New info on travel packages makes final decisions tough

Yesterday, reader Blue pointed us to the fact that the Starwood Lurker on Flyertalk has added some clarifications around how existing Marriott Travel Package certificates will be affected by this weekend’s merger. In a move I don’t find terribly surprising, the Lurker says that you will no longer be able to upgrade and downgrade Travel Package certificates at all (new or old) after August 18th. In other words, you’ll want to make sure you’re happy with whatever category(ies) you’ve chosen, because you will be stuck with whatever it converts to in the new program. This really stinks if you intended to make up your mind later about where to stay and it stinks because Marriott hasn’t told us how these certificates will convert, so if you aren’t yet ready to make a committment to a particular hotel, you’ll be shooting in the dark. On the other hand, I actually think this might be good news in terms of a generous solution coming from Marriott – though it also has some potentially really negative reprecussions.

 

New info from Starwood Lurker IV

Here are the key statements the Starwood Lurker has released via Flyertalk:

  • Travel packages set to expire during the booking blackout period (you can not book unattached old Travel Packages certificates between August 18-September 18) can be extended upon request
  • Members will still be able to cancel unused 7-night certificates and get points back at a “reduced amount”.
  • After 8/18, certificates cannot be upgraded or downgraded, regardless of when they were purchased.
  • Between 8/18 and 9/18, you can cancel a Travel Package reservation, but you will not be able to rebook until after 9/18.

Quick Thoughts

The first thing we have to ask is this: Is the Starwood Lurker a credible source?

That’s a question I wouldn’t have even posed in the past as the Starwood Lurker on Flyertalk has always been a pretty good resource for information. However, the Starwood Lurker previously said that existing unattached “floater” certificates would be converted to points. At this point, given the information from official channels, it seems that assertion was flat out incorrect. Should we be more inclined to believe these latest updates?

Unfotunately (in many ways), I think the answer is yes. While there were times when the point refund sounded like a plausible outcome, I’d bet it was a possible solution floated that didn’t come to fruition. On the other hand, this close to merger day, I am more inclined to believe that details like those above have been finalized. Furthermore, the floater certificate info came from a different Starwood Lurker. Starwood has a team on Flyertalk, and the latest here comes from Starwood Lurker IV. I’m not sure that makes it inherently more credible, but it’s less contradictory than it seems.

Furthermore, as Greg has previously shown, continuing to offer upgrades and downgrades becomes extremely complex and potentially creates incredibly outsized value for downgraders (See: A case for gambling on top tier travel packages). According to the Lurker’s info, members will still be able to cancel unused 7-night certificates and get points back at a “reduced amount”. No word on what that means — does that mean reduced as compared to the original package price (i.e. the same as today) or reduced in the sense of getting even fewer points back? We don’t know for sure.

What will this mean for conversions? Which package should I get? Should I upgrade/downgrade right now?

This new information certainly thickens the plot with regard to travel packages. And the clock is winding down — you have until tomorrow to make any final redemptions / changes, and you have both the sea of miles and points enthusiasts scrambling for solutions and periodic Marriott outages with which to contend. If that sounds messy, it’s because it is. Greg is crunching the numbers right now and working on the detailed analysis — so if you’re not sure what to do, I suggest you stay tuned for another hour or two to get his take. At the end of the day, I think a lot of us are going to have to close our eyes, hold our noses, and take a leap of faith — Marriott certainly isn’t making this easy.

About Nick Reyes

Nick Reyes is a (fairly) regular guy with an animalistic passion for maximizing the value of miles and money to travel the world in comfort and style. There is little in life that he loves more than finding a fantastic deal and helping you shop smarter & harder to achieve your travel dreams.

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JB from San Diego
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JB from San Diego

At this point, we are told not to muck with anything between Aug 15-18. So, I would just stay put and let it play out. If Marriott management tries to give a short hand in anyway to anyone, there will be a lot of howling by people like me and that alone may convince Marriott management to reconsider and back track of any short comings. Now a days, social media and places like yelp can wreck havoc on any company or individual. So even if we start out with your worse case scenario or any disadvantage to the customer, I think management will retract, otherwise Marriott will be cast with a nasty cloud for a long time.

voyager
Guest
voyager

I agree. I was reassured by the rewards team supervisor that the certificates will be upgradable. They will be hearing back from me if that turns out not to be the case.

Blue
Guest
Blue

Was that today?

voyager
Guest
voyager

3 days ago. Interestingly, the first rep told me that the certs will NOT be upgradeable, to which I said That can’t be right. She called the rewards team and said Yup they confirmed they won’t be upgradable. I still didn’t buy it and insisted on transferring me to a rewards team sup. And the sup said Nah she doesn’t know what she’s talking about, you will certainly be able to upgrade your cert. So who knows at this point. They contradict each other.

Jeff
Guest
Jeff

picked up a tier 1-3 Ritz just to be on the safe side a few days ago. Hoping to redeem at a new cat 7 but eve a cat 6 I’ll be able to use it and make it worthwhile. I don’t know how people who bought the cat 1-5 base certificate can complain about not being able to use it on say…a cat 6 in the new program…

JB from San Diego
Guest
JB from San Diego

if Marriott manage is smart, they should suck it up on this one time charge and give the benefit of the doubt to its customer. They have already obliterated future redemptions of the Travel Packages!! Give me a break!!

JWI
Guest
JWI

Marriott STINKS, classic corporate greed, “we can stick it to the customer, when we can, just because we can do it” mentality. There so-called loyalty program are just a ruse, there is no more loyalty except to their bottom line and stockholders – it is a sad state of affairs.

If Marriott really valued their loyal customers, then they can be more upfront about material info which impacts their loyal customers’ valuable vacation time.

Matt
Guest
Matt

Thanks for all the great coverage on this guys, it’s been super helpful. Just decided to use my last 90k spg points to book a last package. I also used your tutorial on how to navigate the maze of Marriott’s phone system

Julia
Guest
Julia

Yes, really appreciate it thank you.

Julia
Guest
Julia

But how do we know if we should downgrade or upgrade it when Marriott are holding back what the new category’s will be? I have a Cat 6, what will that be on the 19th, I don’t know. To make matters more complicated I’d like to book an SPG hotel, but we can’t do that till they release SPG access for TP certs purchased prior to the 18th. So how are we supposed to know know what to do if they are withholding important information?

Anders
Guest
Anders

It is not so much a question of whether the lurkers are a credible source, but rather whether Marriott is a credible company.

They have been quite generous in many ways, but unless they learn to keep their word and to be transparent, they will lose the loyalty of millions.

With respect to the lurkers, my sincere appreciation for the way they have navigated many complexities with honor over the last several years.

My biggest question about the packages is whether they will be extendable , as they were in the past. Hospitalization cancelled my travel plans for July August 2018, I hope to make the same trip in 2019 with slightly different hotels to adjust for category changes that were not in my favour.

Thanks to the frequent miler team for their great coverage of a merger that Marriott has chosen to do on a quiet August summer weekend for a reason that is beyond me,

Platinum
Guest
Platinum

Everyone should just admit that everybody has been guessing and hoping for a windfall. Everyone who is outraged they are not going to get an “outsized value” should rethink the outrage. You were never promised this by anybody. It was wishful thinking. I am disappointed in the no upgrade/downgrade and anticpating that there would be restrictions I booked TPs for hotels that were not changing categories. I did it mostly for the miles so the 7 night hotel stays are bonuses for me. I cant believe there are still bloggers (Not Gregg or Nick) that are telling people to attach to the Calgary Airport Marriott that will be a cat 5 and you could get back more points when you cancel.

Gold
Guest
Gold

Why wouldn’t you attach in case you do get refunded for properties that are moving up in value? You should maximize your points. Also, it’s Greg.

Blue
Guest
Blue

Worst case, because they remove the ability to cancel and reuse.

Gold
Guest
Gold

Fair but you’ve always been able to cancel award reservations, so I don’t see why this would be any different.

fll
Guest
fll

Actually it is right on this site, fanning the speculation especially by Greg who suggested that.

Greg The Frequent Miler
Admin

I did tell people that there was a tiny chance of that happening. I don’t believe it is likely at all

Lukas
Guest
Lukas

OMG, I just called the UK number (+442070127312) and Josh answered (hang up if Tara, Svetlana or Sasha answer). He was able to give me the FIVE-NIGHT package as he didn’t verify that I wasn’t a vacation club owner (I CONFIDENTLY asked for the 5-night package so he assumed that I was an owner). I’ve been calling for the past 3 days to try to get this done and was about to give up when Josh didn’t have a problem with it. I had just enough points to do 2 5-night packages which I combined with 132,000 United miles. Sweet and good luck to all!

fll
Guest
fll

You may very well cause a reprimand note into Josh’s employee file.

Another thing to consider, Marriott does AUDIT 5 nights cert redemption to verify eligibility. There are reports on FT, Reddit, and on Chinese sites. Lately the audits have caused accounts being locked with the message of “pending review”/

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[…] As Nick reported a few hours ago, Starwood Lurker IV, via Flyertalk, revealed new information about Marriott Travel Packages: […]