Marriott Bonvoy has just announced a number of changes to the programme, a couple of which seem innocuous but which have the potential to bite.
Full details of these changes can be found on this special page of the Marriott website. The site includes a few videos explaining how the different changes work.
Change 1: Peak and off-peak pricing is here
We have known since the launch of Marriott Bonvoy that the programme was going to introduce peak and off-peak pricing. The implementation date has been delayed a couple of times but it is finally here.
Peak and off-peak pricing will launch on 14th September.
Here is the reward chart as it will look from 14th (click to enlarge):
You can see the chart online here.
From 14th September, a ‘flexible date finder’ will be available on line, hotel by hotel, so you can pick off-peak dates if your plans are flexible.
As you can see, a top category property such as St Regis New York will now cost 70,000, 85,000 or 100,000 points per night depending on the date of your stay. It is currently 85,000 points for every night. It is worth remembering that when Marriott Bonvoy launched and Category 8 did not exist, it was 60,000 points per night, every night.
Here are the key things you need to know:
All redemptions booked by 14th September will be booked at the current standard rates
If your room drops in price after 14th September because the date is now off-peak, you will not automatically receive a refund. You need to cancel and rebook, assuming that redemption rooms are still available.
If your room goes up in price because the date is now a peak date, don’t worry. You will only pay the rate you booked.
Note that whilst the ‘majority’ of dates will be at standard prices, this is being measured across all 7,000 hotels and not on a hotel-by-hotel basis. In theory, a specific property could be ‘peak’ for the bulk of the year.
‘Cash & Points’ redemptions are being standardised. Instead of the previously proposed structure, there will now be a fixed cash element across hotel categories with only the points element varying. Here is the new chart:
Change 2: ‘Points Advance’ is changing
‘Points Advance’ is, for me, one of the best aspects of the Marriott Bonvoy programme – and one of the cleverest.
Marriott Bonvoy allows you to book redemption nights even if you don’t have the points available. You have until 14 days before your stay to earn them.
This is a smart move. A lot of people don’t like switching brands because they are not confident that the new scheme will let them get the redemption they want. Marriott lets you lock in, say, a hotel for a New York break next Summer. This means you are VERY motivated to move your stays across to Bonvoy to ensure you earn the points in time.
‘Points Advance’ has had issues, however. One is with some members booking large volumes of rooms with very little intention of using most of them. If you were planning a Paris trip ‘at some point next Spring’ you could hold a room every weekend for three months with no penalty.
There were also issues over Marriott repricing rooms due to the introduction of Bonvoy, with the IT being unable to track the price at the original point of booking.
‘Points Advance’ will change in two ways on 14th September:
The price you pay is the price in force on the date you have enough points in your account to confirm the booking. You are NOT locking in the price, just the availability. If the hotel goes up in points price, you will need to earn more. This means that there is no benefit in locking in rooms now using ‘Points Advance’ to avoid the jump to peak pricing.
You will be capped at a maximum of three ‘Points Advance’ reservations at any one time. For bookings made before 14th September, you will be allowed to have up to five at any one time.
I am OK with these changes, given that no other scheme offers a benefit like this which I think both Marriott and members value.
It appears that existing ‘Points Advance’ bookings are ‘safe’ although if you have more than five then some will be cancelled. If you have one in place by 14th September, you will just pay the price in force on the day of booking.
Change 3: A tweak to ‘5th night free’
At present, if you book a five night Marriott Bonvoy redemption, the fifth night is free.
This is not going away, but the formula used to calculate it is changing. The new rule is that the free night is the cheapest night.
If your stay covers both peak and off-peak dates, it will be an off-peak date which is treated as the ‘free’ one.
We knew that peak and off-peak pricing was coming eventually, and we already knew the prices, so there is nothing here to surprise us. In some ways we should be grateful that the implementation is running six months behind schedule.
The changes should, of course, also net out over time. Some members will end up better off if they tend to redeem off-peak, others will be worse off.
The changes to ‘5th night free’ and ‘Points Advance’ are acceptable, especially if it means that these valuable benefits stick around.
Remember to lock in redemptions before 14th September to guarantee you don’t pay peak day pricing.
Full details of these changes can be found on the Marriott Bonvoy website here.
How to earn Marriott Bonvoy points via UK credit cards
As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Marriott Bonvoy points from UK credit cards. Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!
Holders of The Platinum Card from American Express receive FREE Marriott Bonvoy Gold status for as long as they hold the card. It also comes with Hilton Honors Gold, Radisson Rewards Gold, Shangri-La Golden Circle Jade and Melia Rewards Gold status. We reviewed American Express Platinum in detail here.
Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Marriott Bonvoy points. That page is regularly updated with the latest special offers and will still be accurate even if you are reading this article months after publication.
(Want to earn more hotel points? Click here to see our complete list of promotions from the major hotel chains or use the ‘Hotel Promos’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)