Marriott is Lighting Millions of Dollars on Fire and Rewards Members are Paying For It

Marriott is rebranding their loyalty program, with ‘Bonvoy’ launching February 13. There are no substantive changes whatsoever at that time.

This means rolling out a “logo and branding…across all consumer touch-points, including on property, marketing and sales channels, digital, mobile and co-brand credit cards bolstered by a multi-million-dollar global media campaign starting in late February.”

They put together a launch video that frankly I cannot make sense of but that looks expensive.

Where does the money for this come from that the loyalty program is investing to transform themselves into Bonvoy? It comes from members, and more specifically from member loyalty accounts.

Presidential Suite, Sheraton San Diego Marina

Mere weeks after the new program name launches, Marriott will begin charging more for redemptions.

  • They will be moving hotels around to different award categories in March. In each of the last 7 years that has meant your points have been worth less.

  • They are introducing a new highest tier for redemptions, and introducing peak season pricing in March. The most expensive award goes from 60,000 Marriott Rewards points per night to 100,000 Marriott Bonvoy points. The new program means point inflation right from the get go.

The money for Bonvoy is coming straight out of member account balances.

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, 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. Interesting …they promised a Platinum Premier Lifetime Membership which I would assume is the new Titanium Lifetime Level – yet NO info about this on the website…and my Ambassador hasn’t been given any info on this either – great rollout and training !
    (Still missing award suite night upgrades from 8/17/18 too…)

  2. There was a message sent to MR members this morning. I replied with my thoughts on their “fresh perspective” (which is the only upside), and received a response that their Office 365 mailbox is full.

    FYI, Office 365 defaults to 100GB mail quotas these days. They must have a lot of colorful mail in that marketing mailbox. 😉

  3. Devaluation is about to hit, and hit incredibly hard.

    Jesus Marriott is botching this. Classic example just hit yesterday–Plat Premier Elites can pick a 75 night gift and one of those gifts is a 40K free night. Up until last night the T&C clearly said those certs were good until the end of the year after being selected–and that they could be selected until mid January.

    After the selection system broke at the first of the year Marriott went in and changed the language to be year the status was earned in–2019.

    It’s just like the horrible way they handled travel certs. They are being so incredibly shitty on little things a big thing like this deval is gonna be horrible.

    I’m burning up my balance, ceasing earning, and peacing out after 2019.

  4. They HAD to keep the Marriott name in it of course 🙁
    Bonvoy on it’s own would have been ok.
    Who did they test market the names with ? I’m a long time ambassador (SPG) and even the Ambassador program had no info on this as of today.

    The names remind me of the bungled United Mileage Plus and Continental Presidents programs merging – they HAD to keep all the names of the levels which made each elite level like 5 words long!

    And what about the grandfathered higher lifetime status – no mention of this on either website nor the new Bonvoy Intro video – which shows that Marriott really doesn’t care about lifetime loyalty…..

  5. I’ve had it with all of this! They can’t even manage to get my status correct on my page. I was SPG Lifetime Plat for 5 years. In August my new Marriott page said Plat Elite. After months of phone calls, tweets and emails, it remains Plat Elite. They assure me it’s Lifetime on their end, but every hotel I check into says they only see Plat Elite. If they can’t fix THIS, I have no confidence in any new programs.

  6. Gary, I agree with you and thank you for your well respected view on this as it seems other “travel experts” are blowing this way out of proportion. Does WOH mean anything !!

  7. The title of your post is more fuel for the fire for (accurately) calling this misbegotten program “Bonfire.” I think the bigger significance is the perceived arrival of oligarchy in a big part of the global hotel business, by which I mean Marriott’s perspective that it is so big that competitive pressures don’t apply to it as much any more. Kind of like the U.S. airlines. We’ll see how that pans out.

  8. The biased onslaught against Marriott continues. Maybe they haven’t agreed to let you shill a co-branded credit card yet so you are out for them. First of all, as anyone that has been through mergers knows companies typically come up with a new name for combined programs (not so much in airline industry but common w hotels, casinos, etc.). Secondly, it is not being “funded by loyalty members”. The addition of category 8 and reclass of properties as announced well in advance and is something practically every program does on a regular basis. As someone that has traveled extensively, and been elite level, since the mid-80s I can assure you that all programs are declining value assets. The cost of flights, stays, etc. ALWAYS go up and the value of miles or points are degraded. That is a fact so not sure why so shocking outside of the agenda against Marriott.

  9. Why is anyone surprised at the following truisms that have become apparent since New Coke (reminder HT to Gary)

    1. Big companies get bored with things that work
    2. Big companies like to spend big money on questionable things that usually don’t work because of #1

    So here we have Marriott as the latest example. And then we can also look at American Airlines who is hell bent on building a GIGANTIC Apple/Microsoft/Google-esqe corporate headquarters even though they only make money selling POINTS to BANKS!

    Moving on…lol

  10. Gary,

    Given this, have you re-evaluated your valuations of Marriott points, especially in relation to Hilton and Hyatt?

  11. This makes the World of Hyatt branding seem like less of a dumpster fire. This must make them smile at Hyatt HQ in Chicago.

  12. That launch video actually probably isn’t that expensive. There were no long choreographed scenes and probably no paid actors. Animating text on the screen is cheap and flashing between 1/2 second video clips, most of which look like they could have come from random clips from a media marketing company, is something a high school student could put together.

  13. You’d think this would be a good time Hyatt (and even maybe IHG) would announce some sort of status challenge/match for thier former elites and/or general pubic at large vs. the targeted corporations they offer that challenge to now.

    I’m staying more with Hilton now, bit miss my old Diamond status with Hyatt. I’d participate with IHG in order to try some Kimpton properties

  14. My 2¢. Oh boy, Marriott is not even attempting to differentiate their brands anymore. I can better explain the difference between a St. Regis and a JW than they can. What is the difference between a Sheraton (16% of all Marriott rooms) and a Marriott? Who knows? Who cares?

    They may as well rename all their hotels Coach by Marriott, Economy Plus by Marriott, Business by Marriott and First Class by Marriott.

    As for the comment above that Marriott thinks it is too big to worry, watch Marriott’s negotiations with Expedia. Marriott’s member incentives have not moved one iota of bookings from the OTAs to Marriottdotcom. Not a great negotiating position.

    It took me over 40 award nights in Marriotts last year, but I did it: my points are gone and so am I.

  15. How stupid…. companies millions to develope name recognition and they through it all away with something stupid. This happen quite often. Just like how many times do you look at an ad and cannot determine what company it is representing.
    Go figure.

  16. I actually like the Peak/Non-Peak pricing. I have status with Marriott, but I don’t have all my eggs in that basket.

    So when I travel, if it’s in a non-peak season this offers me a better redemption option for my points. If I’m in a peak system – that’s fine, there are lots of other hotels out there as well.

    From my perspective, this is a better opportunity to game the larger system for maximum value.

    Assuming of course, that “off-Peak” isn’t a 3-day per year window and only one in 100 hotels has peak and off-peak awards…

  17. I’m only laughing at all of this because I’m a Hilton fanboy. Catch me in a year or two when I’m crying at my point devaluation

  18. You are absolutely correct Gary, it comes from member accounts — I got my bill for $750.00 for my part in the Bonvoy renaming project. What credit card should I pay for it on? Which new signup would earn you the most referral fee? I feel I owe you a lot for this great post.

  19. The deval would have occurred with or without the rebranding. The two issues are completely separate. One is not paying for the other. The only reason they would invest in the rebranding (or any other marketing initiative) is because they think they will end up making more money, presumably by appealing to a wider customer base and getting more people to sign up.

  20. I bet they had a bunch of consultant push this on them. I wish they would just focus on benefits but It’s basically switching from a loyalty to a marketing program, count me out.

  21. You’re blowing this way out of proportion. And didn’t marriott already announce which hotels would be changing category this year? All 5 of them?

    I don’t love the new rewards chart, but it has positives and negatives, and with the additional choices to pick from, there is always something to be found.

    Some of these blogs are a bit too much like cable news, too much opinion and not enough facts.

  22. I consider myself a victim of this merged non program. I did a redemption at the new peak rates although nobody can tell me when non peak is and this is considered off peak in general for the area I visited. i negotiated to pay additional for an upgrade to a suite and basically ended up in a non suite room with a shower only. Sadly, the shower drain was clogged so it did resemble a bath.

  23. @cj – “didn’t marriott already announce which hotels would be changing category this year? All 5 of them?”

    no those are the hotels that changed between the August launch of the program and the end of 2018. Another blog mis-reported that as the 2019 changes, but they were wrong.

  24. Ho hum. Anything new here? I think not. Everything (except the new name) was known months ago. Yes, devaluation sucks. Just ask HHonors fans.

  25. Yes, I’m upset with the botched IT integration and, yes, I think the new brand is ho-hum…
    But with all due respect, neither your headline not post make business sense:
    Marriott is consolidating three programs interested none. The cost savings of not maintaining three programs with separate brands, web sites, marketing materials, staff, and on and on, are probably a line item in what the acquisition proposal called “synergies”…
    This is no different than any other merger or acquisition – members are not “paying” for this, Marriott is trying to reduce cost by simplifying, common business practice…

  26. This is bad. It’s not like the World of Hyatt bad which sank WoH into the Marianna Trench but bad all the same.

    I’m going to give it a chance but I wish they had figured out the IT linkage with SPG first

  27. I wish Mariott would stop sending me emails telling me to combine my account with SPG when I did that months ago. I did it. It’s finished. Yet the emails keep arriving. The incompetence of this merger is approaching trumpian levels.

  28. One of the first claims touted in the video is “RICHER BENEFITS”. Ha, like what? Increasing the number of tiers so that fewer members can enjoy the nominal benefits of the highest tiers?

  29. The end of 2018 I have 7 years as a Gold Elite member and over 450 nights…qualifying me to become a Lifetime Gold elite member…I called to see if I am going to get my Lifetime status..They didn’t know and wrote up a case to be sent to who knows where and they will get back to me…I worked very hard to get 50 nights for 7 years in a row to get Life Time Gold Elite status u der the old program…I use to Love Marriott. NO MORE !!! And the # of points to stay 1 night in a prime location is rediculous… I give up a Timeshare for a week in Hilton Head for 100,000 pts and I can only get 1 night lodging in a prime location for that…This new reward system is taking so much away from their Loyal members..I really Hate how Marriott has taken away from me….I have 4 Timeshares and trading for points gets me hardly any stays in Hotels..Time to say Bon Voyage to Marriott…

  30. It was all so different before everything changed…

    As I’ve said, prior to the “Marriwood” merger, my hotel preferences ran SPG, Hilton, Marriott…Hyatt was last, but only due to their significantly smaller footprint. Whereas I thought that Marriott handled the “SPGers” very well prior to the first “deadline” when SPG accounts were merged into Marriott Rewards. From that point on, however, it’s been nothing but a $#|+show…not only have accounts been f***ed up, and nearly impossible to correct. I was finally able to select my Platinum benefit for 2019, but my credit card 15-night credit has yet to appear on my account…it’s been a gawd-awful experience! And even their employees —> I checked into a Marriott property last week and after I was welcomed as a return guest, I said with a half-smile on my face, “Bonvoy?” The response I received was priceless: “Really, right? If I have to wish guest ‘Bon voyage’ when they leave, I am outta here!”

    What astounds me so far is…I mean, even Coca-Cola® realized they made a mistake with New Coke®…but Marriott seems to have stopped listening to their customers, stopped reading blogs and news stories about themselves, stopped answering their Twitter feed, and are insisting on hurtling down the track at full speed despite the fact that that light at the end of the tunnel is the headlight of an oncoming train!

    Hilton, Hyatt, IGH, and Wyndham…heck, EVERY hotel chain around the world — they ALL should be holding meetings in their respective conference rooms (separately; no collusion here!) and crafting plans to sway the thousands and thousands of disaffected “Marriwood” customers to come into their fold.

  31. As a loyal SPG and Platinum Premiere (now Titanium) BonVoy sent an email with my “suite upgrade confirmed” which also showed in my app. They took the 3 nights off my account, and upon checkin at the Riveara in Palm Springs was notified that they dont upgrade. Not only that, it was a tiny small room with a view to their service corridor. My first experience using points with Marriot, and am still angry. At first thought that was their standard room, until I saw my friends’ who booked with Groupon. If the new way to reward their highest users is to downgrade…my whole company is switching back to Hilton. At least they are honest.

  32. They raised the points necessary for a stay in Switzerland. I noted that they Marriot claimed to offer a low season rate and the stay probably was in low season. To the best of my research, the property has no announced low season and recently showed 12 full months of availability, all nights at peak rate.

  33. Just tried to book a stay at their Vistana property in Orlando. 3 years ago I stayed in a two-bedroom condo-style unit for $140 and night, tax tag and title. Now a one bedroom is $259. I worked for Marriott many years ago and swore I would not stay at one of their properties since. I was surprised to learn Marriott acquired Vistana, but figured I’d follow through and get the rates and see what happens. After seeing them just about double rates and do nothing to the property that was noticeably worthwhile, it looks like my vow will stand. Still think they are a horrible company that treats employees poorly while fleecing customers. I wirked at the Evergreen in Stone Mtn. right after their takeover, and the before/after was nightmarish. Loiks like they are doing it all over again in a different way…

  34. After being almost a platinum lifetime member, I ditched Marriott after 30 years of loyalty because of Bonvoy. If there was a way I could just convince others to leave Marriott, it would make my day. Worst ever move on any corporate level. Bonvoy..age…

    The person who came up with this should be fired. I have found MUCH better treatment at Hilton. What a difference. Everyone should leave Marriott and join Hilton…or even Hyatt is better.

  35. Marriott has long been my favorite all around for value, quality and service. I feel bad for all the employees as I am sure that I am one of many jumping ship as of “Bon Voyage” I hope they sell a lot of credit cards!

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