Big Marriott Changes: Status And Benefits Extensions, Dropping Award Charts

Marriott is extending elite status again, extending free night and suite upgrade certificates, further pausing points expiration and making free night certificates easier to use. And they’re getting rid of award charts, moving to a more revenue-based redemption system starting in March.

Extending Points, Certs, Status And Upgrades

Following Hilton’s announcement last month, Marriott is extending elite status again, continuing the pause on expiration of points, and extending the validity of free night certificates. They are also extending suite night awards that Platinum and Titaniums can select as choice benefits.

Unlike Hilton they are not rolling over elite nights earned in 2021, and they are not announcing reduced qualification rules for 2022. They want members back on the elite treadmill just as quickly as possible next year, though I spoke with David Flueck, Marriott’s Senior Vice President of Global Loyalty about these moves and he hinted we’d see offers to accelerate elite requalification next year, and that they are “certainly be thinking about how our members have lots of great offers” for status in 2022.

  • Status extension. 2021 elite status will be extended for 2022 (meaning that it will expire at the end of February 2023). That’s true whether status was earned in 2019 for 2020, or earned in 2020 for 2021. Members who earned a higher level of status in 2021, of course, will keep that status. With all of the offers this year, for instance, I’ll be Titanium (75 nights) next year rather than Platinum (50 nights).

  • Pause on points expiration has been extended again, through December 31, 2022. So anyone that hasn’t had activity in their account during the pandemic just needs some before the end of next year to keep their points.

  • Suite Night Award extension. Suite Night Awards that expire at the end of 2021 will be extended for six months through June 30, 2022. Expiration dates will update in December.

  • Free night award extension. Any free nights expiring before June 30, 2022 are being extended to June 30, 2022. I have three American Express free nights (a 35,000 point night and two 50,000 nights) that are expiring in the first few days of January, and this will give me an extra six months to use them.

  • Travel package certificates extended. Update: these are being extended until June 30, 2022 as well.

  • Free night awards become more flexible. One of the big frustrations is hotels that price just out of reach of a free night award because of peak season, for instance a hotel pricing at 40,000 points the day you want to use a certificate valid for stays up to 35,000 points. Starting early next year Marriott is going to start allowing members to “top off” free night awards, up to 15,000 points.

    In this way free night awards valid on stays up to 35,000 points can be used (with additional points) on 50,000 point hotel nights, and free night awards valid on stays up to 50,000 points can be used (with additional points) on 65,000 point hotel nights.

    This change applies only to redemptions for base rooms. It doesn’t let you spend extra points on a free night certificate redemption for a premium room, or for cash and points. And it doesn’t make the free night awards go farther – in fact I’m betting that on the whole redemption changes make them less valuable. But the flexibility to top off is going to make these nights, generally earned via Marriott co-brand credit cards, easier to use.

When we’ve seen some other programs extend elite status, they’ve done things to recognize customers who earned and re-earned status through stays and flights in 2021. As I wrote last month, loyalty programs need to do more for people who qualify ‘the real way’. After all, if a member stayed loyal to make sure they kept their status, they feel a bit cheated when they find out later all the effort was unnecessary.

So while status extensions will be a relief for some – and no doubt Marriott sees that even with the promotions and offers they’ve made this year, they’re still not maintaining their elite ranks – it’s going to lead to consternation by another pool of customers as well.

Eliminating Award Charts

Marriott is dropping award charts in March 2022, and promising redemption prices that, in David Flueck’s words, “more closely resemble hotel rates.” That revenue-based redemption approach naturally leads a member to wonder what value their points will have against the price of the room. He wouldn’t say, but did offer that he doesn’t “expect the value [of a point] to change.”

David told me we would see,

  • More price points than before. It will no longer be just 8 hotel categories with off-peak, standard, and peak rates.

  • Most hotels won’t fundamentally change price in 2022. What this looks like is that while the category chart goes away “97% of hotels will still range between off-peak and peak through 2022” in other words most hotels aren’t going to change price by orders of magnitude. That’s a promise for only one year, and only about the points range and not about average redemption prices.

    For stays starting in 2023 Marriott will “adjust rates based more closely on hotel rates.” I expect this won’t mean things are… better.

  • More rooms will be available for redemption. Flueck confirmed that the minimum number of rooms a hotel has to provide to the program isn’t changing, so this must be accomplished by raising the price Marriott will pay properties for rooms in some fashion. I’ll have to wait until a hotel shares an updated program guide to see the updated economics here. (Marriott used to pay properties based on the number of redemption nights per year, the more rooms they offered the more a property got paid on all those nights.)

    There should also be “more premium rooms available for redemption,” and the Bonvoy program is “working hard with owners to ensure” this. The pricing structure for premium rooms (as an add-on to the base redemption price) won’t change.

  • More rapid price adjustments. No more categories means no more annual category adjustments. Currently dates at hotels move between off-peak, standard, and peak on average monthly. Moving forward we’ll see pricing changes happen more regularly than just once a month, though we’ll see changes in smaller increments than a category adjustment would have meant.

  • 3% of hotels will see big changes right away. Flueck described hotels that have seen significant recovery, higher average daily rates” will be the ones going up – where there’s outsized value in redemption prices relative to room rates. This is “not necessarily the most expensive” hotels, which I take to mean it’s hotels that are operating at close to capacity and where Marriott finds itself paying out override rates for rooms (actual average daily rates instead of discounted redemption rates) often along with pulling in higher than expected room rates.

Making more rooms available for redemption at average value isn’t something that’s going to be good for members. Eliminating the transparency of an award chart, and changing redemption prices more frequently, isn’t something that’s going to be good for members.

The fundamental proposition of points is the possibility of getting outsized value for redemptions.

  • Hotel chains can buy inventory cheaper than guests. That’s doubly true for excess inventory.

  • But guests value the stay at what they’d have paid for it. So the chain can deliver rooms at a discount to members redeeming their points.

  • With fixed or award chart pricing, it makes sense to spend cash when a room is cheap and redeem points when the room is expensive – in other words, getting more value for points.

  • But tying redemption prices to cash means always getting average value, and taking the possibility of outsized value off the table. There’s no more leverage in collecting points, and they’re no longer about making dream stays possible.

Revenue-based redemptions make collecting points more like a punch card, with guests earning a straight rebate on their hotel spend or card spend. And who would accept earning 2 points per dollar on a Marriott co-brand if each point is just going to get you $0.006 apiece? That’s a 1.2% rebate card, which is hardly competitive in today’s marketplace.

David Flueck says that this change isn’t something members should “like more or less” rather “more rational pricing benefits everyone.” And he says that “more rational pricing will have more great values for our members.”

His counter to the way I’m thinking about this is that there are times when a category 7 hotel has a lower price than the room rates category 6 hotels are charging, and the current model doesn’t have Bonvoy lowering its redemption prices accordingly. Members can expect to pay fewer points when hotels are cheap. That would have helped during the pandemic, when Bonvoy was charging peak season prices even when hotels were empty.

Going forward Flueck offered that in-hotel experiences were frustrating “during the pandemic” but that they’re “working hard with our properties to improve there” and Marriott has “hired over 30,000 new associates in our [managed hotel] properties over this year. …Longer term we’re going to be working with properties to consistently deliver benefits earned” and will be “investing in the Ambassador program specifically going into 2022, to improve the overall experience of our best members.”

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. Free night award extension: “Any free nights expiring before June 30, 2022 are being extended to June 30, 2022” – please clarify!

  2. Thanks for the update Gary and good analysis (especially on the “punch card” aspect of the new redemption model).

    I think the reason Marriott can get away with it is most people don’t think about points as aspirational. I can’t tell you how many times in the era of airline award charts someone touted to me that they redeemed 25k points for a flight from NYC to Chicago.

  3. @Thomas – checking – i assume since they weren’t mentioned, they aren’t, but will find out

    UPDATE: yes travel package certificates are being extended to 6/30/22 as well

  4. I just emailed a complaint to David Flueck at david.flueck@marriott.com

    1) Extending status for people who haven’t stayed at a hotel since March 2020 does nothing for customers who have legitimately stayed throughout the pandemic
    2) You still haven’t fixed guaranteed benefits like breakfast
    3) Getting rid of the categories for points isn’t just a complete devaluation of the program, it’s a completely new program. This will make my points effectively worthless.

  5. Make no mistake. This is 100% about keeping the owners happy. Marriott’s customers are not the guests. Marriott’s customers are the owners. The guests are merely the product that Marriott sells.

    This effectively guts the program. It’s like going to Sky Miles and Delta pay with miles.

  6. As everyone expects, Marriott is bending even more to hotel owners because they are real customers of their franchise company. Personally, I expect to see sky high redemption pricing like non-standard Hilton rates. While extending expiring certificates is nice, those will become even less valuable very soon. I will try burning more of my points and switch even more of my stays to Hyatt.
    I agree with Gary that Bonvoy failed to recognize customers who stayed through the pandemic. I am life time Titanium with 77 nights this year (O.K., out of which 38 were “credits” from the previous year status and 15 from having Amex CC; so it is 24 real nights). With these changes I do not see many of my paid stays with Bonvoy in the future.

  7. I personally think Marriott will do exceptionally well in terms of offering credit card benefits in years to come. Citi and other credit card companies will allegedly struggled to catch up to Marriott and Hilton’s credit card offers for a very long time.

  8. Everyone on here is only worried about what they can get and don’t think about the business factors. These type of changes aren’t made without a lot of modeling to ensure they are net positive to the enterprise. They are in business and their first consideration is shareholders and franchisees with guest coming behind them. Sorry but that is the truth.

    As for the change I am OK w it. BTW lifetime Titanium, Hilton Diamond and lifetime elite on DL and AA w over 35 years of heavy travel so I am both impacted and in a better position to speak than many of you.

    SW and Delta has basically gone to a revenue model and Amtrak definitely does (BTW 3% per point using Amtrak points to book a sleeper is one of best values out there). Hyatt is changing their program and Hilton has largely gone to dynamic pricing so, for those saying they won’t stay at Marriott due to this, you really don’t have many options and I expect other programs to quickly follow.

    BTW Gary points still have value. You earn them for paid stays (and promotional bonuses) they use them instead of paying cash. Not sure why you think this neuters the program. Frankly I have been hard pressed to find value above about .8 cent anyway so welcome a consistent revenue based approach

  9. As for dynamic pricing of awards if Homes & Villas by Marriott is any indication Marriott will price awards at $0.006/point based on the cash price of the stay. That’s how it works on the homes & Villas site for the Florida properties I’ve reserved in the past.

  10. So are all the bloggers who sell credit cards going to stop referring business to Marriott? That’s the only way to get them to reverse this. How is anyone just starting now ever supposed to get enough points for a stay in the Maldives or a honeymoon in Hawaii or Paris? You’re never going to get enough points under dynamic pricing, especially if there is no award chart. Moreover, how equitable is this? What’s to say you pay 300,000 points for one night because you booked when rates were high but I paid 150,000 points because rates dropped and the hotel wanted to fill rooms?

  11. If they had made this announcement just a few hours earlier we could have saved three SNA’s we’re essentially burning for a better view. We thought they were expiring so it was now or never. Now we’d have to have pay a cancellation fee so it’s not worth it to save them.

  12. And still the only major program with no way to advance tiers based on revenue. I can earn top tier status with the competition by paying for premium rooms on less nights and that’s what I have done . I would think the property owners would be very happy to sell premium rooms rather than use them for upgrades . Sooo happy I made the switch away from Marriott .

  13. Marriott could have used this major change as an excuse to fix known issues with Bonvoy, like the elite status breakfast benefit or the relatively worthless $10 F&B credit at certain brands. But that would have required increasing the costs incurred by the owners of individual properties. Marriott didn’t do that. All Marriott did was flood the ranks of elite status in 2022 by extending status for some customers who haven’t been a guest at a hotel since March 2020.

    I also think the real story here is the complete failure of David Flueck’s Bonvoy. If you ignore the pandemic, Bonvoy has only existed for one full year. In that time we saw at least three rounds of category changes; dynamic, peak/off-peak pricing; and now the elimination of the award chart. What changes does Marriott make in 2023? This is not heading in the right direction.

    I don’t trust David Flueck for a second. Pretty much everything he promised or forecast when Marriott Rewards, Ritz-Carlton Rewards and SPG merged and, then, later Bonvoy launched, has either never happened or was abandoned. He has very little creditability.

  14. Marriott won’t be the last to devalue. Expect other hotel and airline loyalty programs to follow. A lot of members accumulated a ton of miles during the pandemic and are now sitting on a pile. These companies are aware and don’t want to make it beneficial to their most loyal customers. Instead, they make it harder or more expensive to redeem.

  15. @ Gary in response to Per – I think the question is, when will the certificates be updated to reflect the 6/30/22 expiration.

    Also, I don’t see anything w/r/t new travel packages. How is the pricing on those gonna change?

  16. @JoeSchmo – certs will be updated to reflect the new expiry in December. Great question about future travel package pricing I have inquired

  17. I understand these changes Marriott
    You can’t really blame them at all
    They have some amazing properties that are worth staying at

  18. @AC Go suck an egg with your suck up to Marriott and your irrelevant “look at me I’m I’m soo special with all my status” post (of which many here, including myself have as well). A business can choose to devalue but it doesn’t make it right when you are selling products (e.g. CC award certs) and then devaluing the product afterwards.

    On another note, this is another case of a new CEO trying to drive incremental revenue through any means possible. Not like Bonvoy customers have any real choice. We’ll just have to suck it up. Hilton’s program is meh and Hyatt doesn’t have the footprint. Don’t get me started on IHG….

  19. David, you should know that changes like this further push your historically loyal members away. It may seem like a good short-term move to appease the property owners, but Marriott as a company will lose frequent travelers in the end. I sense that you don’t care though, so F(orget) it. Each year there is less and less motivation for me to allocate my business and personal travel to Bonvoy properties. You’re losing to HYATT, bigtime!!

  20. As much as I like your concept of loyalty, i think it’s naive to believe that a public company is going to give customers outsized value over the long term. You might get outsized value from a particular property but at a hotel owned by a RIET and managed by a big management company, forget it.

    Right now hotel executives have their head in the sand believing that business travel will come roaring back by 2024. If it doesn’t, there might be a few years of outsized redemptions while the market adjusts. Or, if Marriott guests suddenly decide that a Choice property will meet their needs, which I doubt.

    But overall, public companies don’t have the luxury of sacrificing quarterly profit to build long-term loyalty. Especially when they are an oligopoly/monopoly like the airlines.

  21. Like a lot of other travel enthusiasts and business travelers, there are only two things I personally care about when looking at hotel “loyalty:” 1) Ability to use points earned from business travel on aspirational vacation stays, and 2) Perks that make my business trips a bit more pleasant. Marriott is getting worse at both. Wiping out categories and going to “revenue-based redemptions” makes redemptions at the premiere properties impossible at desirable times. Adding hated resort fees to these redemptions unlike Hilton and Hyatt makes a bad deal even worse. As far as perks– my Platinum status has “entitled” me to a few $10 breakfast coupons to cover coffee and a piece of fruit. I will say they’ve been consistent as I’ve traveled this past year: Consistently closing lounges, consistently denying my late checkout requests, and consistently having no suite night availability. If there’s one upside to putting me on the same level as people who haven’t set foot in a hotel since March 2020, it’s this: I have another year to try Hilton and Hyatt programs without losing what little I have with Marriott.

  22. Think you kind of buried the lede here. This guts the Marriott program. I don’t see how anyone will redeem for Cat 6 and above properties anymore.

  23. @Reader “How is anyone just starting now ever supposed to get enough points for a stay in the Maldives or a honeymoon in Hawaii or Paris?”

    bahahaha what the hell outsized expectations do people have for rewards programs?

  24. Following up on future pricing of travel package stay certificates… Marriott isn’t saying. Here’s what they provide:

    “We will be communicating additional details as they become available and we get closer to March 2022 about travel packages and certs like that which are tied to the award chart.”

  25. @PJ, you’ll see. Frequent travelers (i.e. big spenders) will continue to exit for other programs. Marriott will then need to further devalue Bonvoy to cover increasing customer acquisition costs, which will further exacerbate the issue. Hyatt has somehow managed to maintain both award value and perks, so they get all of my business, and everyone else’s who travels with me or takes my advice. Bonvoy perks have already been evaporating. Eliminating award charts is the nail in the coffin.

  26. “what the hell outsized expectations do people have for rewards programs?”

    Gee, I wonder who helps create those expectations? Maybe Marriott should replace those Maldives photos on the Bonvoy website that accompany slogans like “Earn Your Way to Amazing” with pics of the Des Moines Residence Inn. Ditto for blogs with “helpful” articles with titles like “Ten Things I Love About the Latest Marriott Credit Card.”

    The prospect of aspirational rewards is what attracts many people to loyalty programs. When those rewards become unattainable, the program is devalued to the point of bait and switch.

  27. AC: “Everyone on here is only worried about what they can get”

    Uh, yeah … this is a points and miles blog.

  28. @BB, You beat me to it with @AC. I’m surprised that he didn’t also throw in his Seven Stars Caesar status that he always used to do. He hadn’t bragged in a while, things must be getting back to normal.

  29. As always, thanks Gary. Time to burn a few hundred k Bonvoy points and switch my CCs to something that’s useful.

  30. Well, this validates my decision to ditch Marriott earlier this year, including closing the Amex Bonvoy. Hyatt, Hilton and VRBO not affiliated with Marriott will be where we spend. They don’t value “guests”.

  31. I’m an ambassador and lifetime Titanium who uses my Chase Marriott credit card as my primary card and my wife uses her AMEX Marriott card as her primary. For the second time, we will have two rooms at Bahia Beach at Christmas time. All our vacations have been five or ten nights for years to take advantage of great redemption values and the “free night”. Although we have to pay $200 a night for the four of us -per day- in resort fees we still feel fortunate.

    If the points redemption is tied to the cost of the room, obviously we cancel the cards, but given I have been able to use one of the forty suite rewards nights I’ve gotten over the years, the lack of room upgrades when rooms are onsale at the moment I check in, etc I would only stay at a Marriott if it was the least expensive and if I wanted free breakfast (where applicable) which likely moves about 80 nights per year to the competition along with our card spend.

  32. Will you be able to add points to the 50,000 k certificates to upgrade those? That would be interesting

  33. Yes. You can add 15k of the ever increasingly worthless points to the ever increaingly worthless certificates. Prediction, “decent” properties you would like to stay at well never price less than 51k points and “good” properties you want to stay at will never price less than 66k. Marriott, I’d be happy if you prove me wrong.

  34. When does the points top off come into effect? Seems useful but I’m sure rates will go up to make it less so.

  35. @Gary – When does the ability to augment those certs go into effect? I was seriously considering the Amex biz card with the 125k signup bonus and two 50k FNA certs, but this is giving me pause.

    In other news, I guess I should be excited that my not-so-valuable anymore Ambassador status gets extended even though I’ve shifted most of my business to Hyatt.

  36. I, too, sent an email to Mr. Flueck at Marriott expressing my strong sense of foolishness for working to maintain my Titanium status for both 2020 and 2021 without relying on “gifted” night credits. I know these are unprecedented times but the unavoidable fact that I am valued no differently than someone who hasn’t set foot in a Marriott property in almost two years is a bitter pill to swallow. And they also get credit towards lifetime status? Count me among the deeply disillusioned.

  37. I have a Marriott credit card that gets very little attention. For goodness sake, get a Chase card. Those points can be transferred to multiple airline and hotel partners. If you love Marriott that much, you can transfer points to them. I find that on a cents per mile redemption, Hyatt is much better than Marriott. Chicago is a good example of this, and members get a free hot breakfast at Hyatt Place And Hyatt House properties.

  38. I wonder if the dynamic revenue-based redemption system that is supposed to start in March is actually being tested now? I’ve had to be in Menomonee Falls on a night by night basis since Saturday. The cost has been $136/nt or 17,500 miles. Just booked another night tonight and while the cash price has stayed the same, the points price jumped to 20,000. Hard to believe a Tuesday in early November is considered a peak travel period.

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