Marriott Program Changes, Easier Award Redemption More Points Required

Back in August I wrote that it looked like Marriott would be making changes to their program, moving towards the Starwood and now Hilton model of no blackout dates and capacity controls. Part of the change would involve modifying their award structure, offering fifth award night free just like Starwood. But this would come at a cost — Marriott currently offers point discounts for subsequent nights after the first, and this would go away.

Well, bingo, that’s exactly the change that’s been announced.

I don’t yet know whether Marriott is actually offering the same ‘true redemption’ as Starwood and for the most part Hilton, where ‘if a standard room is available it’s yours’. In fact, on Flyertalk the Marriott Concierge states

Hotels will only be able to limit the number of rooms available for redemption on a very limited number of nights.

So it looks like Marriott isn’t really matching the Starwood redemption benefit. But they’re making redemptions easier.

But it comes at a cost — more points required for awards in most cases (certainly for nights two through four). This will be offset for Marriott Platinum members who will earn more bonus points for their in-hotel spend. But for the member searching out award values, this isn’t on-balance good. For the member who wants to be sure there points are useful when they want to use them, but may be a positive.

On the whole, verdict mixed. Marriott needed to do something since Hilton eased their redemptions and now the industry was moving towards being far simpler than Marriott’s program. So they revamped their offerings, providing Starwood and Hilton light on the redemption side.

I haven’t vetted all the details, the peice that will be most important for me to investigate will be the effect on Marriott’s travel packages which have long been the best value in the program (free hotel nights and miles).

Update: The changes are a bit worse than I thought. The price of travel package awards (hotel nights and miles goes up. For instance, a package for a 7 night stay at a category 6 hotel and 120,000 American miles is currently 250,000 Marriott points and will be going up to 300,000 points. Plus they’ve also created a new more expensive redemption category 8.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. I’d say that, on the whole, the changes are decidedly negative. No blackout dates is a nice benefit, but the increase in redemption costs to get there seems pretty tough to stomach. I did some quick math on the regular room rewards and can only come up with one scenario that results in rooms costing fewer points. Stays of exactly 5 nights at hotels that are in categories 1-5 will see a minimal reduction in the point required for that stay. One night stays will be the same price, with the added bonus of the new Category 8 properties. And everything else costs more points.

    I haven’t stayed in the same place for 5 nights in over 2 years; it just isn’t that common for me. So this change is a negative one in my book, even if it does mean no blackout dates.

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