In 2016, Marriott acquired Starwood hotels, subsequent to which, they started the process of integrating Marriott Rewards with Starwood Preferred Guest. Last year, they announced the details of the merged programme, which has been named Marriott Bonvoy, and earlier this year a new Marriott Bonvoy changes to the award chart were put in motion.
Peak/Off-Peak Award Pricing coming on September 14, 2019
One of the major changes to the programme, which was not released so far but we all knew was coming all along in 2019, was the introduction of Peak/Off-peak Award Pricing. The award chart that was released last year already had the details of the award pricing in non-standard season. Here it is chart presented again, exactly one year after the first set of changes were rolled out.
At the moment, we don’t know about the exact break up of dates between peak and off-peak dates. But Marriott states that a majority of dates through the year will be offered on Standard dates. The change will be rolled across all the 7,000 or so properties in the Marriott system. As per Marriott,
This means that during certain times of the year when there is less demand, Off-Peak rates will be offered at properties, reducing the number of points needed for members to redeem for a free night. Conversely, during times of the year when properties are busiest, Peak rates might be offered. Across the entire portfolio, Standard rates will be offered the majority of the time with the rest being an equal distribution of Off-Peak and Peak rates.
Here is a video that explains the concept from Marriott’s perspective.
Couple of things about the implementation of the new pricing structure. The Peak/Off-Peak dates will be determined every month, so there is a chance that your already locked in travel plan may go down in price, or go up, at a later date. For lower prices, you can always cancel and rebook to receive a refund on the extra points. But you need to check-in every month. Second, hotels won’t determine the peak/off-peak dates but rather a computer algorithm, and as of now, hotels have no sway on this process.
As per Marriott,
- A majority of days throughout the year will remain in Standard and there will be even distribution between Off-Peak and Peak rates portfolio wide.
- The fewest number of points members will need for a free night stay will be 5,000 when the property is in Off-Peak. Members who redeem a free night for a category 8 property during an Off-Peak time will save up to 15,000 points when compared to the Standard rate.
- Standard rates will continue to start at 7,500 points per night and will be available a majority of the time year-round, throughout the portfolio.
- Peak rates will start at 10,000 points per night and are capped at no more than 15,000 points higher than Standard rates. Even popular destinations will offer Off-Peak rates during certain times of the year.
After September 14, if a property offers off-peak rates during the period of your intended stay with them, Marriott Bonvoy members can cancel and rebook, to get benefit of the new lower rates. But do remember as well, if you booked before September 14 and you need to make a change after the date and peak/off-peak pricing has kicked in, you’ll be subjected to the new rate prevalent at the time.
Points Advance Changes
Points Advance was a feature of Marriott Bonvoy that allowed members to hold on to an available award room, and then accumulate the points they needed to complete the reservation. In the switch to the new Marriott Bonvoy rewards system, we saw a big mess being created in the initial days before Marriott figured out how to fix it up by adding additional points to member accounts.
Going forward, members won’t be able to make unlimited points advance bookings. At the most, they would be able to keep three points advance bookings in their account concurrently. But, one more interesting change there. If the number of points changes while you hold the booking, when it comes to paying up in points, you will be charged the new amount. That change would include any award category changes and any changes towards peak/off-peak dates that would be adjusted more frequently. Here is a video to this effect.
For Points Advance reservations made before September 14, Marriott Bonvoy will honour up to five reservations at the Standard redemption rate.
Changes to 5th Night Free
Marriott has made technical changes to the 5th Night Free option, in line with the other changes coming up to the programme. In line with the changes, the name changes to Stay for 5, Pay for 4.
How it would work here on is, that if your date includes peak and standard/off-peak dates on one reservation, you would be charged points for the 4 most expensive nights, giving you the cheapest night free.
To give you an example, let’s say you have a booking for a hotel with one night at 35,000 points (standard), two at 40,000 points (peak) and two at 30,000 points (off-peak). Marriott will charge you a total of 145,000 points now, irrespective of the fact that your last day could be peak or off-peak.
Cash & Points changing
As per Marriott, the Cash + Points redemption chart is being updated to standardize the amount of cash needed to redeem a stay within each category. The amount of points needed will vary depending on whether the property is offering Off-Peak, Standard or Peak rates.
This calls for a separate analysis of its own, and I’ll touch upon this later.
I would expect these to be the last round of changes in the very large swath of changes that have been coming our way for a long period of time. We only get to see on September 14, when the new date finder comes into effect, about how the peak and off-peak categories will be applied at the Marriott hotels bouquet.
Changes to Points Advance are par for the course at all, and I do think there is no harm in putting a cap to a benefit such as this one. However, I don’t like the price not being locked in aspect of it.
What do you make of the changes to Marriott Bonvoy?
PS: If you’d like to benefit from Marriott Bonvoy and would like to scoop up 110,000 Marriott Bonvoy points in one go, look at this post.