Marriott Points Advance: Useful when you’re short on points but doesn’t lock in rates
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Most loyalty programs require you to have the full number of points or miles in your account before you can book an award. Even with things like American Express’ Pay with Points rebate (available on select cards like The Business Platinum Card® from American Express) and Singapore’s waitlist option, you need the full amount to cover the entire redemption. This makes it somewhat difficult to plan for future trips, especially if you’re beginning the accumulation phase of your points strategy and waiting for your welcome bonus from a new travel rewards credit card to post.
Marriott Bonvoy is a unique exception here, with its Points Advance award booking option. You might even be considering using it ahead of the upcoming switch to dynamic award pricing. However, this feature might not be as useful as you think. For instance, it doesn’t lock in the award rate, just the room.
In this guide, we’ll walk through everything you need to know to use Points Advance, including how it can help you secure hard-to-get award stays and why you need to keep monitoring your reservations after you book them.
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As the name suggests, Points Advance allows you to book a Marriott award reservation even if you don’t have enough points in your account.
It doesn’t matter if you’re short by 1 point or 100,000. It works the same way. You can confirm an award reservation as soon as your plans are finalized and then earn the remaining points within 60 days. It’s no different than booking a refundable paid stay. Except, with most paid rates, you don’t actually need to spend the cash upfront, and the same holds true here.
In the past, you could even use Points Advance if you did have enough points in your account, but this loophole was changed (without warning) in April 2019. Additionally, Marriott used to give you up to 14 days before your stay to earn enough points for a Points Advance reservation. Unfortunately, that changed to 60 days after booking in May 2021.
Using Points Advance is straightforward. Simply log on to the Marriott website and search for hotels as if you were going to make an award booking. If you’re short on points, Marriott will still display the number of points required but will allow you to confirm the room if you don’t have enough to cover the entire stay, like this 10-night award trip at the Westin Maldives Miriandhoo Resort:
From there, simply complete the reservation like normal and Marriott will give you a confirmation number.
Here’s what section 3.6.a. of the program’s terms and conditions say about the Points Advance policy:
If a Member does not have sufficient Points to pay for a Points Advance Redemption Reservation by the end of the 60-day hold, or the date that is fourteen (14) days prior to the Member’s arrival date, whichever occurs sooner, the Points Advance Redemption Reservation will be cancelled.
Based on this verbiage, your reservation may be canceled if you don’t have enough points in your account either within 60 days of booking or 14 days before your arrival. However, Marriott has told us that the individual properties should reach out to you first to discuss your options. Nevertheless, I would highly recommend making arrangements to earn enough points to then order your e-certificates at least 15 days before the start of your stay.
Finally, you should definitely pay attention to the penalty-free cancellation window, as it varies by hotel. I’ve made a few different Points Advance reservations for upcoming trips and have seen cancellation windows that range from one day before arrival to 30 days before.
Points Advance does not lock in the award rate
There once was a time when if a property’s award rate changed after you booked a Points Advance stay but before you actually redeemed points, you were effectively grandfathered in and paid the rate you originally booked — even if your online reservation showed the higher price. Unfortunately, that’s no longer the case.
Now, you’ll be required to cover the award stay at the price in effect when you use points, not the time you book. This means that you can’t make speculative bookings ahead of the upcoming switch to dynamic award pricing to lock in current rates.
Additionally, it’s important to point out that Marriott restricts members to three Points Advance reservations at one time.
Why you should use Points Advance
Despite these restrictions, there is still one major benefit to making a Points Advance reservation: locking in award availability during busy travel times. As an example, The Ritz-Carlton Georgetown, Washington, D.C. has award availability over the July 4th weekend. If I don’t have enough points in my account, Points Advance will let me reserve that space while deciding if I’ll be going home to spend the weekend with my family.
If I hold off on booking the room, there’s no guarantee that it’ll be there in a month, a week or even tomorrow.
However, you’ll need to be aware that the aforementioned changes mean that you’re just reserving the room, not confirming the rate. Currently, The Ritz-Carlton Georgetown requires 50,000 to 70,000 points per night. However, starting March 29, that will jump to 80,000 to 100,000 points per night — and a holiday weekend would likely fall into the higher end of the spectrum. This means you should go ahead and make the Points Advance reservation now, but understand that you might end up needing to spend more points than you see on the checkout page.
Boosting your Marriott Bonvoy balance
If you utilize the Points Advance feature, there is no shortage of ways to earn the extra Marriott Bonvoy points needed to cover your reservation. In addition to earning points through actual stays, you can also transfer points from both Chase Ultimate Rewards and Amex Membership Rewards at a 1:1 rate — though given how highly we value those currencies, I’d only recommend doing this to make up a minuscule shortfall.
Marriott also allows you to freely transfer up to 100,000 points per calendar year between any two accounts that have each been open for 60 days or longer, so if a friend or family member is feeling generous, that’s a quick (and free) way to earn a large number of points.
Finally, the program offers several different cobranded credit cards:
- Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card: Earn 5 Free Nights (each night valued up to 50,000 points) after you spend $5,000 in the first three months from account opening.
- Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card: Earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 on purchases in your first three months from account opening.
- Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card: Earn 75,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after you use your new card to make $3,000 in eligible purchases within the first three months of card membership.
- Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card: 75,000 bonus points after you use your new card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first three months of cards membership.
Marriott’s Points Advance feature is relatively unique in the world of travel rewards, allowing you to book an award stay when you’re short on points. This can be a great option during high-demand travel dates, though it’s unfortunately lost some significant utility since it was first introduced.
You don’t lock in the rate for Points Advance reservations, as you’ll need to pay the applicable rate in effect when you ultimately redeem points for the stay. This could result in using fewer points than you originally planned, but it could also result in higher rates.
Additional reporting by Benji Stawski.
Featured photo of the JW Marriott Orlando Bonnet Creek by Andrea Rotondo/The Points Guy.
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