Sadly for frequent travelers, each new year starts with the announcement of changes to award programs. And even though they are often called “enhancements” they usually mean less value for travelers. Marriott Hotels, is delivering a one-two-punch this year by allowing more limits on available rooms, making it more difficult to book an award stay AND by changing the amount of points needed for an award redemption. So, if you still have Marriott Bonvoy points in your loyalty account, I’d recommend to read on & find a good redemption soon!
After merging the Starwood Preferred Guest Program and Marriott Rewards, Marriott promised to make any changes… immediately… but that didn’t last long and a higher redemption category was introduced as well as peak and off-peak rates.
Marriott earlier this year changed their “no blackout dates” award policy. If you are new to loyalty programs, you might think that it means that you can use your award points for a hotel reservation at any time. You’d be wrong. While with Hyatt (or even the former Starwood brands) you can use your hard-earned award points for any standard room available for cash, Marriott allows their brands to block standard rooms from awards during busy times (you know, when you’d actually want to use your points to avoid sky-high rates). That policy has now been extended to all Marriott brands, including the former Starwood brands, so it’ll be much harder to find award rooms going forward.
On top of that Marriott will be changing the award redemption rates for almost 30% of their hotels, with 22% going up and only 7% going down – I’d call that a slaughter! Combined with the peak awards introduced earlier, a middle-of-the-road Category 4 hotel could now cost you 40,000 points/night instead of 25,000 points/night. Ouch!
The changes will be effective March 4, so you have a few weeks to plan the best use of your points. You can find all the changes here and I recommend to take a look at hotels you are considering. If they go down in points, congratulations – you can wait till March with your reservation and save some points. If they go up, I’d make a reservation now to lock in the old rate and hope you don’t have to change your reservation – that’s what I did with most of my remaining points!
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