In the summer of 2018, 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: you exchange Marriott points for both 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. This brought their net cost down to the next lower level. So we ended up with a fair mapping where most certificate owners came 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, now that peak pricing has kicked in, it is 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.
Expiring again. What to do.
If you bought a Marriott Rewards travel package in 2018 and you haven’t yet used it, then that means that your certificate was extended in 2019 (since they expire after 12 months if not extended). You may have accomplished this by calling to convert your old style certificate to a new one as I explained last year in this post: Marriott travel packages expiring soon. What to do.
Now, you may once again be looking down the road at the next expiry date with no good plans for using your certificate. If so, consider these options:
Call to ask for an extension
A simple way to extend the expiration date of your certificate is to call Bonvoy (here’s a trick for getting through to a person quickly) 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 willing to extend it without trouble.
One reader named Darlene let me know that she called and was offered the option to extend her certificate without any argument. That’s the best case.
I had almost as much luck as Darlene. In my case, the agent I spoke with initially said that the certificate couldn’t be extended because it had been extended before. Without prompting, though, the agent offered to speak to her supervisor. She got back on the line within a few minutes and said it was done. My certificate had been extended!
A reader named Mark reports that he was initially told no because he had previously extended his certificate (despite having been previously told that he would be able to extend it again). He got the problem resolved though. Here’s the resolution in his words:
As a lifetime Titanium member I was annoyed with the conflicting information I had received and was referred to the home office where I left a message for David Flueck, the head of Bonvoy loyalty. He had someone call me back immediately and I explained the situation. She called me back and said they would make a one time(and last) exception for me and extended it one more year.
Based on the above three data points, it seems that Marriott’s explicit policy is that the package certificates can be extended only once, but that it’s possible (and sometimes easy) to get it extended again.
Refund for points
If you originally bought 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 Bonvoy category 6 certificate (old style category 9), you should get 165,000 points back. If you wanted to use those points at a Bonvoy category 6 hotel (50K per night, standard), 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.
Refunding for points might not be easy
It’s likely that when you call to ask for a points refund you’ll be told no or offered an insultingly small number of points. This is because the new Bonvoy Travel Packages don’t allow refunds at the rates that were previously offered. However, if you had bought the old style Marriott Rewards package, you should still be eligible for a points refund. The hard part is finding someone who understands that and is able to help. If you’re in that situation, read this post from Dan’s Deals to see how he got it done: Marriott Travel Packages Haven’t Been #Bonvoyed Again, But Good Luck Finding Someone That Knows That.
If you bought an old style Marriott Rewards travel package and you still have the associated 7 night certificate (or 5 night certificate if you bought the type available to timeshare owners), then you have a few options for making sure you still get value from the certificate. Obviously, you can try to use the certificate before it expires. But if that doesn’t work for you, you can try getting the certificate extended or refunded for points. I think that the former is both easier to accomplish and offers better potential value. But if you’re sure you won’t need a 7 night stay anytime in the next year, a points refund is the way to go… if you can convince Marriott to give you the points you deserve.
Personally, I wasn’t sure whether I’d really be able to renew my certificate which had a July expiration date, so I decided to call to get it extended. The downside of doing so now was that I now only have until February 2021 to use my stay certificate and there’s no guarantee that they’ll be willing to extend it again. If I had waited until July to call, I would have had until July 2021 to use the certificate. But I didn’t know at the time that the extension was possible, so I called to check. If they were unwilling to extend it, I had a backup plan ready. I had a points reservation ready to go if I needed it, but I preferred to keep my certificate for later. Fortunately, it wasn’t necessary to go with the backup plan. Now I’m hoping that I’ll find a great use for my certificate before having to roll the dice on another extension next year!
P.S. If you plan to use your certificate on a property that will be going up a category on March 4th, you’ll want to attach the certificate your reservation prior to that change over. See: Making a game plan for the Marriott devaluation.