Marriott was due to announce a number of improvements – genuine improvements – to Marriott Rewards yesterday. I say ‘due to’ because we were told the announcement was coming but, as at 10pm last night, it had not yet been made.
The changes are clearly designed to close a few of the gaps which have opened up between the Marriott programme and its major competitors.
The pre-announcement was entitled ‘the fab four’. Here are the outline details – there may be some additional small print in the official announcement:
Book rewards without having the points available
Rather cheekily, this is not a new benefit. You have always been able to do this with Marriott but it has been kept relatively low key. Not any more.
You can book a Marriott Rewards room redemption irrespective of how many points you have. All that matters is that, on check in day, your account has enough points in it.
I have always thought that this was a smart move by Marriott. Once you have locked in your redemption, you will obviously need to ensure you make some Marriott bookings to generate the points. Instead of using Marriott Rewards to reward your previous business, the company is using it to persuade you to give it more of your future business.
It turns the usual mantra on its head. It is not ‘do the stays and you may – or may not – be able to get the reward you want later’. It is ‘you can lock in your reward now, just make sure you give us enough business to cover it before you go’. Clever.
You have always been able to merge points with your partner at the point of redemption. This required a phone call and you could only move the bare minimum required to reach the redemption requested.
Starting immediately, you can move up to 50,000 points per year into the account of a friend or family member. There is no charge for Gold or higher Marriott Rewards members. Silver and base level members must pay a flat fee of $10.
This is an industry leading move. IHG lets you transfer to anyone but charges $5 per 1,000. Hilton also charges. SPG allows free transfers but only to people who share your address.
This may make the Marriott credit card more attractive – when it is again available for new applications in the UK – as you and your partner could both apply and then combine the bonus.
Redemption stay credit
When you stay on points, it counts as a night towards elite status requalification. This puts Marriott back in line with its competitors.
‘Cash and Points’ redemptions available
This is new for Marriott but is common with other programmes. It will not be available until 2016, presumably because it requires all of the hotels to adjust their availability.
There are two types of ‘cash and points’ deals in the industry:
The IHG (and indeed British Airways) model – all redemption rooms can be booked as ‘cash and points’ with the programme selling you up to 50% of the points needed at a preferential rate
The Hilton, Hyatt and Starwood approach – ‘cash and points’ becomes a separate reward category to 100% points with different availability. It is usually restricted to off peak nights. The upside is that the cash element is nominal, making ‘cash and points’ a more attractive deal than an ‘all points’ redemption.
It remains to be seen which way Marriott Rewards will go. This is all positive news, however, and Marriott should be congratulated on it. If only they had more exciting hotels …..
(Want to earn more hotel points? To see our complete list of promotions from the major chains, click here to visit our ‘Hotel Promos’ page or use the link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)