Yet another new Marriott travel package conversion theory

Earlier today I posted my best guess of how old Marriott travel packages will be converted to new ones: Mapping old to new Marriott Travel Packages.  In that post, I suggested that the following conversions were likely:

In response to that post, Points Pinnacle pointed out a thread on Flyertalk in which maxcalls wrote about what he or she was told by a Marriott Rewards representative (found here).

The short version is this:

  • All stay certificates that are not yet attached to a reservation will be converted to new category 1-4 certificates.
  • If your stay certificate was old category 1-5, then it’s an even exchange.
  • If your stay certificate was old category 6 or higher, then you would get points refunded to your account based on the difference in price between what you paid for the package and the old category 1-5 price.  For example, category 7 travel packages currently cost 60,000 points more than category 1-5 packages, so you would get 60,000 points back.
  • If you currently have the certificate attached to a reservation it would stay intact.  But, if you cancel the reservation (which you won’t be able to do between 8/18 and 9/18), you would then get a new category 1-4 certificate and the same number of points back that you would have received with an unattached certificate.
  • If you then need a higher level certificate, you would have to pay the difference based on new travel package pricing.  For example, if you want to upgrade from new category 1-4 to new category 7, you would have to pay 240,000 points.

Why this is doubtful

There are several reasons to doubt the above theory:

  1. Marriott has asserted that they will share a “conversion chart” on 8/18 and that the mapping from old to new will result in “similarly valued categories” (hat tip View from the Wing).
  2. If this is indeed the plan, I can’t think of any reason why Marriott would require a one month freeze on old stay certificates (see: Marriott Travel Packages won’t turn into points, but will go into 1 month limbo).  Why not convert them immediately to category 1-4?
  3. I hate to say this, but in my experience call center representatives are wrong about these things far more often than they’re right.  There’s no particular reason to believe this one call center rep over a higher level Marriott spokesperson.

Why I’m inclined to believe it anyway

Despite the reasons to doubt the theory, I’m leaning towards believing it:

  1. It simply makes sense.  It’s the only solution I’ve heard that is arguably fair to everyone without being overly generous.
  2. Every category mapping approach that I can think of has a huge potential exploit: It would probably be possible to buy a top tier package now, and then downgrade it to a bottom tier package in September in order to get a huge number of points back.  This probably wouldn’t sit well with Marriott.
  3. It explains why my Marriott contact hinted to me that people would be better off attaching their certificates now (see: Banking travel certificates for future luxury).  If the above theory is true, then your best bet is to book your actual stay before 8/18, unless you’re planning to stay in a category 1-4 hotel.  The reason is that the price to upgrade post 8/18 will be much higher than the price to upgrade today.

If it’s true, then…

If the theory is true, then those who only buy the travel packages for the miles will come out even regardless of what category package they buy.  In that case, though, they may be able to buy more packages now by downgrading existing ones to category 1-5.

Similarly, for those who are looking forward to using their certificates at new category 1-4 hotels (Marriott or Starwood), they’ll come out even.

Those wanting to book a higher level Marriott property (one that currently costs more than 25K per night) should book them now.  Unless the hotel is dropping way down in price, it will cost more in the future.

For those wanting to book a higher level Starwood property, you could book a higher level travel package now and hope that the theory presented above is wrong.  You won’t lose much through that gamble since you’ll still get valuable airline miles at a competitive rate that won’t be available to you after this Friday.

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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Brian
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Brian

I’m not sure how they’d be able to do this, they sold me the ability to redeem at a certain level property with a year expiration date. I feel like they’d run into issues by restricting use to a low level property.

Rob
Guest
Rob

Exactly, it would be a bloodbath. I bought a Cat 9 to stay at the Marriott Marquis in NYC, but our dates aren’t final yet. They will refund me 120k points, give me a cat 1-4 cert and then tell me if I want to buy back up to where I was it will cost me 180k points? Hell No.

Brian
Guest
Brian

I think it’s fair to expect or be okay with some devaluation but this would be way too much.

Blue
Guest
Blue

You can book that, now. If you hold through the revaluation of properties on the 18th it is unreasonable to expect your certificate to be grandfathered in at the current lower redemption rates.

FlyingNinja
Guest
FlyingNinja

I also agree that this is a fair solution but I wish that they would have made it public sooner rather than later.

frugalman
Guest
frugalman

I agree and think they should not keep it as a secret. Just spoke out.

Jackson
Guest
Jackson

Could it be that Marriott really has not decided on how they’re going to handle it hence the temporary freeze for the month because they need more time.

And now the operation is sending little bits of information and observing the reactions to the various theories to see how much they can get away with without pissing off the masses. Devious.

Ben
Guest
Ben

Eh, my bet is this is not the plan.

#1: This would be a huge no-notice devaluation to anyone who is holding a package higher than Cat 1-5. I know many programs do no-notice devaluations all the time, but Marriott has assiduously avoided any no-notice changes throughout this whole process.

#2: Your observation that downgrading later could result in a lot of points back is valid, however there are at least two fairer resolutions: Either disallow downgrades, or refund points based on the old chart. They might be more complicated, but they would be fair.

#3: Most importantly, the one thing we KNOW is Marriott’s most recent quote: “all existing certificates will convert to similarly valued categories after that date” (on the View from the Wing link). This plan in no way echoes that. Other than that quote, everything else is fever dreams and speculation.

Ben
Guest
Ben

Just put my money where my mouth is and booked a Cat-8 package, hoping for a small win (as explained in Greg’s earlier post). Took ~20 minutes on hold and one glass of mediocre Zinfandel.

iv...
Guest
iv...

This would also give Marriott a way to reset the expiry date for ALL legacy certificates once they are converted. Hmmmm

Tom
Guest
Tom

While I find it hard to believe that Marriott is going to let people outsized value, it’s the only plausible explanation for all the secrecy. I just can’t believe they don’t know what they’re going to do. This is a major corporation.
What troubles me about this new scenario is what happens if you cancel a TP reservation. Seems like under this there is a cancellation penalty to rebook it if you have to pay the new rates to upgrade the rate to where it was before? So I have a TP booked at a 35K hotel and want to change to another 35K hotel ….and it’s downgraded to a 1-4 and I have to pay more than previously to get it back to 35K award? Wow. That’s essentially a cancellation penalty. Hopefully I’ve misunderstood this.

Nick Reyes
Editor

Greg makes a good argument as to why to believe the new Cat 1-4 theory. If not for what Marriott has previously said to us (and apparently to View from the Wing), I could probably be inclined to believe it. But to believe this theory would mean I would have to believe that Marriott was flat out lying to us and Gary about mapping these to new certificates. My gut is that they haven’t been intentionally untruthful on anything yet.

This is without a doubt the most equitable solution mathematically, though I wouldn’t go so far as to call it fair. I think it’s pretty unfair to sell someone a certificate that expires in a year and then take it away and replace it with something much less valuable. Selling someone a 7 night Ritz stay and replacing it with something that is valid mostly at Courtyard properties seems completely unfair.

It would be akin to selling someone a Corvette and later saying that you don’t actually have a Corvette, so here’s a Cavalier and the money back for the difference in price. The person in the market for a Corvette never would have tied fifteen grand up in a Cavalier in the first place – they’d have looked to buy a Dodge Viper or something else comparable to the Corvette with their money. Now, they don’t have enough money for the Viper and they have a car they can’t be caught pulling into the country club with. I can’t see that flying.

So while it sounds plausible for the reasons you give, I’m not inclined to believe it.

Mike
Guest
Mike

Agree. If they’re going to downgrade everyone to a Cat 1-4 Cert they kind of need to let us refund the hotel part. Which wouldn’t be horrible…I want the 120K Alaska Miles.

Blue
Guest
Blue

“The points refunded to your account will enable you to upgrade the certificate to a similarly valued category.”

Ben
Guest
Ben

where’s that quote from?

Blue
Guest
Blue

My hypothesized quote explaining decision.

DaveC
Guest
DaveC

And what happens if I book my Cat 8 hotel stay now (something in Hawaii) and then cancel later? Then I get a refund of 90k and a new cat 1-4 cert?

Nick Reyes
Editor

Yes. That’s the fourth bullet point under “the short version is this”. As I note above, I diverge from Greg on this one and I’m not likely to believe it — but if you agree with his inclination to believe it, this would be how a cancellation would be handled.

Allan
Guest
Allan

If one is interested only in an ‘ultra premium’ Starwood property, it doesn’t seem there is any advantage to buying a TP since you can’t attach the certificate even if you buy a Tier 4-5. Am I missing something?

MARK JOHNSON
Guest
MARK JOHNSON

I have two unattached certificates for a 1-5 hotel. I will use them in Bangkok and the only qualifying hotel I am currently interested in booking is the Bangkok Marriott but it is not in my preferred location.

If my certificates change to 1-4 I can now book the JW Marriott, Renaissance, or Plaza Athenee…all of which I would book in a heartbeat. If, by some reason they allow me to still book a category 5 then I could book my favorite hotel…The St Regis Bangkok.

Unless Marriott does something draconian it still looks to me that I am better off waiting then attaching now as a category 4 will be more valuable than a current category 5.

dave
Guest
dave

This is my take. But I need a room over New Years so I went ahead and booked the only available at my category the Marquis last night. I’ll cancel and rebook if there is a better option later.

Ryan
Guest
Ryan

Here is one more call center DP for you: Today I called in to attach my Cat 9 certificate to a reservation. I asked the rep “After Aug 18, if my travel plans change and I need to cancel, can this cert be re-used on a different reservation?” The rep said she needed “to check her info sheet about that” and came back and told me that I would be fine. She made reference to everything moving down a category (e.g. Cat 1-5 becoming Cat 1-4), and thus in her mind with my Cat 9 cert becoming a Cat 8 it would still be fine under the incoming Tier System.

This is just one rep’s interpretation, but for what it is worth, she did claim to be reading this from an information sheet that was provided to her.

Paul
Guest
Paul

Is it possible downgrade Marriott 7N certificates after upgrading them or do you lose the extra value? For example, all possible uses I have for my current cat 1-5 certificate involve waiting until after the merger because the hotels are currently either SPG or Marriott cat 7-8. So, if I pay the extra 30k Marriott points (I think that’s what upgrading would cost?) to upgrade to a cat 6 certificate and it turns out that they do something else where cat 1-5 certificates stay as far 1-5, do you think it is likely that I could get points back? If so, I’d probably upgrade the certificate, though I still wouldn’t be able to book anything until September…which then throws another wrench in the works because my trip is in October and many hotels in that area are already getting filled for an event.

Brent
Guest
Brent

Since when did CSR discussions become blog worthy? This is a bad article evidenced by the other BA blogs I follow not even mentioning it. MR would have just cut off TPs above Cat 5 if this were even remotely true. MR wouldn’t have CSRs doing extra work by booking TPs that would be downgraded.

Dave
Guest
Dave

If I attach a booking to a vacation certificate now can I change it later, or does that require canceling the certificate?

Nick Reyes
Editor

You should theoretically be able to change it later. There a couple of issues. First, Marriott has announced that the travel packages will not be able to be attached, changed, or modified in any way between August 18th and September 18th. So you won’t be able to change it for at least a month. Then, you’re at the mercy of whatever it is they decide to do with these things. If the theory in this post is correct, canceling would become a pretty bad deal if you have a certificate higher than category 1 to 5. That said, as noted in the comments above, I don’t think that this scenario is likely. I think you’ll likely be able to change for a similar hotel. It’s definitely a bit up in the air thanks to how Marriott has kept us in the dark on this part.

tim
Guest
tim

Another data point – just called in this morning to purchase another current Category 6 package – taking a chance that on Sept 18 this will convert to a new Category 5 at 35,000 points, which is what I need for Marriott Puerto Vallarta. The rep told me that on Saturday current Category 6 certificates will convert to new 50,000 point ones. She seemed like she knew her stuff, but then again, this seems different than what most others are reporting. Hope the data point benefits the conversation though 🙂

Robert Frank
Guest
Robert Frank

Just finished a pain in the arse experience with Marriott CSR’s. Was disconnected accidentally twice while on hold by reps trying to be helpful but woefully unknowledgeable about the 7 day travel packages. Third try, was told by car that’s helpful never heard of them, couldn’t help, and just hung up.
Fourth try was the charm. At that point was past midnight, so was actually completed on the 18th. Was told my Skymiles number was registering invalid. On the third try, it worked.
This gold elite specialist was excellent.
He said all unattached 1-5 packages will most likely convert to 1-4. Attached packages will stay attached if not amended, even if properties rise to a higher level.