Hotel Daniele, Venice

Months ago, Marriott Bonvoy announced that it would be ditching traditional values, which gave an easy indicator of how many points you’d need for a free night. Instead, they’d be moving to a “dynamic” system, where points prices work off cash prices and can vary wildly, by tens of thousands of points from night to night.

The more expensive a room is in cash, the more expensive it’ll be in Bonvoy Points under the new system and previous caps of how many points a hotel can charge at a maximum have been obliterated, or will be from day one, as confirmed by Marriott.

The soon to be “old” system allowed wins for members, where set rates applied, even if the cash price was wildly fluctuating and helped to stimulate fervent brand loyalty.

Tomorrow, March 29th, 2022, that old — and quite frankly better system — will be gone and Marriott Bonvoy will begin the final stages of gutting what great values were left in the program for those who made the conscious choice of participating.

In its place, the Marriott Hotels hotel mega group will start ushering in the new age of a basically uncompetitive cash back program.

It all comes at the same time Marriott’s CEO is working to give hotel owners lower costs by reducing things like breakfast and housekeeping. Some hotels aren’t even including coffee, tea or juice with free “elite” breakfast.

It all begs the question of where the hallowed Marriott brand will soon fit into the spectrum of luxury, versus an old school Airbnb. I say old school, because many of the “new school” Airbnb’s offer more amenities and service than some Marriott’s now.

It’s a sad day for Marriott hotel brand guests and enthusiasts, but a happy day for Marriott, which will now often be paid more when people cash in their points, while giving them less from the experience.

That all rests on one supposition. That is — if, of course, people continue to play the Marriott Bonvoy game, rather than jumping elsewhere to more rewarding programs.

a pool with palm trees and chairs and umbrellas

Marriott Is Aligning Cash With Points

Hotels, much like the rest of the travel industry are eager to recoup losses from the last few years. Marriott has used greenwashing and pandemic cuts to quietly reduce costs while blaming things on outside factors.

Marriott’s CEO thinks the best way to do that, is to rob Peter to pay Paul. The CEO regularly sides with hotel owners above customer needs or previous brand standards, but here on this issue, hotels won’t necessarily be paid more for the stays because of the points increases. Just Marriott.

On March 29th, Marriott will begin to phase in its new dynamic system for pricing.

Under Marriott’s current, and soon to be former system, hotels had peak, off peak and standard dates. That was already a more complicated shift than one set price all year, but it was digestible enough.

Members could set points goals from day one, knowing their desired dream luxury hotel would cost between 80,000 to 100,000 points at the high end for a night.

Those goalposts provided clarity and comfort to people, who would often take years to get the points needed for just a single “free” night.

a pool with palm trees and a body of water

Now, there’s no clarity or comfort, unless you find the notion of “the price is the price, whatever the computer says for that night” comforting.

Because of the volatility cash prices can bring, a hotel which could’ve cost 100,000 points can now shatter that figure on the dates someone would like. All those earning goals immediately get thrown aside, as the goal posts change. Marriott’s ‘Moments’ experience packages are now one of the last “great” values.

Back to the earning table you go, unless you decide it’s a shell game you can’t win.

Marriott would say that there will be instances where cash prices fall and therefore points costs could be lower than what people would’ve previously paid, but experience dictates that this is a minority result, and that the majority go up significantly.

On margin, the hotel group will be able to extract a few thousand extra points for many nights, which will raise the amount they’re able to recoup when members cash in points. It’s not the 100,000 to 150,000 shifts that’ll get people, it’s Marriott slowly turning 50,000 into 52,500, slowly churning the dial in the wrong direction.

a room with a view of a city and a large window

Other Chains Sense An Opportunity

IHG Rewards has been a largely uncompetitive loyalty program for the last few years, and in fact also went in the wrong direction for a period of time.

But now, recent changes will make the program more compelling than before, and a collection of boutique hotels will broaden the appeal. Hyatt, with some exceptions has remained true to its loyalty first mission, and also offers very steady and reliable points rates. Hilton has improved much of its program too – and Accor is now making inroads.

Marriott is the largest global hotel brand, but as travel rebounds, the sharing economy of Airbnb, VRBO and others grow, and people sense more choice in market, this game of disenfranchising loyalty members is a risky one.

Unrealistic Changes For Most Of The World

In the United States, earning points at high rates with lucrative bonuses is relatively easy. Even then, the largest Marriott Bonvoy Credit Card bonuses will likely only cover one top tier night, under the new program.

In virtually every other market, or for people who only earn points by physically staying at a Marriott Hotel, the carrot of reward being dangled is simply too far away and now — borderline pipe dream.

At an earning rate of 10 points per dollar spent, a member would need to spend more than $10,000 to earn just one top tier free night. At some hotels, they’d still be 30,000+ points away from that night, requiring $3,000 or more in spending.

Counter that with Hyatt, where many lovely hotels cost 25,000 points per night, and the inflation is off the charts. Ultimately, points are a currency, just like a US dollar, and if inflation — aka costs — become too high, people shift strategies to more achievable goals.

I’ve argued before that by doing this, hotels are playing a dumb game they will lose.

Why bother with this stuff, when you can just earn 10X points via Chase Travel or Capital One Travel, and use the points without silly blackout dates or drama?

a cliff side with a body of water and trees

Prior to Marriott, Starwood Hotels, which Marriott acquired, doubled down on loyalty in times of economic downturn to keep their closest members close. Marriott is going in the opposite direction by constantly cutting away at values which people found to be worthwhile in the Marriott Bonvoy program.

It’s all fine and well if Marriott’s stock price remains high and members simple gripe rather than walk, but if members start to walk and brands lose their appeal due to cuts like breakfast and housekeeping, that stock price might start falling, and so too might Marriott Bonvoy.

If you have some “locked in” dates for upcoming travel, it’s almost always going to be best to book before the March 29th date to lock in previous rates. The initial blow may not be savage, but over time, history would say it will be.

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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  1. Cringe now when l think of all the Marriott bonvoy transfers we did to avios in the past, just in case. Now, we have too many avios, and not enough bonvoy points. We did get plenty of F 241 seats to Asia tho, so can’t complain… but really only started using Marriott last year, and now this. Shame, really.

  2. Marriott is finally destroying what little loyalty my wife and I had to the brand. No more. We are both cancelling our Marriott Bonvoy Amex cards (separate accounts) and move our monthly spend to our Chase Sapphire Preferred Visa cards. Hello, Hyatt!

  3. The demise started with the acquisition of the Starwood brand. I imagine they are still pumping investments into the sub-standard hotel chain. Looks like Hilton here we come!

    1. Agree, stopped using the card after Starwood became bonvoy. Also hate the crappy free night annual awards. Never available unless there’s an unfortunate tornado in the hotels path.

  4. I have over 2500 nights with Marriott over the last 15 years, and am Ambassador Elite. With these changes i will certainly begin looking for another hotel chain. Hyatt has made me an offer, i may just have to accept. Sadly, Marriott used to be one of the best. Now, like the domestic airlines, its a race to the bottom.

  5. We have been using Marriott Bonvoy for the last six years. We have used our last 310,000 points for a reservation for 5 nights in Paris. Sorry to lose the status at Marriott but we are moving on to Hyatt!

  6. We bailed on Marriott’s award program last year.
    No Maui timeshare, no Bonvoy credit cards.
    Switching to other credit cards for points.

  7. What will this mean for those credit card certificates? Last I checked it was good for a 35k a night hotel. Does this mean I’ll likely only be able to use it on a Tuesday or something?

  8. I have been a Marriott Rewards member since back in the 1980’s and managed to get up to a Lifetime Platinum in 2004. Now, I am a Lifetime Titanium Elite. As such, I have stayed with Marriott in the USA, Mexico, and various countries in Europe.
    I did notice that when Marriott bought Sheraton, things the points began decreasing in value and have been continually doing so over the past years. While I still have some points, they will not go as far as before and if the loyalty benefits keep decreasing, I will just have to change to another hotel program.
    It’s a shame because I have been loyal to Marriott all those years and now to see the benefits decrease or even disappear.

  9. Having traveled for thousands of miles over the years and having been a loyal member of the Marriott family, I will probably be cancelling my credit card and looking at alternate hotel chains and their much better locality programs.

  10. Why would a good business blow up their loyalty program at a time when people are starting to travel again. As a past executive for a Fortune 500 company I find this to be a very poor business decision. Existing customers are worth their weight in gold and the cost associated with getting new customers is going to be very high in this new environment.

  11. Gilbert, where do you suggest Canadians turn to?. There are no credit cards up here that link with Hyatt or Hilton that I am aware of

  12. A bit overblown. While they are removing the award chart, for this coming year all that is happening in reality to costs is the shift between categories that Marriott always does this time of year, with the exception of moving 40 properties to a effective CAT 9 with a range of 90K-120K. Is it a devaluation – of course it is. However, it is hardly doomsday. Will they eventually get to a Points Price = x * Dollar Price? Of course they will eventually. I am amused by the people going “Hello Hilton” because Hilton is already there, where x = 200 for standard rooms, and 400 for premium rooms.

    1. Doomsday is the removal of guidance or rails for cost expectations and no guarantee of what happens with any price ranges once 2023 comes around.

    2. Covert is the type of person that helps these changes pass. “Oh, it’s not that big of a deal…” SPG was such an amazing program and I was screaming from the rooftops, as were others, that this wasn’t good. It didn’t take too long too see how this monopolistic company is squeezing the vice. I really hope all the folks on here that commented actually use their wallets to protest. I am canceling my Marriott cards and will now try more Hilton and Hyatt.

  13. Thank You for this update! My 40 years of travel habits are about to change, BIG TIME, including, as of today, ceasing use of my card for an abundant amount of non-Marriott purchases. I have a very large balance of points earned over the last almost 40 years and it is sad to witness Marriott use my past loyalty to gain future wealth for THEMSELVES by applying this new system to my old points. Makes me VERY sad. I have loved and been loyal to Marriott for a LONG time. Loyalty should go both ways… I can’t imagine that J. Willard is very happy with current ownership!

  14. I’ve been a Marriott Visa Signature member for longer than I can remember, and the fact that these points are devalued to such a point now is criminal! How can a brand like Marriott, think that we the ‘loyalists’ will stand by and quietly take what they dish out to us without a sound? My wife & I are considering using our points, and then closing our account with Marriott, and moving to a different card that offers a better product. Good luck to all of you!

  15. If all Bonvoy members stop staying at Marriott properties for, say, 3 months, we will get them treat us better.

  16. I am a platinum member in europe since 5 years and pay all my stays from my own pocket. I think all sweet spots get smaller, but I have to admit that at least 50 percent of my points came from promotions and bonuses Marriott gave to customers. Now it is business as usual and you can´t spent 30000 points during the Cheyenne Fontier days instead of 800 USD or 30000 points in Phoenix during the Superbowl instead of 550 USD. I see the points as a nice additional incentive and they never have been a strong reason to stay with the brand. The quality of hospitailty and the comfort of the bed are the main reason. The benefits of the lounges in europe and asia are way more important, because they are a lot better than in the US with lots of nice food and 3 hours of happy hour full beverage. With the new system the point will be like a 10 percent discount and we will have to deal with this.

  17. The breakfast are now prepared like military creations. Holiday Express and La Quinta serve better breakfast. I leaving Marriott brands

  18. We were concerned when Marriot took over the Starwood Group. Seems we had reason. As so many others have expressed here, will be doing the same with 4 Amex Bonvoy cards: cutting them up.
    Capuano is unclear on the concept. What a putz.

  19. An additional nail in the Bonvoy coffin. As readers of this blog know, this began back when the CFO took over and they dropped “Marriott Rewards” to appeal to millennials and signaled the change by eliminating “Rewards” from the program name! Back then, I moved to only staying at Marriotts when it is company dictate (e.g. company meeting etc) or when there are no other choices. They’ve already lost thousands of dollars of my business. This really is a questionable move with the upcoming return to business travel for many people. There are plenty of other options out there. Hilton (which has also a significantly devalued program) has been making small improvements and is actually my #2 chain now behind Hyatt… All you can do is vote with your feet – and book elsewhere…

  20. Think shows how once icon of respect has turned on its people. Another thing, do not purchase the Marriott Vacation Club package of toxic bullshit… Back in 1992 my wife and I bought into this program and it was a way for average people to pay for a week or two relaxing in a Marriott Property as an owner… Then about ten years ago the new greedy executives changed the program to points and sold the point as real estate in their new contrived system which included annual maintenance fees ( which increase every year) The sell this program to people on vacation at a Marriott property under full court press and get signatures… My wife and I are now senior citizens on Social Security and could no longer afford the high costs of remaining the their program and gave our points back to Marriott. Just what? Marriott accepted our offer and took back the property points and then sent the IRS Cancellation of Debt forms 1099-C for both me and my wife. Now we both get to pay taxes on their corporate tax right off… Pass this on, stay away from Marriott’s Financial Programs…

  21. Just last week when I went to use my earned free nights I found out they are worth 25000 so if they are changing the points system to hotels’ dollars amounts are they going to do the same for free stay certificates, more points rewarded as the hotel prices go up? NOT!! I guess it’s time to switch credit cards.

  22. If looking for a new Hotel Program, you should try Sonesta. This is a great growing brand that had many conversions (majority from Marriott) in the past year. Sonesta Travel Pass could be your next new travel program go to.

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