Last day to book affected Marriott properties before category changes take effect
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Last month, Marriott Bonvoy made major news when it announced its slate of 2020 award category changes. If you've been holding off on booking affected properties, today, March 3, is your last day, as the new rates are set to take effect tomorrow. However, as long as you reserve and pay for your award stay sometime today, you can lock in current award rates at those properties going up in price.
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Let's quickly review all of the details so you can make an informed decision ahead of tomorrow's change.
Properties changing categories
After the news was announced last month, we dove deep into the category adjustments. In short, they aren't pretty. As of tomorrow (March 4, 2020), 29% of participating properties in the Marriott Bonvoy program will be changing categories. In past years (prior to the integration of the Starwood Preferred Guest), this number typically would be in the 10 to 15% range — and last year it was only 6%.
To make matters worse, the majority of properties changing categories are moving up in price, not down. While 7% of Marriott's worldwide properties are moving to a lower category, a whopping 22% are moving to a higher one. Based on the current footprint of properties, this means that roughly 1,500 hotels and resorts will require more points for award stays booked on or after March 4, 2020.
READ MORE: Book these Marriott properties today
Here are some additional details that Marriott has provided us here at The Points Guy:
- Most of the 2020 annual category change movement (84%) takes place between Categories 1 and 5 for a standard redemption stay.
- If you have either the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card or the Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card, you'll be able to redeem your annual free-night certificate (worth up to 35,000 points) at 89% of the Marriott Bonvoy portfolio during standard redemption rates.
- If you have the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card (or the discontinued Ritz-Carlton Rewards Card), you'll be able to redeem your annual free-night certificate at 96% of the Marriott Bonvoy portfolio during standard rates at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program (certain hotels have resort fees).
As we noted at the time, it's a bit surprising to see the magnitude of these changes. The implementation of peak and off-peak pricing (in theory) should've created less of a need for annual category adjustments, as the program has the ability to require additional points for periods of high demand. The fact that award stays at nearly a quarter of the Bonvoy portfolio were priced too low is a bit shocking.
You can view a full list of the properties changing categories at this page, though remember that you're still able to lock in stays at current award rates — as long as you book today.
What else you need to do
In addition to locking in new stays at properties going up in price, there are a few other things to do before tomorrow. For starters, you need to confirm any outstanding Points Advance reservations. Since peak and off-peak pricing took effect last year, using the Points Advance booking option only reserves the room inventory; it doesn't lock in the rate. As a result, any outstanding stays booked in this fashion are subject to not only shifts in peak and standard dates but also category changes.
Unless you have a certificate attached to a Points Advance reservation — which happens when the points are deducted from your account — you're on the hook for whatever rate is in effect when you do attach the certificate.
In addition, I'd encourage you to make new Points Advance reservations for any properties dropping to a lower price now. While Marriott has encouraged members to wait until tomorrow, there's a chance that these hotels will see a sudden run on award stays. By booking a Points Advance reservation now, you can confirm the room inventory. Then, when the category changes take effect, your reservation should display the new (lower) price.
Finally, do your best to make any final adjustments to existing award stays at some point today — things like changing the arrival/departure dates, the length of your stay or even the room type. Any change to award reservations on or after March 4 would likely lead to the new award rates being imposed.
Annual category changes are a part of the Marriott Bonvoy program, though this appears to be the biggest shift in years. And with a large majority of the affected properties increasing (rather than decreasing) in price, this could have massive implications for award stays booked on or after March 4, 2020.
However, you still have today to lock in your reservations at current prices, so be sure to finalize your trips through mid-February 2021 as soon as you can. Once tomorrow arrives, any new award stays will follow the updated chart.