Lock in current Marriott rates w/ Points Advance after all

In this morning’s post about last-minute things to do in preparation for the full launch of Marriott Bonvoy, I noted that you should probably make reservations for upcoming stays now under the expectation that there may be IT issues for a few days this week (See: Bon Voyage, Marriott. Last-mintue checklist before Bonvoy.). However, I noted that you couldn’t lock in a good deal via points advance on the hotels going up in price on March 5th (which we had also reported yesterday). However, we now know that the opposite is true. View from the Wing has verified with Marriott that reservations made via Points Advance do in fact lock in current redemption rates. That’s awesome news and something I hadn’t realized had been the case in the past.

Rates are locked in at the time of reservation

The fact that rates are locked in at the time of reservation seems like absolute common sense in terms of cash reservations. When you book a cash rate in today, your rate doesn’t change as you get closer to checking in – it’s locked in at whatever the rate is today.

Award bookings usually work the same way: if you book a hotel with your hotel points today, your reservation is locked in at that rate. However, with most hotel programs, that means that the points come out of your account todayIn other words, you generally need to have the points in your account before you make a reservation.

Points advance reservations also lock in the rate at the time of reservation

Marriott is unique in that they don’t actually require you to have points in your account in order to make a reservation. With Marriott, you can make a “Points Advance” reservation, locking in an award stay even without any points in your account. You then have up until a set amount  of time before check-in to earn the points necessary to issue the award certificate for your stay (this varies somewhat by hotel, but can be anywhere from a couple of days prior to as many as 14 or even 30 days in advance of check-in). If you do not earn the points required to cover your stay, Marriott will reach out with options in terms of buying the points, changing it to a cash reservation, canceling, etc.

That’s awesome since it enables you to make speculative reservations for future stays just as you might with cash.

However, it gets better.

Marriott recently announced its annual list of hotels changing award categories. These changes will take effect on March 5, 2019. When we reported the changes, we noted that members could not lock in current award rates with a Points Advance reservation. That was based on the following terms released by Marriott (bold added by me for emphasis):

Points Advance – Members can book stays when they do not have enough points if they earn or purchase the needed points at least 14 days prior to check-in. Members who wish to book a points advance redemption under the current Marriott Rewards and SPG award chart are encouraged to order redemption certificates before March 5 to lock in the rate. On March 5, redemption bookings are subject to the new unified program award chart.

However, View from the Wing reports having reached out to Marriott to question this and that Marriott responded confirming that points advance reservations do in fact lock in current award redemption levels even without enough points to issue a reward certificate before March 5th. That’s huge as it enables you to make a speculative redemption today at a reduced rate for a future stay without needing to put up the points for said stay.

Frankly, I’m surprised at this revelation for two reasons:

  1. This is ripe for abuse. I’m not sure it’s a huge hit for hotels as a Points Advance reservation will force you to “put up or shut up” at least a few days in advance of check-in just as you would with a cash rate, but this is still quite generous.
  2. I was 90% sure that I had made reservations in the past for hotels that went up in category and my reservations reflected the new rates in my online account after the respective hotels increased in category.

It turns out I may not have been crazy regarding #2. View from the Wing quotes the following from Marriott in regards to the process of ordering a reward certificate for a property that has increased in category since you locked in the reservation:

There is no change. We included language in the category changes email encouraging members to order redemption certificates before March 5 as a suggestion to help members lock in the rate because having a certificate attached makes it easier to retrieve the original reservation and the original rate. While we can retrieve a reservation without a certificate attached, it is a more involved and time-consuming process requiring the help of a CEC agent.

In other words, it seems that getting your previously “locked-in” reduced rate is not automatic. It requires a phone call and some sort of process beyond just earning the total number of points required. Know that if you lock in a hotel today for 35K points per night that is moving up to the 50K level in March, you’ll probably need to call in and possibly escalate your request to issue the reward certificate once you have your 35K points. But the fact is that it can be done. That’s great news.

Bottom line

This is great news for Marriott Rewards members and a benefit I had previously missed with some of my own reservations. I’m glad to see that members have the chance now to lock in reservations at current rates, meaning that the March 5th devaluation gives us, at least in some respects, a year of advance notice since it is possible to make reservations at today’s rates through the end of the booking calendar. That’s actually a good reminder for me to lock in a couple of reservations that I’ll be needing before award categories change, so I’m thankful to VFTW for this nugget of wisdom. Just be sure to make careful note of the cancellation policy of the hotel and set a calendar reminder to check your reservations and make sure plans haven’t changed.

H/T: View from the Wing

About Nick Reyes

Nick Reyes is a (fairly) regular guy with an animalistic passion for maximizing the value of miles and money to travel the world in comfort and style. There is little in life that he loves more than finding a fantastic deal and helping you shop smarter & harder to achieve your travel dreams.

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[…] words, it is possible to lock in the current category now and earn the points to cover it later. See this post for […]

firstglobal
Guest
firstglobal

100% correct about how this has worked in the past – the website will indeed show the new point requirement, but you can call in and have them look up the award price at the time of booking and manually issue the certificate for the previous number of points.

Bern
Guest
Bern

Can you clarify your past experience? So say if you locked in 240k for 5 nights in Al Maha today, come Mar 5 the reservation will update showing 340k. So you have to call in and tell them you booked with 240k? I don’t know what it means by issue a certificate for previous number of points. Does that mean, they will deduct 240k, and issue you a special award certificate to redeem that 5 nights you booked?

I’m just waiting to complete my sign up bonus later next month, so I definitely have a points deficit in my balance until the next few months with the bonus posts in my account.

firstglobal
Guest
firstglobal

I was intentionally a little vague about the details, but since you asked… You call in and tell them that you booked at the previous number of points, they look it up to confirm, then they credit your account with the difference in points (shows up in your account activity as “Goodwill Adjustment”) and immediately issue the regular certificate for the new award level (in your example, the one for the 340k level). I beg anyone reading not to exploit this, as Points Advance is one of the best features of any hotel loyalty program and losing it would be quite a blow to many frequent travelers.

Bern
Guest
Bern

Thanks for explaining, but I’m still confused. So at which point do they deduct the required amount of points? If I don’t have enough points now and haven’t paid for my the nights in my Points Advance Reservation yet, how do they credit the difference in points? Unless what you mean by difference is they will charge you the points requirement at the old rate upon issuing the booking confirmation/stay.

firstglobal
Guest
firstglobal

You have to earn the (old) number of points, then call in at least two weeks before the stay to have an agent deduct those points, issue the goodwill adjustment, and issue the certificate (if you’re not familiar with Marriott’s use of the term “certificate”, think of them as just “points attached to a reservation”). Does that help?

Bern
Guest
Bern

Got it! Many thanks for explaining!!

Brian
Guest
Brian

Nick,

If you’re not sure how many nights you plan to stay (let’s say between 3 and 5), is the smart play to make a reservation for 5 nights? Will Marriott let you reduce it to 3 later?

miafll
Guest
miafll

No. The best way is to book EACH night Individually.

Any change made to the “locked in” advance booking whether you have paid with pts already or Point Advance booking, the “locked in” rate is VOIDED.

In fact, it is ALWAYS BETTER to book nights as Individual nights unless you are booking a 5th night free award. Otherwise to keep the flexibility you just book individual nights. All our bookings are individual nights.. Have yet meet a property that would not combined the reservations and keep us in the same room.

Sam peru
Guest
Sam peru

What about travel package certificates. Will a higher category certificate be needed at redemption if u made a reservation at lower levels

really
Guest
really

So you can still pay using points at the rate you reserved using Points Advance, great!

Need some clarification if you can pay using an Annual Free Night Certificate at the rate you reserved using Points Advance. Any news on that?

I just don’t trust Marriott. I had the issue you describe as #2 happen during last year’s Deval and when I called to apply my 7 night cert, they didn’t honor it and made me use 30k additional points to upgrade to the new level. I guess I should have fought it?

Akuma
Guest
Akuma

I’m wondering the same thing. I’ll be getting four annual free night certs over the next several months if I end up renewing my various Marriott/SPG/Ritz cards this year. Question is, would these also be honored at the points advance reserved rate post March 5th? This is tricky since I won’t want to pay the annual fees for these cards if I can’t lock in reservations for the respective 35k and 50k free night certs at the pre-devaluation/peak award pricing structure.

Josh
Guest
Josh

what about a free night cert from a credit card? Can you reserve a points advance night and have it apply? :S My property isn’t going up but an interesting theoretical question..