Members have been reporting a lot of issues with the new Marriott Bonvoy program. While I can mostly accept the program for what it is, I think a large part of the frustration has involved how poorly executed many things have been. There have just been so many IT issues, and so little official communication from the company, which has left people frustrated.
Maybe I’ve been living under a rock all this time, but there’s a terrible policy that I wasn’t fully aware of.
Hotel programs with “no blackout dates” policies
In my opinion one of the basics of a good hotel loyalty program is that it has no blackout dates on award stays. For me, no blackout dates means that as long as a standard room is available for sale, you can redeem points for it.
This is historically how Hilton Honors, Starwood Preferred Guest, and World of Hyatt have operated.
When the program merger was first announced, my understanding was that Marriott was maintaining the legacy SPG policy, and that as long as a standard room is available for sale, you can redeem points for it.
“We’re sorry. This property is not taking redemption bookings at this time.”
If you’ve been trying to make award bookings at various Marriott hotels the past few weeks, chances are you may have come across a situation where you receive the following message:
“We’re sorry. This property is not taking redemption bookings at this time. You can either book a cash reservation or search for another property.”
My assumption all along has been that this is an IT issue, and that some hotels just weren’t displaying availability correctly, or were trying to play games, in contradiction to Marriott’s policy.
As it turns out, that’s not the case at all. Marriott hotels are actually allowed to restrict award availability much more than I was aware.
Marriott’s “no blackout dates” policy
As it turns out, Marriott Bonvoy’s “no blackout dates” policy is as follows:
- The company says they have “no blackout dates,” which means that every day there will be standard rooms available for award redemptions
- However, legacy Marriott properties can limit the number of standard rooms available for redemptions
Here are the full terms & conditions regarding this:
The Company has a “No Blackout Dates” policy, which means that, subject to the limitations and exclusions below, Participating Properties have standard rooms available every day for Award Redemptions. These limitations and exclusions are:
i. Participating Properties from the following Brands may limit the number of standard rooms available for redemption on a limited number of days: The Ritz-Carlton®, EDITION®, JW Marriott®, Marriott Hotels®, Delta Hotels®, Autograph Collection® Hotels, Renaissance® Hotels, Gaylord Hotels®, Courtyard®, SpringHill Suites®, Protea Hotels®, Fairfield by Marriott®, AC Hotels®, Moxy® Hotels, Residence Inn®, TownePlace Suites®
ii. The following Participating Brands allow only for Points/Miles earnings and do not offer Points redemption: Marriott Executive Apartments® and ExecuStay®.
iii. The following Participating Properties or Brands either do not participate in or do not fully participate in the No Blackout Dates benefit at this time:
- Boscolo Exedra Nice, Autograph Collection
- Carlo IV, The Dedica Anthology, Autograph Collection
- JW Marriott Scottsdale Camelback Inn® Resort & Spa, Scottsdale, AZ
- Marriott Vacation Club and Marriott Grand Residence Club – all properties
- Participating Vistana properties
- Rome Marriott Grand Hotel Flora, Rome, Italy
- Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa, Hawaii
- Wailea Beach Resort – Marriott – Maui, Hawaii
What this means
At a Westin, if a hotel has 500 standard rooms, then all 500 of those can be booked with points. There are no blackout dates, and as long as a standard room is available, you can redeem points for it.
At a Marriott, if a hotel has 500 standard rooms, then they could elect to make just one of those 500 rooms available with points, and not be violating the terms & conditions.
Now, in a majority of instances they’ll make more rooms available than that, but that’s not because the program promises that. The hotel can “limit the number of standard rooms available for redemption on a limited number of days.” 360 days is a limited number of days, and 1% of rooms is a limited number of rooms. So the hotel can do that, and there’s nothing we can do about it.
Let me give an example at the Marriott in Newport, Rhode Island. July 13-14, 2019, you can book a stay here for either $569 per night or 50,000 points. That’s for a standard king room.
The previous weekend the exact same room is available at exactly the same price when paying cash, but it’s not available on points.
And with the Marriott Bonvoy program, the hotel is within their rights to do that.
Maybe I’ve been living under a rock, but I didn’t realize that this was Marriott’s policy. While Marriott does have no blackout dates (meaning there will be at least one room available every night), they allow hotels to limit the number of standard rooms available for awards.
This policy only applies to legacy Marriott hotels. In those situations, when you see standard rooms available for sale but don’t see points availability, it’s likely not a tech glitch, but rather quite intentional.
Gosh I really do miss SPG. With SPG you knew what you were getting, and the program had good control over the properties. In the case of Marriott, it seems hotels can just do whatever they want.
This means that IHG Rewards Club and Marriott Bonvoy are in one league when it comes to redeem points (in restricting standard room availability), while Hilton Honors and World of Hyatt are in a different league (in making all standard rooms available on points).
What has your experience been with Marriott putting capacity controls on standard rooms?