Last call: Marriott’s award categories go away tomorrow — these are the hotels we’re booking.
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As the world’s largest hotel loyalty program, Marriott Bonvoy eliminating its fixed award chart in favor of a dynamic award pricing model is significant.
Flexible Point Redemptions, as Marriott calls them, mean that award rates may more closely match cash rates in the near future. For members who want to use their points when cash prices are exorbitantly high, this massive award change isn’t good news.
Marriott has given a heads-up on the hotels that will be allowed to price outside of current pricing bands. You can review the full list here (PDF link). Meanwhile, all properties not on this list will price between their current off-peak and peak pricing bands through the end of the year. For example, a Category 3 property will be able to price between 15,000 and 20,000 points per night, but no higher or lower.
These award changes go into effect on March 29, so you should lock in your award bookings now if you have anything you’d like to book at current rates. This is especially important if you’d like to book a hotel that’s on the list of properties that will be allowed to price higher than current pricing bands. If your plans change, you can always cancel in accordance with the hotel’s policy and get your points back.
Here’s what TPG’s Points and Miles reporters are booking in preparation for the upcoming award chart changes.
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Kyle Olsen, reporter
I am making award reservations at current Category 7 and 8 hotels that are increasing by 20,000 to 30,000 points per night. For example, two TPG favorite beach hotels are The Bodrum Edition and Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, Autograph Collection, which currently require between 50,000 and 70,000 points per night as Category 7 properties. According to Marriott, both hotels will be allowed to charge as many as 100,000 points per night after the move to dynamic pricing.
The St. Regis Bora Bora Resort, which is hands-down the best property I’ve ever stayed at, is also increasing in the number of points you’ll need to spend on an award stay. As a Category 8 property, 70,000 to 100,000 points are currently needed for a night. By increasing up to 20,000 points per night, the hotel will now require up to 120,000 points per night.
If you make your reservation before March 29, you may be able to find availability for five nights for around 340,000 points, thanks to the fifth-night-free benefit.
For the same room booked with cash, you’ll be paying around $8,000. We value each Marriott Bonvoy point at 0.8 cents, meaning that 340,000 Marriott points are worth roughly $2,720. In this case, you will get 2.35 cents per Marriott point, which is an excellent deal.
I suggest thoroughly reviewing the list of the hotels that are increasing in points and making award reservations now, particularly at the hotels that are going up 20,000 to 30,000 points per night.
Benji Stawski, senior reporter
Unfortunately, my Marriott Bonvoy balance is currently too low to make any speculative bookings, and the Points Advance feature doesn’t let me lock in future stays at current rates. That said, there definitely are a few properties I would have liked to book if I had the points.
Sitting toward the top of my list has been the Le Meridien Maldives Resort & Spa. It opened in September 2021 and is one of the lowest-priced points hotels in the Maldives. My colleague Katie Genter visited the property shortly after it opened and had a terrific experience. Rooms currently range from 30,000 to 40,000 Marriott points per night, and it’s fairly easy to find availability. However, come March 29, that will jump to 50,000 to 70,000 points per night, meaning you won’t be able to redeem your 35,000-point annual free night award certificates here anymore — though starting at the end of April, you’ll be able to combine them with up to 15,000 points to book 50,000-point rooms.
Like my colleague Kyle Olsen, another property I’ve had my eyes on is The Bodrum Edition. Rooms currently range from 50,000 to 70,000 points per night, which is reasonable considering paid nights can exceed $1,000 during the peak summer season. However, a 30,000-point increase will be tough to swallow — especially considering rooms here used to cost as little as 30,000 points per night when the property first opened in 2018.
Finally, although I’m only a novice skier, I’d want to lock in stays at some iconic ski resorts like The St. Regis Aspen, The St. Regis Deer Valley and The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch as stays at these properties can cost thousands of dollars and will soon set you back as many as 120,000 points per night. Ideally, I’d book a stay of five nights or longer to take advantage of the fifth-night-free benefit and stretch the value of my points.
Katie Genter, senior writer
Frankly, I don’t feel nearly as nervous about Marriott’s upcoming switch to dynamic award pricing as my colleagues. So, the only aspirational award booking I’ve locked in for later this year is a stay at the Category 8 Al Maha, a Luxury Collection Desert Resort & Spa, Dubai.
One TPG contributor previously wrote about why Al Maha is the best-value Marriott award redemption. But I had doubts and followed up with a story debating whether Al Maha was really worth redeeming so many Marriott points. As the booking window started to close, I snagged two nights at 70,000 points each for my husband and me to celebrate our wedding anniversary later this year.
Currently, you can expect to pay 70,000, 85,000 or 100,000 points per night for all-inclusive stays at Al Maha. However, with cash rates starting around $1,200 on many nights, I assume we may never see another Al Maha award night priced at 70,000 points or less once Marriott removes its award charts.
Finally, there’s one additional aspect of Marriott keeping 97% of properties within their current award chart bounds through the end of 2022 that many travelers have ignored: Only stays within 2022 are guaranteed to fall within the current bounds. As such, I may finally stay this summer at the well-located Category 2 Courtyard Sarajevo while I can still pay just 10,000 to 15,000 points per night.
I’m also planning to book a few of my favorite Marriott redemptions before March 29 for stays in early 2023, including another stay at the Category 2 Protea Hotel Kruger Gate in South Africa. By doing so, I ensure I’ll get one more good-value award stay at this property before award prices aren’t bounded by award charts. I also plan to snag a few low-category redemptions I’ve had my eye on for years, including at the Category 1 Protea Hotel Lusaka Safari Lodge in Zambia.
From sunny beach escapes to world-class desert retreats, Marriott Bonvoy has a portfolio of some of the best hotels out there. With the award categories going away, now is an ideal time to make travel plans for later in the year as you can lock in the current award pricing.
Since 97% of Marriott properties will stay within its current award pricing, only about 200 hotels will be seeing adjustments in the number of points that you’ll need to spend on a nightly basis.
TPG’s Points and Miles team is booking now and will rebook our stays if fewer points are required after the elimination of the award categories. Remember, you can do the same, in accordance with your hotel’s cancellation policy.
Additional reporting by Katie Genter and Benji Stawski.
Featured photo by Kyle Olsen/The Points Guy.
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