Marriott offers 30K points to those who were travel-package hosed (Updated with Marriott Q&A)

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Travel Certificate Downgrades Q&A

I’ve asked Marriott the following questions about travel certificates and the ability to downgrade or cancel.  In a few cases we have answers from Marriott:

  • Question: When will we really be able to attach certificates to reservations? It’s not working yet.
    • Answer: “We are in the process of training thousands of associates on the new system and new policies. While most associates are fully up to speed, we expect the issues your readers are facing to be cleared up today. If not, they should give it one more day. We are in the middle of the biggest IT system transition in the hospitality industry.”
    • My thoughts: When Marriott says to “give it one more day”, I think that “one more month” would be a safer bet.
  • Certificate downgrade:
    • Question: When will we really be able to request a certificate downgrade? It’s not working yet.
      • Answer: (paraphrasing) It should work now as long as people follow the directions given.
      • My thoughts: This reminds me of the time the realtor told me that my new house was ready for move in. My response: I’d really like things like toilets, door handles, and a driveway…
    • Question: Is there a deadline for doing this?
      • Answer: Expiration of existing Travel Certificate
      • My thoughts: Unless you need the 30K points right away, wait as long as possible to do this.  It’s possible that other options will open up in time.
    • Question: What if members previously attached their certificate? Can they still request the 30K difference?
      • No answer yet
  • Cancel and refund certificate:
    • Question: Is there a deadline for doing this?
      Answer: Expiration of existing Travel Certificate
      My thoughts: Unless you need the points right away, wait as long as possible to do this.  It’s possible that other options will open up in time.
  • Question: Many who attached certificates before 8/18 are asking if they can change the dates of their reservation without detaching and re-attaching? The issue is that if they detach they’ll presumably get the mapped category rather than the category of the hotel they booked. In many cases the hotel they booked is now a higher level category.
    • No answer yet

I’ll post an update once I hear more.

Original post follows:

As Nick reported in the post “Marriott Travel Packages: worst-case scenario, we were far from thrilled with the way Marriott has handled the conversion of old travel packages to new.  Fortunately, they’ve sent us word of a few positive changes to the previously announced diabolical plan…

1) The one month travel package blackout is gone (theoretically)

We had previously been told that we would have to wait until September 18th to attach a travel package certificate to a reservation or to make changes to an existing reservation.  Now we’re being told that we can do so right away:

…due to system capabilities, we had to place a month-long blackout on cancellations and modifications to existing Travel Package certificates. After pressure testing our new system over the weekend, we’re happy to relay that starting today, the blackout period is over.

But they apparently haven’t informed the call center about this yet.  A number of people have reported trying to attach certificates but were told that there’s a one month blackout.  That’s old news call center people.  Don’t you read the blogs?

My advice: The call centers are currently unable to apply these certificates.  Wait until next week to try to attach a certificate to a new reservation (or to change an existing reservation).

2) Those who were hosed the most can get 30K back(theoretically)

Three old categories mapped to the same new categories as cheaper packages.  For example, both old category 1-5 and old category 6 mapped to the same new category: 1-4.  So, those who paid 30K more for old category 6 than old category 5 can now request 30K back.

If you bought old category 6, old category 8, or Tier 1-3, you’re eligible for 30K points back.

Marriott tells us:

…members who purchased a Category 6, Category 8 or Tier 1-3 certificate prior to 8/18 are able to request a one-time exchange for a package one category lower. To submit a request, contact us at https://www.marriott.com/marriott/contact.mi Select “packages – deals” from the drop down menu.

Unfortunately, to-date, the above process is not working.  I’ll update this post once it is fixed.

This is a great policy change.  In a number of posts speculating about travel packages, I suggested (and so did several readers) that one option would be for Marriott to make whole those who were in this situation (where multiple old categories map to the same new category) by refunding the difference in points.  I didn’t think it was likely to happen, though, so kudos to Marriott for that!

With this change in effect, we can ignore category 6, 8, and tier 1-3 (since all of those can be downgraded to old category 1-5, 7, and 9, respectively) and we can see that the mapping from old to new is quite fair from a points perspective.  This is true even when we compare old per night rates to new standard rates:

As you can see above, those who purchased category 9 (or Tier 1-3 downgraded to 9) come out ahead by 5K points per night at standard award rates.  The only category that appears to have lost value is Ritz Tier 4-5, but since 60K points is the top of the award chart until early 2019, it’s not bad at all.  Only those who need to wait until mid 2019 to book their awards are likely to lose out if they bought Tier 4-5.

My advice: Wait a while before asking for the 30K refund.  It’s unlikely, but possible that Marriott will re-issue the certificates when they do this, and that will give you a new, further out expiration date.  It’s also possible that additional options will be made available.  I don’t see any downside to waiting to see how this shakes out.

3) Trade stay certificates for points

Marriott has also informed us that those who bought travel packages prior to 8/18 will be able to refund those packages at the old rates (45K for category 1-5, 70K for category 6, etc.).  Packages bought 8/18 or later, will only be eligible for 5K points back regardless of category!

This is great news for those who bought travel packages primarily for the miles and don’t care about the hotel stay.  By cancelling your pre-8/18 certificate you can go from a very good points to miles exchange rate to an excellent exchange rate.

In the above chart, you can see how each package mapped from old to new categories.  The third to the last column shows the categories that are due a 30K “make whole” refund.  Or, if you decide to cancel altogether, you can look at the second to last column to see how many points you can expect to get back.  The final column shows that your final price after refunding the certificate will be the same regardless of what category you originally purchased.

Reminder: If you opted for a package offering 120K miles or 132K United miles, you got a great deal for your points even if you’re not happy about the final certificate category.  If you don’t refund the certificate, then your points to miles exchange rate was a very good 3 to 1.33 (or 3 to 1.46 for United).  If you do refund the certificate, then your points to miles exchange rate was phenomenal: 3 to 1.6 (or 3 to 1.76 for United).  Compare this to the new standard exchange rate of 3 to 1.25 (60K points to 25K miles) to get an idea of how good this is.

My advice: Unless you need the points right away, wait to see how this all shakes out.  It’s unlikely, but maybe Marriott will bring additional options to the table that will work better for you than cancelling the stay certificate altogether.

Those left behind

At this point, the remaining losers are those who had specific hotels in mind and guessed wrong about which packages to buy.  So far, we’ve been told that Marriott won’t allow us to upgrade our packages.  If they hold firm on that, then lots of people will be left trying to find uses for certificates other than what they had hoped.

I’m thrilled that Marriott is allowing the one time downgrade of packages for certain certificate holders, but why not go one step further and allow one-level upgrades?  Just as we can request 30K back to downgrade, why not allow us to offer 30K more to upgrade to the package we really need?

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