Effective April 8th: 1 in 5 Marriott Hotels Will Require More Points to Redeem a Free Night

Marriott announced upcoming changes to which hotels are assigned to different award categories effective April 8 — and it’s pretty ugly.

  • 27% of Marriott hotels are going up or down in category.
  • Of those, 22% are decreasing by one category and 78% are increasing by one category

One in five Marriott hotels are going to cost more points to redeem a free room night award.

This is after last year’s devaluation which included the creation of a new, more expensive category 9 redemption tier, and an increase in points prices for 36% of Marriott hotels (while ~ 1% went down in price).

You can find the full list of changes here.

Book award reservations no later than April 7 to get current pricing, for stays 50 weeks into the future.

One Mile at a Time notes that the Marriott announcement includes,

You can also use Cash + Points to take advantage of booking your redemption stay early.

… but that does not mean what you may think it means. At Marriott, cash and points just means you can book some nights at a hotel with points, and other nights with cash. And you can combine those nights into one reservation instead of having more than one reservation number. This is the least useful ‘cash and points’ on the planet, and given what cash and points usually means (booking a given hotel night with a combination of points and money, generally at a discount) it strikes me as disingenous of Marriott to claim to offer cash and points when they do not offer the ability to book a given award night with a combination of money and points.

So why is Marriott doing this.. again?

The short answer is because they can.

Via Calculated Risk,

In year-over-year measurements, the industry’s occupancy increased 2.1 percent to 64.0 percent. Average daily rate rose 4.8 percent to finish the week at US$114.85. Revenue per available room for the week was up 7.1 percent to finish at US$73.52.

Hotel rates and occupancy are back to trend, having fully recovered from the Great Recession of 2009.

Now, Marriott’s devaluations still aren’t quite as bad as Hilton’s.

But not every chain is treating the economy, and their need (or lack of need) to incentivize travelers the same. Starwood’s annual category changes were overall balanced (with hotels mostly going up in North America, and mostly going down in Asia). And Hyatt’s 2013 devaluation was probably the most limited in scope, even if it increased prices at a bunch of the properties that I happen to most want to redeem for.

So while this continues an industry-wide trend, it also seems that the programs which are already the least rewarding overall are the ones making changes to become even less so.

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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  1. and yet they continue to win the freddie for the program of the year….

    any thought of changing the voting or nominating methods so that the “least rewarding” programs don’t win?

  2. I honestly don’t understand Marriott Rewards. Because the benefits were so modest, I ignored it almost completely until I was “gifted” Gold Status last year as a UA 1K. Even as a “free” Gold, there’s not a heck of a lot of value in the program, at least that a typical traveler is likely to find. Does the program simply exist to trick high-paying business travelers into thinking there’s a reason to be loyal to Marriott Hotels?

    Mind you, I have nothing against Marriott hotels (well, perhaps, that they tend to be expensive and sterile, but so what?). It’s just that I don’t see why any traveler would benefit by being loyal to Marriott because of the Rewards, instead of just staying at the best hotel he/she could find for the money.

  3. @jay – There’s not going to be any attempt to game the results of the Freddies, they are a measure of what members thing. Marriott Rewards does well because their members love them. It’s not an award of expert opinion, it’s about whether members feel they’re getting good value. And though I don’t especially agree that Marriott Rewards is as good as their members seem to think, that is my opinion and there are a lot of members out there. I wish I could reach them all…

  4. Always amazes me how many people i know think Marriott Rewards is the greatest. Suckers. But that’s to Marriott’s credit that they can fool so many people.

  5. I have a Megabonus certificate good thru Jan 2015. It’s good for cat 1-5, and the locations I was intending to use it at are moving from 5 to 6. 🙁

    There is a mere 3 weeks notice of this change. And that only thru travel blogs; Marriott has not yet directly informed me of this change. I wouldn’t be surprised if they never do contact me about this devaluation of a certificate I have already qualified for. 🙁

    Two of the locations I would normally use my cert for are an airport Residence Inn, and a small town Fairfield Inn. Why these now qualify for cat 6 is beyond me.

    If they don’t raise the cats that annual fee certs qualify for Chase will soon be getting a SM from me to cancel my Marriott card. And if the cats that Bonus certs qualify for don’t go up to 6, that will be the end of my going at all out of my way to participate in their Bonus programs.

  6. Marriott wins the Freddie’s because it floods the market with a good marketing campaign

    Marriott is the best because it has the best elite late guaranteed checkout benefit
    Incredible generous breakfast
    And exceptional redemption value industry wide and they have many low cost luxury Courtyard properties to choose from
    Is my nose growing like Pinocchio?
    It also has an enormous amount of followers that are like cattle
    Or deer in the headlight members.Not the brightest bunch
    But are willing to pay a premium and get very little in return
    On the other hand? Lucky Marriott

  7. I’ve pretty much abandoned Hilton b/c of the absolutely horrid redemption rates. Those points are now used primarily for family travel.

    Marriott is now my primary chain for a few reasons. First, they have more company-preferred properties in more places than other chains. I would prefer Starwood, but the *wood options are limited.

    Second, Marriotts are seemingly ubiquitous and in most places I need them for business and personal travel, from NYC to Peoria to Grand Junction to San Diego. Can’t say the same for Starwood.

    Finally, I feel like there are more Marriott family-friendly options. I have two young kids and it’s much easier to find a Residence Inn or Springhill Suites than a suite at a decent price at a Sheraton or Four Points.

    In terms of the quality and comfort of the properties, Marriott brands generally do not compare to Starwoods, but the calculus is different for many of us. Were I single or without kids, Starwood or Hyatt would be easy winners over Marriott.

  8. Marriott wins because they have cornered the consultant/travelling business market, IMO. As they have the largest breadth of properties and the easiest method to use corporate discounts (3 letter code?!).

    I work at a company with 100 Monday-Thursday travellers out of 125 people. 90 of them are Marriott loyalists (so if a couple are, everyone else has to stay by default). They just like racking up points and using them like cash.

  9. They have some pretty plain hotels that moved into the 8 category like Courtyard Key West and the Key Largo Marriott. Courtyard should not even be a 7. I can see move up based upon more than average point redemptions there. But accumulation of pts is waste of time at this point. Poor time share buyers. Stupid is stupid does.

  10. I mostly stay at lower category Marriott (Airport type 1-3) where there is “some” value but Marriott higher end properties?.. forget about it (too many pts requirements similar to Hilton). I find values in Hyatt/IHG/Club_Carlson(Europe)/SPG more.

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