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. Even though you won’t begin to speculate on what motivates such a claim, we all know what it is. It’s the same reason everyone recommends the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

  2. “Won’t have to compete” because it’s worse for most people.
    Of course, they didn’t promise more availability to be allocated to awards! They just raise prices for the sake of availability.

    Most comical sugar coating of a devaluation from Marriott, or anyone, I’ve seen.

  3. One cannot take anything that site says about Marriott now at face value, given that Marriott seems to have bought TPG’s loyalty. He sold out his credibility for an Oscars trip. It’s not coming back.

  4. The TPG article is a “puff” article. Nothing groundbreaking and certainly missing the Point(s)!

  5. I’ve given up on TPG. It’s no longer a site where real reviews are done and real people express their views in articles (the Arne’s out to lunch being example #1). It’s focused on the hotels and airlines and their views, not what you and I care about

  6. She must be related to Kelly Anne Conway. Her use of spin is unbelievable! TPG’s level of candor was always questionable.

  7. The real Bonvoy losers (as with the Hyatt overhaul to WOH) are the mid-tier elites who don’t earn points as fast as the top dogs. Qualification is arguably difficult and Gold benefits were gutted (not that SPG ever had much). The temporary discount on Cat 8 properties helped to soften the sting, but I expect Marriott will see significant attrition of midlevel elites particularly as Hilton Gold still offers breakfast (and is still easy to earn without stays). Amex is already feeling the heat from the deval as demonstrated by the recent bonus offer for 25k spend.

    The real question is will Marriott lose enough revenue to cause it to throw a few more bones to elites? I doubt it but we’ll see.

  8. Brutus is exactly right unfortunately. It’s very obvious when Chase wants their Chase Sapphire Preferred card pushed because all of the large blogs that get revenue from Chase all “coincidentally” have CSP content the same day extolling the virtues of the card.

    Marriott is the 800 pound gorilla in the hotel space and they obviously have connections to certain bloggers to push the Marriott narrative. I enjoy some of the articles on TPG but it been a while since I have thought of them as truly a “consumer advocate” type of travel site.

  9. I just wanted to slap this ridiculous claim (deval is good for you) back to Marriott’s decision makers when they get charged 90% in their tax bracket.

  10. I took a look at some of her columns for USA Today. I noticed a couple of puff pieces on Marriott in which she merely relayed the company line. She doesn’t strike me as a writer who will provide any independent analysis.

  11. TPG is a full-on shill site, especially since Bankrate bought them. They made money selling ads and pushing referrals. They can’t afford to have that gravy train end so they won’t upset the Brands(tm).

  12. I think the author is spinning alternative facts like others who live in Washington DC near the Marriott headquarters.

  13. Outrageous. What’s next, bloggers writing how an unsafe plane should not be grounded because the average accident rate for road transport is higher than the average accident rate for air transport?

  14. I spent 20+ minutes talking with Nancy about everything that is going wrong with the new Bonvoy program. That turned into two quotes in a long article. One was mentioned in passing and the second was only half of my quote, spun in a positive way.

    I expressed my displeasure to the author and she actually wrote back that she “tried to make it objective”. Obviously, she failed at that.

    Even though they wrote out our website in the text of the article, they did not link to it until I complained to Nancy, complained on twitter, and left a comment on the article. That says a lot about how the objective the site is.

  15. TPG is a PR site available at a price masquerading as a travel hacking blog. It might not be kosher blogger etiquette for /you/ to point it out–and I understand that–but it’s plainly obvious to anyone capable of critical thinking.

  16. I wouldn’t trust TPG at all at this point. Seems like they are nothing more than a shill pretending to be a consumer based website.

  17. Uhh as a top tier elite, I i’d rather take more award nights (at a lower rate) than better (non-existent) availability any day

  18. Totally agree with Gary on this.
    People should stop visiting TPG’s website and never use any of their credit card application links.

  19. This website is now owned by publicly-traded corporation BankRate, no? It is clear that “The Points Guy” left a long time ago, took the buyout money, and no longer really provides any sort of neat travel hacks or valuable advice on accruing points.

    It’s all about shilling credit cards to preferred partners, Chase and Marriott.

  20. @ Justin I agree.

    On TPG’s twitter feed they often push out articles as if they are new but they were written months or a year ago.

    It really isn’t a points blog any more but more of a travel web site. And like magazines (do they still exist?) from days ago, you rarely saw critical car articles in Car magazines or people dissing hotels/airlines in Travel industry magazines since most of their ads were from companies in those industries.

  21. Been noticing the quality of the TPG travel hacks has been diluted in exchange for quantity of postings. TPG becomjng more of a “look at me” site pushing credit cards, and less of a travel hacking resource.

  22. TPG has always been a huckster, but this really takes the cake. I’ve lost what little respect for the site that I had. I feel badly for the staff who must be swallowing their own bile while writing pieces like this.

  23. He makes the gross assumption that top tier elites have more points in their accounts than those of lower tier members. When in reality, there could be any number of reasons why a member might be flush with points (i.e. points transfer, CC spend, etc).

  24. What an embarrassment. Unfortunately a lot of entry-level points enthusiasts stay with that site and don’t move on. Please continue to tell it like it is, Gary.

  25. There is nothing about a program devaluation that is better for the consumer. I have made a point to use up my Marriott points and free nights at the most expensive properties possible and except for the free night certificates I will no longer do paid or award stays at Marriott.

    As far as TPG goes, they’re clearly trying to sell credit card sign ups for referral money. I won’t begrudge them for trying to make profit but they are not putting out the best information any longer.

  26. Wait until they post lots of positive articles after the Bonvoy “Fam” trip in early April. I hope they say they went on the trip when they write them.

    Note: I am assuming they are going on the trip and writing articles is a condition of it…although they do not “have” to be positive articles but you know they will be.

  27. This is just one more data point in the sad demise of the points and miles hobby. Why not devalue these properties to 500,000 points per night? That would be even “better” for consumers, since there would be even more “availability.”

    The whole “read my blog to learn how to stay in the Maldives for free” con is getting as old as three-card monte. Eventually, people will realize that their 100K Chase Bonvoy Card signup bonuses are worth about as much as confederate money.

  28. I used to read TPG religiously when TPG wrote all of his own articles. However, as he as expanded the staff, I find the articles are way less useful.

  29. TGP has evolved into a corporate spokesperson, now that his business model depends on it. I do feel that he’s lost his relevance in the points community: it’s no longer a game for him. It’s a business.

  30. I agree that the TPG site is mostly junk now, which is a shame because it was not always that way.

    My additional beef with TPG is the constant drumbeat of Disney fan-boy articles that have nothing to do with points and miles. I finally stopped following TPG last week when they had an article about trying to guess the scents of Disney candles. Not only Disney promotion, but a truly absurd blog topic by any measure. It is like a beauty contest on the radio.

    Given the amount of energy they use constantly promoting Disney, my assumption is that they (TPG/Bankrate) are taking money from Disney in exchange somehow.

  31. TPG doesn’t have good content. They post a lot, but it’s pretty much all crap.
    TPG doesn’t even know how to respond to legitimate criticisms.

  32. Great post, stick it to TPG, that blog completely sold out and is a part of the Bonvoy marketing team.

  33. Glad you explicitly called out TPG on this crap, maybe Lucky @ onemileatatime will explicitly start calling him out too.

  34. TPG’s coverage on Marriott especially has really thrown me. I usually roll my eyes at the blog-haters. But TPG has in a couple of months worked its way off my go to list on stuff I read every day. It’s too bad.

    It was great once but it’s taken me about two years to realize that I’m reading it mostly for nostalgia for what it was not for what it actually is.

    My guess is that he doesn’t care. For every one of me that he loses he’s probably picking up two or three and it’s about the clicks. I think he needs to be careful, though. It doesn’t take much these days for a critical mass to develop and for something that seemed secure to be out — it takes a lifetime to build credibility but it can be dashed in a minute and he’s really pushing it.

    The idea that devaluations are good for members is 1984-level nonsense and really insulting.

  35. I stopped reading TPG long ago. I used to think Brian and his work was awesome; now he gives me the same feeling as a car salesman. Walk away.

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