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It’s Been A Year: How’s Bonvoy Working Out for You?

It’s Been A Year: How’s Bonvoy Working Out for You?
Joe Cortez

One year after Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest came together, FlyerTalkers are sharing their experience with the new program. While some have minor gripes about how the program has changed, others feel outright frustrated by getting “Bonvoyed,” and are shifting their loyalty to another program entirely.

While a year seems to be a long time, FlyerTalkers tend to have strong memories – especially when it comes to loyalty programs. This week, forum members took a moment to look back on one of the biggest mergers in loyalty programs ever: the marriage of Marriott Rewards, Ritz-Carlton Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest into a unified loyalty program.

Eventually named “Marriott Bonvoy,” the program earned some high praise despite the constant issues experienced by frequent guests. In April 2019, Marriott Bonvoy won the Freddie Award for “Hotel Program of the Year, America,” while the company’s leader was named “CEO of the Year” by Chief Executive Magazine. Meanwhile, FlyerTalkers were not happy about either announcement, while the term “Bonvoyed” became a term for when Murphy’s Law took effect at any Marriott hotel.

One year later, do FlyerTalkers still feel good about the combined loyalty program? Or is “Bonvoyed” still a term to describe the frustration that comes with working within its bounds?

The Good

For some FlyerTalkers, the new program isn’t as bad as it could have been. Once Bonvoy overcame the behind-the-scenes issues and technical glitches, many found it very nice to have a bigger portfolio to use their points.

“A wide variety of properties – from W, Residence Inn, JW Marriott, Autograph, Edition, etc – I can always find a hotel I know I will like,” writes FlyerTalker Adelphos. “I research properties diligently before booking and I am usually satisfied with the physical plant, room, food and beverage and bar options, etc.”

When it comes to actually earning and burning those points, some Bonvoy members find them in their account quickly after stays. Instead of fighting over points, frequent travelers say the right amount of points per stay end up in their account two to three days after check-out.

“Point earning and burning up significantly vs. [Starwood Preferred Guest],” writes EuropeanPete. “Presumably now this could decline somewhat with peak rates, though I do quite a bit of off-peak travel.”

The Bad

As with any major merger, all is not perfect between Marriott and Starwood. When it comes to the on-property experience, many loyal to one or both brands over the years say it leaves a lot to be desired.

“My upgrade percentage is down significantly, with only 30 nights in suites (out of 122 total),” notes FlyerTalk moderator jpdx. “Often, font desk staff proactively apologized that they couldn’t offer me a suite…and a few times I was offered an opportunity to move to a better room mid-stay.”

“My experience: I can earn points at a lot of places and use them at a lot of places. What actually happens at those places is a complete crapshoot,” arlflyer writes about their Bonvoy experience. “More often than not, it’s indistinguishable from the experience I’d have had if I bought on Priceline or something.”

FlyerTalker HomerJ agrees with the perception that top-tier elite benefits have eroded since the merger. “Downsides include hardly any suite upgrades, more over crowded lounges, almost zero recourse when you make a complaint,” they write on the forums. “When I was LT Plat at Starwood I really felt like they cared about my business…now I’m just a number.”

The Ugly

And then there are those who have such a bad experience by getting “Bonvoyed,” they have given up on the chain altogether. It goes beyond Marriott losing the title of “Most Valuable Hotel Chain” to Hilton – many find they get better rewards from competing hoteliers, including Hilton and Hyatt.

“Since my decisions about hotels are no longer impacted by loyalty, my use of Hilton has jumped quite a bit,” writes FlyerTalker pinniped. “But I wouldn’t say I’m loyal to them – it’s just that their commodity is now more attractive than SPG/Marriott on more of my stays. Their clean room and award points are sometimes better than Marriott’s clean room and award points.”

“I am lifetime Gold, and feel somewhat betrayed due to the loss of the lounge access,” writes OpenSky, who is now staying at luxury hotels when given the change. “But it’s hard to avoid Bonvoy – frankly I think the merger should have never been allowed.”

On top of that are the computer glitches that are part of the experience at the combined hotel chain. Many FlyerTalkers are frustrated at the lack of promotions offered by Marriott, along with the inability to register for them online.

“I didn’t make a conscious decision to stop staying with Bonvoy. I just got tired of not being able to register online for the major promos, being expected to phone in because of their IT glitches,” 3544quebec writes on the forums. “On top of that promo rates that I would commonly use at many of the SPG hotels I stay at have disappeared.”

Finally, there are those who have given up entirely on Marriott Bonvoy. With higher points rates for some hotels, a degraded customer experience and changing benefits, some will go out of their way to give their business elsewhere.

“It’s hard to destroy the loyalty of someone who actually worked for Marriott for 11 years, but Bonvoy has been quite successful in doing that,” DenverBrian writes. “I’ve found my Hilton and IHG stays to give me better overall hospitality.”

“I earn far fewer points, rewards cost far more…most stays don’t credit properly and service recovery is a joke,” ajamieson writes about their experience getting “Bonvoyed.” “Hilton aside, it’s hard to see who else would be better.”

Is Bonvoy Better for the Year?

In any loyalty program, it will be impossible to please everyone. In the combination of Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest, it’s plausible to say that Marriott tried to balance loyalty status tiers, loyalty benefits and reward options.

But between the constant IT issues and changing experiences at each hotel, its easy to see why top-tier loyalists to each brand may be frustrated. In addition, the use of “Bonvoyed” as a verb is not good for the brand.

For those who primarily stay at the new Marriott footprint, there may still be value to be unlocked. But that also comes with the price of credit card annual fees and seeking out those properties. Unless travelers have the will to earn elite status, Marriott Bonvoy may not be as rewarding as it once was. And for those who still see value in it: enjoy it as much as you can…until the next round of changes take place.

But, we want to hear from you: Share your experience with Bonvoy in the FlyerTalk forum.

 

[Featured Image: Marriott]

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