Warning: How A Marriott Bonvoy Price Change Cost A Reader Their Trip To Hawaii

Marriott used to have an overly generous ‘points advance’ feature that let members lock in as many potential award reservations as they wished, and lock in pricing as of he time those reservations were made. This was useful before Marriott category changes.

Back then award prices changed at most once per year. Then when Marriott imposed peak and off-peak pricing, hotel award rates began changing monthly even when hotels didn’t change category. Starting March 29 when Marriott eliminates award charts redemption prices will change more frequently still

Points Advance changed last spring,

  • You could only hold an award for a maximum of 60 days, and had to have points in your account 14 days prior to check-in at the latest as well.

  • Holding an award kept the award space available for you but did not lock in the price.

It’s this last piece that a member says they didn’t know, and cost them their Hawaii vacation – even though they easily had the points available had Marriott told them what they needed to do to keep their booking. Their account was short just 6000 points when their reservation for 5 nights in Hawaii was cancelled.

A reader made a points advance reservation at the Sheraton Kauai 34 days prior to check-in. They were quoted 200,000 points for a 5 night stay. They transferred points into their account, and more points were earned so that there were a total of 234,000 in their account. They were confident everything was in place.

However 11 days prior to check-in they receive a notice that their booking would be cancelled if they didn’t move more points into the account.

Dear XXXXXXX,

We are reaching out to you regarding your Marriott reservation (conf#XXXXXXXXX), arrival date (XXXXXX). As outlined in your confirmation email you must have the required amount of points in your account and/or Marriott Bonvoy certificate(s) ordered within 14 days prior to arrival. We have reviewed your account and are unable to issue a certificate due to insufficient points.

Here are two options if you would like to retain your stay

  • If availability allows, modify your reservation to a non-redemption stay secured with a standard method of payment.

OR

  • Purchase sufficient points and order the required certificate.

These options can be performed online at https://www.marriott.com/default.mi or by contacting your local Customer Engagement Center,
https://www.marriott.com/help/global-phone-reservation-numbers.mi

Kindly note that if no action has been taken over the next 48 hours, your reservation will be cancelled. If you have questions about Points Advance or Redemption Reservations, please visit our FAQ page for more information. https://help.marriott.com/s/article/Article-22333

Thank you for your continued loyalty to Marriott Bonvoy®. We look forward to welcoming you on your next trip.

Sincerely,
Marriott Bonvoy Program Services

The member was confused so they logged into their account and saw they had more than the number of points quoted for their booking in their account. Since there was nothing flagged in the reservation, they thought the e-mail was a mistake. Still, they called called Marriott to check but decided not to wait on the quoted hour-plus hold time.

Marriott cancelled the reservation. It now cost 240,000 points, and they had 234,000 in their account. They got the cancellation notice, called, and were told nothing could be done. No award availability existed any longer. That was the end of their planned Hawaii vacation.

According to a Marriott spokesperson,

[W]ith Points Advance the member is able to hold a room but not the points price of the room. The points requirement for a room is subject to change until points are deducted from member account and certificate is issued. This is called out in the booking path and on the confirmation email. We do not store points required on day of booking nor do we send notifications should points required increase or decrease.

At 60 days after reservation is made or 14 days prior to check in – whichever comes first, we have an automated process to try to deduct points and attach certificate. If the member doesn’t have sufficient points and our automated process cannot issue the certificate, we manually review the reservation to see if we can resolve (i.e. using a mix of Points and Free Nights Awards). If we cannot resolve, we then we send an email communication to the member notifying that they have 48 hours to resolve the reservation with options (Purchase outstanding points amount, switch to Cash & Points stay, switch to paid stay). If no action is taken by the member after 48 hours then we proceed to cancel the stay.

The notice from Marriott did not say “the price of your reservation has changed.” It did not say “your account is 6000 points short.” It just said you don’t have enough points, but the guest didn’t realize the number of points required could change and Marriott’s communication didn’t say it had changed, by how much, or how many more points the guest needed. That’s unfortunate.

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. Anyone still using Marriott hotels and Bonvoy is just plain nuts. Or maybe just plain stupid.

    They’re as bad as Hertz, but at least you don’t go to jail with Marriott’s shenanigans… Unless somebody knows more about this.

  2. So dont they have a case against Marriott and possible have Marriott cover the differences?

  3. Not a fan of the Bonvoy program today and Marriott certainly could have sent a clearer communication but in this case I think the reader is mostly at fault here. He/she got warned by Marriott 48 hours in advance that the reservation will be cancelled but choose to ignore it. Even if he/she believed that the mistake is on Marriott’s side, you still got to let Marriott know and make sure they fix it.

  4. This is user error, it’s on the customer to understand how the program works. They can easily pay cash for the hotel anyways

  5. Marriott has turned to CROOKS. I’m so ticked off at them…. Going
    To Hyatt now even though I’m Titamium…. The heck with those thieves!!!

  6. Marriott’s hold times to even figure out what’s going on are inexcusable.

    No matter whose fault this is, it wasn’t clear, so thanks Gary for the warning.

  7. Another way for Marriott to stiff their customers. Make an advance reservation… but you’ve no idea what the cost will be. How unbelievably consumer unfriendly. Another nail in the coffin of my decision to ditch Marriott (that thing is now nailed shut so much, I’m struggling where to put the next nails)

  8. When you do points advance it tells you you must deduct the points to confirm your reservation. So its their fault for not going back in to deduct the points when they had the 200k.

  9. No big player amongst hotel chains is anywhere near as innovative as Marriott when it comes to ways of screwing over customers. Just imagine the effect if instead they dedicated half that dedication to actually improving the customer experience: they would be SPG instead of the perpetual butt of jokes.

  10. While the customer should have stayed on hold to figure it out, it seems underhanded to not clarify in the email the reason they didn’t have enough points. Clarity solves most of these problems and customers usually appreciate clarity and a business should strive towards it – because if you make things clear, you don’t have so many mad customers.

  11. The decision to not stay on hold with Marriott to solve the issue is on the consumer

    Marriott told them there was an issue and the customer disregarded the email

  12. I’m all for calling out the dumpster fire that is Bonvoy when they do shady things, but this is a simple case of RTFM. If you’re using the points advance feature, it’s on you to take the extra five minutes to read the conditions. Marriott makes it very clear that redemption values can change until the trip is completely paid for.

    I’m guessing this is the same kind of person who doesn’t read the return policy on the back of the receipt and doesn’t understand why they have to pay an open box fee on an electronic device.

    Marriott does enough bad things to its customers, there’s no need to fabricate more.

  13. The terms and conditions are clear during the process – if a consumer doesn’t pay attention to what they are agreeing to, this is on them. Another post from Gary that makes me think he’s not the expert he claims to be.

  14. Points Advance is silly. There’s a reason why no other program offers this.

    Time to retire this fearure IMHO.

  15. Oh Gene, I’m sorry I didn’t know it bothered you. It’s just something quick so I can sign up to read the follow up comments. I will try to think of something else. Please note also I’m not trying to be funny. It’s a comment of angst that people still use this program…..

  16. So the article implies it’s Marriott’s fault but it’s clearly the users fault. I can almost certainly guarantee they. Receive an email outlining when the points had to be paid. Furthermore, if they think a hotel would hold a room till the last day then the Traveler should be locked in their house and not allowed to travel.

    I’m disappointed in the way you wrote this Gary. I typically enjoy your post but this was a total bait and switch with the title. Perhaps the title should have read “foolish traveler forget to cash in points and Marriott rightfully cancels reservations, don’t make the same mistake”

  17. What’s the point of a reservation if it doesn’t guarantee a specific price? Marriot has repeatedly proven they cant be trusted. Instead of discussing Marriott we should be promoting the BOYCOTT of all Marriott hotels.

  18. I too have since used my points on a hotel in Florida. I was quoted a price with the use of what points I had left ( which only covered one night). Upon arrival at hotel, the price was no longer the amount quoted however it was now $150.00 more from the booking price and I was told I could not split yhe price with points which is a absolute lie…unless that has changed along with all of the other changes. I was disgusted. I’m not sure if everyone is on the same page between the hotels and the online booking operators. Needless to say….I would rather just pay without this whole points b.s. and be able to enjoy my trips without the worry of surprised pricing. Customer service is not…ABSOLUTELY NOT what it was years ago. It used to be “The Customer us always right and research and accommodate”. Now it’s “F…. the customer… you don’t have to believe them just charge what you deem necessary and accommodate no more”.

  19. It they had the points they should of booked not held the reservation. Stay elsewhere and pull out all resources before cancelling. I would have slept on the beach if needed lol.

  20. I had two Points Advance reservations cancelled without warning in 2021 — even though I had the required number of points in my account, it was prior to the 60d when they pull the points and issue the certs. I called Bonvoy to ask why the reservations were cancelled, they pointed to the hotel. Called the hotel and they told me it was Parents Weekend on my son’s campus (duh, that is why I booked in) and they “manually cleared out” all the reservations so they could “reset our rates” to higher rates due to the hotel realizing they could make more $$. I called Bonvoy back to report this and they “reinstated” our reservation “as a courtesy” after a total of about 3 hours on hold. Crookery.

  21. The customer is not always right but the customer is indeed the customer. Point systems seem to be a huge scam – I do not participate in scams.

  22. it says very clearly when you book it you have to purchase the reservation when the points are in your account. there is no reason to wait and every reason not to wait as we see from this example. Especially now when everyone will be Bonvoyed after March.

  23. They are also still doing business with Russia. I ‘m done with Marriott. Im suppose to be Ambassador status with 234 pts. Checked into a Residents Inn tonight who said I was basic level.

  24. They are also still doing business with Russia. I ‘m done with Marriott. Im suppose to be Ambassador status with 234 pts. Checked into a Residents Inn tonight who said I was basic level. After 8 months living in a Residents Inn

  25. Although Marriott is right, the program is so devalued through program changes and deterioration of customer service that I now find Marriott totally unappealing. Once I have used up my points and 6 or 7 free night certificates, I will cease staying at Marriotts.

  26. While technically this is clearly the fault of the customer, I think Marriott would value that customer and the potential future value of their points. Throwing their hands up saying essentially that “there’s nothing we can do, go pound sand” might be a profitable decision in the short term, it’s generally not a business best practice to hack off your most loyal customers. And when they say “There’s nothing we can do to here”, that’s bs. Fact of the matter is that they can do anything they want, so what they’re really telling one of their most valued customers is “There’s nothing we will do for you here”.

  27. Actually the terms are not so clear. We had a similar situation and with the terms “points can be changed at any time without notice” you would essentially need to be checking every day to see if the points changed. Then after booking months in advance they email to tell you they are cancelling your reservation tomorrow. I’m our case our room was raised 30k points at an unknown time. It’s a bait and switch unfair business practice.

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