Last summer, many of us bought Marriott travel packages before it was too late. Prior to the Marriott/SPG merger, travel packages were a great deal. As a reminder, a Marriott Travel Package is a way to use Marriott points to purchase a travel bundle: a set number of airline miles plus a 7 night Marriott stay certificate. In the old program, it often made sense to purchase a travel package even if you were only interested in the airline miles. At the time, you could return the stay certificate for a modest number of Marriott points and you would end up with a pretty terrific exchange rate from Marriott points to airline miles.
For the purpose of this post, let’s call the pre-merger program Marriott Rewards, and the post-merger program Marriott Bonvoy. That way, we can refer to the old travel packages as Marriott Rewards packages, and the post-merger packages as Bonvoy packages.
In the months leading up to the Marriott SPG merger, some of us speculated that the value of the Marriott Rewards stay certificates would increase. We knew that old program categories were impossible to map one to one to new program categories, so there was potential for big wins. I personally wrote maybe a half dozen posts speculating on what would happen and suggesting which category hotel packages were the best bets for big wins.
When the new Marriott Rewards to Marriott Bonvoy travel package mappings were announced, we were bitterly disappointed. Not only didn’t we win big, but many certificate holders seemed to lose. If you had bought a a Category 6, 8, Ritz Tier 1-3 package, you had made a bad bet since those packages mapped to the same Bonvoy categories as the one-level-cheaper Rewards categories. For example, both category 1-5 and category 6 Marriott Rewards stay certificates became Bonvoy category 1-4 certificates.
Fortunately, Marriott stepped back from that initial position and allowed Rewards category 6, 8, and Ritz Tier 1-3 certificate holders to request a one time 30K points refund (if you haven’t requested the refund, don’t forget to do so). This brought their net cost down to the next lower level. So we ended up with a fair mapping where most certificate owners come out even when comparing point values in the Marriott Rewards program to point values in the Bonvoy program at standard rates (as opposed to peak or off-peak rates):
As you can see above, those who bought category 1-5 Marriott Rewards packages can still use their certificates for hotels priced standard at 25K, just as they could before. And, once peak pricing kicks in, it will be possible to use those same certificates during peak pricing dates. So, arguably, the package has increased in value slightly. The same is true for Marriott Rewards category 7 packages. Category 9 comes out slightly ahead even compared to standard rates since category 9 was previously good for only up to 45K points per night, but it’s now good for 50K points per night hotels. Ritz Tier 4-5 package owners didn’t fair as well since the old package covered stays up to 70K points per night whereas the Bonvoy equivalent covers stays worth only 60K points per night at standard rates. If you book during peak pricing, though, you’ll come out even.
Regarding Attached Certificates
No advantage to keeping it attached
If you’ve attached your stay certificate to an award stay, but you plan to cancel or reschedule that stay, then I believe that there’s no advantage to keeping the certificate attached. We previously speculated that attaching certificates to hotels which have subsequently been assigned to higher categories might make those certificates more valuable. We’ve since learned that that’s not the case. For example, if you used a Marriott Rewards category 9 certificate (45K per night) to book a hotel which is now category 8 (85K per night), you won’t get an upgraded certificate if you cancel or reschedule your stay.
Similarly, I don’t think you’ll be able to simply reschedule the stay without it getting re-priced. I haven’t tried this option though, so it at least has a chance of working.
Canceling results in old certificate
I’ve personally cancelled two reservations that were made with Marriott Rewards Category 9 certificates. In one case (described here) I called to cancel the reservation. Initially, the old category 9 certificate was returned to my account, along with its original expiration date. In that case, I needed a certificate with a new expiry date, so I asked the phone agent to update it to a Bonvoy certificate. Once he did so, I had a new expiration date that was a year out.
Later, I cancelled my second reservation online. Again, I simply got back the Marriott Rewards Category 9 certificate with the old expiry date. I haven’t yet asked to convert this one to a Bonvoy certificate. As things stand right now, my certificate will expire on July 26th:
Expiring soon. What to do.
If you bought a Marriott Rewards travel package last summer and you haven’t yet used, converted, or refunded the stay certificate, then your certificate will soon expire. Here are your options:
Convert to a Bonvoy stay certificate
Advantages: Extend expiration date by a year
Disadvantages: Can no longer refund for points. May be only a one time extension.
A simple way to extend the expiration date of your certificate is to call Bonvoy to ask them to convert the certificate from an old Rewards certificate to a new Bonvoy certificate. If you’re super lucky you’ll get an agent who understands what that means and how to do it.
The downside is that new certificates have more restrictions. Specifically, they’re no longer worth much if you want to cancel and get points back. If I recall correctly, I think Marriott said at some point that you’ll only get a token 10K points back for any category Bonvoy stay certificates. With the old certificates, refunds start at 45K and go up from there by 30K points per category.
We also don’t know if Marriott will allow Bonvoy certificate expiration dates to be extended. Marriott Rewards agents used to readily allow this simply by calling in the request, even though it technically wasn’t allowed. Will Bonvoy agents do the same? We don’t yet know.
Refund for points
Advantages: Points have far fewer restrictions and no expiration dates (as long as you maintain regular activity in your account)
Disadvantages: A seven night stay certificate, if used properly, is significantly more valuable than the number of points returned. Plus it may be nearly impossible to find a Bonvoy agent who knows how to refund the points.
This will not work with a new style Bonvoy stay certificate, but if you have an old-style Marriott Rewards stay certificate, you should be able to request a points refund according to the chart above. For example, if you refund a category 9 certificate, you should get 165,000 points back. If you wanted to use those points at a Bonvoy category 6 hotel (50K per night), you’d only be able to stay 3 nights. However, if you used them at a category 5 hotel (35K points per night), you’d be able to stay 5 nights thanks to Marriott’s 5th Night Free awards. Plus, you’d have 25K points left over which is almost enough for a 6th night. In short, points are much more flexible, but also less valuable than an ideal use of a stay certificate.
In my case, I’m leaning towards seeking a refund for my last unused certificate right before it expires, but I’m hoping that I’ll realize a good use for it before then.
Set a reminder
If you haven’t yet decided what to do about your stay certificate, I recommend setting an automated reminder for a few weeks before it expires. I considered adding a reminder to my calendar for this purpose, but I know from experience that I often ignore those calendar reminders. A better solution, I think, for those who use Gmail is to send yourself an email and then snooze it.
1) Send yourself a reminder email. You might even want to include a link to this post within the email.
2) Open the email and click the little clock icon. Select Snooze until.. Pick date & time.
3) Pick a date for the email to re-appear with plenty of time before your certificate expires: