My experience changing a Marriott Travel Package

Domes of Elounda. This was a Category 9 (45,000 points per night) property in the old Marriott program. In the new merged Bonvoy program this is a Category 8 resort.  As of March 5 2019, stays at this hotel require 85,000 points per night (or 70,000 off-peak, or 100,000 peak).

Before the big Marriott / SPG merger last August, I recommended using points to buy Marriott travel packages.  At the time, they were a great way to convert points to airline miles.  Plus, you’d get a 7 night stay as a bonus.

Marriott was very secretive about what would happen with travel packages after the merger, so I wrote about a thousand posts (give or take) speculating on how best to play it.  Since we knew the hotel categories were going to drastically change, there was likely a play where your stay certificate could be worth more… perhaps much more… if you bought the right category.  I also wondered if you could score big by attaching a certificate to a hotel that you knew would be much more expensive after the merger.  For details about the latter, see the post: Banking travel certificates for future luxury.

I ended up with one old category 6 (new category 4) 7 night certificate that wasn’t attached to any reservation, and two old category 9 (new category 6) certificates.  Prior to the merger, I attached the two category 9 certificates to 7 night stay reservations at the Domes of Elounda.  I left the old category 6 certificate unattached.

It turned out that almost all of my guesswork about turning stay certificates into gold was wrong.  Marriott mapped old to new packages based on new peak pricing.  This meant that most of us came out even or lost out a bit if we planned to book stays during standard or off-peak pricing.  Nick announced the mapping here: Marriott Travel Packages: worst-case scenario.  Even worse, by some measures, we learned that you can no longer cancel the travel certificates and get back lots of points.  Many of my guesses about how to win big were contingent upon the ability to cash out certificates for points.

One small win when comparing old pricing to new standard pricing was with category 9 (45K) certificates which mapped to new category 6 (50K standard).  I lucked out since two of my three certificates were category 9.

Since I had attached my old category 9 certificates (45K per night) to a hotel which was scheduled to jump to new category 8 (85K per night), I was in a position to test the question of what happens when you detach that certificate.  Would I get a new category 8 certificate or a new category 6?

Koloa Landing Resort at Poipu, Autograph Collection.  This resort is category 6 until March 5th when it jumps to category 7.

I recently realized that I wouldn’t be able to use one of the weeks I had booked at the Domes of Elounda, but I definitely could use a certificate for a 7 night stay at the Koloa Landing Resort at Poipu (in Kauai, Hawaii).  I knew that the Koloa Landing Resort was soon going to change from category 6 to 7, so I needed to get moving on this.

I called Marriott to cancel one of my Domes of Elounda reservations.  I could have done so online, but I wasn’t sure what would happen to the stay certificate.  The immediate result was that the old category 9 certificate was redeposited in my account.  But it had the old expiry date, which was too soon for my Hawaii stay.  When I asked the agent on the phone about the expiration date he realized that something wasn’t right.  He clicked away at the keyboard a bit and fixed it.  Now my account showed a new category 6 certificate with a new expiration date a year from the phone call.

Bottom Line

Since Marriott’s IT is a mess, there’s no guarantee that you’ll have the same result.  In my case, cancelling a reservation with an attached old certificate resulted in getting a new certificate based on the expected old to new mapping.  In other words, my old category 9 certificate was converted into a new category 6 certificate.  This is as expected.  It wasn’t a big win, but I was very happy to be able to apply the certificate to my 7 night Hawaii stay before the price on that resort goes up.

As a reminder, many Marriott hotels are going up in price on March 5.  Some are going up due to annual category reassignments.  Others are going up because Marriott will be introducing category 8 pricing (until March 5 they capped top-tier hotels at category 7: 60K per night).  See these posts for details:

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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Rob
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Rob

Out of curiosity, how long did your call take? I just applied my Cat 9 old cert to a week in Grand Cayman and it took over a half hour of holding and the agent “speaking with a supervisor.” All kinds of excuses about the system not doing something, not having the ability to override something, blah blah blah. You would think I was asking her to convert Thai baht into cryptocurrency.

HoKo
Guest
HoKo

“Even worse, by some measures, we learned that you can no longer cancel the travel certificates and get back lots of points.”

Wait so we no longer have the option to cancel the cert in exchange for points? I thought Mariott specifically addressed this question pre-merger and said this would still be an option.

I have a cert expiring in 3-4 weeks so does that mean i’m pretty much screwed?

Eric
Guest
Eric

Did you convert your certificate from the old category X to the updated category Y yet? I called marriott to ask how I actually redeem my certificate, the agent said that he first needed to convert my old category 5 cert to the new category 4, but that I should delay doing that if I didn’t have any trips planned because when you convert it over from the old cert to the new, your one year clock resets.

HoKo
Guest
HoKo

Ok so if I am understanding this correctly this could actually be good news for me. Here are the details of my situation:

1. I “bought” the certificate under the old Marriott program (pre-merger)
2. I have not spoken with customer service from Marriott/Bonvoy/whatever they’re calling themselves since the merger took place (meaning no contact with them regarding the cert or anything else for that matter)
3. I can’t remember the old categories but I’m pretty sure the cert I purchased was the entry-level cert

So it sounds like what you’re saying is that in order to use it Marriott will need to convert the cert from old category X to the updated category Y and that process thereby resets the clock to give me an additional year to use it? So in theory you want to call in and do that conversion as close as possible to the expiration date of the existing cert.

Vet&Banker
Guest
Vet&Banker

You can still cancel for points, 45K for the old Cat 5, 75K for the old Cat 6, etc. But the bet many people were making last August was that the certs would be cancelled for “point value”; e.g., a Cat 1-5 would cancel at ~150K points, not the standard 45K.

You’ll need to convert first, then cancel. The one thing Marriott reps seem to get right about Travel Packages is canceling certs. 🙂

HoKo
Guest
HoKo

Gotcha, Thanks for the detailed explanation.

So ideally I’d like to extend the expiration for another year (to your point that way I have a chance to get good value out of the cert instead of just taking the paltry 45k payout). Based on Eric’s comment above it sounds like the process to convert from the old category X to the updated category Y will reset my expiration date clock for another year. Is that your understanding as well?

Blue
Guest
Blue

I ended up getting great value out of my 1-4s (a week in Mexico City and a week in HK) but wow Marriott screwed people in the conversion. And it permanently degraded my view of them. They purposely had the Lurkers put out wrong information on FT, purposely had CSRs telling people bad information, then put the hammer down about as hard as possible. For instance, I was assured by 3 CSRs that my packages could be upgraded. Which was, basically, a lie (a few people were able to get it done). The Lurkers are the ones responsible for the whole “Convert to Points” fiasco.

Ivan Y
Guest
Ivan Y

Good to know that expiration date can be changed!

I purchased an Old Category 8 / New Category 5 certificate. Based on everything, I was sure/hoping it would map to New Category 6 though 🙁

Before OC->NC changes ended up attaching it to a hotel that was OC8 but that went to NC6. So right now just keeping it as is.

Pam
Guest
Pam

Just used my (old) Cat 9 at the Autograph Mauna Kea on the Big Island. We really enjoyed this property much more over the Kauai Autograph, same 50k points.

MK is an elegant, timeless property with a priceless Asian art collection, both courtesy of Rockefeller over 50 years ago. It offers a sense of place & calm that the Poipu property decidedly does not.

Only my opinion, but for the same points the Mauna Kea is where we will easily spend over 7 nights again next year!

Pam
Guest
Pam

And thank you for all the great info last year, Greg, on buying & best using these packages. You put all the available data out there for us, including the rumored info, that helped my family experience an amazing vacation. We just checked out, & the upgraded rooms they gave us (on points) were selling for $1k/night! Major score…

Treesha
Guest
Treesha

I spent so much time reading posts about the travel packages last year, both here and over on FT. I got two old Cat 6 packages and attached both to reservations before 8/18. One of them became a new Cat 5 hotel, so I called after most of the dust settled, got a 30K pt refund on that package after spending 45 minutes on the phone. The other became a new Cat 6, so I benefited on that one too. I was lucky with both, but I know plenty of people were not lucky. TBH though, anyone who thought they would get full points refund on the certificate was delusional.

I think the self-pwn Marriott has done has tarnished their reputation irreparably, and they’ve generated a lot of ill will. Even in my eyes they’re diminished, and I’m one of the lucky ones who “won” in the whole integration fiasco.

Pam
Guest
Pam

Meant to also mention since I know is a sore subject for you, Greg, but $0 resort fee at the MK (yet plenty going on). Marriott Reward mbrs also receive 10% off the MK’s own fab luau & off golf rentals. Best resort breakfast buffet ever had with a relaxed whale-watching view to match. Plat status saved that $75/day, or $525 for the week. Great property with some semblance of value still left on the islands.

Koala Landing will unfortunately set you back $30+/night RF, ok breakfast, & I just don’t get how they were ever invited into Autograph anyway!

Sam
Guest
Sam

Just to be 100% clear:

1) If i cancel my old pre devaluation lowest tier 1-5 cert (now converted to a 1-4), I’ll get 45K points deposited back in my account, oui? And any higher category old certs would get 45K plus the difference if cancelled?

2) No one is getting one year extensions?

3) are there any posts about all of this shenanigans for us pre devaluation cert owners?

Thanks guys. Keep up the great work.

wise2u
Guest
wise2u

I dealt with this yesterday, we had 2 cat 6 partial package certs expiring this month, 2 cat 1-5 certs that I bought to boost my skypesos just before the merger that expire in aug., and 2 one day 25k certs from credit cards that also expired this month…Lady changed cat 6 first and told me to refresh screen to see new exp of 2/28/20, which was the case…her system tried to give me 75k points as well, which I knew was only supposed to be the 30k difference I paid for the cat 6 upgrade I invested in, so after a short hold she adjusted it to 30k…..I then had her do the same for my wife’s cat 6. I asked her if she could reissue the CC certs as well since they went from cat 5 to 25k and she was able to extend them into 2020 as well….I was very happy until I checked again and noticed the cat 6 had been reduced to cat 5, then again to cat 4..so maybe it should have been 75k?…at least that is the way it reads in the mapping of old certs to new….so now I have to call back and see if I can get the other points from someone over there that has a clue of what I am talking about…sigh……….I also found that the cat 1-5 certs that I bought in Aug will have to be changed to 1-4 and when they are the exp will be extended. This is great news since I have so many that they would never get used if I didn’t have the extension.

wise2u
Guest
wise2u

BTW I spent 20-30 minutes to handle all of my certs and I called the 800 number on the back of my Marriott CC for agent in rewards program that handled things for me.

5150d
Guest
5150d

Per FlyerTalk and MY experience the absolute key to success with these Travel Package certificates is to “DETACH YOUR CERTIFICATE FROM THE RESERVATIONS FIRST”. Do NOT cancel the reservation while the certificate is attached.
And Yes, you can get point for your certificates OC5 is 45k points and OC6 is 75k points.

wise2u
Guest
wise2u

so am I wrong in assuming that cat 6 reissued as cat 1-4 should get 75K points as well?…or is it 30k points for the cat 6 to cat 5 and nothing for cat 5 to cat 1-4?? and 75k is for cancelling cat 6 completely….if the latter is the case then the csr did everything right for me, and she did me a favor by extending the CC certs for a year as well.

Frank
Guest
Frank

My son has an old Cat 1-5 and tried to make a reservation for June. They couldn’t do in in 2 hours! They offered him 75K points to forfeit the cert (he knew that was wrong) but still wants to get a week in Europe. Very frustrating – they couldn’t seem to manage the conversion.

Agnes
Guest
Agnes

My TP Cat 5 cert. was converted to point, added point discrepancy manually for Cat 4 hotel beyond 1 year expiration with some pleading when I have to change hotel. My other TP Cat 5 cert. was attached on Cat 6 hotel in Maui just before the conversion (complement of This is where Marriott screwed-up. Unexpected audit detaching my Maui cert. 2 months before the trip. I went ballistic. Marriott didn’t send any email whatsoever. It took me several, longer than an hour, phone call to convinced Marriott to reverse this outrageous customer service. I spent a total of 5 hr on these 2 TP certificates.

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Frank
Guest
Frank

Greg, another good post, but I am unsure of a couple of things:

I don’t understand “attaching a certificate to a property”, I don’t see the point.

I have an Old CAT 7 cert and a few Old Cat 1-5 certs expiring in 3 months in my account. Is the best strategy still to wait as long as I can before converting to the new Categories so as to extend the expiration dates as long as possible? (unless I get a whiff of any rule change before then).

Once I convert, do I need to book somewhere right away or can I just string them along as I have done for up to another year?

Unfortunately I don’t think I could take advantage of the lower prices before March 5. I am usually a last-minute traveler, but don’t mind off-season (actually I prefer it). But what if I just picked one that I might go to in a year that is available for old Cat 1-5 pricing – if there is one – and book it for Feb 2020, for example. I presume I can cancel later with no penalty? I know the expiry date would be Feb 2020.

I have never stayed in a hotel for a week – not since I was 7 years old.

wise2u
Guest
wise2u

you don’t need to use it right away, they will extend it a year. you wont be able to apply it as a cat 5 in the next year, as they now use cat1-4 as reference for their base certs…they are actually based on 25k hotels…so in another secret devaluation your base TP is not good for peak pricing….by making you reduce the cat 1-5 certs they remove the argument that they should cover 35k peak pricing with cert….the only good aspect is that the cat 1-5 packages that I got just before the merger, mainly for the airmiles, can be extended another year when converted to the cat 1-4 cert that they will force on you.

Frank
Guest
Frank

Thank you.

Rob
Guest
Rob

STRANGE. And I think if I tried to do it, it would not work. I called to confirm that a pre-merger cat 8 cert would convert to cat 5 once I used it (trying to book Austin Westin). She was insistent that it would stay the same cat 8… I tried to convince her (ironically) that everything I have read said otherwise. I said, “so you are telling me I can use this cert for St Regis Bora Bora.” She replied, “YES, that is correct”. I bet in the end she won’t be able to do it, but I guess I better check with my wife to see when we can squeeze in Bora Bora 😉

ANYONE else actually see their old certificate retain the value of the original cat number??

Lulu
Guest
Lulu

After saving points for over three years, I contacted Marriott (pre-Starwoods merger) in early August to secure a reservation for a trip to Crete at the Dolmes of Elounda. 45K points a night, so I wanted to book before the merger. After speaking with a Marriott customer care advisor, I was told the best way to address my needs was to purchase a “travel package”…cat 7 hotel, as that would cover my week at Elounda with bonus airline points. Emptied the point balance, and I was told to book before the end of the year so my certificate could be attached to a reservation.

Later in the year, I contacted Elounda, noted that they had reward rooms available, and I booked the reservation and flights. The hotel was pricing out now (post-merger) at 60K per night, but still cat 7, so I was covered. Booked the reservation and called Marriott to “attach the travel certificate,” as I was advised. Several representatives and a supervisor tried, and they were frustrated that the system wouldn’t allow them to attach the cat 7 certificate to a cat 7 hotel. After more than several calls and cumulative hours on the phone, a supervisor told me that the certificate would now be a category 5. I asked the supervisor to open an inquiry to see what could be done to address the misinformation that I had been given to somehow salvage the trip.

Two weeks later, I went on the Marriott account and saw a “congratulations” that I had enough points for my upcoming reservation. I was pleased that Marriott made things right and attached/approved the certificate.

Just yesterday, I went on the account no longer see the message (which I had taken a screenshot) and the reservation now needs 510,000 points to be completed! That’s like booking a room for $200 only to find they want $400 when you check-in.
The trip is the end of June; I guess I’ll be sleeping on the beach in Crete.

sur
Guest
sur

Scoured the net trying to find this answer but can’t find it. Once a travel package was attached to my reservation (had to call in, certificate was not an option when reserving online) it shows up in my reservation info as 55k points + the taxes and fees they will be charging me. I was under the impressing the travel package I purchased would include 7 nights not cost 55k points for 7 nights when I opted to use it. Am I incorrect in this? Obvi 55k points is not much when trying to reserve 7 nights anywhere but would hate to lose 55k points if it should not be charged. I originally purchased this points and travel package with the whole southwest loophole to earn the companion pass.

nick
Guest
nick

I called last week to cancel a reservation in hopes of extending for next year. I detached my certificate first (new cat 1-4) and she was able to reissue a new cert that expires next year. Everything looks smooth under my Marriott activity except it shows 5k points left my account since I “ordered” the following package.

Partial Package – 7 Nights Category 1-4

06/14/2019, Ordered -5,000 Rewards

I had <1,000 points left before I called but now have closer to ~70,000. I think I made out in this situation since I got a bunch of points and my cert extended but not sure?

Sasha
Guest
Sasha

Hey Grey,
So to be sure what I am understanding is correct, my old cat 1-5 7 nites certificate which will be expiring this mid July should be converted to a new cert cat 1-4 7 nites with an extension of to July 2020. No extra points needed or to be refunded. Correct? Thanks! Was hoping to use the 7 nites for osaka later this year but not anymore now that the cert is good only for cat 1-4 while most of the hotel in Osaka are cat 5 or higher. 🙁