Marriott’s new loyalty program will kick in at some point in August. It could be August 1, or could be August 31. So we’re potentially just over a week from a new program being introduced.
For those of us who want to maximize our existing balance of points, one big question is how Marriott will handle existing Travel Packages. I promised I’d keep you guys updated about my strategy with these, so here are my thoughts at this point.
The Marriott Travel Packages question
Just over a week ago I wrote a post about how we still don’t know how Marriott will handle existing Travel Packages. If you have no clue what I’m talking about, check out the previous post. To briefly summarize:
- One of the best uses of Marriott points is redeeming for a combination of airline miles and free night certificates, valid for a stay of up to seven nights
- There are different types of certificates you can redeem for; you can redeem for a Category 1-5 certificate, Category 6 certificate, Category 7 certificate, etc., which will determine what type of hotel you can stay at
- The big question is how these certificates will transfer over to the new program, given that Marriott is introducing a completely new award chart
For example, here’s one of the options for Marriott Travel Packages:
Possible Marriott Travel Package outcomes
I think the following are the most likely outcomes for Marriott Travel Packages being converted:
- Marriott could honor existing certificates, and transfer over the award levels generously; in other words, a Category 1-5 certificate might still be valid at the new Category 1-5 hotels, which includes a lot more properties
- Marriott could honor existing certificates, and transfer over the award levels less generously; in other words, a Category 1-5 certificate might only be valid at a Category 1-3 or Category 1-4 property
- Marriott may just award members points and invalidate the issued certificates, due to the program changes; the question is how many points they’d award
Perhaps the best indicator of how they’ll handle this is based on how they’re handling the conversion of other free night certificates:
- The Marriott Premier Business Card is going from offering a free night certificate valid at Category 1-5 hotels to offering a certificate valid at hotels costing up to 35,000 points per night (which is a Category 5 hotel in standard season)
- The Marriott Premier Plus Personal Card is new, and is offering a free night certificate valid at hotels costing up to 35,000 points per night (again, equivalent to a Category 5 hotel in standard season)
- The old Marriott Premier Card (no longer open to new applicants) is going from offering a free night certificate valid at Category 1-5 hotel to offering a certificate valid at hotels costing up to 25,000 points per night (which is a Category 4 property in standard season); this is the only certificate that’s being devalued, and I suspect that’s because the card is no longer open to new applicants and they want to encourage people to upgrade the card
My theory as to what will happen
I’ve asked Marriott representatives repeatedly about how these certificates will be handled, and they still don’t know, and also don’t have a timeline for when they will know. I know they’re working through a lot of things, yet the new program is potentially just over a week away.
However, I can’t imagine they haven’t actually decided how they’ll handle these certificates, given that the program is almost here, and given that they’ve decided how they’ll handle all the other certificates.
Generally speaking Marriott has done a good job communicating with members and being fair with the transition (at least when you consider the scale of what they’re doing), which leads me to the only possible outcome I see: Marriott intentionally isn’t telling people how existing Travel Package certificates will convert, since they plan on being generous, and they want to minimize the number of people redeeming.
That sort of makes sense when you think about it. I think there’s only one “fair” thing for Marriott to do here, and that’s to have the certificates convert at a reasonable amount. If they didn’t do that, there would be a lot of backlash, and also anger about the lack of communication.
At the same time, obviously they don’t want to encourage everyone to redeem their full balance of points now under this spectacular deal, so I get why they’re not wanting to communicate this in advance. Travel Packages are already the best use of Marriott points, and if they convert favorably, booking them is even more of a no brainer.
If they announced that existing Travel Packages would be honored in the same category as now, you can bet people would be redeeming literally hundreds of millions of points. That’s a big expense for them, especially since they’re presumably directly paying for the airline miles.
It’s possible that I have a completely wrong read on the situation, and that they screw everyone over. Please don’t book a Travel Package based purely on my perspective. But I have a lot of points at stake, and I’m going to be using that assumption when redeeming points.
How generous will Marriott be?
As a reminder, here’s Marriott’s new award chart (keep in mind they won’t add Category 8 or peak and off-peak pricing until 2019):
My inclination is that Marriott will do a direct category conversion, which is to say that a Category 1-5 certificate will continue to be valid at Categories 1-5. That would be very generous.
I also don’t think it would be unreasonable for them to downgrade each certificate by one category, meaning a Category 1-5 certificate would be valid at Categories 1-4 going forward. But personally I think anything less than that would be stingy and unfair.
So, with this in mind, I’ll share what I plan on doing with my points in a subsequent post, since I’m sitting on a lot of Starpoints.
What’s your take on how Marriott will handle Travel Packages?