chances are you’ll find yourself looking around categories 1 through 5, or maybe even 6, when you travel. Within these categories is where you’ll be able to get the most out of your Canadian Marriott Credit Card’s welcome bonus, and the additional points you earn with it.

After seeing just some of the options you can choose from within these categories, there’s no doubt that you’re in for some unforgettable travel experiences if you sign up to the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card.

Now that you understand how Categories work (they’re really simple), let’s look at a few real-world examples of how you could use your points for hotel stays.

#5 Using Your Points For Hotel Stays, or How To Get 16 Nights At A 5-Star Hotel

Case Study #1: Visiting Family

Suppose you want to visit some family in Calgary, so you do a quick search on Marriott’s website and decide to stay at the Courtyard Calgary South, a Category 1 hotel in the city’s up-and-coming Seton district.

One of the gorgeous rooms at the Courtyard Calgary South.

As the redemption chart above shows, you’ll pay somewhere between 4,000-10,000 points per night for your stay, depending on the season you visit and whether the property is currently a PointSaver.

This means that at the very least, your 60,000 points get you 5 nights (60,000 points / 10,000 points per night), plus 1 additional free night from Marriott’s 5th night free policy and another free night from your Marriott Bonvoy Amex annual free night benefit, which all shakes out to a total of 7 nights.

If you go during an off-peak period, though, you could pay as little as 4,000 points per night, which means you could get 13 nights with your points (60,000 points / 4,000 points per night). Add on 3 extra nights from the 5th night free policy (13 nights / 4 = 3 free nights) and all of a sudden you’re at 16 nights!

This is my kind of card.

Case Study #2: The Big Winner

I’ve recently been planning a trip to Guizhou, China, to take in the natural landscapes there. You’ve probably never heard of Guizhou—not many Westerners have—but it’s quickly gaining popularity in the East as one of China’s untouched gems. And in the heart of Guizhou sits the brand-new Four Points by Sheraton Bijie, a 5-star marvel of a hotel that’s, amazingly, just a Category 1 on Marriott’s redemption chart.

That’s right—a Category 1 5-star hotel. Here’s what it looks like:

The lounge at the Four Points Sheraton Bijie in Guizhou, China.
The indoor pool at the Four Points Sheraton Bijie in Guizhou, China.

Just like in the Calgary example above, if you visit Guizhou during off-peak season, you’ll pay just 4,000 points per night at the Four Points, which means your 60,000 points will get you 12 nights. Combine that with Marriott’s 5th night free policy for your extra 3 free nights and with the Marriott Bonvoy™ Amex Card's Free Night Award, and you’re up to an incredible 16 nights with your card.

That's 16 nights at a 5-star hotel, all thanks to your $120 Marriott Bonvoy Amex Card.

Not bad, Amex. Not bad at all.

Case Study #3: Balling Out

Of course, you don’t have to stretch your points as far as we are. You can also choose to spend them in a single night, if you’d like.

Spending the weekend in New York? Why not use your points on a Category 6 hotel like the W New York, which sits next to the new World Trade Center.

A typical room at the W New York World Trade Center.

With more than 7,500 Marriott properties to choose from, the sky is truly the limit with your Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card for Canadians.

#6 Redeeming Marriott Bonvoy Points For Flights

Your 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points can also be transferred to 45 different airline partners. Most, but not all, of the airline partners accept Marriott Bonvoy points at a value of 3:1 (eg. 30,000 Marriott Bonvoy points = 10,000 Aeroplan Miles). If you transfer 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points to any airline partner, you’ll also receive an additional 15,000 points (worth 5,000 Aeroplan miles) for free, meaning that 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points turns into 25,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles, British Airways Avios points or American Airlines AAdvantage miles.

(Note: We recommend that you use your Marriott Bonvoy points for hotel redemptions, since they’re much more valuable that way. If you’re looking for a card for maximizing flight rewards, we recommend the American Express Platinum Card and the American Express Business Platinum.)

If you follow our advice on how to redeem your airline points, you’ll find that they’re worth about 2-3 cents apiece, putting the value of 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points at about $600-$900 when you use them on flights.

Here’s a full list of all the airline partners you can transfer your points to, with their transfer ratios:

  • Aegean Airlines (3:1)
  • Aeroflot Bonus (3:1)
  • AeroMexico ClubPremier (3:1)
  • Air Canada Aeroplan (3:1)
  • Air China Phoenix Miles (3:1)
  • Air France/KLM Flying Blue (3:1)
  • Air New Zealand Airpoints (200:1)
  • Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan (3:1)
  • Alitalia MilleMiglia (3:1)
  • ANA Mileage Club (3:1)
  • American Airlines AAdvantage Miles (3:1)
  • Asiana Airlines Asiana Club (3:1)
  • Avianca LifeMiles (3:1)
  • British Airways Executive Club Avios (3:1)
  • Cathay Pacific Asia Miles (3:1)
  • China Eastern Airlines Eastern Miles (3:1)
  • China Southern Airlines (3:1)
  • Copa Airlines ConnectMiles (3:1)
  • Delta SkyMiles (3:1)
  • Emirates Skywards (3:1)
  • Etihad Guest (3:1)
  • Frontier Airlines EarlyReturns (3:1)
  • Hainan Airlines (3:1)
  • Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles (3:1)
  • Iberia Plus (3:1)
  • Japan Airlines JAL Mileage Bank (3:1)
  • Jet Airways JetPrivilege (3:1)
  • JetBlue TrueBlue (6:1)
  • Korean Air SkyPass (3:1)
  • LATAM Airlines LATAMPass/Multiplus (3:1)
  • Lufthansa Miles & More (3:1)
  • Qantas Frequent Flyer (3:1)
  • Qatar Privilege Club (3:1)
  • Saudia Airlines Alfursan (3:1)
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer (3:1)
  • South African Airways Voyager (3:1)
  • Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards (3:1)
  • TAP Air Portugal Miles&Go (3:1)
  • THAI Airways Royal Orchid Plus (3:1)
  • Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles (3:1)
  • United MileagePlus (3:1.1—10% bonus)
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club (3:1)
  • Virgin Australia Velocity Frequent Flyer (3:1)

You can transfer anywhere between 3,000-240,000 Marriott Bonvoy™ points to airline partners each day.

#7 Understanding The Marriott Bonvoy™ Elite Status

An Elite Status corresponds to a particular level of earnable rewards within the Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program. It’s a way the said program has to reward their most faithful customers. The more you stay and spend at Marriott Bonvoy properties, the more benefits you’re entitled to.

To climb up the Elite Status ladder, you have to accumulate a predefined number of eligible nights each year, which Marriott refers to as Elite Qualifying Nights. Once the year ends, your count resets to zero and you start over from scratch, unless you have the Marriott Credit Card Canada in your pocket, in which case you get an initial boost to the first level plus 15 Elite Night credits.

The loyalty program consists of six status levels:

  • Member
  • Silver Elite
  • Gold Elite
  • Platinum Elite
  • Titanium Elite
  • Ambassador Elite

Since it’s not really an Elite Status, and since you start out at the Silver Elite Status thanks to the Amex Marriott Credit Card, I won’t elaborate much on the Member Status. All I’ll say is that you get it just for signing up to the Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program (which is free), and it includes benefits like

  • Earn 10 Marriott Bonvoy points per $1 on 26 hotel brands including Marriott Hotels, W Hotels, Ritz-Carlton and more
  • Earn 5 points  per $1 spent in Residence Inn, Towneplace Suites and Element Hotels
  • Earn 2.5 points per $1 spent only on stays in Marriott Executive Apartments and in Execustay properties
  • Free Wi-Fi
  • Exclusive member rates
  • Mobile or Keyless check-in
  • Use your points to pay for hotel amenities instantly
  • Access to PointSavers rates
  • Pay for room rates with Points or Cash + Points

 Each Elite level has its own set of extra rewards –“extra” meaning apart from the Members benefits and the Marriott Bonvoy Amex Card’s own separate benefits. In addition, after achieving certain status levels several times, you can be awarded that status permanently, which is really good value for the Marriott Bonvoy program.

In the following sections, we’ll cover each Elite Status, how to achieve it, and what comes with it.

Marriott Bonvoy Silver Elite Status

To be eligible for the silver Elite Status, you need to spend a minimum of 10 nights in Marriott hotels during the year.

Once you’ve reached that minimum, you’ll be entitled to the following exclusive Silver Elite Benefits, in addition to the ones included in the Members Status:

10% bonus points on stays

Silver Elite members earn an additional 10% of the points they would earn for just being Members. This means that Marriott rewards you with a total of 11 points per $1 spent on most Marriott properties. Add in the 5 extra points you earn with your Marriott Bonvoy Card, and you’re up to 16 points per $1.

Priority Late Checkout

This is a nice benefit if you like to get up late in the mornings, even if it’s your checkout date. Marriott doesn’t specify the checkout hour, and it depends on availability, but all you have to do is call the front desk and ask.

Ultimate Reservation Guarantee

Being a Silver Elite member means that your reservation is guaranteed. In the unlikely case that the hotel can’t honor your reservation, they will pay for one night at room in another nearby hotel and compensate you with up to US$200 and 90,000 points, depending on which hotel you had originally reserved.

Gift Shop Discount of 10%

On Marriott operated gift shops, all elite members get a 10% discount as long as they charge their purchases to the credit card linked to the Marriott Bonvoy account. In our case, that implies paying with your Marriott Bonvoy Amex Card.

Dedicated Elite Reservation Line

A 24/7 reservation line to book your hotel stays may not seem like something you’re bound to use. However, you never know when a last minute emergency or business trip may pop up in the middle of the night. In these cases, a dedicated reservation line could be just what you need.

How to get Lifetime Silver Elite Status

When you stack 250 or more nights at Marriott properties and achieve a total of 5 years as an Elite Status member, you’ll automatically get Silver Elite Status for life. As an additional benefit, your Marriott Bonvoy points will never expire.

The Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card gets you many steps closer to achieving this goal. Even if you never stay at a Marriott hotel, you’ll still get Silver Elite Status every year you keep you card. Additionally, you’ll also receive 15 complimentary Elite Qualifying Night credits every year, which means that, by the end of the fifth year, you’ll have 75 nights already accumulated.  After you add up the 15 nights from your welcome bonus and 5th night free policy, plus your four Free Night Awards (remember you’ll get this benefit after the first year), you’ll only have to stay and pay for a total of 156 nights to be eligible for the permanent Silver Elite Status.

Marriott Bonvoy™ Gold Elite Status

Gold Elite is as easy as staying for 25 nights or more a year in Marriott properties. But remember that your Marriott Bonvoy Credit Card gives you 15 Elite Night Credits, so your count actually starts at 15. A single-family vacation or a pair of business trips could be enough for you to become a Gold Elite Status member.

In addition to the 15 Elite Night Credits, this Marriott credit card will also get you to Gold Elite Status when you charge $30,000 in purchases to it. Striking gold was never easier!

Let me show you why you would want to become Gold Elite:

25% more points on stays

Instead of the Member’s 10 points per $1, Gold Elite members earn an additional 2.5 points, summing up to 12.5 points awarded by Marriott. Add those to the 5 points you can earn with your Marriott Bonvoy American Express, and you’re already up to 17.5 points per $1 spent on most Marriott properties. That’s an astounding earning rate by any measure!

Welcome Gift Of Points At Check-In

On most Marriott hotels, you’ll receive a welcoming gift of 500 points the minute you check in. On a couple of hotel brands the welcome gift is only half. For a full list of all the Marriott branded properties with their respective welcome gift, you can read the full Terms & Conditions of the Marriott Bonvoy loyalty rewards program.

One of the things I love about this benefit is that I get it every time I check in at a Marriott branded hotel, even if I only stay for one night.

Enhanced Room Upgrade

Gold Elite members are eligible for an automatic room upgrade at check-in. As in most cases, this type of benefit depends on availability. You will only receive an upgrade for your own room, and not for your guest’s rooms, even if you paid for them. Suites are excluded, but you could get upgraded to higher floors, executive floors, rooms with desirable views and more.

2pm Late Checkout

In all Marriott properties except on Marriott Vacation Club, Marriott Grand Residence Club, and Vistana, you can opt for a late checkout at no extra cost. All you have to do is call the front desk and if your room is available for 2pm checkout, you’re set.

Complimentary Enhanced Internet Access

Even though many of the hotel brands under the Marriott umbrella already offer complimentary internet access to all its guests, some of them don’t. In addition, in some of the cases where they do, it’s not the best connection they have to offer. In any of those cases, being a Gold Elite member will get you access to an enhanced internet connection at no extra cost.

How to get Lifetime Gold Elite Status

The condition for permanent Gold Elite Status is a total of 400 lifetime nights and 7 years of Gold Elite Status or higher.

The Canadian Marriott Credit Card by Amex can also help you get closer to being gold for life. Remember you can achieve Gold Elite Status every year you manage to charge a total of $30,000 in purchases to your card. By doing this for seven years, you’ll not only reach the minimum time as a Gold Elite Status member, but you can also add up to 105 Elite Night credits plus 6 Free Night Award plus the 15 nights from your welcome bonus, reducing the total number of lifetime nights needed to only 274.

Marriott Bonvoy™ Platinum Elite Status

The next level in Elite Status is Platinum. To go Platinum you need a minimum of 50 Elite Night Credits, but with your Marriott Bonvoy Card, you’ll only need to stay for 35 nights at a Marriott property.

As you may have guessed, Platinum Elite Status includes everything in the Gold Elite Status (except the 500 points welcome gift) only better, and more.

50% Bonus Points on Eligible Purchases

Platinum members receive not 10%, nor 20%, but 50% additional points compared to regular Members. That’s 15 points per $1. With the card’s 5 extra points, you’re up to 20 points per $1 spend on eligible purchases, which include the room rate and anything you can charge to it like dinning, spa, and other Marriott operated services and products.

Enhanced Room Upgrade (Suites Included)

With the Platinum Elite Status your room upgrade doesn’t exclude suites. As long as one is available, you could get a suite for the price of a standard room. If not, you’re still entitled to higher floors, better views and everything else.

4pm Late Checkout

Same conditions as the one mentioned above, only you can choose to leave as late as 4pm instead of 2pm, pending availability.

Welcome Gift Choice

Just as the points welcome gift of Gold Elite Status, which you can get every time you check in at a hotel, with Platinum Elite Status, you’ll also get a gift. The sweet thing about being Platinum is that you can choose what gift you prefer. Where available, you can choose between points, breakfasts and other amenities. Some properties will give you 1,000 points or a $10 credit in food and beverages for you and one extra guest, and some resorts will even offer free breakfast for you and a guest for every day of your stay.

If the clerk at the front desk doesn’t offer you the gift when checking in, then you’re entitled to compensation that can go from $25 USD to $100 USD. You can read the Terms and Conditions for more details.

50-Night Annual Choice Award

Apart from the gift you get every time you check-in at a hotel, you’ll get an additional gift once every year you achieve 50 nights as a Platinum Elite member. You can choose from the following five options

  • Five Suite Night Awards
  • Give the gift of Silver Elite status to a friend or family member
  • Get 40% off your favorite mattress
  • Five Elite Night Credits
  • A $100 charity donation

Guaranteed Lounge Access

As long as the room rate doesn’t include breakfast, Platinum Elite members and one extra guest get access to Concierge, Executive, Club, Signature Club and M Club lounges in some of the most important Marriott properties. Wherever there isn’t a lounge or alternative available, you could get free continental breakfast at a restaurant for yourself and your guest, or you could choose a 750 points gift per day instead. There are a couple of cases where brands don’t offer the breakfast alternative, so when their lounges are closed they offer 1,000 points instead.

This is a great way to save money on your lodgings when you travel. Instead of paying extra for a room with included breakfast, you can keep the difference, pay the standard rate, and eat a continental breakfast with your roommate, free of charge, at the lounge.

Being guaranteed means that if the property where you are staying doesn’t offer a lounge or any other alternative, then you will be compensated with US$100 or equivalent in foreign currency.

Going Platinum Elite For Life

Reaching Platinum Elite Status and staying there takes time and effort. To get permanent Platinum Elite Status, you need to reach 600 lifetime eligible nights and a total of 10 years of Platinum Elite status.

One way of to pull this off in record-time, is to sign up for the Marriott Bonvoy Amex Card, and stay at least 45 nights a year in Marriott properties, ten years straight. With the 15 bonus Elite Night Credits you get with the card every year, you’ll have reached 600 nights by the tenth year, therefore also reaching the minimum time requirements. If you manage this feat, by the end of the 5th year, you’ll have earned Silver Elite for life, by the end of the 7th year you’ll have earned a lifetime of Gold Elite status, and by the 10th, you’ll be Platinum forevermore.

Marriott Bonvoy Titanium Elite Status

Almost at the top of the loyalty ladder, the Titanium Elite Status requires you to achieve at least 75 eligible nights in a year. I know this starts to sound difficult to manage, but there are many businessmen and women who do, in fact, spend up to a third of the year in hotels around the world. Remember that there are extended-stay properties among participating hotels, which are specifically tailored for stays that can last even a couple of months.

Along with 4pm late checkout, the fastest in-room internet connection for free, and all the other Platinum benefits, the exclusive Titanium Benefits you’ll enjoy are:

75% Bonus Points On Stays

This benefit will increase your points earning rate to 17.5 points per $1, or to 22.5 points per $1 if you use your Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card.

Never Get Left Out With The 48-Hour Guarantee

This benefit ensures that you’ll always be able to get a room in the hotel you want and on the date you want, as long as you book 48 hours prior to you desired check-in. It’s a way Marriott has of saying “we love you as a client, come back whenever you want”.

Complimentary MileagePlus “Premier” Silver Status

After becoming a Titanium or Ambassador Elite member, you’ll receive complimentary Premier Silver Status on United Airlines’ loyalty program, MileagePlus. To reach this status, you would normally have to earn more than 25,000 qualifying miles flying United or its partners, and, if you live in the US, you would have to spend at least $3,000 in flights as well. Marriott grants you this status with United, free of charge.

75-Night Titanium Annual Gift Choice Award

This benefit is just like the one for the Platinum Status, only better. Once you reach 75 nights as a Titanium member, you can choose between the following gifts, once a year:

  • Five Suite Night Awards
  • Get one Free Night Award with a value of up to 40,000 points
  • Give the gift of Gold Elite status to a friend or family member
  • Get 40% off your favorite mattress
  • Five Elite Night Credits
  • A $100 charity donation

Contrary to the other Elite Statuses, you can’t get the Titanium Elite Status or higher for life.

Marriott Bonvoy™ Ambassador Elite Status

We’re finally at the top. This is the Elite Status that has it all. Reaching it is somewhat harder than the other levels. Why? Because, apart from the eligible nights you have to achieve, which are now 100 in a year, there’s also a minimum spend of $20,000 you also have to reach.

But what do you get in return?

All the benefits I showed you for the Titanium Elite plus another two:

The Ambassador Service

The ambassador service is similar to American Express’ Platinum Concierge. Ambassador members get 24-hour access to a personal ambassador that can help you do anything from booking a room at your favorite hotel to making reservations at the most sought-after restaurants in town. He’s also there to help you clear up any doubts you may have about your Elite Status benefits.

Another neat aspect of the Ambassador Service is that it doesn’t last for only one year. Once you achieve Ambassador Elite Status, this benefit will be available to you throughout the rest of the current calendar year and until December 31st the following year.

Since you need 100 eligible nights, and subtracting the 15 annual Elite Night Credits that come with your Marriott Bonvoy Card, the soonest you can reach Ambassador Elite status will be 85 days after January 1st. In other words, by the end of March.  This means that the longest this benefit will last is roughly about 21 months.


Ambassador members get a really great perk: They can check in whenever they want, and their checkout will be the at the same time on the departure date. In other words, you could check in at 5am, in which case your checkout time will be 5am as well when you leave.

Not to encouraging, is it?

But if you check in at 8pm, then your checkout will also be at 8pm. Talk about late checkout!

This benefit is optative, of course, and you can choose the regular check-in and checkout times of the hotel. You don’t even have to request it yourself because that’s one of the things your 24 hour Ambassador is for. Also, remember that, just as with the Titanium Elite Status, you can choose 4pm late checkout if available, which is late enough for most.

#8 How Do I Earn Marriott Bonvoy Points?

There are several distinct ways to earn Marriott Bonvoy points:

#1: Card Spending

As we mentioned above in the Points Earning Rate section, you’ll earn 5 Marriott Bonvoy points per $1 spent at Marriott properties, which includes the cost of your stay, food and drinks, and some hotel incidentals like spa treatments. You will also earn additional points on the same expenses depending on your Elite status. Basic “Members” of the Marriott loyalty program earn 10 points per $1, Silver Elite members earn 11 points, Gold Elite earn 12.5 points, Platinum Elite members get 15 points and Titanium as well as Ambassador Elite members earn 17.5 points per every $1 in eligible purchases. You also earn 2 Marriott Bonvoy points per $1 spent on all other purchases made with your Marriott Bonvoy Amex Card.

#2: Work Purchases & Events

If you’re planning a work event, such as a conference or large meeting, you can also earn points on spending done by your guests. As a Silver Elite member, you can earn up to 66,000 points per event (earned at 2 Marriott Bonvoy points per $1 spent by you or your guests). You also earn 10 Elite Qualifying Nights for your first meeting, and 1 Elite Qualifying Night for every 20 room nights booked by you or your guests. Even if you’re planning a small event, these can accumulate very quickly.

This all adds up to one thing: if you’re an event planner, admin assistant or anyone planning a gathering, you need the Marriott Bonvoy Amex Card.

#3: Special Purchases

Some purchases grant you additional Marriott Bonvoy points when you charge them to your card. For example, you’ll receive 500 Marriott Bonvoy points per day when you rent a rental card with Hertz, up to 2,000 points per rental. You also earn additional points on travel expenditures like cruises and long-distance telephone cards. These bonuses are provided by Marriott, not by American Express, so we recommend calling Marriott after you get your card to learn more about all the unique ways you can earn points.

#9 Is The Marriott Bonvoy Amex Card Right For Me?

The Marriott Bonvoy Amex Card is a no-brainer for anyone who plans to spend at least 1 night in a hotel per year.

This sounds oversimplified, but it’s actually not at all.

Think about it. If you ignore everything else—the 60,000 points welcome bonus, the travel insurance, and all of the other extras that come with the card—and look only at the annual free hotel night benefit, that alone is worth at least double the $120 annual fee.

You’re getting one night at a 5-star hotel for $120.

And when you add on all the other benefits, the value of the card becomes overwhelming.

Every Canadian should have this card in their wallet for the next 10+ years.

There are other American Express cards we recommend as well, but the great thing is you can hold several Amex cards at the same time.

#10 The Ultimate Canadian Traveler’s Credit Card Stack

Even the best travel credit cards have their strengths and weaknesses, so it’s best to hold multiple cards so you can capitalize on each of their advantages and downplay their weaknesses.

And contrary to what many people believe, having multiple credit cards actually helps your credit score, not hurts it, as long as you pay off your bill every month. This signals to creditors that you’re fully capable of paying off your bills on time, which they reflect by boosting your credit score.

Here’s the triple threat full stack we highly recommend for maximizing every Canadian's earning and travel benefits:

#1 The Marriott Bonvoy Amex Card

As we’ve shown in detail here, this card offers an exceptional welcome bonus, but also provides more than enough benefit to keep it in your wallet year after year.

#2 The American Express Platinum Card

Another card that every Canadian should have in their wallet. We value the current welcome bonus of up to 25,000 points (subject to a minimum spend of $2,000 within the first three months of Cardmembership) at between $500-$750, depending on how well you apply the points, plus you get the $200 annual travel credit. You can also receive 10,000 more MR points after 6 months of Cardmembership. This means that the purely quantitative benefits of the card are worth at least $700-$1,050 in the first year, exceeding the $699 annual fee.

#3 The Cobalt Card

You’ll fall in love with this everyday spending card. We show you how to get up to 10% back on your spending (seriously!) when you use this card on coffee, groceries, restaurant and bar spending anywhere in Canada. It’s the card you should be using for your daily spending.

#11 Insurance Coverage

The Marriott Bonvoy Amex Card also comes with an impressive travel insurance policy. Here’s what it includes:

BenefitDescriptionCoverage Limit
Travel Accident InsuranceYou, your spouse and your children are covered in the case of accidental death or dismemberment while traveling$500,000
Car Rental Theft and Damage InsuranceDamage or theft of your rental car$85,000
Flight Delay InsuranceHotel, motel, restaurant expenses and other sundry items when your flight is delayed$500
Baggage Delay InsuranceReasonable and necessary emergency purchases when your baggage is delayed$500
Lost or Stolen Baggage InsuranceLoss or damage to your luggage or personal effects while in transit.$500
Hotel/Motel Burglary InsuranceLoss of most personal items if your hotel/ motel is burglarized.$500
Travel Emergency AssistanceMedical & legal referrals by phone 24/7N/A

Every American Express card also comes with two other insurance benefits:

  1. Buyer’s Assurance Protection Plan doubles the manufacturer’s warranty on your purchases and will repair/replace faulty or damaged items up to $10,000.
  2. Purchase Protection Plan insures your purchases against accidental physical damage and theft for the 90 days after purchase, up to $1,000.

Fraud protection, global emergency card replacement and 24/7 express customer service are included with every American Express card, too.

This is a very good insurance plan, especially since it’s included with your card. If you’re looking for an even more comprehensive insurance plan, though—one that covers emergency medical, emergency dental, trip interruption, personal liability and terrorism—we recommend SafetyWing, the $37/month plan that’s disrupting the travel insurance market in a big, bigway.

If you want to learn more, you can read our post on American Express Travel Insurance where you'll find all the details about how to use your coverage, the other insurance options Amex offers, how to make claims and more.

#12 The One Downside To The Marriott Bonvoy Amex Card: Foreign Transaction Fees

Despite all the amazing benefits and features of the card, there is one noticeable downside to the Marriott Bonvoy Amex Card: the 2.5% fee on foreign transactions. This fee isn’t unique to this card—no American Express card in Canada offers fee-free foreign transactions—but it is still worth mentioning here. If you’re able to pick up an N26 You Card on your next trip to Europe, definitely do so: it’ll make your financial life on the road much, much better. Until then, though, we’ll have to accept that there are no good FX cards in Canada.

#13 The Marriott Bonvoy™ Business Amex Card

This entire review has been about the Marriott Bonvoy Amex card, though there's also a Marriott Bonvoy™ Business American Express Card for Canadians, too. There are a few minor differences between the two cards:

  1. Earn 3 points per $1 spent on gas, dining and travel, and 2 point per $1 on all other card purchases. The personal card does not offer a bonus for gas, dining and travel spending (it earns 2 points per $1 on all spending).
  2. The personal card receives complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Silver Elite Status, while the business card does not.
  3. Additional cards cost $50 vs. free for the personal card.
  4. Annual fee of $150 vs. $120 for the personal card.
  5. Includes Employee Card Misuse Protection, which is also included with the American Express Business Platinum card.

If you're a business owner and plan to use this card in a business capacity, I suggest springing for the Marriott Bonvoy Business Card.

#14 FAQs

How Do Marriott Bonvoy Card Referrals Work?

Once you've activated your Marriott Bonvoy Amex Card, you can refer friends to the card. You'll receive a bonus of 10,000 points for every friend who signs up using your unique referral link.

When Do My Marriott Bonvoy Points Expire?

It depends. If you haven’t achieved any Elite status for life, Marriott Bonvoy points expire after one year of inactivity. Since you earn Marriott Bonvoy points every time you stay at a Marriott property, or even just eat at one of their restaurants, it’s very easy to keep your Marriott Bonvoy points balance active. It’s even easier if you have a Marriott Bonvoy Amex Card, because it’ll earn you points for any purchase. See our section “How Do I Earn Marriott Bonvoy points” above to see just how easy it is to keep your account active.

If, on the other hand, you managed to become a lifetime Silver Elite member or higher, your points will never expire.

How Do Marriott Bonvoy Points Compare With American Express Membership Reward Points?

They're completely different. We value Amex MR points at 2-3 cents apiece, and we help you to get these values in posts like this one on $75 flights to Asia and this one on $75 flights to Europe.

Still, it's hard to say which are more valuable. One thing we can say is that you should not transfer your Amex MR points to Marriott Bonvoy points. American Express offers a rate of 1,000 MR = 1,200 Marriott Bonvoy points, which is a very poor valuation. This is only a decision you'll face with your other cards, since the Marriott Bonvoy Amex Card earns Marriott Bonvoy points on its own.

All things considered, we recommend keeping your Marriott Bonvoy points as Marriott Bonvoy points so you can use them on amazing hotel redemptions (see the Case Studies above), and transferring your Amex MR points from your Platinum Card to airlines for flights.

When Are The Peak Season & Off-Peak Season For Hotel Redemptions?

The peak/off-peak system is brand new to Marriott, so they actually haven’t listed which dates will be priced in which way. For now, every date is listed at the standard price, though this will change in the coming months. Join our email list at the bottom of this post so we can update you when that happens and help you maximize your points by planning your travel during off-peak dates.

What About Marriott's Points + Cash Program?

If you prefer to save some of your Marriott Bonvoy points, or if you don't have enough for a particular booking, you can take advantage of the points + cash option. Generally we recommend against this, since this setup values points lower than what they're worth if you apply them smartly (see our Case Studies above), but it’s not terrible either. If you don’t have enough points for your hotel stay, use points + cash, but if you do, just use your points. Here's the points + cash breakdown for each hotel category:

Hotel CategoryOff PeakStandardPeak
150 USD + 2,500 points55 USD + 3,500 points60 USD + 4,500 points
260 USD + 5,000 points65 USD + 6,000 points70 USD + 6,500 points
370 USD + 7,500 points80 USD + 8,500 points90 USD + 9,000 points
490 USD + 10,000 points105 USD + 12,000 points120 USD + 13,500 points
5120 USD + 16,000 points140 USD + 17,000 points165 USD + 19,000 points
6165 USD + 22,000 points190 USD + 25,000 points225 USD + 27,500 points
7225 USD + 27,500 points250 USD + 30,000 points325 USD + 35,000 points
8325 USD + 35,000 points440 USD + 42,500 points635 USD + 60,000 points

You also have another option if you don’t have enough points for a booking: you can book your stay with points and then earn the points later from other hotel stays or credit card spending later. As long as the points reach your account 14 days before your stay, you’re fine. If they don’t, though, your stay will be canceled and you won’t be refunded, so use this strategy with caution.

Where Can I Search For Marriott Hotels?

You can search for hotels using the Marriott search platform here. Alternatively, you can scout around Marriott’s Hotel Directory here.

We recommend searching on two parameters: the city you’re visiting and the redemption category you’d like to redeem with, which you can find by clicking “All Filters” in the top-right and then selecting “Rewards Category.” If you’re using your annual free night benefit, go for a Category 5, which will show you the best hotels you can get for the 35,000 annual free night points limit. If you’re using your 60,000 welcome points bonus, you can use them however you’d like (see the Case Studies above for ideas of high-value redemptions).

You can redeem your Marriott Bonvoy points (with zero blackout dates) at any of these hotel brands, anywhere in the world:

  • The Ritz-Carlton
  • St. Regis
  • JW Marriott
  • The Luxury Collection
  • W Hotels
  • Marriott Hotels
  • Sheraton
  • Marriott Vacation Club
  • Delta Hotels by Marriott
  • Le Méridien
  • Westin
  • Autograph Collection
  • Renaissance Hotels
  • Tribute Portfolio
  • Gaylord Hotels
  • Courtyard by Marriott
  • Four Points by Sheraton
  • SpringHill Suites by Marriott
  • Protea Hotels by Marriott
  • Fairfield by Marriott
  • AC Hotels by Marriott
  • Aloft
  • Moxy Hotels
  • Element

What are Elite Qualifying Night Credits?

They’re the credits you need to round up during a calendar year to achieve the different Elite Statuses in the Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program. For example, to reach Silver Elite Status, you need a total of ten or more Elite Night Credits; for Gold Elite you need 25; to become a Platinum Elite member you need 50; and so on. Your lifetime total Elite Night Credits also count towards achieving permanent Silver, Gold or Platinum Elite Status.

How do I earn Elite Qualifying Night Credits?

There are different ways to earn Elite Night Credits, the most straightforward of which is to stay at Marriott Properties. Each eligible night you stay will add one Elite Night Credit to both your annual and lifetime balance. You can also earn Elite Night Credits by signing up to the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card, which gives you 15 credits every year you decide to keep it. In addition, achieving some of the higher Elite statuses in the Marriott Bonvoy program entitles you to a gift of your choosing and among the options, you can choose 5 Elite Night Credits every year.

What are Suite Night Awards?

Suite Night Awards are awards you can use to upgrade a standard suite or a premium room to a premium suite. Premium Suites are suites with a view, in high floors or with special amenities.

#15 Is The Marriott Bonvoy Card Worth It?

Without a doubt.

The welcome bonus is incredibly generous.

The travel insurance is second to none.

And the annual benefits far exceed the annual cost of the card.

If you plan on spending at least one night in a hotel in the next 12 months, you'll save money with this card in your wallet. We can't recommend it highly enough.

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