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.