More Big Marriott Bonvoy Changes Kick in on September 14

Aug 15, 2019

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Brace yourself, Bonvoy fans — you might want to grab a chair. And that box of super-plush tissues you stole from the St. Regis.

Back when Marriott shared details of its new redemption rates in April of 2018, we learned that the chain would eventually roll out peak and off-peak pricing, in addition to the standard redemption rates already in effect. Now, we know that Bonvoy’s variable rates will kick in on September 14, 2019, alongside some other notable… adjustments.

Peak/Off-Peak

First, I’ll detail the biggest change of all: peak and off-peak award pricing. Beginning September 14, the entire chain of 7,000+ hotels will offer three different rates that could even vary from one day to the next. Once that variable pricing kicks in, rates will range from 5,000 points for an off-peak Category 1 stay to 100,000 points for a peak Category 8 redemption — that means you’ll redeem points worth anywhere from $40 to $800 per night — based on our valuations — depending on the property and date.

Marriott’s released a series of videos detailing the various changes kicking in next month — first, here’s a Marriott rep explaining the new variable pricing:

And here’s the team with some booking tips:

There are some other notable implications of Bonvoy’s peak and off-peak pricing, too:

  • Peak and off-peak dates will be determined by an algorithm. Individual properties can’t make adjustments themselves.
  • Dates will be recalculated once a month, so it’s possible your travel dates could require more (or fewer) points in the future.
  • Peak and off-peak dates vary from one hotel to the next; they aren’t tied to a city or region.
  • Marriott will balance out peak pricing with off-peak dates over a rolling 12-month period — across the entire portfolio, not by individual hotels.
  • Most dates will have standard pricing (again, across the entire portfolio).
  • For stays of five nights or longer — now called “Stay for 5, Pay for 4” — the lowest-priced night will be free.
  • Free night certificates (including those issued with credit cards) are tied to redemption levels, not categories. The 50,000-point certificate from the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card will cover a standard (50k) or off-peak (40k) stay at a Category 6 hotel but wouldn’t be valid on a peak date at the same property.

Once these changes take effect, I recommend checking your dates often to see if redemption rates have dropped. If they have, and award rooms are still available, you can cancel your reservation and rebook at the lower rates. So, if booking 10 months out (for June 2020) with monthly adjustments, you’ll theoretically have as many as 10 opportunities for a rate adjustment.

Points Advance

First, the good news: Points Advance isn’t going away. But Marriott’s crippling the program to the point that it’s effectively useless:

As Marriott explains in the video above, “with Points Advance you’re locking in the room, not the rate.” What that means is that while you are able to hold an award room, you’ll be on the hook for the current redemption amount on whatever day you finalize the booking.

Let’s put this in a concrete example. If you book a Points Advance stay at the St. Regis Maldives for 85,000 points per night on (or after) September 14 but don’t have the required points in your account until October, the rate that appears in October is what you’ll pay — 70,000 points per night if your given date now falls under off-peak pricing, 85,000 points if it’s a standard date or 100,000 points if it’s now peak. A five-night award stay under standard rates would set you back 340,000 points (factoring in the current fifth-night-free perk). However, if you book a Points Advance reservation on standard dates that then change to peak dates when you’ve earned enough points, you’d need an extra 60,000 points.

That makes planning ahead next to impossible, unfortunately.

The good news is that any Points Advance reservations made prior to September 14 will be honored at the rate in effect at the time the original reservation was made — you’ll need to call Marriott to have the original rate honored. If the rate drops due to off-peak pricing, you’ll be eligible for the lower rate, but you won’t be subjected to peak pricing if the award rate increases. However, beginning on September 14, you’ll have to redeem points based on the rate in effect at the time you attach points or a certificate to confirm the stay.

Note that — as is the case now with Points Advance bookings — you’ll need to have the required number of points in your account and have your stay confirmed 15 days prior to arrival. Additionally, Marriott is requesting that members limit themselves to three active Points Advance reservations at a time.

Cash + Points

Marriott’s also changing its Cash + Points program, with fixed cash amounts for each category, regardless of which date you book — points will change to match peak and off-peak pricing, as explained here:

Redemption rates will break down as follows:

While the spread is even for points redemptions with the regular chart, the structure doesn’t make quite as much sense here. For example, for Category 2 hotels, you’ll save 2,000 points on off-peak dates but pay only 1,000 more on peak dates, compared with the standard rate. With Category 7 hotels, you’ll save just 5,000 points on off-peak dates, while peak dates will require 10,000 more.

Bottom Line

While many members will soon end up redeeming more points for the same stays, these changes were largely expected — if anything, we’ve had even more time to enjoy standard pricing than anticipated, albeit at the higher rates that kicked in this March.

Marriott’s Points Advance shift is bound to be especially frustrating for a number of Bonvoy’s most dedicated loyalists, however — since you’re only able to lock in availability (and not the redemption rate), the number of points you’ll ultimately end up redeeming is anyone’s guess. Fortunately, you still have until September 14 to book any stay at the standard rate, and to lock in rates for future Points Advance stays — I recommend you start planning 2020 travel now.

Featured photo of the St. Regis Bora Bora by Zach Honig / The Points Guy.

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