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Marriott Held My Points Hostage: Here's How I Got Them Back

Oct. 11, 2018
10 min read
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The Starwood and Marriott merger was a massive project that included billions of data sets that had to work together, but while understandably complex on many levels, let's just say it hasn't been a smooth ride for customers. That is hardly breaking news, but the sad fact is that we are approaching a couple of months post-integration and a couple of years since the initial acquisition announcement, and things are still not good. In fact, depending on what you're trying to do, things are really bad.

The Case of the Missing Marriott Points

Pre-merger, probably over a year ago at this point, I booked two award rooms using legacy Starwood Preferred Guest points at the Aloft South Bend in the hopes that my family would root for the Fighting Irish at a Notre Dame home football game this fall. Sadly, things didn't come together to make that trip a reality, so last week I canceled the two award reservations online in advance of the cancellation deadline. Normally, the points from a canceled award stay would go back into my account almost instantaneously, but they didn't.

I logged out, refreshed, waited, repeated and no points appeared. I received the cancellation emails without issue, but the points were nowhere to be found. The next day, I called Marriott Rewards, who ultimately transferred me to SPG, as this was a legacy SPG award stay. The man I spoke with at SPG was incredibly knowledgeable and very much wanted to credit me the missing 84,000 Marriott Rewards points on the spot. However, he said I had to wait seven days before they would be able to manually credit the missing points. He emphasized that mine was far from a unique situation, especially for award stays made before the August program integration.

While it was encouraging to know there was a possible manual solution, I was still missing my Marriott Rewards points after 30 minutes on the phone. So, I just crossed my fingers that "the system" really would catch up with itself over the next week and somehow credit my missing points that had now officially been taken hostage by a nebulous technical issue.

If You Don't Succeed, Call, Call Again

While waiting the requisite seven days before I could request further assistance, we went to gymnastics classes, a school open house, a sock hop filled with dancing third-graders, took a trip to Florida and back, dodged a hurricane and started back to school and work. After those busy seven days, my points, however, were still stuck in the nether. They couldn't be bothered to come back home.

Gearing up for what I feared would be a decidedly unpleasant call, I poured a big cup of coffee and called SPG to ask for manual assistance retrieving my points (since a week had now passed). I skipped the extra step of starting with Marriott Rewards, used all the keywords I was instructed to use like "check the legacy Saratoga system," had all my cancellation and account numbers at the ready and hoped against hope this would be quick and/or easy.

If this was a narrated piece, the narrator would now say in a very serious and all-knowing voice that "it did not turn out to be quick or easy."

After sharing my story for a couple of minutes, I was put on hold while the SPG agent worked on my issue. I wasn't warned that this would be an especially long wait, so after about 15 minutes I got worried she wasn't coming back. When I hit 30 minutes of listening to hold music with no updates, I decided to cut my losses, hang up and start over.

Third Time's (Hopefully) a Charm

A few deep breaths and a bathroom break later, I started call #3, now at over an hour into actively trying to track down the missing 84,000 Marriott Rewards points over the phone.

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When the SPG representative answered, I sounded desperate and started the call pretty much begging to not be left on hold. The agent, while seemingly unfazed by my pleas of points-fueled desperation, explained that being put on hold for 30 minutes to resolve an issue is normal right now as they are very busy handling issues. I was assured that I was probably not abandoned by the previous representative but rather my issue was still being investigated.

I promised to stay on hold however long she needed, but in an effort to get things fixed this time, I made her promise to come back and not hang up on me. We made our pact, and she set off to make some calls to a support desk of some sort to try to retrieve the missing points. I was warned that it may take at least another 30 minutes.

There was no hold music this time, but at around the 26-minute mark, she came back with news.

I don't know what type of magic was worked on the back-end, but I was told that the canceled stays had been "canceled out" (on their end -- they had been canceled on my end for over a week) and that the points were now back in my Marriott Rewards account.

Before she hung up, I refreshed my account and sure enough, the two +42,000 point transactions displayed as promised, though my account balance had not yet increased by 84,000 points. I tried to check the Marriott app for my balance as it has been more reliable for me than the website, but it was (of course) temporarily frozen and non-responsive. Still a little nervous that my points and I were not fully reunited, I thanked her for all her help and said goodbye, crossing my fingers that this had all actually worked.

Eventually the Marriott app worked and reflected the newly increased account balance, though the desktop site has still not updated as of several hours later.

Marriott is Holding Points Hostage

The actual time spent on the phone to track down the points from a simple canceled award reservation was around an hour and a half. In a sense, I sort of get paid to research this sort of thing, so while it was frustrating, I was "on the clock" the whole time. If I had basically any other job on the planet and it took three calls of roughly 30 minutes each just to do this simple task that shouldn't have required more than a click of the mouse, I'd be royally ticked off. Families do not have anywhere near that amount of available time to spend chasing down hotel loyalty points, and that doesn't even factor in having to notice the points were missing in the first place.

I try to be reasonable as systems aren't perfect and I come out way on the upside of miles and points when you take a bird's-eye view. However, there are systemic issues impacting many travelers who have been loyal to Marriott and Starwood, and I'm frustrated on their behalf. I 100 percent expect that people are missing point and don't even know it. To get a flavor of how big this issue is, we asked our TPG Lounge if others have had similar issues with Marriott Rewards points from canceled award stays disappearing and we received responses such as:

"Canceled in August (post merge), still hasn't been credited. No response from customer care for over a month now. Platinum elite."
"I still can't even see most of my reservations in my account! Seems like Marriott IT have just kind of given up and think it is acceptable to just show the 'some of your reservations might not show up' notice at the top of the page."
"Call, get a case #, and keep calling. Took a month to get 150k points back from a canceled redemption."
"I canceled one at end of August for a mid-September reservation. Didn't get points back, used their contact us form on the website to no avail. Found an email address where they opened an issue, they couldn't find a cancellation since it was past the reservation date by then."
"Last convo I had with SPG supervisor she said they are not given the tools to help, Marriott said deal with it she started crying said she has to terminate call because she was quitting."
"Happens every time I cancel now. I have to call customer service to have the points reinstated. The rep typically has no idea how to do it so consults with a manager. The whole process takes about 20 to 30 minutes and is a real time-suck."
"You're all ahead of the game. I called three times and elite line has never answered, spent 92 minutes on hold yesterday, fell asleep with the phone to my ear, battery was dead in the morning."

Get Your Missing Marriott Rewards Points Returned

Based on some research and my own experience, here are tips to not have your Marriott Rewards points held hostage (for too long) in the event you need to cancel an award stay.

  1. Make sure you have all confirmation numbers and note your account balance before you cancel an award stay. Take screenshots of your account displaying the reservation if you don't have email documentation of your booking.
  2. If the points are not automatically refunded when you cancel (and this seems to be more common with pre-merger SPG award bookings), collect your confirmation numbers, cancellation numbers, number of points owed and account numbers.
  3. Wait a week.
  4. If the points are still missing, call SPG if it was an SPG booking and Marriott Rewards if it was a Marriott booking. Stay on the line or keep trying until your points are reinstated. I have been told that the Platinum Elite line is busier than the Gold or non-elite line, so potentially avoid the Platinum line even if you are eligible to use it. Today I called the non-elite line despite having Platinum status and there was minimal initial wait time getting through to someone.
  5. You can try direct messaging @MarriottRewards or @SPGAssist on Twitter if you don't have time to wait on hold over the phone.

Bottom Line

This shouldn't still be happening, but it is, and we are here to help you through it so that your valuable points don't go to waste. Marriott Rewards points are indeed as valuable as ever right now (and I'm looking forward to several St. Regis 60k award reservations myself), but from these sort of technical issues, to some Category 7 properties behaving badly, a bit of a belly-flopped promotion and everything in-between, all is not well for Marriott Rewards customers. Pretending that anything else is the current reality would be absolute folly.

The Starwood and Marriott call center representatives are overwhelmed, customers are fed-up and with every day that goes by, this starts to feel like a "new normal." If you have a Marriott Rewards war story to tell, we are here to listen and help if we can.

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