The last day of Marriott's award chart is today.
The flexible point redemption will take effect on March 29, 2022, according to Marriott. Marriott has shared a list of 200 properties that will cost more than their current price ranges, and we have long expected that this will mean an increase in nightly rate at some properties. When I saw the list, I was more disappointed than I anticipated. The Marriott portfolio will cost more this year than the top of the award chart, but that is only 3% of the total, and the increases are in the range of 30% to 50%. Dynamic pricing will probably be welcomed by people who just want to use their points to pay for their hotel, but I feel like this change sucks a lot of the joy out of what an award program should be.
On March 29th, Marriott will introduce flexible point redemptions. Between March 29th and 30th, that change will take effect.
We are told that nightly award rates will move in line with hotel cash rates and availability, but not exactly matching hotel cash rates and availability.
It will feel good to those people who just want to be able to use their points. I think there are many travelers who travel during peak holiday weeks who just want to be able to use their points, no matter the cost. If your only travel plans are during the peak weeks, you may feel like the points are worthless. The new system gives some joy to people who are more concerned with when than how much.
The benefit to that crowd comes at a cost of less value per point, which is the opposite of what we want as award maximizers. Members who travel to a property with more availability can expect lower award rates, while those who travel during peak periods of demand will pay more.
Award rates for stays in the Marriott portfolio will be between the current off-peak and peak price bands. If a property is in Category 4 today (30K off-peak / 35K standard / 40K peak), it will not cost more than 40K points or less than 30K points for the rest of the year. That sounds good, but it means that high-demand properties could be peak priced for the rest of 2022, even if they don't fulfill that promise. We don't know if anything will get cheaper.
A number of properties will become more expensive.
Marriott has provided a list of 200 properties that may have new dynamic pricing that is different from the current award chart positions. The full list can be found here.
The award chart is here until March 29, 2022.
The minimum and maximum hotel rates will only be increased by 5,000 points for a small number of properties. A few will see an increase of up to 10,000 points. Many Marriott properties will see increases of up to 20,000 or even 30,000 points per night over current redemption levels.
Current Category 8 properties cost 70K off-peak and 85K standard. The properties will cost as much as 130K points. The current off-peak cost is nearly double that of peak pricing.
I expected that part of the story. I didn't expect the number of properties not in Category 8 in that list of places that will increase by up to 20K or 30K points per night over their current pricing bands and the effect this would have on using free night certificates even at limited-service properties.
The Westin Maui is a Category 7 property. It costs 50K / 60K / 70K points. It could cost as much as 100K points per night starting March 29th. The current peak price is an increase of 43%.
If we want to look for a positive point, it seems that the most popular Marriott properties increase in value by up to 20K points. Many popular Ritz-Carlton properties are expected to increase by as much as 20K points per night. The 20K increase on properties currently in Category 8 seems less outrageous at some of these properties that feature similarly outrageous cash rates year round, but it is still disappointing for those of us who spend nights at Courtyard and Residence Inn properties for the purpose of collecting points. I participate in hotel loyalty programs in order to reach that goalpost of staying at properties that I otherwise wouldn't.
I was surprised by the number of Residence Inn, Courtyard, and SpringHill Suites properties that are going to increase by 20,000 points per night. The Residence Inn Virginia Beach Oceanfront is an example. It costs 30K / 35K / 40K and is currently in Category 5. It could cost as much as 60K points after March 29th. That increase is 50% over peak rates and 57% over the current standard rate.
This is one of many examples where a property will move out of the free night certificate range even if it is priced correctly. An increase of 20K points puts many Category 5 properties out of range of the ability to use a 35K free night certificate and top it off with points since we will only be able to use up to 15K points. The same is true for Category 6 and 50K certificates.
It was expected. I am very disappointed that it will increase by 20K points per night this year, as I was expecting it to increase in a few years. We are told that changes from 2023 onward at the most aspirational properties are expected to be incremental, but clearly those properties are going to cost more.
The inclusion of about 30 limited-service properties in the United States in brands like Fairfield Inn, TownePlace Suites, Residence Inn, Courtyard, and SpringHill suites that are increasing by 10K surprised me the most. If you used the 35K free night certificates to stay at a Category 4 property that could be increasing by 20K points, it would devalue the annual credit card 35K free night certificates further.
It was odd to see the properties that haven't opened yet. The Courtyard and SpringHil Suites are on the list of properties that will increase by up to 20K points more than the current award chart, even though they are not slated to open until April.
Award rates are expected to increase in the years to come.
Marriott allows Points Advance reservations so you can make a reservation even if you don't have enough points in your account. The award rate is not locked in by Points Advance. To pay for the stay and lock in the current rate, you need to get the points in your account and attach them to the stay. Marriott now allows a Points Advance reservation to be held for up to 60 days or until 14 days before check-in, whichever is sooner, so you can scoop up award availability speculatively and hold it.
Many readers have asked when Marriott will be able to top up free night certificates with points. Marriott announced late last year that they will be able to add up to 15,000 points to a free night certificate. The free night certificates are much more flexible now.
The ability will debut in April, but we won't get it until after the award chart is eliminated. It's disappointing for those who were hoping to maximize use of a free night certificate one last time.
I think the smart money is going to find a great use for your free night certificates now since the ability to get far outsized cash value in the future will likely be much more limited. It will be easy to get more value than the annual fee, but this is probably your last chance to get hundreds more in value. If you have them, book them.
Marriott was going to eliminate its award chart in March. I give Marriott credit for the amount of notice they have given, we have known for months that this would happen and now we know a month in advance when the award chart will go away. It's nice that you can make plans now if you want to lock something in. The official announcement doesn't make me more bullish on the future of the Marriott Bonvoy program given that large increases are slated to hit even very limited-service properties in locations that aren't as exotic as Paris, the Maldives, and Bora Bora. If you have free night certificates, it makes sense to lock them in now because the clock is running out.