You want to know whether to join Marriott or Hotels.com? You’re in the right place. We’ll first look at our two competitors individually and then figure how to decide which one to join based on individual circumstances. To give you some context upfront, Hotels.com is a member of the Expedia Group and arguably the only loyalty program from the group worth considering.
I will not go into a lot of details about each membership programs, for example I won’t describe the perks that are available at each membership tier. Instead I’ll refer you to the official page for those details and just give you a condensed analysis here. Let’s go!
First things first: Marriott owns 30 brands and 8,000+ properties around the world, including the Ritz-Carlton, W hotels and Sheraton. That being said, Marriott properties exist mainly in popular destinations, which is one factor we’ll keep in mind.
Second, Marriott has a reasonably complex membership program with 5 tiers. Their member benefit page will give you an idea of what to expect. The meaningful benefits start with room upgrades at the Gold tier, but the next tier, Platinum, is what you should aim for. The most important benefits that you get here are:
- Reward points. You can redeem them for free nights. Expect 10-15% of your spend back in points, depending on your tier and how you redeem the points
- Room upgrades. Based on availability
- Late checkout
- Early checkin. Not listed, but anecdotal evidence shows that rooms available earlier are allocated to status holders
- Free breakfast with Platinum. Not all hotels offer this
There’s a lot more to say about this. For starters, you can instantly get Bonvoy Gold status if you have the American Express Platinum card, and keep it for as long as you have the card. The lifestyle perks of the Platinum card are well worth it if you can allocate £575 of your income/year to it. Note that to get to next tier (Bonvoy Platinum) you still need to reach the original 50 nights/year threshold, not just the difference from Gold.
Speaking of tier thresholds, Marriott routinely runs promotions offering additional Elite Night Credits and offers bonus Elite Night Credit with products like the American Express Marriott Bonvoy card (15 nights/year). This card also gives you back roughly the points equivalent of 4% of payments made at Marriott hotels.
In addition, you can get about 3% back in cashback. See our article on UK cashback sites for details.
Finally, Marriott Bonvoy points can be transferred or purchased. The latter is typically a bad idea but you could consider it if you’re very close to your dream redemption.
Hotels.com gives you access to significantly more hotels than the Marriott loyalty program. If you typically go off the beaten path, it’s arguably the better loyalty program choice. Its tier structure is also simpler. It has three tiers but the differences between them are almost negligible in practice. The perks only apply to a limited number of “VIP properties” and even there you may have a hard time convincing the property to honour them.
However, all tiers get reward nights, which is the important thing. This essentially amounts to a free night every 10 paid nights. To be more specific, you get back a reward night “voucher” whose value is 10% of the total amount you paid for the 10 previous nights. You can then use it to wholly or partly pay for a night but you cannot split its value between multiple nights.
You can combine this with cashback, which in the better case can be an extra 10%, but that varies. See our page dedicated to UK cashback sites.
Finally, Hotels.com gives you a price match guarantee. If you find the same room that you’ve booked through them, at a lower price, they will refund the difference. I’ve successfully used this in the past but it’s become more difficult to have price match requests accepted. As a rule of thumb, I would no longer make a non-refundable booking assuming I can have it price matched.
You might be wondering at this point – what if I book a Marriott property through Hotels.com? Can’t I get the benefits from both programs? And the answer is “No”. Bookings made through online travel agents like Hotels.com don’t qualify for Marriott Bonvoy points or Elite Nights. Only bookings made directly through Marriott or through business travel agents like CWT qualify.
In Conclusion …
Both loyalty programs offer roughly 20% back via a combination of points, free nights and cashback.
Hotels.com is always a good option because its benefits are largely independent of how often you used them. However, the perks that you get during your stays are minimal. Joining the Marriott program, on the other hand, is worth it if you spend more than 20 nights per year in popular destinations and you are a discerning traveller. If the difference between a room and a suite is important, strongly consider joining.