Marriott’s Big Devaluation Postponed Until March

When Marriott announced details of their new program they introduced an award chart where at least some rooms at every one of their hotels would be available at a rewards price no higher than 60,000 points.

  • Luxury Starwood properties like the St. Regis Bora Bora, the St. Regis Maldives, Al Maha Desert Resort, and many more that used to price at 35,000 Starpoints (105,000 Marriott points) or even 90,000 Starpoints (270,000 Marriott points) per night became bookable for 60,000 Marriott points. And 5th night free applies, meaning you could book for as little as 48,000 points per night.

  • Unfortunately this also entailed less availability than Starwood had offered, but there were some riches to be had.

Al Maha Desert Resort

Marriott told us from the get go that they would offer this kind of great value only until 2019 and that next year they’d start charging up to 100,000 points for their best redemptions with the introduction of a new category 8 along with low season and high season prices.

When Marriott announced their new program they published a start date of August 1 on several pages. Then they acted as though they never said that, and pushed the launch date to August 18. Of course they really weren’t ready even then.

New category 8 pricing was generally assumed to go into effect at the start of 2019, but as far as I can tell Marriott didn’t actually tell us that.

Now they’ve shared with me, “Category 8 redemption rates go into effect in March 2019 along with the annual category changes.” Oddly, Marriott says that the start of category 8 pricing in March may not correspond to the start of peak and off-peak pricing at each category level,

We will provide updates on the timing peak / off peak as soon as possible.

Starting in March we will have less availability at top properties than Starwood offered, and similar pricing for Starwood’s top category of hotels which didn’t charge double (or triple) points for being all suite hotels.

That’s still a value at places like Al Maha Desert Resort which was normally 60,000 Starpoints (180,000 Marriott points) though frequently discounted with the ‘Paradise is Closer’ promotion to 39,000 Starpoints (117,000 Marriott points) per night.

Note that Marriott is also warning about another round of ‘annual category changes’. Universally that has meant hotel award prices getting more expensive, not cheaper.

Marriott increased the price of a huge number of hotels in early 2018 only to lower them in mid-2018. That allowed them to claim that hotel redemption prices were dropping, even though prices were largely the same as what they had been at the start of the year.

For all of the disastrous IT work with the changeover, and even changes without notice just since the new program launched, Marriott Rewards is still a better program than their biggest competitors Hilton, Accor, and IHG offer.

And most importantly lock your 2019 and early 2020 travel in before March because you’ll save as much as 40,000 points per night on some redemptions.

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. As far as “annual category changes”, is there likely to be advance notice, or will we wale up one morning to find prices already increased?

  2. What…. they already charge over 100,000 lol. Just looked st a place last night in Arizona. It’s 120,000 for one night.

  3. Marriott is a still a better program than its competitors? Says who?

    I havent booked one night with Marriott since the IT merger, and you’re talking to a 75-nighter here. They already had a devaluation in place with the decreased rewards, and they also upped a lot of pricing on the hotels… And now here comes category 8 with more point increases. Better program than its competitors my ….

  4. Heavy devaluations of hotel loyalty programs continue to lower the incentive for frequent guests/members to remain loyal to one specific hotel brand.

    I was once loyal to one hotel chain and went out of my way to stay there whenever possible, even if it meant I was paying a little more or staying in a location I did not prefer. The ancillary benefits for achieving the highest elite status was worth the extra money and the inconvenience. Then that chain gutted its loyalty program and I moved on.

    However, with frequent devaluations of various hotel chains, it won’t be long before the bigger chains will feel the competition from on-line booking sites and more so from Airbnb.

    Considering Airbnb is so successful in many cities, one would think the large hotel chains could see that loyalty only goes so far when hotels chains continue to devalue loyalty programs to make them unattractive to loyal guests.

    90,000 and 100,000 points per night – outrageous!

  5. From the SPG perspective, most of the top hotels stayed the same in price or got a little cheaper. After all, SPG Cat 7 regular rates were 30K with peak rates at 35K Starpoints, equivalent to 90 K and 105K Marriott points. Now the regular Marriott Cat 8 peak rate will be 85K and the peak Cat 8 rate will be 100K.

    So it’s not a devaluation for legacy SPG members.

    And for the legacy Marriott members who do see a small devaluation, their only alternatives are Hilton (which already is devalued even more and continues to devalue far faster than any other major program), IHG (not much to aspire to), Accor (if you travel Europe), and Hyatt (if your travel happens to overlap their tiny footprint. Good luck.

  6. @Bill

    You forget that SPG pts no longer equal to 3 Marriott pts.

    Now your AMEX SPG cards earn 2 Pts, 2 Marriott pts.

    Therefore, it should be viewed in the NEW ratio, not in the rear mirror of the Old ratio because that is already history and not the current reality.

  7. Can one borrow points from Marriott , and book hotels at the current level rather than the levels as of the new category change and peak implementation? If one does so , does the current pricing prevail, or the new category pricing prevail? How many points can one borrow from Marriott? Thank you

  8. I was with you untill the “still better…” part:
    Months after the botched merger, points still don’t post correctly, it takes three weeks (!) to get a meaningless response from CS.
    Sorry, if I can’t get points or a response from customer service in a reasonable time, the “loyalty” program is useless for me.
    Even Accors customer service and IT is better than this…
    Marriott dropped to the very bottom of my list for the next few years, despite lifetime status…

  9. This just adds to the futility of hotel group loyalty. I learned the hard way, wasting time accumulating largely useless Marriott, Hilton and (ugh) IHG points. Now, except for Hyatt, I use to book all my hotel stays. This has two advantages; a 10% return (one night free for every 10 nights – grain of salt, but IMHO the best return for booking hotels) and a view of all the hotels in a given market. In Spain the Melia chain is nice (recently stayed at the Melia Bilbao, nice room, service, food) and in Japan the Tokyu chain serves up a nice product (the Cerulean Tower is my go to in Tokyo). The value of the little red stamps at my grocery store is greater than hotel loyalty program points. As Hyatt devalues I will return to booking them via also.

  10. I see the majority of the comments on here are negative about Marriott’s program and the award levels. I’m a 35 plus year traveler who is lifetime Platinum Premier (only grandfathered in for existing lifetime Platinum or that qualify by 12/31/18), 15 year Diamond Hilton and lifetime Platinum American Airlines and lifetime Gold on Delta (around 3 million miles on each). Point is not to say I travel a lot but I have seen about everything. First of all EVERY program devalues awards. Whether it is hotels or airlines they are declining in value so it makes sense to use them as quickly as possible.

    I actually thing the combination of the Marriott and Starwood programs has benefited me since, as a lifetime top level member, I get a higher bonus than before and also suite night awards that didn’t exist under Marriott’s program.

    As for the program being better than competitors I completely agree. In my opinion, the only one that really compares (given number of hotels and options) is Hilton’s. Others are either lower end overall or more niche oriented with less range of options and locations. I have a lot of Marriott and Hilton points so it isn’t uncommon I open both websites and check award options when looking to book a free room. I have yet to find Hilton “cheaper” in number of points and it isn’t uncommon it is around double the points of Marriott. I find I earn more points on Marriott than Hilton for similar stays (only Gold Hilton now to don’t get as big a match) so this further adds to the difference in value.

    Just my opinion of course.

  11. I’m another 75 nigh Platinum that’s left Marriott behind. All my 15 nights this year were on points lol. They’ll never see my cash again.

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