Marriott travel packages are awards in which you exchange Marriott Rewards points for airline miles plus a 7 night stay certificate. You do not have to book your actual stay right away. These packages currently offer great value when you select the options that earn 120,000 airline miles (or 132,000 United miles). On Saturday, though, the new combined Marriott / SPG program goes live and travel packages become a poor value.
So… I’ve been encouraging everyone with large stashes of Marriott and/or SPG points to use them to buy travel packages this week. The problem is that Marriott still hasn’t told us how they’re going to map the old categories to the new for this purpose. However, we do know several things:
- Packages will be mapped from old categories to new categories. Stay certificates that haven’t yet been used to book a stay, will be in limbo between 8/18 and 9/17. On 9/18, they will be converted to new category certificates. See: Marriott Travel Packages won’t turn into points, but will go into 1 month limbo.
- The mapping from old to new will result in “similarly valued categories”. View from the Wing was told this by Marriott: “While we plan on sharing the full conversion chart on 8/18, I can let you know that all existing certificates will convert to similarly valued categories after that date.”
- We may learn the new mapping on 8/18, but then it will be too late to do anything about it. Friday, 8/17 is the last day to buy travel packages (and I strongly advise you to do so sooner because Friday is going to be nuts.. not as nuts as Saturday, but still…)
This has left everyone with a conundrum. We want to buy travel packages, but we don’t know which category certificates will meet our needs.
Given that Marriott intends to map old to new to result in “similarly valued categories,” here’s my best guess as to how Marriott will map the old travel packages to the new:
If I’m right about how the old categories will map to the new, then among those with travel package certificates, there will be clear winners and losers…
- Current category 6: Will be worth 5,000 extra points per night (30K total extra value)
- Current category 8: Will be worth 10,000 extra points per night (60K total extra value)
- Current Ritz Tier 1-3: Will be worth 10,000 extra points per night (60K total extra value) and can be used to book top tier hotels between September 18th and “early 2019” (when new category 8 is introduced)
- Current Ritz Tier 4-5: Will eventually be worth 15,000 extra points per night (90K total extra value), but only if you want to book top tier hotels after category 8 is introduced in early 2019.
- Current Ritz Tier 4-5: If you plan to book a top tier hotel between Sep 18 and early 2019, you’ll be very disappointed because you could have bought Ritz Tier 1-3 for 120,000 fewer points.
This group will be disappointed because they could have bought a lower category package to get the same value:
- Current category 7: Could have bought Category 6 for 30,000 fewer points
- Current category 9: Could have bought Category 8 for 30,000 fewer points
The best way to play this if you know which future category you want
If you know which new category hotel you want to stay in, then pick the cheapest current category that maps to your desired category on my guestimate chart:
For example, if you want to stay at a future category 6 hotel, then you should get a current category 8 travel package.
If you want to stay in a top tier hotel, it gets a little more complicated. If you know that you will be able to book that top tier hotel before category 8 gets introduced (book between September 18th and early 2019 for stays during that time or later), then Ritz Tier 1-3 is your best bet. If you’re pretty sure that you won’t be able to book your stay until mid-2019 or later, then Ritz Tier 4-5 is best.
An even better way to play this
If you have a fortune in points and you believe that Marriott will continue to allow certificate category downgrades in the new program, then consider buying Ritz Tier 4-5 packages. I’ll explain my thinking in a follow-up post.
Update: Here’s the new post “A case for gambling on top tier travel packages.”
If you plan to buy a travel package (or upgrade/downgrade one), please see this post: Navigating Marriott’s phone prompts to book a Travel Package.
The Peak Pricing View
A few readers have pointed out to me that the new travel package pricing appears to be based on peak award rates, rather than standard rates. If we go by those rates, the mapping from old to new is different, and much worse.
The idea that Marriott may map the packages this way has merit, but it would be really bad for everyone who hopes to use their stay certificates for a similarly priced hotel in the new program. Here’s one way the mapping might happen if Marriott was to do this:
The specifics shown above are completely open to debate, but there’s no doubt that basing the conversion on peak pricing would lead to upsetting results for most of us. I don’t think that Marriott has any intention to do something as drastic as this, but I think it is important to show a near worst case scenario.