Today, Marriott announced official dates for the long discussed Bonvoy loyalty program changes. In short, the number of points you’ll need to redeem for a “free night” is changing to a system of peak, off peak and standard, rather than one set price in points for the whole year. In this new shuffle, there are winners and losers, and a few new quirks, so here’s everything you need to know about the changes…
Marriott notes that compared to the previous points rates, no “Peak” dates are more than 15,000 points per night higher than they were, and many off peak dates are lower than the previous rates. Each property will offer separate dates for these three peak, standard and off peak categories based on the seasonality at the destination. Here’s a look at the points grid for each category.
In other words: A Hotel in Cape Town will be peak at a different time than a hotel in London, due to the inverse seasonality of the two hemispheres. You’ll be able to check the dates for each property online and in theory there should be as many off peak days as there are peak days.
You Can Cancel Existing Bookings
If you have a reservation in the books which would now fall under an “off peak” rate which would save you points, you are eligible to cancel the booking and rebook at the lower points rate, provided there is still such availability.
Be sure to confirm this in advance, because once a reservation is cancelled the program notes that prevailing rates will absolutely apply – so you’d be stuck paying a higher rate, if the rate has gone up during the changes.
The points advance program will remain, which allows members to book rooms before they have all the points they actually need. This program has been beneficial for long term planners looking to lock in availability while it’s there, but who will need to earn more points in the interim. It’s a great feature, if you haven’t used it yet.
But starting September 14th, you’ll be limited to just three points advance bookings at any time. It doesn’t matter how many nights each reservation is, or how many points they require – just that you can only have three of them. The idea here is that it will limit people locking in speculative availability, so more availability will exist for people who will actually use it.
New Flexible Date Finder
Let’s be real, sometimes a vacation is planned around a property itself, and you don’t really care when you go. Marriott is introducing a “flexible date finder”, which shows you the calendar breakout for all off peak, standard and peak dates, hopefully illustrating when availability exists at a given property.
With hope, this will make it easier to plan when you’ll travel, based on the specific breakdown of dates and when the hotel you seek actually has availability. This sounds like an actually positive, or at least neutral change, given the slightly more dynamic (ie complicated) system for figuring out how many points you’ll need.
If you are planning to stay four nights at a Marriott Bonvoy property using points, you should always go ahead and make it five, since it should cost the same amount of points. Fear not, 5th night free is not entirely changing, but a distinction is being made. Instead of calling it 5th night free, the program will now be called “stay five, pay four”, and the “free” night will be based on the night which requires the fewest points.
So if you have a stay which crosses over from off peak to peak, the lowest price night in points would be the one you save on, not the higher priced night. It’s hard to see how this is very different than the current system, but it’s safe to imagine that there are times when it will help bump up the average rate paid in points per night.