Marriott Makes It Difficult And Risky To Gift Award Nights To Family And Friends

Marriott doesn’t let you book an award for someone else on the website. You have to call, wait on hold, an hope you get an agent that knows how to do it correctly – otherwise your guest may have a problem checking in. All of a sudden your good deed will turn out to be a travel nightmare.

A reader shares,

[I c]alled up an airport Sheraton and as I have for 20 years to add a family members name to the reservation. The call centers frequently don’t add the name despite my calling… I was told this is no longer possible due to fraud and a new security layer in place where all hotels can no longer add a name unless on a revenue booking.

Followed up with Marriott Call center for more clarification they can no longer add a name either.
The call center must cancel the award booking and rebook the award res[ervaton] if you want to add a name! That means if you need to add a name and they are out award space to rebook you are out of luck!!

I talked about this issue in a longer discussion of the major things wrong with Marriott Bonvoy as part of overall challenges getting good customer service from the program, but I realize I haven’t highlighted it more on its own so many have probably missed how serious and frustrating it can be.

It’s not possible to book an award for someone else on the Marriott website. I used to make an award and then ask the Marriott twitter team to update the guest name. That was quicker and easier. However it’s no longer possible, and Marriott requires that gifted awards have the correct guest name at time the reservation is made.

You have to call, and play agent roulette. Last year I made an award reservation over the phone for my wife. The agent checked and cross-checked to make sure it was being done correctly. Still, I didn’t trust her work so I contacted the hotel directly who let me know that the reservation was made in my name, with my wife’s nowhere on it!

  • I contacted Marriott for help and was told there was nothing they could do, that I should call and make a new reservation because reservations can’t be changed after they’re made. (But that’s what I tried to do the first time, and Marriott did it wrong!)

  • I worked directly with the hotel to make sure my wife would be able to check in with our daughter. Mess with me all you want, but don’t give my wife and daughter grief checking into a hotel after a long travel day.

If Marriott wants award bookings to have the correct guest name on them at the time they are made, they should let you specify the guest name on the website. That way you don’t have to call, and you don’t risk customer service agents failing to do this correctly.

By the way another change Marriott didn’t tell anyone about is they’ve updated their rules and you can no longer give away more than 5 times in a calendar year. It doesn’t appear that they track this and prevent you from doing it. Instead you can go and gift six awards, run afoul of the rule, and if they choose to they could then close your account.

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. Marriott is just making harder for everything… Like organized crime… They let you build 10Millions points but when time comes to cash out, the points are worth NOTHING but trouble because of such issues we encounter… A gift turns into a nightmare!!

  2. Oh my god who cares.
    America = capitalism.
    Marriott = for profit.
    They need to make money.
    They are not going to do it if they are lax with what you can use points for.
    You can use points for your self when you are staying. That is eminently reasonable and good enough.

  3. The points program is actually a relic of a historic era where business decisions were made on intangible, unmeasurable conceits such as “loyalty.” Today, consumers have so many ways to figure out the lowest price and book there. What are they going to miss out on, a stale donut and expired Yoplait?

  4. Enough morons think Titanium or Ambassador “status” actually boosts their social cred, Bonvoy could be completely worthless in all but giving people these labels. We don’t even need those gimmicky plastic membership cards anymore, just allow influencers to add a digital card to Apple Wallet, and then they can Instagram it off to their mindless fanbase.

  5. Marriott owns all points, not the consumers. Marriott should terminate the points program with no notice, and wipe out all account balances. Investors will be overjoyed at the savings on the balance sheet. Consumers will still stay at Marriott because what are they going to do, start staying at Choice Hotels (LOLOLOLOLOL)

  6. Hmmm. Made a reservation using my annual free night for my daughter at the Moxy in Boston for this New Year’s Eve. Booked online, said it was for two people, called the hotel, added my daughter’s name to the reservation, no problem and even mentioned that it would be her and her SO, not me. They treated her very well, let her check in a few hours early, and even offered 4 PM checkout on New Year’s Day as a perk, and I don’t have anything other than low level status.

    I’m thinking this might be a hit or miss problem.

    FWIW, now stayed at a few Moxy’s in the US and Europe and the staff has always been excellent. They cater to a younger crowd than I am in, but their enthusiasm is always welcome.

  7. Marriott customer service is indeed lousy, but what has worked for me to get around this problem is to:

    1) make a normal award reservation on marriott.com
    2) close window and go to “My Trips” to pull up the same reservation you just made
    3) click “View/Modify”, then “Choose Room Features” (this option doesn’t show up on the initial reservation screen)
    4) under “Any Special Requests or Needs”, type in “please add (wife’s name) to reservation for separate check-in”
    5) print up a hard copy and give it to your wife to use at check-in, just in case there’s a problem (which there never has been)

  8. Hilton is the same. I wanted to make a booking for my daughter to use. From experience I knew I couldn’t do a points award in her name on the website. I called an agent (and was sent to an off-shore call center). The guy didn’t seem to know what to do. After booking I said don’t you need my daughter’s name and he said ALL points reservations can only be in the name of the account holder but he would add her as an additional guest. I told him I could have done that from the website and saved 20 minutes.

    In any event I called the hotel, explained the situation and corrected info he didn’t enter correctly. Reservation was still in my name (w her as guest). I was clear I wouldn’t be traveling and was assumed she will have no problem checking in. We will see

  9. This illustrates the reason most SPG preferred members were aghast when Marriott acquired the program. It is a downgraded program. Occasional travels that shop on price only do not care. They are not loyal and don’t care if they early check in, late check out, upgraded rooms at no charge and club lounge access.
    The programmed worked because frequent travelers had to shift their hotel choice to SPG to reach a tier that provided perks that were not available in other programs.
    The pandemic has closed all club lounges. Now it’s a cellophane wrapped mystery edible in the lobby.
    It does create an opportunity for other programs to step up their programs to attract loyal businesses travelers. If Marriott had competition they would take notice.
    I have been told to contact the hotel to add a name when a family member is arriving before me. It has not been a problem. I like the idea off adding the comment to the reservation. Keep one step ahead.
    See you in the kitchen.

  10. Hilton is the same

    Well, no. While it is true that a reservation is always in the name of the HH account’s holder as a precautionary measure to ensure that it had not been hijacked and being abused, one can add one or more guests online. At booking, select the number of guests > 1 and you will be prompted to enter their names. Whether or not you yourself are a no-show at check-in is immaterial; your named guests will not be given a hard time. To be one the safe side, you might want to call the hotel before checkout to say that you won’t be arriving and to indicate how the folio charges will be taken care of, if unclear…

  11. I have had that happen to me when I wanted to gift a points resetting my son and his girlfriend. Since it was a reservation in Europe where you have to provide copies of passports I called to add their names. The agent said that’s not how it works, that they have to open a case with the hotel and they would respond. She rebooked and opened a case. The hotel responded just as she said would. Can’t say what would have happened as the reservation was cancelled due to covid. Thus was in early December.

  12. Here’s a link to a screen capture on the HH website that shows where one is prompted to enter additional guests’ names for either a revenue or an award stay, should anyone wonder:

    https://bit.ly/3JbkQGv

  13. This is why I now take my business to Hyatt any chance I can. I was platinum in the old rewards, and I’ve been platinum or titanium in the new one since they bought up SPG. I haven’t had an issue with any stays with Hyatt since switching over and it’s been even better now that I’ve got globalist, where Marriott is always a gamble wondering if it’s going to be decent or not. I’m not even planning on requalifying for titanium or platinum this year, the first time in 6-7 years…

  14. Worth mentioning the official policy is different for credit card free nights versus points awards.

  15. Indeed, this is one area where Hilton > Marriott.

    LOL. A good start as it is more consistent with the steady diet of BonVoy’s many transgressions that you’ve served up since your beloved SPG went belly-up, while at the same time claiming that a program that was manifestly on a race to the bottom was “better” than Hilton Honors.

    Please name areas where Marriott > Hilton that are not based on your own (re)interpretation of benefits about which the best interpretation would be ‘YMMV’, at best. BTW, that is a rhetorical request… 😉

  16. Actually it’s an easy process and the hold times I’ve experienced have not been long. As long as you have the name and Bonvoy membership number of the person you’re gifting points to, it’s a fast and easy process. I have already gifted my 100k max for the year. My only complaint the max I can gift annually. It should be the members choice how we use our points. I’m at the Ambassador Elite level and stay at Marriott 20 days of each month.

  17. Hyatt is the way to go. I have stayed at Marriot’s for 1k + nights and I just started staying at Hyatts the last quarter of the year. I made globalist and stayed at an all inclusive in Jamaica for 25k points per night and no fees etc. If you have kids or a significant other Hyatt points are the new it thing. Marriot and Hilton are nothing compared to the Hyatt program. They even upgraded my free room in Jamaica to a 1,100 sq ft suite.

  18. @AC:

    @DCS is right. I always add my SO when we travel together as she submits the invoice for reimbursement from her company. This will bring her name on record. I have also listed her in the address field of my profile so it shows there all the time as well. We have never had an issue and have traveled all around Europe, Asia, and the US.

  19. “Bonvoyed” again! Race to the bottom for Marriott “loyalty” program. Raising barriers and obstacles ( similar to GOP’s recent 200+ voting barriers laws for minorities) and using sporadic fraud to punish the entire group.

  20. I book award travel for others all the time. You have the ability to change guest info during booking and it’s NEVER been an issue. How has this been such a big problem for you?

  21. @tim thank you, this is a good hack. Something I still do not understand: is it literally impossible to add a second name to the reservation when you are booking online? I cannot figure out how to do this even when I am making a paid reservation. It seems completely nuts. My wife has shown up ahead of me on a number of occasions and it is often a problem, even if I have called to add her. How do they defend making people call to do this? Gary, this seems like one of those times where you really could add value by calling media relations and asking them to explain themselves.

  22. @Big Booty
    Choice hotels are often a better choice.
    You get what you are promised. (nothing)

  23. Greatly appreciate you covering this serious issue with Marriott bookings thank you
    This is why I frequently book Hilton & IHG over anything on Marriott.Com
    They are easier and faster to book with as well as accurate
    Marriott should have two things fixed the ability to add a traveling companion with ease
    and an easy to locate section to add comments and requests
    Why is Marriott so inept?
    It’s sadly the most non hospitable non guest friendly booking process ever
    They just don’t get it sadly

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