Marriott’s Sneaky Points Advance Policy Change

Filed Under: Hotels, Marriott

Update: As it turns out, Marriott hasn’t actually changed their policy here, so see this post for more details.

Marriott has made a rather sneaky change to their points advance policy, which will no doubt catch many people off guard.

Marriott’s points advance policy

Marriott has a policy whereby you can make a points reservation at a hotel even if you don’t have enough points in your account for that redemption. The way it works is that you just make the booking and there’s no reward certificate attached to it.

As long as you earn or purchase the needed points at least 14 days prior to check-in, you’re good to go. If you don’t have the points needed 14 days out, then your booking gets canceled.

Earn Marriott Points

This is something that Marriott historically offered, while Starwood didn’t offer that, so it’s one of the (few) good things to come from the Marriott side of things. Marriott rolled out this feature to Starwood hotels as the hotels switched over to Marriott’s reservations system, which largely happened around last December.

Marriott category changes & points advance

This March Marriott is not only introducing Category 8 properties, but is also introducing category changes, as they do every year. With these changes we’ll see about 380 hotels changing in cost, including fewer than 40 hotels decreasing in cost and more than 340 hotels increasing in cost.

What’s easy to overlook here is a footnote in these changes:

Points Advance – Members can book stays when they do not have enough points if they earn or purchase the needed points at least 14 days prior to check-in. Members who wish to book a points advance redemption under the current Marriott Rewards and SPG award chart are encouraged to order redemption certificates before March 5 to lock in the rate. On March 5, redemption bookings are subject to the new unified program award chart.

What this essentially means is that you have a points advance reservation at a property that’s increasing in cost as of March 5 (either due to category changes or the new introduction of Category 8 pricing), you’ll have to pay for it by then, or else you’ll be stuck paying the higher cost.

Just to give one example, a five night stay at the St. Regis Maldives currently costs 240,000 points (60,000 points per night, with a fifth night free). As of March that stay would cost 340,000 points (85,000 points per night, with a fifth night free).

Redemption rates at the St. Regis Maldives are going up

Is this fair?

The problem here is that this policy is different than the precedent Marriott has set. Historically Marriott has honored the price at the time of booking for points advance reservations (even when there were category changes), and they’re changing that up.

So there might be people who made a points advance reservation at the St. Regis Maldives for next February, only to learn now that they’ll need the points 10+ months earlier than they expected, or are expected to pay significantly more.

Here’s the thing — as such, I think Marriott’s points advance policy was too generous. That wasn’t an issue with just Marriott’s portfolio of hotels, but when you consider the new aspirational hotels that Starwood has added to the portfolio, this policy arguably isn’t in the best interest of the overall membership.

Some hotels only have a few rooms they make available on points, and I know some people literally make dozens of speculative points advance bookings at a hotel, since there’s no downside to locking those in. This obviously comes at the expense of a lot of other people, who might want to stay there.

So while I think Marriott should have added some sort of restrictions to this benefit in the past (for example, limiting the number of points advance reservations each member can make), I don’t think essentially changing the rules after someone has secured a booking is fair.

But hey, Marriott is unfortunately within their rights to do this, so…

Redemption rates at Al Maha are going up

Bottom line

While Marriott’s points advance policy has historically been really generous, be aware that if you locked in stays at hotels that are going up in price, you’re about to find yourself paying a lot more.

I don’t think this is reasonable on the part of Marriott, though also think they should have added restrictions earlier that limit the total number of speculative bookings you can make.

Are you impacted by Marriott’s points advance policy change? Are you happy or sad to see them making these changes?

  1. Lucky do you mind reaching out to Marriott and get clarification on this?
    It sounds like your interpretation is correct, but I’d still like to get a clear confirmation from Marriott one more time just in case.

  2. What about bookings made before the new award chart came out and did not have that language at the time of booking?

  3. Wow! This is devastating news to many people 🙁

    I’m about 53000 points short for my November reservation which means I have to buy points ASAP if this is accurate.

  4. Same thing happened last year when certain hotels changes categories. I have 2 summer reservations with which went from 45k to 60k and surprised when changed. Called Marriott to honor the old rate but they did not, was given just 20k after the rep escalated the complained as the certificates could not be ordered in the system even at the new rate. The reason given by a supervisor being that the system had a glitch as reservation was made before the rate change…go figure.. Cost me 60k extra per room per 5 night booked.

  5. Fair change, but current reservations should be grandfathered into the policy that was in place when those reservations were made.

  6. This seems like a very fair policy, I’m not sure why people are so up in arms about it. It’s generous of them to let people book without the right amount of points right now, but it’s not a confirmed booking until you have the right amount of points. If the rate goes up before you have a confirmed booking, you should pay the new rate.

  7. @bc, absolutely a fair policy and I would go even further that the fairest policy and the one that would work best for the most members would be to not allow points advance bookings.
    What is patently unfair is to announce this change of process as a footnote to a major announcement. Changing a process that you have followed for a decade or more by putting it into the fine print is disingenuous at best. I would guess that there are people who booked points advance bookings months ago who will have absolutely no idea that they are about to get hosed.

  8. Lucky, this isn’t new. I booked a points advance reservation at the JW Venice last year and the price went up when the hotel changed categories.

  9. If Marriott wants to change my points advance booking after making it, whatever, it’s in their terms to do it I guess. What is wrong is not reaching out directly to the people with these reservations to let them know of the change. Marriott should have the decency to directly email everyone with a points advance reservation of this change and not just put it into a small footnote on a page that very few people will see. The only blogger that noticed this change last week was TPG and it’s not something that is being advertised by Marriott.

    I’ve got less than 4 weeks to come up with 400k Marriott points for my reservations that I made with the full intent of staying. I’ll either need to cancel or use transferable points to confirm them at the rate Marriott and I previously agreed I would have up until 14 days before the stay to confirm.

    It would be interesting to see how a contract lawyer views this change. On one end, Marriott reserves the right to change their award program at any point. On the other end, a confirmed reservation is a legally binding agreement to provide a service for the agreed upon rate. Marriott could nuke their entire award program and make it impossible for people to actually pay for their points advance awards, but actually changing the terms of a previously agreed upon reservation whether points or cash is very different than just making changes to their award program.

    Marriott has advertised over the past 6 months the ability to “lock in” rates before the category changes. It’s their corporate responsibility to monitor the use and abuse of the points advance system and they are in their right to make changes to it at any time, but they should honor the existing rates of all points advance reservations that were made prior to changing these terms last week.

  10. “Just to give one example, a five night stay at the St. Regis Maldives currently costs 240,000 points per night ”

    The “per night” shouldn’t be there. That would be one expensive stay! 🙂

  11. Marriott is now a deadly (and stay-away) combination of no customer service, IT incompetence, and general lack of ethics

  12. “I know some people literally make dozens of speculative points advance bookings at a hotel, since there’s no downside to locking those in.”

    Why would anyone make several speculative bookings at the same hotel?

  13. I was so close to staying with Marriott this year but all the changes are terrible. I’m already Hilton Diamond so I’ll be sticking with them and Hyatt (when I can due to limited locations).

  14. I just wish Marriott would use clear language and not “are encouraged to order redemption certificates before March 5 to lock in the rate.” WTF is a redemption certificate? Do you mean, “cash in your points for the particular booking.”? Redemption Certificate is too “inside baseball” even for most readers of points blogs. Come on, guys….

  15. Redeemed all my SPG points before the merger to get maximum value.

    Definitely going to give some other chains some stays this year to see if I can be swayed.

  16. @LP

    Marriott giving customers 4 weeks notice, through a footnote on a list not widely distributed, and not directly conveying the message to people currently holding points advanced reservations suggests that they know what they are doing is wrong. They wany people to log into their accounts 6 months from now to redeem their points and get suckered into the higher rates because all other travel arrangements are in place.

    While the T&Cs of their program allow them to make this change, having a contract lawyer determine whether or not Marriott can unilaterally change the terms of an existing confirmed reservation is another issue. This is bait and switch by falsely advertising locking in rates through points advancing, and is illegal pretty much everywhere. Marriott can make their T&Cs state whatever they want but T&Cs do not supersede the law either.

  17. This must hurt to all the assimilated SPG sheeple who would always blindly book SPG hotels without ever realizing they were being fleeced all along.

  18. The fact is a cash booking is usually paid on departure the same for points bookings – thus the terms should be similar ( they check you have enough cash on your card to pay on arrival ) they aren’t doing any favors , but in this case your booking “could “ go up in price on checkout
    It’s bs

  19. @Bob – no, we enjoyed amazing benefits and service, at a nice array of global properties, while I’m guessing you have had years of blind loyalty to McMarriott in the USA.

  20. While Marriott program quality and service has deteriorated in parallel to increasing costs for their customers, this is one policy that was outside the norm and was prone to abuse.

    The bigger issue with them is the difficulty in making points redemptions for aspirational properties – they seem to block or not load availability for various hotels. The customer service reps acknowledge the problem but blame the individual hotels. The individual hotels (St. Regis Maldives, Bora Bora, etc) are completely unresponsive – they do not care about any potential customer looking to make a point redemption at their $1000-2000/night property.

  21. I would disagree. Marriott is not within their rights to change to change the rate on a reservation that has already been made. When I made my points advance booking I specifically asked if the rate would be locked in regardless of the new award chart and was told that it wouldn’t be a problem. I have now booked non-refundable airfare around my trip but have no realistic way of earning the number of points that will now be necessary to fulfill the reservation. If this policy isn’t reversed I’m sure I won’t be the only one suing Marriott in small claims court.

  22. Thank you for these posts. With every passing week I remain cheerful of my decision to cease booking with them! Very happy to be back with the world of Hyatt, Hilton… and fab boutique hotels and condo’s.

  23. Oh please! Guys get a grip. Lucky is right – this policy was abused, you could speculatively book weeks on end at aspirational properties without any need to have points in your account which a single point. This put guys with hard earned points at a disadvantage and led to less availability for all in the end. And suing? Will we ever stop this American all time pastime?!

  24. @Fio, there have been almost no comments that said that this policy is wrong, just that the implementation of the policy was sneaky and dishonest. They would be best off eliminating points advance bookings. That could be done without any advance notice at all as long as they honored the ones that had already been made. That is the biggest issue that people are complaining about, that they are not going to honor pricing that has already been agreed to and that they have provided no notice that they are changing the way they are operating.

  25. @farnorthtrader – agreed…. sneaky changes are always bad. Mariott should state clearly that this is a change (which people clearly understand) and move on. There’s still plenty of reasons to stay with Mariott – from being able to book aspirational properties with points (let’s be honest StR Maldives or Gritti for 60k – heck even 100 is a steal), huge footprint, 25 nights to plat if you get 15 for cc and 10 for one meeting … not bad imho. Granted, charges have not been good… but which program is truly better? Hyatt takes forever to reach status and with Hilton with cc status good luck scoring an upgrade…give ihg a miss too…

  26. St regis maldives IS that expensive. They were trying to tell me is was 790,000 for my 4 night stay! I said NO.

    Decided to stay at W Maldives. 340k total stay. Leave on Tues. Looked at my booking today, it now says ‘we’ve given you a new reservation #” AND tacked on 60 resort fee, AND $843 AMENITY FEE??! WTF!! Called spg elite line. She states she doesnt know and she will have hotel call me and explain it. I told her I didnt appreciate this sneaky charge added on last minute!! I expressed that marriott has been doing this since the merger. She went on her high horse that marriott is not doing any funny business. Yeah right sister. Yuck

  27. @Tm – I suspect that the $843 fee is for the seaplane. At the StR, a $1400 fee is added for the seaplane (695/guest)

  28. I looked over the new chart very carefully but did not see Al Maha listed as changing, did I miss something? Please advise!

    Thanks all!

  29. I couldn’t agree with ua-nyc comment more about the poor customer service, poor IT and no ethics. The first two can be fairly easily improved, but the no ethics is the real problem.

    Not only does Marriott fail to properly and clearly communicate policies , but they don’t stand behind what they say.

    For this particular change, the old policy was overly generous, I personally anticipated the change, and it does not affect me because I am points rich. I am not surprised that Marriott made the change in such a sneaky way with such language. Marriott, please hire a consultant to review how your corporation communicates and otherwise deals with your loyalty members. Ask the consultant if your actions will cost the corporation money over the next say 18 months . Ask the consultant if operating in a different manner would be more or less profitable.

    Personally, if I didn’t have certain lifetime status and current reservations and number of points , I would pay substantially more to stay at an exactly equivalent competitor property, because they are not you.

  30. @Tm try add about 11%tax that will bring you close to seaplane charge, same to my Dec trip, no funny business, relax

  31. The hotels that are in cat 8, or otherwise increasing in category, are a small subset of all Marriott properties. But this change would also seem to affect any reservation for what will be designated a “peak” period. Every single hotel in the Bonvoy portfolio will have peak and off-peak. But the exact dates aren’t yet announced, so if you’re holding a Points Advance reservation that happens to fall into “peak” when Marriott announces those dates, then that will be a zero-advance-notification price increase.

  32. @swag
    Well said. The “peak” implementation is what worries me the most. As the properties I booked with point advance are staying at Cat 6 and Cat 7 for now and I expect to have enough points 1 month before I check in. However if for some reason they decide to implement the “peak” sooner I may have to switch my business to Hilton and just use AirBnB+Hilton for my vacation.

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