When Marriott first announced their new program they told us they’d be adding a new highest redemption category 8 and also adding peak and off peak pricing for 2019. They put off category 8 until March but postponed peak and off peak pricing even further.
They’ve been silent on when to expect it until now, giving us a month’s notice before the new top redemption price could go as high as 100,000 points per night. Effective September 14th they’re making some other changes to the program as well.
Peak and Off-Peak Pricing Go Into Effect September 14
Marriott is rolling out peak and off peak pricing to each of their award categories starting September 14, so we have nearly a month’s notice to book awards at the most desirable times at current prices.
Here’s the new Marriott reward chart effective September 14:
Marriott tells me that this will affect all properties, and that any property which has a peak season will also have off peak dates and vice versa.
Peak and Off Peak Dates Will Be Balanced
When Marriott first announced the new program Senior Vice President David Flueck told me, “We’ll make sure there’s a lot of equity in a market, in general roughly the same number of peak nights as off peak nights.”
They say that’s still true.. although there’s a qualifier. There will be more standard pricing dates than peak and off peak dates, with a fairly even distribution of peak and off peak, however that will only hold across the Marriott hotel portfolio as a whole and not necessarily for each individual property.
Marriott Will Adjust Peak and Off-Peak Dates Monthly
The old Starwood program had peak dates for its upper-tier redemption hotels. Each hotel designated those each year. In contrast Marriott will be the one to designate high and low tier dates for each property. This affects how many points they charge you, the member, for an award stay not their reimbursement of hotels.
Marriott will be updating peak and off peak dates around once per month. They aren’t setting dates for the year and leaving them alone. That way hotels that are selling out on a given date, where Marriott would have to reimburse a property more for an award, can be moved to peak and require more points. As a result when you check the redemption cost for a hotel stay, and come back at a later date to book it, the price may change even though the same standard rooms are available.
Re-pricing Awards Booked Now After September 14
If you have a standard room redemption made prior to September 14, and it’s available at off-peak pricing once that goes live, you’ll need to cancel and rebook to get the lower price (and cancellation rules of your reservation apply). There’s no published list of peak and off-peak dates, and those dates will change, so it’s not a matter of ‘getting an existing reservation re-priced’.
Marriott has created a video with a very friendly person explaining how great this all is.
New Limits on Points Advance Bookings
One of the most generous features of the Marriott program has been points advance. You’ve been able to lock in an award, at current price, even without points in your account. When hotel redemptions are going to get more expensive members will start making bookings they think they need in order to lock in the option of a stay at a lower price.
This feature has been too generous because some members would make dozens of speculative bookings, often for one night at a time, figuring that they might need a stay of several nights at some point during the coming year without any idea what nights. Marriott is cracking down on this practice.
- Points advance locks in the room not the rate. Effective September 14 pricing that will apply to points advance bookings will be the current price at the time the member actually redeems points to cover the reservation. This will no longer be a way to lock in current pricing on the if-come. And with high season dates, which can change each month, the price of the room may vary up until the time of redemption.
Marriott tells me that for reservations made prior to September 14 they will honor up to 5 points advance bookings at the standard rate even if those reservations fall on a peak date.
- Maximum of 3 Points Advance bookings at a time Marriott will be updating their terms to limit members to three points advance bookings at a time. Expect to hear from Marriott if you make a bunch of points advance reservations.
A new video explains points advance without reference to any of the shenanigans by members that have led to these new restrictions.
New Cash Amounts for Cash & Points Redemptions
Marriott has updated the cash and points chart to go along with peak and off peak pricing.
In the category of gee, I have a belly button! Marriott has created a video to explain cash and points.
Change to How 5th Night Free Prices Work
Instead of receiving “fifth night free” on an award stay, since the price of some reward nights in your booking may vary with peak and off peak, they’re going to give you the least expensive night of your 5 night stay free.
It seems like at least taking off the average would be more reasonable. This is a cost cutting measure and ensures that you don’t get a ‘windfall’ by timing your stay so that the 5th night is in peak while you pay for off peak nights.
They call this “Stay for 5, Pay for 4” and it replaces “5th Night Free.”
Changes Focus on Limiting Marriott Bonvoy Program Costs
Marriott’s new program launched with an award chart devaluation straight out of the gate. Exiting Marriott Rewards balances became worth less August 1, 2018.
We got a few months where 60,000 points was the most expensive reward in the program, presumably so that members could feel like they were getting great value out of the merged Marriott-Starwood loyalty offering. Then they introduced new category 8 on March 5 where the most expensive price was 85,000 points per night.
At that time Marriott also adjusted hotels within categories, with increases outnumbering decreases 9-to-1. I showed that increases outnumbered decreases in the Marriott program in the seven prior years as well.
Since program launch we’ve also been told to expect high and low season pricing. In just over a year’s time the most expensive (non-Ritz-Carlton) Marriott hotel at category 9 can go from 45,000 points per night to 100,000 points per night.
Marriott’s CEO Arne Sorenson promoted the new Bonvoy program saving costs to hotels. Raising award prices is about saving costs for the program.
The great thing in the past with award categories (thankfully still offered by Hyatt) is that there was a single redemption price for the year and you could get great value for your points when rates were high. High season pricing limits the ability to do that, limits your upside with the program.
What’s more revisiting what dates are considered high season every month allows the program to ensure that when hotels appear to be likely to sell out (so they’d have to pay hotels more for a stay) they can raise the redemption price. This isn’t dynamic pricing or revenue-based redemption, but it’s a clear shift in that direction. Marriott is working to ensure that rooms that cost them more cost you more too.
I remember when Marriott’s CEO said he didn’t believe in devaluations..!