Marriott peak and off-peak pricing is here

Sep 14, 2019

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Today marks an important day in the life of the Marriott Bonvoy program, as peak and off-peak pricing has officially arrived, as confirmed by a Marriott spokesperson. While it may take a few hours for all of the program’s servers to update with the new prices, you’ll now be required to redeem points in one of three pricing bands at each award category, as follows:

As previously communicated, peak and off-peak dates are determined by an algorithm at the program level and will be adjusted monthly “to reflect market conditions” per a statement from Marriott — individual properties aren’t able to change these on their own. Marriott has said that most dates will remain at the standard level and that it will use a fairly equal distribution of peak and off-peak across the entire portfolio — though it remains to be seen exactly how that will impact top-notch properties.

Unfortunately, it appears that there’s no system-wide calendar, so the best way to explore rates at a given property is by selecting the “Flexible Dates” option when searching. In the past, this would be a quick way to compare prices and find award availability, but now it’s the best way to get a quick snapshot of how a specific property is utilizing peak, standard and off-peak award rates.

We’ll be diving into the changes once the booking platform is updated and available for award searches, but in the meantime, Marriott has sent TPG some guidance for when off-peak rates are most likely to be found across specific, high-demand markets. Note that this is a general list and not a guarantee of availability at a specific property in these areas, but it may help you identify when you have the best chance of finding off-peak awards:

  • Hawaii: October through mid-December (2019) and late September through October (2020) depending on market
  • California wine country: Mid-November (2019) through April (2020)
  • New York: January through February (2020)
  • Orlando: beginning in May with the greatest concentration in August and September (2020)
  • Washington, D.C.: Late November (2019) through February (2020)
  • Cape Town: May through August (2020)
  • Dubai: May through September (2020)
  • Europe: Primarily November (2019) through March (2020)
  • Maldives: May through June and end of August through early October (2020)
  • Bora Bora: January through March (2020)
  • Bali: November through mid-December (2019), mid-January through March (2020)
  • Phuket: May through June (2020)
  • Koh Samui: October through mid-December (2019) and September through October (2020)
  • Costa Rica: October (2019) and August through October (2020)
  • Macau: March through June (2020)

Related: First look at the impact of Marriott peak and off-peak pricing

Naturally these tend to fall during lower-priced time periods with less demand — like winter in New York and the heat of the summer in Dubai. And unfortunately, not all of these time periods are bookable yet, since Marriott only allows reservations up to 50 weeks in advance (through the end of August 2020).

However, if you have previously-booked award stays, you should definitely login to see if any of your travel dates fall during off-peak times. As long as you’re within the property’s window for fee-free cancellations, you should be able to rebook at the lower rate and get some of your points back.

Remember too that the implementation of peak and off-peak pricing isn’t the only change happening today.

New Points Advance policies

As of today, booking an award stay using Marriott’s Points Advance functionality will only lock in the room availability, not the rate. The number of points you’d need to use for the actual stay will be based on the price at the time of redemption. While there’s a chance that number would be the same as when you originally booked, the reservation is subject to change based on the monthly peak and off-peak pricing adjustments. You could find yourself short on points if your dates change to peak.

That being said, Marriott has confirmed that this won’t apply to previously-booked reservations:

“Members can rest assured that any reservations booked with points prior to September 14th are reserved at the Standard redemption rate.”

However, if you need to change these awards at some point, you would be subject to new pricing.

Finally, Marriott is now asking members to limit Points Advance reservations to three per account.

Stay 5, pay for 4

Another change that’s now in effect impacts Marriott’s old fifth-night-free perk. Instead of offering the fifth night free on award stays, you’ll now receive the lowest-priced night for free. If all five nights have the same award rate, it’s effectively the same as before. However, if you have some combination of off-peak, standard and peak dates, the cheapest night will be free — even if it’s not the fifth night of the stay.

Cash + Points

Finally, the program’s new Cash + Points chart is now in effect. This allows you to redeem a fixed number of points plus a cash copay for an award stay, but instead of a standard amount at a category, the point requirements will vary based on peak/off-peak pricing.

Here’s the full chart:

Note that Marriott still offers the ability to mix and match paid nights and full award nights on stays, so for full details, check out our guide to Marriott’s Cash + Points awards.

Bottom line

Peak and off-peak pricing shouldn’t be a surprise, as they were initially announced back in April 2018. While details became apparent last month, these changes (and others) are now in effect with Marriott Bonvoy. Hopefully you were able to snag a few, last-minute awards over the previous weeks, though if you have any Marriott award stay coming up, be sure to check the rates to see if your trip falls over off-peak travel times. If it does, you should be eligible to rebook and receive a partial refund of points.

Featured photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy

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