Marriott adds new restrictions to Points Advance — including on existing reservations
For many years, Marriott's Points Advance feature was a great option for award travelers who didn't have enough points to cover a stay. In short, you could still book an award, even if your Marriott Bonvoy account was short of the required points. You then had until 14 days before your stay to make up the difference.
This was particularly appealing to those who wanted to grab standard award rooms at high-demand properties. You could lock in the award far in advance and then earn the points closer to your stay.
For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
However, this has lost some utility over the last few years. First came the news that the introduction of peak and off-peak pricing — which launched Sept. 14, 2019 — meant Points Advance reservations no longer locked in the rate, just the room. As a result, you could be on the hook for additional points if one or more of your dates increased in price. This also coincided with a new limit on Points Advance reservations — just three per account at one time.
And today, Marriott is announcing yet another change. Effective immediately, you must earn the required points within 60 days of making a Points Advance reservation.
Prior to this news, you had a wide window of time in which to earn enough points to cover your reservation. For example, if you were booking a ski trip for next February, you could book a room now to lock in the award space. You then had several months to earn those points — be it through Marriott stays or via the program's cobranded credit cards with Chase or American Express.
That flexibility is no more.
If you make that reservation today, the 60-day clock starts ticking immediately. That will make it much more challenging to utilize Points Advance — unless you're just a few thousand points shy of a given redemption threshold.
And unfortunately, this news gets even worse.
Here's the new policy from the Marriott Bonvoy terms and conditions (under section 3.6 — emphasis mine):
"Effective May 27, 2021, Members who seek to make an Award Redemption reservation with an insufficient Points balance may book an Award Redemption reservation ("Points Advance Redemption Reservation") that is at least thirty (30) or more days from the arrival date, and hold it for sixty (60) days from time of booking, or no later than fourteen (14) days prior to the Member’s arrival date, whichever occurs sooner. Points Advance Redemption Reservations booked prior to May 27, 2021 will be placed on a 60-day hold beginning on May 27, 2021, or held no later than fourteen (14) days prior to the Member’s arrival date, whichever occurs sooner."
That's right. If you had booked a Points Advance stay under the old rules, the new ones still apply.
In other words, any outstanding Points Advance reservations booked prior to May 27, 2021 will now be subject to cancellation on July 26, 2021 — unless you earn the required number of points before that date.
In an email to TPG, a Marriott spokesperson indicated that these changes are a result of Points Advance reservations at popular resorts being canceled due to insufficient point balances — preventing others from doing so. Here's the information he provided:
"We have seen a rise in Points Advance bookings at these resorts that are being canceled because not enough points have been accrued to pay for the stay. In some cases, around 25% of all bookings at any one time at these properties are Points Advance. This potentially disadvantages members who would otherwise book using points in their account, and it has an economic impact on these properties."
Note that the 25% figure includes all reservations — both paid and award stays. That is quite a large figure, but it doesn't tell the full story. What portion of those bookings are ultimately canceled? And how many of those canceled rooms wind up unfilled? We asked for data along those lines but were told that it was "not able" to be shared and unavailable, respectively.
Could this be a positive change?
If this results in additional standard award inventory for members, it could be a positive change for those who have been shut out of booking awards at popular resorts. However, without data to know just how many unused Points Advance reservations have prevented other members from booking award stays, it's impossible to know the extent of the positive impact (if any).
And while the existing three-reservation limit means that this was already a niche redemption, it nevertheless does impact a member who's planning a first post-pandemic trip and was hoping to gradually build up his/her/their points.
Bear in mind that 60 days is a very limited window of time. After all, even signing up for a new credit card often has a three-month window to earn a welcome bonus. It's possible to hit that minimum spending threshold within the first month of card membership — but even then, there's no guarantee that it will post in time.
Instead, I would've preferred to see additional restrictions on the other end. Why not extend the 14-day window to 30 days or 60 days? That would still allow members time to earn points, but the property has a longer window to rebook those rooms if they can't. That would still be rewarding to members but wouldn't result in the "economic impact" mentioned by the Marriott spokesperson above.
Effective today (May 27, 2021), Marriott Bonvoy members who make a Points Advance reservation now have just 60 days to earn the required points to cover the stay, including existing reservations. Only time will tell whether this materially impacts the number of available standard award rooms, but without data showing otherwise, this appears to be another negative change to the Points Advance program — especially in that it's being applied retroactively.
If you have an existing Points Advance reservation, it's time to start figuring out how to earn those points, as your booking is subject to cancellation as of July 26.