If there’s one thing no one wants – it’s yet another thing to make redeeming points more difficult. Earning points has never been easier, but with so many more entrant into the game, getting those magical free nights is a bit more challenging. Thanks to Marriott Bonvoy’s latest program change, it’s sadly now a bit worse. Here’s the scoop on why this is flat out bad news…

View From The Wing has excellent coverage on a disturbing new Bonvoy program update. In short, hotels now have greater control over how many rooms must be made available using points – and surprise, surprise, that means many will make fewer rooms available.

The change is this: when Marriott brought Starwood under its umbrella, two policies existed. Starwood made all standard rooms available for points redemption, whereas Marriott only required hotels to make “some” rooms available on whatever the hotel defined as “high demand dates”. Talk about leeway…

When the merger happened, Marriott kept the Starwood portfolio – think St. Regis, W Hotels, Sheraton etc – under its previously beloved rules, and the less friendly rules for all Marriott properties stayed the same for their own brands.

That’s now changed to have all hotels under the Marriott policy. The Starwood policy is dead, long live the Starwood policy. And yeah, the whole “no notice” thing…

This is called “capacity control”, where all Marriott Bonvoy hotels, even those which were previously a Starwood brand, can now choose how many rooms they’d like to make available with points. During a peak vacation time, it could be around 10% of standard rooms, rather than all standard rooms like before. That’s a shame.

It’s not like hotels don’t get compensated when you pay with points.

It wouldn’t be entirely out of the question for anyone reading this to say that there’s been up to a 90% culling in available rooms with points under this change. If all Starwood brand standard rooms were previously available, and now they can choose how many, it’s a stark and unfortunate contrast.

Unfortunately this change has taken immediate effect, so for the foreseeable future, all Marriott Bonvoy brands will be bound by less consumer friendly points terms than before. If you have a hotel you’ve been eyeing up, it’s definitely worth getting that booking in early – even if you don’t have all the points in place yet. Here’s more on that.

The whole “no blackout dates” thing is starting to sound more like a text to win contest than a perk to shout about. Here’s a deeper look at how each hotel brand makes rooms available on points, in case you want to know how this stacks up…

Oh, and to make matters worse, many Marriott Hotels just moved up in price using points. Full details here.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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32 Comments

  1. You have to credit where credit is due, though: Marriott has been extremely consistent about changes to Bonvoy being negative for the customer, so it’s not like they suddenly stopped making positive changes and turned all negative in a hurry. They’ve been this way for years now. I say this as a titanium via SPG who’s now a platinum, and will make less than that this year. Frankly I’ve had about enough of Marriott. Maybe if enough people agree, Marriott will stop the Bonvoying, but I’m not holding my breath.

    1. Dear Christian.
      I have been trying to book my November Holiday with vigour this year (2020) When Marriott & SPG decided it was “take over“ time, I feared the worst.
      That has come true. I paid my maintenance fees at my home resort in Orlando in November 2019 have decided to return To my home resort in 2020.
      Do You think I could get through. ??????
      All lines are Marriott.
      All lines have the same non descriptive tones And operatives who are not versed with SPG and Owners Renters or New Clients.
      It’s All Brutally Confusing.
      After 2 months of calling and surfing, I eventually Called my home resort and asked for someone to assist me to book a Home Stay???? I held on for 1/2 an hour “ calling from England at 3am in Morning. What a task and mountain I had to climb. Regrettably I’m a Deed Owner ( 35years) Timeshare Original, at My home resort and that causes other Problems in itself. My Deeds are in Perpetuity so I’m not locked into or out off Holidays. ( Flexible) But if I don’t get in quick I loose out.

      The other sad thing is SPG had a good working relationship with the client and it’s American Express Card. I used it always and got my points-now Marriott have decided to cull the SPG Amex in Favour of Marriot. 2 point’ s offered
      (Was 3 with SPG). Less money spent on the card lower points accrued and no hotels in reach to stay at. And still the same fee each year so buying the better brand and higher spending clients will create a Fantastic Margin. Especially in the Higher Brands which they were after.
      I just hope the clients spending the money, keeps the staff in a better protective position and job security.

      Don’t think so -but can dream.
      John

  2. It’s actually been a nightmare since Marriott has taken over. Also as a Platinum elite traveler everything from customer service to Managing/earning points to hotels have been extremely sub par. SPG was excellent, knowledgeable associates, never an issue with booking and hotels were immaculate. Marriott has been a huge disappointment.

    1. Corporate greed has always been and will only be bowing down to financial bottom line. Let’s restore SPG’s glory days by Boycotting Bonvoy, and get everyone’s attention……. here we go #Boycottvoy

  3. Ran into this exact problem recently. I’ve been an SPG gold customer for over 15 years Went to book a room with points and was told all the point rooms were gone but I could pay $350 per night! I asked what happened to the “no black out dates” policy and was told that each hotel determines how many rooms are available for points.
    I am thoroughly disgusted with what has happened since Marriott took over. They merged with Starwood because of the loyal SPG members. I used to go out of my way to book Starwood/ Marriott but no more. Once the points I have are gone I will be loyal no more!

    1. Corporate greed has always been and will only be bowing down to financial bottom line. Let’s restore SPG’s glory days by Boycotting Bonvoy, and get everyone’s attention……. here we go #Boycottvoy

      Let’s start using #Boycottvoy to post EVERY horrible Bonvoy story/ disappointing program policy across all social media platform.

  4. Marriott has even taking a dive on their customer service. Some managers don’t bother to return your calls and the customer service Center is of no help because most hotels are franchised.

    All I can count on with Marriott is a relatively clean and often modern room.

    Period.

  5. The worst fears of SPG members have come true. We knew it would only be a matter of time. I was a loyal SPG Gold & Platinum member for 15yrs and avoided Marriott like the plague. I used to have a personal as well as business SPH card and cancelled both, it is just not worth the hassle.
    – The combined website rollout was a complete disaster?
    – it now takes 50%-100% more spend to get free nights
    – SPG had tiers but all tiers were priced the same, any time of week / year. Rooms are now priced higher on weekends and even higher at certain periods. The ONLY advantage I can see with the merger is more hotel choices but there were very few times I traveled that there wasn’t at least one SPG hotel in town.
    No thanks Marriott. Bring back a standalone SPG.

  6. It seems .marriot used its loyal customers to be in position to purchase Starwood and have for years been stripping the rewards away

    1. The only way to show them is to switch hotels. Plenty of other hotels for rewards and points for roadwarriors. Bye Marriott

  7. The fact is that Marriott is throwing loyalty away. Bonvoy is not a loyalty program. It’s a marketing promotion and has as much depth to it as a kiddy swimming pool. It looks all cute, but no self respecting adult is going to spend any time in it.
    As a long time SPG and Marriott customer it feels like I’m devalued and disrespected at every turn. At what point does the dozens of nights a year that I stay matter? They obviously don’t since everything about the loyalty program continues to be devalued over and over again. You give, they take… sounds like a toxic relationship that needs to be walked away from.

  8. Yes. I too am a titanium for life member. In Aruba it was a challenge to just get an upgrade even though I did pay the rack rate for a standard room. I had to talk with three levels if customer service before getting a simple upgrade and not even a suite! There were plenty of suites available I looked at the rooms at night while walking along the beach. I think we should gang together and start a rally to challenge Marriott with a breach of contract for if rooms are available you Should get the upgrade!!!

  9. Seriously, as consumers, we have the following options:

    (1) Stop being loyal to Marriott until they change their predatory practices – think about people leaving Verizon to T-mobile (if the area has adequate coverage) ;

    (2) Action, Action, Action… book other brands whenever possible – think Comcast, one of America most hated company, people ran away from them and forced the company to listen;

    (3) Spread the words … ask others (friends, family members, co-workers, neighbors, strangers met on the plane… ) to take action – think United Airlines was dragging a paying customers off the plane and left a pool of blood, they only “apologize” once everyone was talking about it; so don’t underestimate the collective power of us, we can all make a difference, let’s talk about it, and let the conversation go viral … #Boycottvoy

    (4) Political awareness, ask your Congress representatives to look into anti-trust laws application under the Marriott-SPG merger – think Microsoft back in the 90’s; this hotel giant is simply too big and eliminated 40% of the competition in a matter of 18 months with 1 single merger.

    1. I made Lifetime Platinum the year of the takeover. Marriott service and upgrades have been consistently TERRIBLE, even as a Titanium member. I will likely move to Hilton Diamond once my points are gone. The comparisons by JAY are spot on….instead of United, I am now EP on American.

      1. Corporate greed has always been and will only be bowing down to financial bottom line. Let’s restore SPG’s glory days by Boycotting Bonvoy, and get everyone’s attention……. here we go #Boycottvoy

  10. Corporate greed has taken over the Marriot brand that I have been a loyal customer of for the last 20 years. Millions spend on BonVoy branding and a few pennies on actual customer satisfaction. Harder to maintain status, stricter cancellation rules, no forgiveness even for missed flights or illness, impossible rates for redemption etc etc. But it has been liberating as well since I have started exploring other brands when I travel abroad. Surprise! They are better and cheaper. One example – try the Taj brand in India. Their customer service is just amazing, restaurants truly world class, and when you convert currencies to $$ they are also cheaper than JW and all those brands. Other loyalty programs seems to be what they claim…loyalty programs. Goodbye BonVoy.

  11. Oh…wow….what a surprise waiting to happen! As a Hilton member..just by accident had to become a BONVOY member…a total fiasco no customer service, no a single knowlogeable person..no phone calls answered, not even earned points accredited…just waiting for the slightest possibility of expending those hard earn points and bye bye bonvoy….Ahh btw love all those boycott ideas. Let’s act and be heard.

  12. It took me years to figure out that Brand loyalty to large corporations like Marriott never pays off. I just cancelled my Chase Marriott card and went in favor of a travel rewards card. I earn more rewards points per dollar than my Marriott credit card and I can redeem the points at any hotel anytime. No blackout dates.

  13. We have been loyal Starwood members for 15 years. Now it takes about 3 full minutes to talk to a person to book a room. When that happens, I often am told that the room can’t be paid by points?
    Why pay all my fees (including maintenance) if I now get more pushback trying to book a room? If the room is available, points should be honored…if my membership is honored. It’s like, “Oh, we’re glad to have you invest in us by your membership, but we won’t get you a room now.” If this is how it works, why pay the extra to be a member?

  14. As a platinum elite member, I find this disappointing. It sounds like we will be saying “bon voy[age]” to the benefits that enticed us into joining the program. I keep track of points used, and rest assured that should I find that I’m unable to book a room with points, or find that points used are not in sync with the dollar cost for a room, I will start looking elsewhere.

  15. I loved the SPG, Sharaton way of doing things. Awesome customer service, they cared. After the Marriott take over, they promised only changes for the better. Well I see changes, but haven’t seen any better. Let’s do something about it, here I was thinking it was just me. But apparently not. Don’t forget power in numbers.

  16. I agree with all of the comments above. When they announced that marriott was taking over starwood, I went oh no. Starwood was reasonable with redeeming points and the starwood amex was great. I am using my bonvoy points up and plan on cancelling my amex in the near future. They have gone up twice on their point redemption in 1 year and now this blackout thing. We should have seen it coming. I’m at a Sheraton now and it have undergone changes from 1 year ago . No welcome gift, removed coffee makers and robes.

  17. I agree with all of the comments above. When they announced that marriott was taking over starwood, I went oh no. Starwood was reasonable with redeeming points and the starwood amex was great. I am using my bonvoy points up and plan on cancelling my amex in the near future. They have gone up twice on their point redemption in 1 year and now this blackout thing. We should have seen it coming. I’m at a Sheraton now and it has undergone changes from 1 year ago . No welcome gift, removed coffee makers and robes. No upgrade when I checked in available .

  18. Marriott Bonvoy is an unfortunate company once associated with quality that now races to the bottom to keep profits up. In November, I experienced such abysmal treatment at a Marriott-affiliate in Mississippi that I wrote the company before posting an unfavorable review. It made little difference and soon all emails from my address were undeliverable. Only change in the corporate structure will address how Marriott is hemorrhaging customers for the sake of its stockholders.

  19. Call me crazy, but I have had nothing but great experiences with Marriott. I just came back from Paris where I stayed at 2 properties. I did use points, and yes, I got upgraded to suites on points! Even at the Princes de Galles!!! Wonderful experience. In full disclosure I am a lifetime Titanium with 26 years loyalty go Marriott.

  20. I switched to Hilton when Bonvoy took away complimentary breakfast and lounge access for Gold Elite. See ya!

  21. warren newton, what is your definition of GREAT? I believe that you are a Marriott stooge! #sad

    i will be getting out of this program as soon as possible!!!

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