Big Marriott Bonvoy Changes Coming Soon — Here’s What You Need to Know

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We’ve known for a while the Marriott Bonvoy program would be adding peak and off-peak pricing to its award chart at some point this year and now it has announced that the changes will take effect as of Sept. 14, 2019. But wait, there’s more …

Marriott is making big negative changes to how Points Advance bookings work, but you’ve got almost a month before these changes take effect. Let’s look at the nitty-gritty so you know what to do with your Marriott points.

Book your Marriott stays now to protect yourself against award price increases. (Photo courtesy of Marriott)

Marriott Bonvoy Program Changes

First, let’s cover the biggest change which is the introduction of peak and off-peak pricing.

Peak and Off-Peak Pricing

Here is what the new award chart will look like on Sept. 14:

Peak and off-peak prices won’t be tied to specific dates, seasons or even cities, but will vary by hotel. On top of that, the prices will also be adjusted monthly. So it’s best to book your Marriott stays as far in advance as possible and then keep an eye out for price drops. If the price does drop, you’ll need to cancel and re-book at the lower rate, so pay attention to the penalty-free cancellation window. It is usually 48 hours, but there are at least two Marriott locations with a 60-day advance cancellation policy.

The peak and off-peak prices will adjust monthly but Marriott has said that the prices will be determined by an algorithm and not by the individual hotels. This should eliminate the problem of owners or managers jacking up the price on a whim. Marriott predicts that standard rates will be available most of the time with an equal number of peak and off-peak days balanced over a rolling 12-month period.

The price fluctuations will also affect when you can use your Marriott free-night certificate. For example, if your free night is valid at hotels costing 50,000 points per night or less (the Category 6 standard award price) you won’t be able to book a Category 6 hotel during peak times because it would cost 60,000 points. However, you would be able to book a Category 7 hotel during off-peak times because the price will have dropped to 50,000 points.

As a reminder, here are the Marriott cards (currently available to new applicants) that earn free-night certificates:

  • Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card — Free night award, at participating hotels costing 35,000 Marriott points or less, every year after your account anniversary
  • Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card — Every year after your card renewal month you’ll receive a free night award that is good at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program that cost up to 50,000 Marriott points per night
  • Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card – Free award night each cardmember anniversary, valid at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program costing up to 35,000 points. With this card, you can also earn a second free night award (for hotels costing up to 35,000 points) after spending $60,000 with the card in a calendar year.

Marriott’s bonus of a fifth night free on award stays is getting a tweak as well. The name is changing to “Stay for 5, Pay for 4” and the cheapest night will be free when you book five nights with points.

Points Advance

Marriott’s Points Advance has long been a unique and generous benefit of the Marriott Bonvoy program. With it you have been able to lock in current award prices even when you don’t have enough points in your account, but after Sept. 14, the Points Advance feature will function as more of an award hold.

For Points Advance bookings made after Sept. 14 the award price won’t be locked in and can vary until you actually pay for the stay. So it will be a way to reserve award rooms but not an opportunity to secure potentially lower prices.

Any Points Advance bookings made before Sept. 14 will still operate under the old terms and Marriott has said it will honor up to five Points Advance bookings made prior to the change. Marriott tells me that if you currently have more than five Points Advance bookings, you will have to choose which five you want to keep.

After Sept. 14 you will only be able to have three Points Advance bookings at a time.

Cash + Points

Marriott is also updating its Cash + Points chart to include off peak and peak prices. You’ll pay a fixed dollar amount based on the hotel’s category and the points price will vary between off peak, standard and peak prices.

The way that Cash + Points bookings function isn’t changing, other than the addition of peak and off-peak prices.

How do you feel about these changes? Its definitely a big hit to those who went crazy with Points Advance bookings. Personally, I still love to convert Marriott points into hard-to-earn airline miles, like Alaska Airlines miles or Korean Air miles.

I’m interested to see how the changes pan out. I could see myself using Marriott points in the same way I use Delta miles: I cherry-pick good deals (10,000 miles for round-trip domestic flights), but I don’t rely on them when my travel dates aren’t flexible.

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Jason Stauffer was a writer for Million Mile Secrets where he covered points, miles, credit cards, airlines, hotels and general travel. His work has appeared in The Points Guy and NextAdvisor.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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