Marriott’s Sneaky Award Hold Fees

Well, we almost made it through the week without another hit from Marriott Bonvoy (ugh, I’m still not used to typing that word). In the latest round of “What did Marriott do now?” it looks like certain properties are starting to charge massive credit card holding fees for award bookings.

A couple of days ago, I was looking to use some Marriott points for an upcoming trip to Hawaii, before the March 5th category changes.

I was specifically looking at the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua, since that seemed to be a pretty aspirational property and a great points-to-cash ratio, at 60,000 points for an upwards of $800/night room.

Ritz-Carlton Kapalua

Now, Marriott has done its part recently to incite a string of trust issues with its loyal customer base, so I’ve reflexively gotten into the habit of clicking on the “rate details” link before making any award booking through Marriott Bonvoy:

And boy oh boy, am I glad that I double-checked this one before booking. Because while the booking screen doesn’t give any warning of additional deposit charges, the “rate details” link for this property looks something like this:

Umm…

That’s right – the hotel wants to charge the credit card on file $832.64 to hold the reservation.

Naturally, I called the Marriott Bonvoy line to make sure that I was reading this right. The rep was a bit confused at first – I think this was the first she had ever seen this – but after some time on hold, she confirmed that they would indeed charge my card for the posted amount.

Now, the amount is refundable upon checkout, or if you cancel before the deadline (60 days out, in the case above), but I don’t think I’m speaking out of turn in saying that this is an insane amount of money to essentially have to “loan” to Marriott, for the privilege of using existing points.

This isn’t a one-off

Naturally, my first gut reaction was to check other properties to see if this is unique to this hotel, and this string of dates. Unfortunately, this seems to be happening at a number of legacy SPG and Ritz-Carlton properties across the globe.

Here’s another example, at the Westin Rusutsu in Niseko, Japan:

Westin Rusutsu award hold fee

In the above example, the fee to hold the room is for 30,100 JPY, the equivalent of about $273 USD. While the cash amount isn’t necessarily as egregious as the Ritz Kapalua, it’s still a huge out-of-pocket expenditure for what is meant to essentially be a “free” night.

But to me, the biggest frustration isn’t even the hold, so much as the fact that they sneakily disclose this in an embedded link that most people are likely to skip over. There is absolutely nothing in the final booking screen to indicate that there is a deposit required:

So this could be really easy for an average customer to miss.

In related news, now may be a great time to remind you how easy it is to redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards points for Hyatt properties.

Bottom line

While I’m not quite sure how long this has been going on, to me, there really are two separate issues here:

  1. These rates are obviously astronomical, and carry a huge risk if you have any chance whatsoever of canceling your reservation
  2. The disclosure policy is absolutely abysmal

So in the meantime, if you’re redeeming Marriott Bonvoy points, it’s probably good practice to get in the habit of clicking that “Rate Details” link as you look through the reservations page. Here it is for you, one more time:

Oh, and in case you’re curious, we’re splitting our time between the Hyatt Regency and the Waldorf Astoria Grand Wailea. 😉 Thanks but no thanks, Marriott.

Has anyone else been burned by this sneaky hold fee? Is there a workaround that we just don’t know about? 

Comments

  1. I don’t think this is limited to award redemptions either. I noticed this hold fee on other (refundable) rates as well. In my case, it was well above the room rate that I would have been paying. Absolutely insane.

  2. Did you try booking? I have several Marriott reservations currently where the terms stated I would be charged an unreasonably large deposit, but it has not been charged.

  3. So what happens if they charge my card a “deposit” of 30100 JPY now and 6 months later when I stay they refund 30100 massively devalued JPY to my credit card? It essentially requires people to take on FX risk when booking award stays.

  4. Seen this more and more recently and sadly NOT just at Marriott. Hyatt’s doing it at the Park Hyatt NYC for some dates I wanted to book an award on. Race to the bottom is definitely on for ALL the hotel chains!

  5. Lifetime SPG platinum here… I’m done. Just done with Marriott. I went to the St Regis Bal Harbour every year for my wife’s birthday and was always upgraded to a suite, sometimes with suite night awards and sometimes just as a platinum.

    This past year, I applied by suite night awards, was denied and then at check in they tried to charge me $3000 to upgrade to a suite that for the past six years I had been upgraded to via SNA or platinum upgrades.

    Marriott is already losing a lot of loyal customers from SPG and fortunately with my travel patterns Hilton and Hyatt both present easy alternatives.

  6. I have a few bookings where rate details say this. I was not charged once despite making the bookings weeks ago. I honestly think it’s an IT error.

  7. Will say that the RC Kapalua may have been the most disappointing part about my vacation to Hawaii. Kapalua is SO FAR from anything that you’d want to do. Unless you plan on staying in the resort (which was under construction, with no warning), you’re pretty stuck there.

  8. @Laurel: Great point. In some instances this could be quite swing. Granted, it could end up in the customer’s favor, but it’s pretty crappy to force the risk on a customer to begin with.

    Absolutely agree that 99% of customers won’t even click the link. Even if it were $20.00 it’s the principle.

    I’ve already stopped focusing at all on hotel programs and this just further cements my feelings. If I happen to accrue some points and if a particular redemption just happens to be a good value, I won’t categorically say no – but I no longer put any effort into hotel programs any more.

  9. Mariott is long becoming scummy just like white Republican males. Had to be said. It’s been a while and people shouldn’t forget.

  10. This maybe new to some properties but I’ve done a hold before (forgot what property) where they wanted a deposited. They never charged the card. I never did ended up staying either.

  11. I noticed something recently that seemed out of the ordinary. I was looking to reserve 5 nights at the Wailea Beach Marriott on points for early January 2020 & the grace period for cancellation without penalty was 6 months in advance of check in. Is that something new?

  12. Smart choice staying in Wailea and Kaanapali. Kapalua has a tiny, crowded beach and high winds. This Ritz is not worth 60,000/night.

  13. While checking for the 100,000 pt upgrade to the Brilliant card I mistakenly hit “Get Upgrade” without the 100,000 pt bonus. (Yes, I know this was my fault). Called immediately to get the card reversed back to the regular Bonvoy card. No problem. Now I am eligible for the 100,000 bonus through my business card. Computer will not accept the upgrade because I have or have had the Brilliant card before. AMEX customer service not able to help. After all of these negative comments, maybe it’s best after all.

  14. Is this just a hold on the card or does it actually post as a charge to the card (and affect the accrual of interest)?

  15. I’ve stayed at that Ritz and agree, it’s not worth the price. Actually, I would say that about RC’s in general…

  16. Waldorf in Wailea is not the amazing option either… it is a complete zoo with overcrowded pool and sardine-spliced lounges, kitch decorations, overpriced restaurants with sloppy burgers as only lunch option and servers in heavily soiled uniforms (and don’t try to ask why is beer glass so cloudy – it is not unfiltered beer, believe me). Better shuffle over to Four Seasons next door (gosh even tip-greedy Marriot next door looked like an oasis of calm and service in comparison and that is not saying much).

  17. I booked a westin last weekend with a similar charge. My points reservation shows “!deposit required…” $987 for a 5 night stay. But 5 days have passed and it has not hit my card even as pending. I suppose charging the $325 resort fee upfront may be reasonable so there are no surprises (although I think resort fees are bs) but almost $1k seems excessive. But I am a little concerned that my reservation is solid with the fee not hitting my card.

  18. A credit card hold is not a formal charge. It takes the amount out of your credit limit and it does not show up on your statements, and you have to pay it.

    Nevertheless, it does affect your ability to spend if you are near your credit limit or have a low limit.

    Maybe Marriott points are best used for airline transfers now…

  19. Wow! I was just thinking the exact same thing 2 days ago. I was trying to book St Regis Bal Harbour on award stay and i just happened to click the details to see what they have and they had listed close to 500$ as hold for confirmation of booking. It was insane and i could not believe when this change happened as it did not happen earlier for me.
    I was not sure of having that amount of hold affecting my CL and decided to skip it!

    Guess, its time to dump Bonvoy points and move to other brands.

  20. @GMP 6 MONTHS!

    Seriously?

    I thought the Maui Andaz requiring 6 weeks was insane.

    Can’t imagine booking at either one under any circumstances.

    Hopefully the word will get out, and their bookings will drop precipitously, forcing them to drop this egregious practice. 🙁

  21. Sorry to say that various Marriott properties have been doing this for a while, including Towneplace Suites Bakersfield where I stayed back in October 2017. Yes, that’s right, 2017. After a $50 charge appeared on my card (that was in addition to a hold for incidentals) they said since they had yet to receive their compensation from Marriott, I was charged a deposit against the points that were applied to the reservation. Since the deposit was taken shortly before check in, it was less obnoxious than the examples today, but not by much since there had been no prior notice of a deposit being required for it an award stay.

  22. It’s called GREED the hotels use to be a place to stay at now u have to watch them .They lost me a few years ago as to if u don’t show up or email ur LOSE it All after the first nite.
    CHEERS

  23. This just happened to me and I didn’t know I was charged until I cancelled the reservation and the front desk emailed me saying they will process a refund. Sure enough I checked my credit card statement and was charged more than $1200. Unfortunately it was a St Regis Bora Bora room where I reserved it for 60k points and had no idea I was charged. On top of that the refund that posted was $30 less due to the exchange rate so I feel like I was scammed out of $30…just lucky I cancelled within a month of making the reservation so no huge cash flow impact.

  24. Just another example why Marwood Bonvoy is dead to me. Since the merger:

    – was supposed to be Platinum – they reneged and changed back to Gold and have been ‘looking into it’ since last September

    – totally screwed up a 7 night plus flight award booked before Aug and it took until December to get it ‘straight’ (I think they won on the deal) (hard to tell because their web site is not transparent)

    – had two free nights on SPG credit card awarded in November and it appears that they have disappeared (impossible to find any information on the new web site). On one award they just created another award for 35000 points and sent it to the hotel without my knowledge. On checkout I asked the Westin to explain what happened and they raised the issue with Marriott Jan 27. Marriott has not responded to the Westin nor to me since then even after repeated tries by the Managers at the Westin Melbourne

    – So still 35,000 points and 2 free nights to the bad as well as the missing Platinum.

    Say hi to Hilton.

    As a side note – I own a Marriott suite in a hotel and the income from my room (shared income over the entire hotel) has dropped to ZERO since November because of the merger mistakes and people fleeing the sinking awards ship.

    Way to go.

    Second note – provided this is a hold it is not that bad. However, as a Canadian we have no credit cards without 2.5% Forex so if it was a charge even if refunded at equal rate I would lose at least 5% of the charge but since the Forex is not equal (buy/sell rates are also skewed) there would also be another minimum 5% charge on the Forex swing making it at least a 10% hit. Not on your tintype brother!

  25. Wow. That’s pretty much the final nail in the coffin. Super glad I already spent down all my points, since I figured things would get even worse…

    Bonvoy, Marriott! Good riddance.

  26. This is insane. Wow. I am in disbelief at Marriott these days. But this one truly takes the cake as being egregious.

    Also, not sure if anyone else is having issues since the BONVOY changeover in getting credited with stays. What used to take mostly two days is now taking 10 for me – or not at all.

  27. You should add something to the article about how exchange rates may have a negative or I suppose positive effect if one were to hold the room for an award and then cancel later.
    Is the system going to refund you exactly what your card was charged for?
    What happens if you cancel and the exchange rate is drastically different? They might refund too much or too little…
    I recently did a cash prepaid rate at a very expensive hotel. They did allow cancellations 48 hours prior. But when I cancelled several months after prepaying, I didn’t exactly get the same amount back. I was $30 short. On principle I fought and got my $30 but still. What if that takes place in this award hold scenario.
    This Platinum Premier Elite is already Bonvoyage!

  28. As I read the details from both hotels above this is an actual charge to the credit card, and could be for say twelve months in advance of a points (free) stay.
    Never heard of anything so ridiculous.

  29. @Rick, Agreed. This is NOT a hold. This is a charge. If Marriott gets away with this in Bonvoy without some sort of upheaval from guests this will become the norm across the board. These hotels will affectively have use of these funds for many months in the cumulative for cash flow etc. And the fact that people are being refunded less because of exchange rates is even more disgusting.

    This is by far the most radical and awful thing I have seen with the changes. And it’s done in such a sneaky manner as said in the title of this post.

  30. And I thought this was just me. I made a six night reservation at the Le Méridien Barcelona solely on points and saw a hold on my credit card of $962 (two nights). Went ballistic and called Marriott, which promised to investigate. Two days later it switched from a hold to a charge. Called Marriott back again and also disputed the charge with Chase. Hotel claimed it was made in error (new computer system) and refunded the amount in Euros. Chase refunded the foreign currency difference of $10.62.

    Didn’t realize this had happened to others. If this is something new, it is a real problem for me. Lifetime Titanium Elite.

  31. Off the topic a bit, but I have lots of Marriott points to burn and wondering what’s the best use of my points for a stay in London this Jun 2019. Looking for something close to the tourist attractions. Thanks.

  32. Ahahahahahaha. hahahahaha. That’s all I can manage right now. This is so ridiculous I’m laughing hysterically. a charge of practically a thousand dollars? Not a pending charge, but an actual charge? a 6 week cancellation policy? And I thought “urban amenity fees” were egregious.

    I actually recently stayed in a courtyard marriott in NYC on cash, and they seem to have charged me a $128 deposit (first night’s rate) before check-in, and then charged the rest of the stay at checkout, since the $128 appeared as a “credit” on the final folio. So they seem to be doing something similar with cash stays, except that in those cases they charge you three days early, not, like, three months.

  33. So i just checked my reservation for Westin nanea in a few weeks..and sure enough it says $3000 to be held for my points reservation. But I made this back in January and I was never charged that. I haven’t been charged anything. So I think it might be a glitch.

  34. Many countries have strict consumer protection laws. Since the room is already prepaid with company currency, I’d bet this charge is illegal in some jurisdictions… likely several.

    It would be a good case for consumer fraud. It would be great PR for OMAAT and the governments would likely carry the court costs to prosecute.
    Just think of how much free press Lufthansa got on their lawsuit.

  35. I’ll actually go against the stream here. Considering how many people often make multiple speculative award bookings, I only think this is a decent way of balancing this behaviour. On very aspirational properties the speculative bookings can prevent people who genuinely want to book from getting the rooms they want.

    Yeah, I do make bookings I don’t use in the end, but I have never had two simultaneous bookings.

  36. @Jesper

    You’re correct. Same reason some restaurants now require a pre-payment or a deposit for a reservation. I’ve known people who’ll make multiple reservations for the same evening, then decide an hour before which one to show up for.

  37. @Randy, Do you often make restaurant reservations months in advance and let them use your money while you can’t? And every restaurant I know takes your CC number and only charges it if you no show.

  38. I have switched my point earning to Hyatt exclusively. Hyatt Globalist customers are treated much better than Marriott Platinum Elite, no resort fees or parking fees. I have 12 million Marriott points which were earned under SPG’s program, which will be greatly missed. SPG knew how to treat their platinum customers.

  39. Thanks for the heads-up! Just checked and my Rusutsu reservation does show a $700 deposit fee for my booked 5-night awards stay, equivalent to a one night charge. However, it’s been two weeks and I still haven’t been charged. No clue what that means.

  40. @Stuart
    I have been to several restaurants that needs to be booked months in advance, and that will charge your card a deposit. The deposit will be refunded if canceled within the cancellation policy, or be deducted from the final bill.
    Though also been to plenty of places that only do a hold, or just get a CC number to charge against in case of no show..

    It is really driven by customer behaviour for the restaurants, and I believe to some extend it is for the hotels as well.

  41. I’ve moved all my hotel spend to Hilton and have encouraged folks in my department to do the same. Marriott’s just become too greedy, frankly too incompetent. From charging resort fees on award bookings (frankly, resort fees themselves are unethical) to ridiculously large and sneaky deposit fees as described here to the crazy-quilt of cards and variable benefits (“breakfast, no breakfast, breakfast, no breakfast”)… I’ve had enough.

    This is a shame, because I used to really enjoy my SPG Gold status. Not the highest, but I was always treated well, and the Amex SPG card was pretty cool. But wow, how times have changed post-merger!

  42. Doesn’t the Hotel get to keep the points (and subsequent payment therefrom) if you don’t show up for your reservation? Are they taking the points AND a cash penalty as well for no-shows or late (5 month 29 day) cancellations? Or do they take your cash and return your points?

    It seems that some people only get a hold and others have to pay the (no-show) deposit at the time of reservation which can cost interest and allegedly is refunded at check-out. This could be a ploy to overbook and get paid twice for the same room – it definitely is a punitive penalty for a cancellation. Also with all their problems, I imagine there could be many instances where the refund doesn’t occur as promised and you have to fight another battle just because you were an exemplary guest.

  43. This is similar to what I experienced recently at the Swan in Orlando. Nearly $200 charge to my cc on day of check in for 5-night award stay. Called the hotel after I realized it; they said it was due to using points and would be reversed. Refund posted about a week later.

  44. Dear,
    This would have been an appropriate “Announcement” by Marriott “Bonvoy” to all of its members before that began.
    In the very least, the very very least, Marriott should have posted this to its members and alert them to this new detail.

    And its probably illegal to hold people’s cash because it will go on Marriott’s balance sheet for a year.

    Imagine, they will hold your $832 for a year, that is definitely out of your bank account into theirs.
    This is not a hold or pre-authorization.

    This is a biggie, why not tell your valued customers?

    Meanwhile Bonvoy made a big announcement at the Oscars. With the millions spent on that, perhaps Arne will get a seat next year?

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