Marriott announces major award changes: peak/off-peak, cash+points, and more

Marriott has announced several major changes to their awards program.  This information was sent to us directly by Dan Forman, Senior Director Consumer PR at Marriott International.  Here’s a quick summary:

Overall I see these changes as negative, but I also see a few opportunities here (see the post “Surviving Marriott Peak & Off-Peak Award Pricing“).

We have updated our awesome Marriott Bonvoy Complete Guide with each of these changes.  As a reminder, the complete guide includes a huge amount of information about the Marriott Bonvoy program including: shortcuts to elite status, how to share points with others, all about travel packages, suite night awards, and much more.

Peak / Off Peak Award Pricing Coming September 14 2019

This image was copied from a Marriott promotional video. It shows what we may expect when a 50K standard property is sometimes available at off-peak rates (40K) and sometimes at peak rates (60K)

We knew this was coming, but it took longer than expected so I was hoping they had decided to abandon these plans.  Now we know, it’s coming very soon.  Book award stays before September 14th in order to lock in standard rates.

New info from Marriott:

  • The designation of properties as Peak or Off-Peak will be based on demand
  • Standard rates will be in effect “majority of time”
  • There will be an “even distribution between Off-Peak and Peak rates portfolio wide.” (note that this means that one some properties could be peak the majority of the time while others are off-peak the majority of the time)
  • Starting September 14, Marriott’s flexible date finder on Marriott.com can be used to identify when a property is in peak or off-peak

For my complete analysis, see: Surviving Marriott Peak & Off-Peak Award Pricing.

Cash + Points changes

Marriott has completely changed their cash + points pricing.  For my complete analysis, see: Marriott Cash + Points Revised. Good deal?

Here’s the new chart:

Points Advance Changes

Points Advance is the ability to book awards even if you don’t yet have enough points in your account.  The following changes will soon be in effect:

  • As of 9/14, Points Advance award pricing will be based on the award rate at the time you apply your points rather than the rate at the time you booked the award.  They describe this as locking in the room not the rate.
  • You can have a maximum of 3 Points Advance reservations at once (previously there was no limit)
  • You can book up to 5 Points Advance reservations before 9/14.  With these reservations, you can lock in the current rates rather than the rates that happen to be in effect when you apply your points.  Note that this will most likely require calling in and praying to get a rep that knows this detail.

5th Night Free changes to Stay for 5, Pay for 4

Marriott’s 5th Night Free awards are being replaced with “Stay for 5, Pay for 4”.  The difference is that the free night will be the cheapest night of your award.

Marriott’s email

Here is the full contents of the email Marriott sent to me:

On September 14, Off-Peak and Peak redemption rates for a free night stay will to go into effect on Marriott.com and the Marriott Bonvoy App, joining existing Standard redemption rates. These were first announced in April 2018.

This means that during certain times of the year when there is less demand, Off-Peak rates will be offered at properties, reducing the number of points needed for members to redeem for a free night. Conversely, during times of the year when properties are busiest, Peak rates might be offered. Across the entire portfolio, Standard rates will be offered the majority of the time with the rest being an equal distribution of Off-Peak and Peak rates.

These rates will extend to all 7,000 Marriott Bonvoy participating properties portfolio wide.

Please visit our new award redemption chart to review the new rates, and watch this video for additional background

Important things to know:

There will be changes coming to other parts of the program. 

  • Now until September 14, members can book redemption stays using Standard rates. After that date, if the property offers Off-Peak rates during the time period for which they have booked a stay, the member can cancel their reservation and rebook using the new number of points needed. As always, if they modify their reservation after booking, the reservation will reflect the prevailing rate, which could be the same, higher or lower than at the time of booking. The cancellation policy for their reservation will apply.
  • The ability for members to book a stay using a combination of Cash + Points is not changing. However, the Cash + Points redemption chart is being updated to standardize the amount of cash needed to redeem a stay within each category. The amount of points needed will vary depending on whether the property is offering Off-Peak, Standard or Peak rates. Check out a video here.
  • Members can still take advantage of Points Advance, which enables members without enough points to reserve a room while continuing to earn points to cover the rate. The number of points needed may vary until enough points are earned because the reservation is subject to the current Off-Peak, Standard or Peak rate. Once members have earned enough points to cover the current rate being offered, they can apply the points to lock in the redemption rate. Additionally, starting September 14, members can have a maximum of three Points Advance reservations at one time. For Points Advance reservations made before September 14, we will honor up to five at the Standard redemption rate. This will increase availability of redemption rooms for all members. Check out a video here.
  • We are introducing “Stay for 5, Pay for 4” which replaces what has been known as “5th Night Free.” Members can redeem points for five consecutive nights and receive the lowest-point night for free.

About Off-Peak, Standard and Peak Points Redemption Rates:

  • A majority of days throughout the year will remain in Standard and there will be even distribution between Off-Peak and Peak rates portfolio wide.
  • The fewest number of points members will need for a free night stay will be 5,000 when the property is in Off-Peak. Members who redeem a free night for a category 8 property during an Off-Peak time will save up to 15,000 points when compared to the Standard rate.
  • Standard rates will continue to start at 7,500 points per night and will be available a majority of the time year-round, throughout the portfolio.
  • Peak rates will start at 10,000 points per night and are capped at no more than 15,000 points higher than Standard rates. Even popular destinations will offer Off-Peak rates during certain times of the year.

Helpful Tips for Members: 

  • Starting September 14, members can search on Marriott.com or with the Marriott Bonvoy app to see if properties in the destination they want to travel after September 14 are in standard, peak or off-peak on specific dates.  The flexible date finder on Marriott.com can be used to identify when a property is in off-peak so members can use fewer points when redeeming for a free night.

Points Advance

Award Chart

Redeeming Points

Cash + Points

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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SmartShopper
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SmartShopper

How would an anniversary award night work with this new structure? I believe it’s currently capped at a value of 35,000 points, which would always get you a Category 5 hotel (or lower), but now it appears that may not be the case if it’s during “Peak” time? (would require 40,000 pts)

Money
Guest
Money

Let’s get hashtag started: #BonvoyedAndClosed. When you call to cancel your Amex Bonvoy card mention that you are not happy with new changes and that IHG has a great new card promotion that you will be taking

voyager
Guest
voyager

I don’t have much room to complain since I find “not intended” ways to earn Marriott points, but if I were a regular customer earning points the hard way, I’d be very pi$$ed with all this “equal distribution” BS, which is just an underhanded way to devalue your points, and especially free night certificates. Waiting to see if there’s anything good to come out of it at all.

ktc
Guest
ktc

don’t you spend points for free night? you only earn ? unless you earn so many that you don’t care how /

voyager
Guest
voyager

Greg, any idea if I can lock in 35k rooms now for points, and then, when I get certificates later and the rooms become 40k, I would be able to exchange for certificates (since they were locked in at 35k) ?

Renard
Guest
Renard

“Across the entire portfolio, Standard rates will be offered the majority of the time with the rest being an equal distribution of Off-Peak and Peak rates.” Won’t this be pretty much impossible to police to keep them honest? What does ‘majority mean’? Greater than 50%?
“Equal distribution” “across the entire portfolio”? Does this mean that off-peak rates at places nobody wants to stay at (Fairfield Inn off the freeway in the middle of nowhere) will balance out with ‘peak-days’ at desirable properties (vacation spots, Hawaii, Europe in the summer etc,)? I was hoping that each property would have to have as many ‘off-peak’ days as there are ‘peak’ days…..that was way too optimistic.

Blue
Guest
Blue

I’m going to bet a lot of the non-peak balancing is going to be done through mid-range international properties, especially in Asia.

J S
Guest
J S

Are you sure that the Points Advance devaluation starts 9/14 and not immediately? In reading the email that you pasted, that third bullet point (regarding changes to Points Advance) speaks in the present tense and makes no reference to 9/14.

That bullet point also says: “The number of points needed may vary until enough points are earned because the reservation is subject to the current Off-Peak, Standard or Peak rate.” This further suggests that the Points Advance devaluation has taken immediate effect, since after 9/14, the off-peak, standard, or peak-rate pricing will already be built in to the points rate, so after 9/14 there could be no variance in the rate based on peak pricing. It’s only between now and 9/14 that the peak pricing is not built in.

wise2u
Guest
wise2u

lift up your skirts, bend over and prepare to be Bonvoyed again….lol

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[…] Tip to Frequent Miler for providing the full text of Marriott’s email regarding these upcoming […]

Travelin'Dandy
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Travelin'Dandy

I don’t know if it will help, but PLEASE call/write/chat Amex customer care about this issue. The agent I just spoke to said they have been getting many calls about this. Maybe it will make a small difference if we speak up?

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[…] morning Marriott announced several changes to Marriott Bonvoy awards (details here).  One of the changes is that they revised Points + Cash pricing for peak and off-peak awards.  I […]

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[…] Hotels will have off-peak, standard and peak award prices. You will still be able to book hotels in advance of having all the points in your account, but you can’t lock in a lower award price until you have the points in your account. See this detailed post from Frequent Miler. […]

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[…] Major Changes To Marriott Awards:  In my opinion, Marriott’s loyalty program is making a lot of negative changes here lately and it’s frustrating.  Sometimes I wish we could go back to the good old days with SPG. […]