Today, 13th September, is your last chance to lock in Marriott Bonvoy redemptions before peak and off-peak pricing is launched tomorrow.
Annoyingly, we don’t yet know which dates will peak – and it will vary by hotel AND will change monthly if a hotel finds it is busier or quieter than anticipated.
To be clear …. you have nothing to lose by locking in a redemption today.
If your dates turn out to be peak on Saturday, you have saved a lot of points. If your dates turn out to be off-peak, you can cancel and rebook.
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.
How will peak and off-peak Marriott Bonvoy pricing work?
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 finally kicks in from 14th September.
Here is the reward chart as it will look from 14th (click to enlarge):
You can see pricing by individual hotel here.
From tomorrow, 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 TODAY (13th) will be booked at the current standard rates
If your room drops in price tomorrow 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 as part of this change. 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:
What is happening to ‘Points Advance’?
‘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 from 14th September:
From 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 by TONIGHT (13th), you will be allowed to have up to five at any one time.
It appears that, for ‘Points Advance’ bookings made today, you ARE locking in the price. You have protection against peak date pricing AND against the hotel category going up.
I am OK with these changes, given that no other scheme offers a benefit like this which I think both Marriott and members value.
There is also a change to ‘5th night free’ tomorrow
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 TODAY 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.
PS. The picture above is of one of the US-issued Bonvoy cards. Cute isn’t it? There is no sign of it being used here unfortunately.