Marriott Limits How Many Awards You Can Give Away Each Year

Marriott Bonvoy made a change to its rules, limiting the number of times you can give free night awards to friends and family using your points. They used to limit it to 20 times per year. Now they limit you to doing this just 5 times.

3.1.c. Awards are valid only for use by the individual designated on the Award and are not transferable, although, if requested at the time of issuance, an Award may be issued to a third party.

Third party transfers or transfers to non-Members are limited to five (5) Awards in a calendar year on a single Membership Account.

I’d bet a lot of members will run afoul of this without realizing it, especially since it does not appear that Marriott has any controls in place to prevent you from giving away room nights more than 5 times in a calendar year and they haven’t told members about this new rule.

Cleary this is about fraudulent accounts, or rather people brokering points. Most of the time it’s brokers who would ‘gift’ hotel stays in large quantities (like 20 at a time) quickly. But it’s hardly just brokers that will gift 5 stays in a year.

For instance, I’m not aiming to get hotel status with Marriott for my wife. If she goes to visit her parents while I’m traveling for work, or takes our daughter somewhere, I’ll gift her hotel nights. And it might be multiple reservations on a single trip.

And Marriott’s best customers – say, an Ambassador member staying 150 or 200 nights per year and spending $30,000 would earn over half a million points per year without any promotions or partner activity. And the last thing they might want is to use their points for more hotel stays. They’d gift those free nights instead. And they might do it 6 times in a year pretty easily.

Is Marriott likely to crack down on an Ambassador gifting free nights 6 times a year? Probably not. But members will be running afoul of the rule they didn’t know existed. It was put in their on purpose, so someone intends to enforce it at least some of the time. And the uncertainty makes this a bad rule.

I reached out to Marriott for a statement on this and they haven’t offered one. I will update if that changes.

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. What do you really mean by gift a stay- putting the name of a guest allowed to check in for you in the notes? I don’t think Marriott has any other way for a different guest to stay, and it is not really “gifting” is it?

  2. Easy work around – instead of calling to have the reservation in another person’s name simply book it yourself then add the person as an additional guest on your reservation so they can pick up the key. If asked just say arriving at different times. No way Marriott really knows it was only my wife instead of both of us, especially w ability to check out on the app.

    BTW @Larry – I don’t think adding an additional guest to a reservation you book in your name would qualify as “gifting” the reservation. I assume that is only if you call and have it actually booked o it in someone else’s name using your points.

  3. Sorry, I was really vague. I meant making an award booking for a friend or family member when the account holder won’t be present. For international stays the hotel will want to see both passports for a double occupancy room.

  4. Marriott becomes a good bit more dishonest, terrible, and anti-consumer each and every year. Can’t wait to see the reactions when they go full variable on redemption.

  5. I am not sure when they say this affects transfers to non-members. Does this mean that if your spouse is signed up for Bonvoy, and you transfer to her as a Bonvoy member, that the limit doesn’t apply? Obviously, people buying stays on points are not likely to be members themselves.

  6. What a terrible rule. As titanium I routinely “give” 5-10 stays to family a year, to a tune of a couple million points. While some, if its near, I’d check them in. But now, given COVID travel, I’d book them “remotely”. Maybe they should follow the ANA route and register/nominee system, but then again its Marriott, so i wont really hold my breath.

  7. @christian
    from my experience the hotels usually honor the status of the member even if not present
    sometimes I leave my name on the reservation and I call the hotel to tell them the other person is checking in earlier than myself and it always works

  8. For us ordinary Bonvoy members this shouldn’t be a problem. 5 stays a year plus the ability to gift someone 100k Bonvoy points should be enough. Especially if you are in 2 player mode so that your significant other can gift 5 stays a year plus 100k Bonvoy points.
    If someone is an ambassador member and is aware of the rule, one would hope that one could call Marriott and they’d waive the rule for them.
    If not, there’s an easy solution, use another chain.

  9. @Christian: I can’t say with certainty about Marriott but I can with Hilton, when I book a room for my SO I just add her name to the reservation at booking. Here in Europe, while they ask for passports, she just checks in and says I will arrive later and they ask for me to come to the front desk upon arrival. Of course, I don’t since I am not arriving. There is never an issue. Plus many of the Hilton’s here recognize previous stays in the system at the hotel so they don’t require the passport much of the time. I stay at the Doubletree Girona about once a month and now they don’t even ask us for passports or any of the other required information when checking in as the list of forms became a bit much during the early part of re-opening after Covid shutdowns.

  10. You can’t do this online you have to call up and ask. Online booking just make a res with your name, it doesn’t put the award in their name. They may have problems checking in, especially if it’s a non US property.

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