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Big Changes to Marriott Bonvoy. We Have Questions (and Answers)

Big Changes to Marriott Bonvoy. We Have Questions (and Answers)
Anya Kartashova

Even since before the massive Marriott merger was completed, the chain has been tweaking its loyalty program. Last year, Starpoints were converted to Marriott Bonvoy points; Nights + Flights packages were gutted; and new co-branded credit cards with reduced earnings were introduced.

Since March of this year, members have been anticipating a rollout of peak/off-peak redemption rates, but the changes have been postponed…until Sept. 14.

Peak/Off-Peak Pricing to Debut Sept. 14

Right now, Marriott members can use points to book free rooms at about 7,000 properties that are divided up into eight categories. The rate is based on a hotel’s category, and you can find all the properties and their redemption rates here.

Starting Sept. 14, peak and off-peak pricing will take effect.

The updated award chart will be based on demand. Properties with low demand will require fewer points per night, and properties with high demand will require more points per night. According to Marriott’s announcement video, “even the most popular hotels will offer off-peak redemption rates during certain times of year.”

The pricing will depend on Marriott and not individual hotels themselves. Standard pricing will apply most of the year, with peak and off-peak rates distributed equally the rest of the year.

Since the two hotel chains fully merged in 2018, Marriott has used standard pricing for all award stays. Depending on how these new redemption rates shake out, their introduction could be either good or bad, depending on your travel flexibility.

How This Affects Free Award Nights Associated with Co-Branded Credit Cards

Holders of the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Card from Chase, the Marriott Bonvoy Business Credit Card from American Express and the personal Marriott Bonvoy Credit Card from American Express (no longer available to new applicants) earn one free award night every year they renew their card. That night is capped at 35,000 points.

Those with the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card earn a free award night worth up to 50,000 points.

The key point to remember here is that these restrictions don’t correspond to hotel categories. For example, if your night is capped at 35,000 points, it means you get a free night at a Category 5 property when off-peak or standard pricing is in effect but not during peak season.

5th Night Free to Remain

One of Marriott Bonvoy’s best features previously known as “5th Night Free” is being rebranded as “Stay for 5, Pay for 4” and isn’t going anywhere. However, the free night will be the one of the lowest value. If your vacation is split between peak and standard pricing, your free night will be calculated at standard redemption rates.

New Cash + Points Chart

If you’re short on points to cover your stay, Cash + Points is a great option to extend your rewards further. It allows you to lock in your rate before the rooms sell out. The option isn’t going away but is taking a fresh look.

The Cash + Points award chart will also adhere to the off-peak/standard/peak pricing, except the cash portion will remain the same, and the rate in points will change according to demand.

New Points Advance Limitations

The Points Advance option also allows you to book an award stay without enough points in your account, except you keep earning points leading up to your stay to cover its cost. Now that hotels will be changing redemption rates based on demand, your rate won’t be guaranteed until you have enough points in your account to complete the reservation. In other words, you lock in the room, not the rate.

For example, if your room is pricing out at standard rates at the time you make a Points Advance reservation and it goes down to off-peak some time before your trip, you’ll need fewer points to cover your stay. However, if it changes to peak, you’ll need to keep earning points.

Additionally, Marriott Bonvoy members will be limited to holding no more than three Points Advance reservations at any given moment.

Final Thoughts

That’s a whole lot of changes and updates to the Marriott Bonvoy program, once again. However, I’m most concerned about what peak/off-peak pricing will entail. How many dates will be affected? How often will the rates change? And will I be able to use my free night certificates without issues at desirable properties? A lot of questions remain. If you’d like to see if any of them are answered in the coming days, head to this active FlyerTalk thread on Off-Peak and Peak Point Redemption Rates started by a Marriott Bonvoy company rep.


What are your thoughts about all these changes to the Marriott loyalty program? Please share them in the comment section below.


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