Beware: Several Marriott Hotels Charging Thousands of Dollars Cash When You Redeem Points

I’ve been a bigger defender of Marriott than most since they launched their new program last year counseling patience as they worked through the bungled integration of Starwood Preferred Guest and Marriott rewards last year and arguing that it makes little sense for frequent hotel guests to jump ship for Hilton (or IHG).

However more and more problems keep coming to light, and it really seems like they’ve lost control of the ship.

Steph at One Mile at a Time wrote about cash deposits being required by some Marriott properties when booking an award. They say they’ll charge you cash up front and give it back at the end of your stay.

Cash deposits aren’t uncommon, even on cancellable rates, at certain hotels when you’re making a paid reservation especially at resorts in peak season. However they are more than unusual on award nights, where you aren’t necessarily going to be spending cash at the hotel at all.

  • These are very poorly disclosed, the credit card charges would come as a complete surprise to most people.

  • They’re an interest-free loan to the property. Why?

In the case that Steph wrote about the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua

[A]m I glad that I double-checked this one before booking. Because while the booking screen doesn’t give any warning of additional deposit charges, the “rate details” link for this property looks something like this….the hotel wants to charge the credit card on file $832.64 to hold the reservation.

…[T]hey sneakily disclose this in an embedded link that most people are likely to skip over. There is absolutely nothing in the final booking screen to indicate that there is a deposit required

There are myriad other examples, and members are frustrated — especially to learn that in order to use their points their credit card will be charged thousands of dollars.

I had a look at a random 3 night stay at the W Koh Samui on points. The price is 60,000 points per night and members are told that taxes and fees are included. There’s no reason to expect to be charged.

However if you click on ‘rate details’ (and why would you, since the details are disclose right here) you’d learn that the hotel will charge your credit card for over 55,000 Thai Baht.

To be sure the hotel wouldn’t do this automatically and perhaps not right away or even at all, since one way that Marriott’s systems are inferior to Starwood’s is that hotels actually have to run prepaid charges manually themselves.

But how much money is the hotel entitled to charge your card right away for a stay paid for entirely in points and with no additional taxes or fees? US$1781!

That’s some kind of hidden charge, even if you’re entitled to get the money back perhaps months later after your trip.

I have to think that Marriott will say this is some kind of a mistake, albeit one that seems to affect a large number of properties. But that’s little consolation to affected members, especially when the chain doesn’t appear to be doing anything to become aware of and fix such mistakes let alone communicate about it. With Marriott the correct approach appears to be caveat emptor.

I’m getting genuinely fed up with,

The new program wasn’t ready when it was pushed out last August, and apparently it still isn’t. Bonvoy may have created a ‘new language’ for travel but it’s one their own hotels and customer service agents don’t seem to understand.

Marriott should be getting its house in order, not spending millions to give its loyalty program a new name — and to advertise on television during the Oscars. Unfortunately Marriott’s CEO doesn’t seem to care, calling problems just noise around the edges. Why should he? The point of the Starwood acquisition was scale to have better leverage over their counterparties as a result of greater size. And that includes their customers.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. It keeps the riff raff out and qualifies those serious about going and the hotel holding the room
    Plus the hotel is getting paid twice even if only temporarily the second time
    Or as you say an interest free loan to the hotel
    Lets be clear Marriott is going to go power crazy being the biggest hotel chain on the planet
    leveraging their new found strength
    They were greedy before and you ain’t seen nothing yet!
    They want their 13 billion back plus plus plus ASAP overpaying for the way over rated Starworm empire

  2. My wife and I have been staunch Starwood loyalists for over 16 years. When traveling we have typically looked at Starwood first and rarely booked elsewhere if a good SPG hotel was available. We too have made apologies for Marriott since the merger because some things are still good. We can still accumulate points and we find great value in the points redemptions. And we still are treated well at most properties.

    But the little problems are starting to add up. We strongly dislike the shorter booking window since we tend to plan our trips way in advance. Marriott has eliminated one of our favorite features Starwood had- the Speciality Select upgrade on points and does not seem to have a simple award chart for upgrading on points stays (we LOVE Hyatt’s 6000/9000 option) We feel compelled (like Lucky) to study the fine print because there are often hidden surprises. Non cancellable award stays- cash deposits for award stays- One cannot quickly make an online booking as we did in the past. The search function on the Marriott website is terrible. It is more difficult to compare rates. SNAs are often difficult to apply (and hotels are allowed to opt out of them now)

    It’s terribly frustrating because with the inventory Marriott has they could be the best program. But things have to change soon. I read many posts from people who say they are moving business to other hotel chains. I know that we recently booked Hyatts for 2 upcoming stays we originally planned for Marriott.

  3. Marriott is a source of significant frustration. My business will begin going to other properties, I was a loyal SPG member, never liked Marriott and now even less so. Does not mean they wont get any of my stays, just less than they would have considerably less.

  4. “Noise around the edges” but he might as well have said “ the dogs bark but the caravan moves on”, because that’s what he meant. His hail-fellow-well-met style has worn very thin with many members yet, even in the face of fiasco upon farce, the Marriott spin-meisters are awol, not even offering the courtesy of explanations/clarifications, let alone apologies.
    It’s all rich case-study material.

  5. It also looks like the Al Maha resort may be back sliding as well. Here are the rate details for a paid room:

    Full Board Desert Experience, that include 03 meals per person
    at the Restaurant, choice of item individually prepared for you
    from our Al a Carte Menu and 02 selected Desert Activities per
    person, for 02 Adults. 3rd person allowed at additional price
    of AED.1600/-. Children below 10 years not permitted in
    Resort. Child above 10 will pay extra person rate of AED.1600/-

    and here they are for an award room:

    For detailed information regarding property category level and
    other Redemption information please visit the property online
    at http://www.marriott.com.Thank You

    Since this is copied from http://www.marriott.com, that information is concerning to say the least.

  6. I booked 1 night at the St. Regis Bal Harbour with points and noticed a $400+ charge to my credit card soon after. After days of being transferred from one person to the next, someone in Onsite Reservations said it was a system error and removed the charge. A few days later, it was there again! Talked to more people again and someone said the manager would call me. The assistant front desk manager called, sincerely apologized, removed the charge AND my cc number so it couldn’t happen again.

  7. Not gonna lie. I’ve been no less than Silver (and usually much more) with SPG since the early aughts and I’ve held similar status with Marriott for that same time. No more.

    I’ve been Gold with Hilton since last year and I’m on track for Diamond this year. Marriott would have to do some spectacular mea culpas and promotions to get me back at this point.

    At my last Marriott check in (albeit at a Moxy), I got no recognition at all, not even “thanks for being a Gold”. My most recent Hilton check in was at a limited service property (a Home2) and I got a thank you, some extra waters, and a couple of ice cream treats (and that’s ON TOP OF my chosen 100 point bonus).

    Ugh.

  8. Actually, I think many properties understand all too well: Marriott won’t enforce the rules against them, so they can just ignore the ones they don’t like.

    Also, please note that these hidden award booking charges are also typically linked to obscene cancel policies, such as 60 days prior to arrival, for a truly brutal double-whammy. Properties are actively trying to discourage award bookings, and these anti-customer practices are spreading, as Marriott does nothing to stop them.

  9. The really sad news is that everyone is switching to Hilton which will ruin everything for us hiltonians

  10. Hilton is mediocrity defined, but at least they seem to be honest about their mediocrity…who needs a 4pm check-out or a strong suite upgrade policy when you can check in on the app and pick your room! LOL.

    I have moved all my paid stays to Hyatt personally. This after 100 Starwood nights/year x 9 years. And those are real nights, none of the old garbage ways w/Marriott you could rack up endless fake nights.

  11. I think they were planning to sweep away a bunch of cheaper redemptions by boosting Points Advance rates and when Marriott stopped that they are looking for other ways to purge out those bookings.

  12. When I read this originally at OMAAT as reported by Steph, this was the last straw. As a Titanium I am now done with any Bonvoy properties unless they start to address the rogue and Wild West of their member properties. This sneaky deposit scheme is just another example and one that, I bet, will become widespread if not addressed with back lash.

    As well, anyone notice the difficulty getting nights credited since the Bonvoy official launch? I have one 5 night stay at Kenoa in Brazil earlier this month that the hotel tells me they tried three times to submit but nothing happens. Who knows who is at fault here (a rogue property that is trying to avoid giving me what amounts to a LOT of points or Marriott systems being astray). As well the Marriott Westshore in Tampa is now 10-days and no credit and does not even show up in my past stays though the reservation was made at the website. I have submitted missing stay reports for Kenoa (and will for Tampa) and have not heard a word back from them after 5 days.

    I sent word to corporate yesterday showing them my cancellations for three upcoming stays in the next two weeks as a result. And addressed my anger at their inability to properly police their properties. Enough is enough.

  13. I’m not discounting there are shenanigans going on with “BarffVoy” but I’m not sure what Kevin is talking about with the W-Maldives. I booked a stay in November and they didn’t charge me anything. There is a mandatory $500 per person “charge” but that’s actually airfare from the airport to the island.

    Overall I have to say Hilton is looking more and more appealing everyday the Marriott keeps making their program and benefits worse and worse.

  14. Just gonna sit here and keep earning 40-60k Honors points per week on business stays. Dipped my toe pretty far into the Marriott / SPG pool but pulling it out quickly…

    But I am the crazy person. At least I have my “mediocre” suite in my mediocre Hilton each week…

  15. An actual “charge” to your credit card, or a pending charge/ hold.?Two very, very different things, Gary.
    One, an acceptable nuisance (IMHO)the other, shady. Please clarify to avoid the tempest in a tea pot….

  16. The clause is explicit: “we will charge your credit card”. I don’t think there is any confusion in that statement that it might be a hold.

  17. @miles ahead. The testimonials are not just that people have been charged. But when canceling within the parameters if the exchange is different they are losing money on the refund.

  18. I booked a 4 night stay at a category 5 hotel this past month. Two nights were “free” with rewards points. My final invoice at the end of the stay included a $130.00 “rewards redemption” fee that was NOT communicated to me in the initial booking information/estimate of charges. What the heck is that?? Sorry, Marriott, this lack of transparency is unacceptable. If you are going to charge me fees, be up front about it at the get-go. I will be cancelling my Marriott credit card once I have used my remaining points.

  19. I was just charged a “rewards redemption fee” as well. I meticulously poured over the fine print in my confirmation email long before the trip and wasn’t able to find anything that led me to believe I would be charged any “fee” for using my points. So I called the hotel to inquire further and she said it was a mistake. A $125 mistake. At least they are refunding me. Maybe from now on I will have points earned through work travel converted to miles.

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