I didn’t know about peak pricing — reader mistake story

Oct 18, 2019

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Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Carson, who missed an important hotel program update before booking his stay:

Every fall I travel to Green Bay, Wisconsin to watch my beloved Green Bay Packers. It being a small town, hotel availability can be tight, especially for award nights.

In July, I booked two nights in October at a Marriott property for 25,000 points per night. I did not have enough points to cover the reservation at the time, but I did have a free night certificate for rooms costing up to 25,000 points from my Marriott Bonvoy Premier credit card. However, I did not apply it right away, and unfortunately, I did not read about the new points advance policy with Marriott’s peak/off-peak award pricing going into effect.

Yesterday, I logged in to confirm my reservation, having earned enough points for both nights. However, the price had increased to 30,000 points per night due to peak pricing. While I have enough points to cover one night, my free night certificate no longer covers the second. On top of that, there was little to no availability at other properties.

Luckily, I was able to upgrade my old Marriott card to the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card, which will allow me to make one purchase and receive a free night certificate for up to 35,000 points. While I am now covered for my upcoming trip, I will make sure to be aware of changing award prices moving forward!

When you’re planning an award trip, find out whether any pertinent changes will go into effect before you book. Hotel award category changes typically occur en masse toward the beginning of each year, but programmatic developments (like Marriott’s recent overhaul) or updates at individual properties can shift award pricing at any time. To avoid getting caught with an insufficient balance like Carson, budget for what award prices will be at the time of payment, which may differ from the prices you see during the planning stage.

Award rates aren’t the only potential program changes to monitor; elite benefits like upgrades or free breakfast can also be added, modified or cut entirely, so make sure the ones you’re relying on will still be available when you travel. You should also consider changes to your own award travel portfolio, such as whether you’ll qualify for a higher tier of elite status, or apply for a credit card that offers perks (like free night certificates) you don’t have currently. Finally, be aware of changes in store for the property itself, such as pool closures or other renovations, so you don’t end up dealing with construction during your stay.

Related: Which Marriott Bonvoy credit card is right for you?

I appreciate this story, and I hope it can help other readers avoid making the same mistake. In appreciation for sharing this experience (and for allowing us to post it online), I’m sending Carson a gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you. Please email your own travel mistake stories to info@thepointsguy.com, and put “Reader Mistake Story” in the subject line. Tell us how things went wrong, and (where applicable) how you made them right. Offer any wisdom you gained from the experience, and explain what the rest of us can do to avoid the same pitfalls.

Feel free to also submit your best travel success stories. If your story is published in either case, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure. Due to the volume of submissions, we can’t respond to each story individually, but we’ll be in touch if yours is selected. I look forward to hearing from you, and until then, I wish you a safe and mistake-free journey!

Featured photo by Luke Collins/500px/Getty Images.

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