No, TPG, Marriott Devaluations Aren’t Good for Members

Over the last year The Points Guy has been bringing on some great talent, people whom I much respect. I was impressed to see Nancy Trejos, formerly of USA Today, pop up with a piece yesterday on the Marriott Bonvoy program. However the content seemed to miss the mark.

What seemed most off base to me (especially for a consumer-focused site) was passing along Marriott’s narrative that the program’s massive devaluation is somehow good for members. Not only did hotel reward prices increase 9-to-1 relative to decreases, but the most expensive 60,000 point hotels in the Marriott program will be going up to as much as 100,000 points during the year, a two-thirds increase.

Marriott says – and The Points Guy site passes along uncritically – that this is great because it means fewer members will be able to afford such rooms.

Moving hotels to Category 8, the company argues, gives members more of an opportunity to redeem room nights. In essence what it is saying is when the top-tiered hotels were available for Category 7 prices, standard rooms would quickly sell out. Now, the highest-status members with more points to use won’t have to compete for rooms as much, the company says.

“Many of these properties under SPG were not included in the awards chart and offered only upgraded rooms at a high premium,” the company says. “As we introduce enhancements, such as off-peak/standard/peak pricing, it will open up more availability to our most sought-after properties to our most loyal members.”

Even if you buy that higher prices benefit members (!) it’s still not a fair comparison because when Starwood charged more points for their best properties that came along with nearly unlimited availability. Under Marriott Bonvoy properties that are all suite, all villa, or all club are permitted to create a highly restricted category of rooms for redemption (no minimum percentage of rooms available on rewards required).

What’s more Trejos cites as examples “such specialty properties such as Al Maha Resort and the St. Regis properties in Bora Bora and the Maldives” which are precisely hotels that are tough to get on points even after the introduction of category 8 pricing. Remember that the number of points Marriott charges you has no bearing on the compensation a hotel receives for an award room. Increasing points prices from 60,000 to 80,000 and ultimately to as high as 100,000 just means Marriott Bonvoy charges you more, not that the hotel gets more.

Al Maha Desert Resort

Ultimately a consumer-focused website simply cannot claim that devaluations benefit program members. Marriott ‘enhanced‘ the program, perhaps, with ‘changes you’re going to like‘.

But charging members more for reward nights doesn’t improve the program. Claiming that makes rooms easier to get posits a false choice. Marriott could make more rooms available at their most restrictive properties by compensating hotels more. Indeed, they could even pass along the price increase to hotels to help with availability. But they’re just taking more from members, and that shouldn’t be sugar coated.

I won’t begin to speculate on what motivates such a claim, instead I’d love to see The Points Guy offer a more detailed argument laying out why Marriott devaluations are good.

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. Marriott needs billions of dollars to buy off its shareholders, and it’s going to finance the share buybacks by bonvoying its customers until the customer-sheep are fleeced to the point of having bloody hides.

  2. Waiting for one night at a North Carolina Courtyard for 100,000 points per night
    But at least I will have less competition for my award room (roll eyes)
    Bon oye so so sad

  3. Agree 100%. I loved SPG. Was neutral toward Marriott. I am a Marriott platinum and currently on a Hilton Diamond challenge.
    I don’t really see the much added value in Marriott Brand any more. I have 5 nights with Marriott and 8 stays with Hilton this year. Those Hilton stays would have absolutely been in Marriotts had they not gutted the former Starwood program.

  4. My favorite bit of this is that on the post at TPG it says “Comments are now closed.” Yeah, when you read the ones there you realize why. It’s a butcher fest.

  5. Would be interesting to see how many cancel their credit cards or give loyalty elsewhere. Even with the free night stay not finding much value over the disappointment and still waiting for an email response from days ago.

  6. @Stuart At least they left the article up. After taking Richard’s article down, maybe this is an improvement? /s

  7. Gary,

    Thanks for flagging this. I know you and other travel bloggers tend to treat each other with respect. But TPG has totally gone off the reservation when it comes to Marriott. He needs to be called out on his very clear bias and willingness to pass along Marriott propaganda as if it were reporting. It’s pathetic. You really do have to wonder about the special Marriott Academy Awards deal and TPG’s motivation.

    Going forward, I think we all ought to call him TSG: “The Shill Guy”

  8. I just read the TPG post referred to ( didn’t want to but one needs to look at both sides). For every Marriott customer or reader complaint they list, they quote (copy and paste) a marriott response as if that explains it and resolves customers’ complaints. “Marriott says, Marriott says . . .” I didn’t even think parrots could use a computer let alone be employed by TPG.

  9. If you look at TPG advertising disclosure you’ll notice that Marriott is the only major hotel chain listed. Was the blog post a paid advertisement?

  10. Maybe at of the people that whine about Marriott are former SPG members. In the words of Obama “elections have consequences” and so do corporate acquisitions. Marriott bought SPG and can change the program as they see fit. I’m former Marriott lifetime platinum (now lifetime Titanium) and my benefits have increased. As for point devaluation- that happens ALL the time for both airlines and hotels. Whine all you want but it won’t change. It is a business and they rightly adjust their award levels periodically. And for those that day they will leave – every program has pluses and minuses and ALL of they eventually devalue point or take away benefits. Get over yourselves. I’ve been traveling heavily since mid 80s and am realistic to not whine about every little slight (don’t even get me started on those that complain about not getting a breakfast).

  11. I’m glad you posted this Gary. A lot of “commenters” on your site give you a lot of flack for supporting certain CCs and:or FF programs, but I actually agree with 80-90% of your assessments. Sure you’re msking money on some of the postings that are advertised and maybe some of them are geared towards earning you more affiliate credits, etc. that being said it’s nothing to the degree that “TPG” aka “The Points Guy” takes it to which is quite honestly disgusting and deceiving to the majority of the readers that frequent his/their site or blog site I should say really. Most of their “content” or “reporting” if you can even call it that is frankly just flufff and most borderlines on either useless content or affiliate posts with the intent of TPG and it’s employees receive afffiliate commissions on posts that supporting a certain FF program or the like. There was this new “profile” from the WSJ entitled “the Nee Credit card kingmaker” and I’m sorry, but it made me sick just to read the headline; I didn’t bother to read the bs Gaga piece on him and his “business.” To me what he’s done, and to a degree I respect that he’s managed to accomplish what he has and take it his blog or site whatever you want to call it to the stage it’s at today, I’m sorry, but I just see TPG, some of his writers (because some
    Do have some rather intriguing and interesting reviews that are not misleading their readers by giving a company a 5+ when maybe it deserves a 3+) as just milking this new “industry” along with the + banks/CCs + and airlines/hotel programs that continue devaluing and making their FF less “loyalty driven” and more “revenue drive.” I blame “bloggers” like TPG and quite frankly consider him to just be another “influencer” that has in recent years distorted the reality of things for consumers and in his effort to be a “consumer/first” blog he’s just made thousands, of nit millions, eith this new “influencer” mentality that a lot of new entrepreneurs and writers are falling into. Very sad and disgusting quite frankly because as you mentioned in your post a site/blog that should be about consumers first “misleads” it’s own audience by making them believe they need to get “this new credit card or points or miles” to get them to their dream/bucket list destination, it’s sad and sickening to the say the least, but a perfect expose and analysis of the current times we are living where certain. “Influencers” claim to know “everything” and Thus people who don’t know any bettter fall for the traps. I actually respect your blog despite the negative comments here and there among the top 3-5 because you do have great analysis 80-100% of the time which is the point of all this. Not just so a select few “bloggers that have attained ‘influencer” status if you will call. Feel the need to share their “edited positive reviews” because that’s how they make their money, sad, but the wolrd we live I. These days. And just to clarify I’m not talking negatively about all the writers/editors/.emloyees st TPG because some do offer good needs and ansysus, but the majority of it just seems fake and it that’s it all $-driven. Shocker right?! Ha in these days shouldn’t be,

    Mark my words: I think one of the principal drivers of the next recession will be consumer credit debt. I’ve been in the points/miles games for 29+ years and never was it like this before where you had AMEX, Chase, Citi paging millions to the FF programs to keep their business exclusively, the landscape had changed and we all know now most FF programs are revenue based which I can actually understand having worked in travel management, that said it’s sad that most airlines and hotel companies are devaluing their programs so much that u think it’s now starting to defrost the purpose of remaining loyal to one airline or hotel chain. Plus I reiterate because the banks/CCs.
    Companies haven’t learned their lessons from the 2007 recession they’ve turned to CC and points! And I think this will me one of the major drivers if the uocming recession/ you had so many blogs like TPG and others pushing CCs like candy just so they earn their afficilaite commission they don’t seem they think ir care about the consequences they may be contributing to – consumers applying and applying for credit and more credit so they can have the travel “experience” they’ve been waiting in and befor they know it they’re $5-10k In the hole for one trip. Sure no statistics on this’s day I’m just sharing anecdotally, but I really believe consumer credit card mainly perpetuated by bannks and their insanely amount of different CCs will be one of the main drivers of the next recession, I may be wrong I g
    Hope I’m wrong, but “Influencers” like TPG are taking advantage And t
    Raking it and I guess we’
    Well can’t.blame them/it’s this new world we live I. Where “influencers@ get paid exorbitant amounts of $ to not offer credible advice.kudos to them i guess just as long as its not for fraudulent reasons like the college admissions scandals, like the “fyre music festival” scam, Elizabeth Holmes/Theranos and on and on…sad, but realistic times we live I. Hope you keep up the great coverage and at least advise users when one of your posts is a sponsored post just so you don’t become like TPG.

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