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How Points Advance cost me 135,000 Marriott points — reader mistake story

April 13, 2020
6 min read
How Points Advance cost me 135,000 Marriott points — reader mistake story
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Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Nicholas, who ended up owing Marriott a lot of extra points after a hotel he'd reserved with Points Advance went up a category:

Despite my best efforts to stay abreast of all the rules and pitfalls that come with the territory of award travel, I made a huge mistake that jeopardized our family's vacation.

In early February 2020, I made a reservation at the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua for a six-night stay in August 2020. At the time I made the reservation, this was a Category 7 property requiring 320,000 points for the stay (including a fifth night free). Since I was just shy of the necessary points, my wife initiated a transfer from her Bonvoy account to my account and I booked the reservation. Since my wife's transfer had not posted to my account at the time I made the reservation, I made a Points Advance reservation. I seem to have forgotten that I had done so or not understood the implications, or both.

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Regardless, thinking my reservation was safe and that the required points would automatically deduct and be applied to the reservation as soon as my wife's transfer posted, I promptly made airfare and rental car reservations, then put the trip out of mind. As I now know, points must be manually applied to a Points Advance Reservation and the pricing is not locked in until that is done. Despite reading Summer Hull and Nick Ewen's articles warning that certain Marriott properties would be moving from Category 7 to Category 8, including the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua, it didn't occur to confirm my reservation. I let March 4 — the date properties changed categories — come and go. To my shock, the required number of points had increased to 455,000 when I checked my account on March 8!

I called the Bonvoy Elite reservation number and was bluntly told that there was nothing that could be done. Figuring it was a long shot, I contacted Marriott's Corporate Office of Consumer Affairs. A very helpful representative has indicated that they will monitor my account through June to determine the shortfall and "will try to assist to ensure that my account had the necessary points." So, while nothing has been expressly promised, they do seem to be ready to honor the reservation even if I am short the required points (albeit not at the original 320,000 points).

Since this transpired in early March, the world has obviously changed dramatically. I wish that the only challenge we faced was botched award travel logistics. We may not be able to take this trip anyway, but perhaps my error can still help other readers avoid making it too.

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This is an unfortunate story to hear, but there are two great lessons we can all take away from Nicholas' experience. The first is that you need to pay careful attention to how you book, especially if you're using a feature like Marriott's Points Advance that isn't 100% straightforward. While Points Advance used to be an incredible tool for award travelers, and a great way Marriott stood out from the competition, the feature was heavily devalued last year when Marriott introduced peak and off-peak pricing. Now, Points Advance only locks in your award inventory at the hotel, but the actual price can fluctuate up until the date where you confirm your booking and have the points debited from your account.

In most cases, this variation is going to be limited to a property changing between off-peak, standard and peak pricing. This might mean the price goes up a few thousand points (possibly tens of thousands for a longer stay at a higher-category property), but you also might get lucky and see the price drop if the hotel moves down to standard or off-peak pricing. Nicholas got especially unlucky here that the hotel he was staying at moved up an entire category, and his Points Advance reservation did nothing to protect him from that price change. I still use Marriott's Points Advance feature pretty regularly, but I always set a reminder on my calendar to debit the points as soon as I have enough in my account.

The second and equally-important lesson here is that you should always monitor your bookings up until the time of travel to make sure every detail is correct. There are a lot of moving parts that go into a trip, from selecting the right seats on an airline to making sure you account for date and time changes when booking your hotels. If you're booking your travel far in advance you should plan to follow up on your itinerary every 3 to 6 months until you actually travel, to make sure that your reservations are valid and confirmed and everything is taken care of.

Related: Maximizing redemptions with Marriott Bonvoy

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 Nicholas 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!

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Pros

  • 6x points on eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program
  • 4x points at restaurants worldwide, U.S. gas stations, wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and U.S. shipping
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases
  • Earn a free-night award each card renewal month (up to 35,000 points)
  • Receive 15 elite night credits to jump-start status
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Cons

  • Airline points transfer ratios are poor
  • Must spend $60,000 in a year for second free-night award
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.
  • 6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
  • 4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a 7% discount off standard rates for reservations of standard guest rooms at hotels that participate in the Marriott Bonvoy program when you book directly. Terms and Conditions Apply.
  • Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card renewal month. Plus, earn an additional Free Night Award after you spend $60K in purchases on your Card in a calendar year. Awards can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy® points) at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy®. Certain hotels have resort fees.
  • Enjoy Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status with your Card.
  • Terms apply.
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Apply for Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best Marriott card for Business Owners
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
3 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

6X6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
4X4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
2X2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Intro Offer
    Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.

    Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 points
    75,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $125
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

The Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex is a stacked card with a rewards rate that will help you earn bonus points on everyday and business-related purchases. You'll earn 15 elite night credits each calendar year, and receive automatic Gold elite status. Finally, the free night award certificate with a redemption level of 35,000 points or less can get you hundreds of dollars in potential value each year.

Pros

  • 6x points on eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program
  • 4x points at restaurants worldwide, U.S. gas stations, wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and U.S. shipping
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases
  • Earn a free-night award each card renewal month (up to 35,000 points)
  • Receive 15 elite night credits to jump-start status
  • Transfer Marriott points to 40+ airlines

Cons

  • Airline points transfer ratios are poor
  • Must spend $60,000 in a year for second free-night award
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.
  • 6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
  • 4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a 7% discount off standard rates for reservations of standard guest rooms at hotels that participate in the Marriott Bonvoy program when you book directly. Terms and Conditions Apply.
  • Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card renewal month. Plus, earn an additional Free Night Award after you spend $60K in purchases on your Card in a calendar year. Awards can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy® points) at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy®. Certain hotels have resort fees.
  • Enjoy Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status with your Card.
  • Terms apply.
  • See Rates & Fees