Easy Guide: Virtuoso and STARS rates for Marriott properties

Welcome amenities at W Bali - Seminyak

Welcome amenities at W Bali – Seminyak

If you are new, programs like Virtuoso and STARS (let’s call them VS) offer additional benefits for booking ‘Standard’ rates in luxury hotels. These rates usually cost a little more than the lowest ‘member’ or ‘prepaid’ rates that you’ll probably see on official booking channels like marriott.com.

Quick read

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Benefits

  1. US$100 credit per stay (not per night)

  2. Stack membership F&B discount (e.g. 20% off for Platinum and above)

  3. Daily breakfast

  4. Room upgrade

  5. Early check-in, late check out

  6. Welcome amenities

  7. Free cancellation, no prepayment

  8. Qualify for usual member benefits (points, nights, suite upgrades) and any ongoing promotions

  9. Ability to pay with Marriott eGiftCards for up to 20% off the grand total (after taxes and fees)

Key points to note

  • VS rates are always more expensive than the lowest rate found when booking directly.

  • Most of the time, VS rates are labelled as ‘Standard’, non-member rates on official booking channels. Knowing this, makes it easier to browse for lowest rates with a calendar view (e.g. on marriott.com)

  • Not all hotels offer the same benefits/credit.

  • VS rates are not exclusive to any travel agent. Any qualified travel agent can book these rates for you for free. Be careful of travel agents that charge additional “membership” and booking fees.

  • I make my bookings on classictravel.com as I prefer locking-in the rates instantly and cancel a booking instantly whenever I change my mind. All for free.

  • VS rates can be found for most properties of the following Marriott Bonvoy brands: The Ritz-Carlton, The Luxury Collection, W Hotels, St. Regis, EDITION, BVLGARI.

  • Marriott has another similar program called Luminous where hotel credit is only offered in a limited number of properties, like W Kuala Lumpur.

  • VS rates can be found for other properties outside the Marriott Bonvoy program too.

Why are these rates more beneficial now?

Before the pandemic, I never found much value with these rates because prepaid rates were already high in luxury hotels and the additional benefits were less attractive when Standard rates were even higher.

Hotel rates are much lower now because of low occupancy BUT additional benefits from the programs mentioned above are remaining the same. In some of my recent stays in Bali, the hotel credits that I received were almost equivalent to the total cost of the stay!

How to book

Annoyingly, these special rates can only be booked through travel agents. The popular ones are classictravel (which I use), Ourisman, QX Travel or any travel advisor in virtuoso.com. For this example, let’s assume that you are making the booking through classictravel.

Here are the steps to take to make your booking:

  1. Pick a hotel and stay date.

  2. Sign up for a free account at classictravel if you have not.

  3. Search for your preferred hotel and stay dates.

  4. Enter guest information and credit card details to complete the booking.

  5. Once you have the confirmation number for your reservation, call or email the hotel to add your membership number (if any) to that reservation. Once the hotel has done it, the reservation will appear in your Marriott account/app.

Remember: There are no booking fees and no prepayment required for these rates. You may also cancel these bookings for free up to one day before the stay by visiting the ‘My Reservations’ page in your classictravel account.

Finding the lowest rate

Finding a date with the lowest rate is easy on Marriott Bonvoy’s website or mobile app. To get a calendar view like the one below, all you have to do is search with flexible dates.


Calendar view on marriott.com

Calendar view on marriott.com

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Example

In the example below, The Ritz-Carlton Bali offers both Virtuoso and STARS rates. If you look closely, the Virtuoso rate offers an extra perk, complimentary one-way airport transfer. I’ve booked this rate a couple of weeks ago (review coming up) and the hotel was flexible enough to pick me up from Grand Hyatt Bali instead of the airport!

To summarize, some nights at this hotel are going for just US$170 nett with all the benefits mentioned above, just US$17 more than the lowest rate on marriott.com!

When NOT to book

I usually skip VS rates when:

  1. They are over US$50 more than the lowest prepaid or member rate on marriott.com

  2. Staying more than 3 nights.

Special offers

Look out for special promotions with 3rd, 4th or 5th night free. For example, W Bali – Seminyak is currently running a 3rd night free promotion all the way till 23 Dec 2021.

Actual value of hotel credits

Hotel credits are based on the nett amount (after taxes and fees) of your expenditure during the stay.

Hotel credits can be stacked with membership dining discounts. As a Platinum member and above, you get 20% off dining. This simply means that you will get to spend even more on dining as you will receive 20% off the final bill after each meal.

Also, keep in mind that some restaurants in the hotel may have 3rd party discounts (e.g. Chope, Eatigo). I have not tested to see if hotel credits can be used for discounted dining from 3rd party deals but if it is possible, the hotel credits can go a very long way, especially in more expensive cities.

Bottom line

Low hotel rates are here to stay as it is becoming clear that the tourism industry’s road to normalcy will be long and bumpy. Remember to have a look at Virtouso and STARS rates for future bookings!

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