What are Marriott Bonvoy points worth? And what are 85K certificates worth?

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Given the fact that Marriott is out with some very interesting welcome bonuses (New Marriott offers: up to 150K points + 85K free night certificate!), I figured that this would be a good time to update our Marriott point valuations.  I also took an initial look at the value of 85K free night certificates now that they are a thing (85K certs are brand new with the latest Bonvoy Brilliant offer).  I last looked at the value of Marriott points in May 2021.  At that time, I found a median point value of 0.62 cents and an 80th percentile value of 0.82 cents.  Let’s see what I found this time around…

Methodology

In order to determine the value of Marriott points, I collected real-world cash prices and point prices.  As I’ve done previously, I examined a number of major hotel markets in the U.S.  In this round, in order to include more leisure destinations, I added Hawaii, Orlando, and Las Vegas and removed Houston.  The current list of hotel markets I looked at is: Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, Hawaii, Las Vegas, Miami, New York City, Orlando, and Seattle. Within each market, I identified the first three search results with a guest rating of 4.1 or better, and I recorded both cash and award prices for three dates each: a weekday, a weekend, and a holiday weekend.

  • Why U.S. only? U.S. consumers are known to spend most of their points and miles on domestic travel.  Since the majority of this blog’s audience resides in the U.S. we opted for a U.S. centric view of point values.
  • Why Guest Ratings? The goal wasn’t to find the 3 best Marriott hotels in each market. Instead, the goal was to find the 3 Marriott bookable hotels that are very popular.  Which ones are people really likely to book?  By using a combination of Marriott’s default sorting (by distance) and by picking only highly rated hotels, I think it’s reasonable to assume that many Marriott members would pick these hotels.
  • Which paid rates were selected?  I always picked the best refundable paid rate shown on Marriott’s website, but without applying any discounts like AAA, military, government, etc.  In most cases, I selected Marriott’s “Member Rate Flexible”.
  • What about point earnings on paid rates? An ideal analysis may include the value of point earnings on paid rates.  For simplicity, this was not considered in this analysis.  This decision has the effect of over-valuing Marriott points.  See the section on Overvaluing vs. Undervaluing Points for more details.
  • What about taxes and fees? For simplicity, taxes, resort fees, and other fees are not included in this analysis.  This decision has the effect of under-valuing Marriott points.  See the section on Overvaluing vs. Undervaluing Points for more details.
  • Which specific dates did I use?  
    • Weekday: Wednesday November 10th.
    • Weekend Day: Friday November 12th.
    • Holiday Weekend Day: Saturday November 27th.

Results

Point Value

Analysis Date: 9/28/21 5/17/21
Point Value (Median) 0.63 cents 0.62
Point Value (Mean) 0.66 cents 0.67
Cash Price (Median) $246 $246
Cash Price (Mean) $303 $282
Point Price (Median) 42,500 40,000
Point Price (Mean) 46,212 44,802
Minimum Point Value 0.26 cents 0.30
Maximum Point Value 1.38 cents 1.67

The median observed point value was 0.63 cents per point.  This means that half of the observed results offered equal or better point value and half offered equal or worse value.  Another way to think about it is that without trying to cherry pick good awards, you have a 50/50 chance of getting 0.63 cents or better value from your Marriott points when booking free night awards.

Pick your own point value

Analysis Date: 9/28/21 5/12/21
50th Percentile (Median) 0.63 cents 0.62
60th Percentile 0.66 cents 0.66
70th Percentile 0.73 cents 0.77
80th Percentile 0.83 cents 0.81
90th Percentile 0.98 cents 0.96

When we publish Reasonable Redemption Values of points (RRVs), we conservatively pick the middle value, or the 50th percentile.  The idea is that just by randomly picking hotels to use your points, you have a 50/50 chance of getting this value or better.  But what if you cherry-pick awards?  Many people prefer to hold onto their points until they find good value uses for them.  If that’s you, then you may want to use the table above to pick your own point value.  For example, if you think that you’ll hold out for the best 10% value awards, then pick the 90th Percentile.  If you cherry-pick a bit, but not that much, you might want to use the 70th Percentile (for example).

To me, this analysis shows that those who cherry-pick good value awards can count on getting around 0.80 cents per point value, or better.  And, while more than 1 cent per point value is possible, I wouldn’t count on it.

New Reasonable Redemption Value

Our Reasonable Redemption Value (RRV) for Marriott points was previously set to 0.62 cents per point.  RRV’s are intended to be the point at which it is reasonable to get that much value or better for your points.  Therefore, I believe that the median observed value for is a good choice for our RRV…

  • Reasonable Redemption Value for Marriott: 0.63 cents per point
  • Reasonable Redemption Value for those who cherry pick awards: 0.8 cents per point

Certificate Values

In order to estimate the value of free night certificates, I looked at the average cost of hotel nights that could be booked with these certificates.

Certificate Type Average Room Cost Point Cost Range Certificate Value
35K $230 25K to 35K $225
40K $286 40K $275
50K $262 40K to 50K $300
85K $457 >50K to 85K $575
$693 70K to 85K

The results above require some explanation:

  • 35K certs: I averaged the room rate across hotel nights that were bookable with 25K to 35K points.  When I last calculated the value of these certificates, I found an average room rate of $224.  That’s pretty close to the new $230!  It seems that the average value is fairly stable, so let’s split the difference a bit: $225.
  • 40K certs: These are only available to Marriott Titanium Elites who select this as a Choice Benefit.  The average value of hotel nights that were priced at exactly 40K points was $286.  To keep the valuation conservative, I lowered the valuation a bit: $275.
  • 50K certs: This is a weird one! I averaged the room rate across hotel nights that were bookable with 40K to 50K points.  The strange thing here is that the average value is less than 40K point rooms themselves.  The table seems to show that 40K certs are more valuable than 50K certs ($286 vs $262).  For whatever reason, the new dataset includes quite a few 50K nights that were relatively cheap to book with cash for the dates I examined.  Obviously, 50K certs can’t really be worth less than 40K certs since 50K certs can be used to book the same hotels as 40K certs, and many more.  When I previously looked at the value of 50K free nights, I found an average room rate of approximately $300.  Until I have a chance to dive into this more deeply, I’m inclined to look at the new results as a weird outlier and keep the previous valuation: $300.
  • 85K certs:  I averaged room rates bookable with 85K certs using two different ranges.  With the wider range (free nights that cost more than 50K and up to 85K), the average room rate came to $457.  With the narrower range (70K to 85K), the average room rate came to approximately $700 ($693).  For the purpose of valuing these certificates, I’m inclined to split the difference: $575.

Overvaluing vs. Undervaluing Points

A number of people have argued that I should include taxes in the hotel rates used for analyses like this one because leaving out taxes means undervaluing points (since free night awards do not incur most taxes).  However, there are many factors besides taxes that are equally important and also, for the sake of simplicity, are not included in my analyses.  My hope is that these factors roughly balance each other out…

Factors that cause us to undervalue points

  • We do not include hotel taxes in our analyses.  Most taxes are charged on paid stays but not award stays.
  • With hotel programs that waive resort fees on award stays (Hilton, Hyatt, Wyndham), we do not include resort fees in our analyses.
  • With hotel programs that offer 4th Night Free Awards (IHG, with some credit cards), or 5th Night Free Awards (Hilton & Marriott), or award discounts (Wyndham), we do not consider the point savings in our analyses.
  • With hotel programs that offer free parking on award stays to top-tier elites (Hyatt), we do not factor this in.

Factors that cause us to overvalue points

  • We do not use discount rates (other than member rates) in our analyses.  In real-life, many people book hotels cheaper (and sometimes far cheaper) by using AAA rates, government & military rates, senior rates, etc.
  • We do not use hotel promotional rates.  Often, individual hotels have deals such as “Stay 2 Nights, Get 1 Night Free” which can greatly reduce the cost of a stay.
  • We do not use prepaid rates in our analyses.  Sometimes these rates are significantly lower than refundable rates.
  • We do not factor in rebates which can be earned from booking hotels through shopping portals.
  • We do not factor in points earned from paid stays.  These points can be thought of as a rebate on paid stays only.
  • We do not factor in extra points earned on paid stays for those with elite status.
  • We do not factor in hotel loyalty program promotions: Most promotions, but not all, only offer incentives for paid stays.  We often see promos offering bonus points, double or triple points, free night awards, etc.

Given the factors listed above, I think that including taxes in our analyses would lead us to over-value points.

Conclusion

Based on the latest analysis, I’ve very slightly increased our Marriott RRV from 0.62 to 0.63 cents per point.  The idea is that you have equal chance of getting that much value or more from your award stays.

This post’s percentile results show that it’s reasonable to expect to get 0.80 cents per point or better if you cherry-pick good-value awards.  On the higher end, even though this analysis saw values as high as 1.38, I wouldn’t count on getting more than 1 cent per point value.

As to those new 85K free night certificates… I found average redemption values ranging from $457 to $693 depending upon which data points were included.  I decided to split the difference and value these at $575.  In real life, you’ll get better or worse value than that, but $575 seems like a reasonable redemption target.

For a complete list of Reasonable Redemption Values (and links to posts like this one), see: Reasonable Redemption Values (RRVs).

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