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On Sept. 14, Marriott’s 7,000+ hotels will change how they price award rooms with the introduction of peak and off-peak pricing. Any given date at a particular hotel could come with one of three different award rates — off-peak, standard or peak. Once variable pricing kicks in next week, the award chart will start at 5,000 points per night for an off-peak Category 1 stay and shoot all the way up to 100,000 points per night for a peak Category 8 redemption.
Marriott tells TPG that what qualifies as a peak or off-peak date won’t be decided by the properties themselves but by an algorithm that adjusts monthly. Marriott says it will balance out peak and off-peak prices across the portfolio, but not by individual hotel. We don’t know exactly what that means, but theoretically it could mean that a fancy St. Regis in a hot location has 100 (or more?) peak dates per year that are offset by 100 off-peak dates at a Four Points that is located in the middle of nowhere.
If you have a free-night award from a Marriott credit card, you may also feel the impact. Keep in mind that a 50,000-point certificate from the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card won’t be valid for use at a Category 6 hotel on peak dates when the hotel prices above 50,000 points. A 35,000-point certificate from the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card or Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card will no longer be valid at a Category 5 hotel on peak dates. For example, the Westin Snowmass is a Category 5 slopeside hotel where you can currently get huge value from a 35k Marriott certificate during the winter, but I’m betting that 35k award nights on winter weekends there will become history in the near future for this and similar properties.
Remember that until earlier in 2019, the Marriott award chart was temporarily capped at 60,000 points per night for standard awards. Today the award chart tops out at 85,000 points per night for standard awards, and very soon that number will be 100,000 points. In other words, locking in some stays now is a good idea as the nights you want may soon cost more points very soon.
Here are nine Marriott hotels (or types of hotels) you should lock in over the next week. While we’d love to be wrong in this case, the TPG staff thinks these locations are at great risk of falling into the peak-pricing range all too often.
The on-property Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resorts are currently bookable for 50,000 Marriott points per night, but can get very expensive on cash ($400 to $500) during peak dates, so the two properties seem ripe for peak-award pricing.
Other Florida resorts that are heavily affected by the rise and fall of the tourist seasons are also at risk of being hit by peak award pricing for decent chunks of the year, so lock in your Florida Marriott hotel stays now for the next 11 months.
The St. Regis New York is a high-end treat in a city where many hotel stays are already on the pricey side. With paid rates that are often on the high side in a city that has many busy times of the year, this is one to book now for 2019 and 2020 travel using 85,000 points per night.
It is like a good idea to lock in any of your Marriott NYC award stays now as peak dates will pop up in all hotel categories. Here’s a look at some of our favorite Marriott Category 4 and Category 5 NYC hotels.
Maldives hotels in the winter
There are soon to be five Marriott hotels in the Maldives: The St. Regis Maldives, W Maldives, Westin Maldives, Sheraton Maldives and the yet-to-open JW Marriott. The properties range from 50,000 to 85,000 points per night as of today, but we fully expect peak travel season in the Maldives (winter and early spring, before monsoon season) to often fall at the peak end of the chart, which will mean 100,000 points per night for many of these properties starting on Sept. 14.
Caribbean hotels during holidays
Marriott has a strong portfolio across Mexico and the Caribbean from the Westin St. John, to properties in Aruba, several options on Grand Cayman, Atlantis in the Bahamas, a private island in the British Virgin Islands to a Marriott on St. Kitts and more. These properties cross a wide variety of islands and award-chart categories. While we don’t know for sure how the algorithm will price peak nights, holiday times on island destinations seem ripe for peak pricing, so we recommend locking these spots in now. (While you’re at it, here’s how to potentially get there in a lie-flat seat.)
Hawaii is a popular spot for cashing in those hard-earned points and most Marriott hotels across most of the islands (except this one) are already on the expensive side of the award chart. We could easily see holiday travel time frames jump to peak dates in the middle of the Pacific. Here are reviews for the Moana Surfrider on Waikiki, the Westin Princeville Villas on Kauai and the Mauna Kea on the Big Island, all bookable with Marriott points.
Ski properties during ski season
A ski property on a mountain can cost $100 to $200 in the offseason and then skyrocket to $500 to $1,000 during peak ski dates. Since cash rates vary so dramatically at these locations in and out of ski season, we fully expect peak ski-season dates to fall into the peak award-chart dates. This is especially likely during school holidays, but any ski-season date a these properties probably has a risk of falling at the high end of pricing.
College towns during game days
Midrange properties such as Aloft, Courtyards, etc. can often be found in college towns like South Bend, College Station, Gainesville, Athens, and more. On an average date, these hotels are often affordable, but cash prices can easily triple on a home game day, graduation weekends, and other popular dates so lock them in for the current school year now.
Special events and festivals
Want to use your points to stay at a Marriott property on New Year’s Eve, during Oktoberfest, for cherry blossoms, Super Bowl or during any other special time or event? Book now. Those are almost certainly going to be casualties of peak-date award pricing.
This Dubai property is special in that many activities and meals are included (breakfast, lunch, dinner and two desert activities). Before the SPG/Marriott merger, this location priced at a very high number of points and was essentially off the regular SPG award chart. It temporarily became a relative steal at 60k points a night and is still a good deal at 85k points per night.
If you want to not only secure a nice place to stay, but also desert activities and meals, we recommend booking your award stays now — or risk spending 15k more points per night many nights of the year.
We knew this change was coming and we’re in the final stretch of utilizing a Marriott award chart that has a fixed award price for each hotel category 365 days per year. Currently, Marriott’s award booking calendar is open through mid-August 2020, so anything that falls on (or off) this list that you can book before Sept. 14 is highly recommended. Note that the way Marriott Points Advance operates is changing pretty dramatically, too, so if you need to top up your Marriott account balance to lock in a stay, the current transfer bonus from Amex Membership Rewards may be useful.
Featured image courtesy of St. Regis Deer Valley
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