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.