Now that Marriott has released its list of which hotels will fall into what new redemption categories once they launch their new program in August there are some real opportunities.
- In general many of the top end Starwood properties will cost fewer points
- Many of the best Marriott and Ritz-Carlton properties will cost more points
- Although that’s not universal, so check the hotels you’re most interested in.
One play is to book now to lock in award space for a hotel that’s going to go down in price, and then when the new program launches and the cost of the hotel goes down to call in and get points back.
Another is that hotels which will be going up in price should be reserved now to get the lower points price for stays in the future.
Remember that award stays follow the hotel’s normal cancellation policy. So if a hotel requires you to cancel 72 hours prior to check-in, you’ll need to do that (some hotels have tougher cancel rules). But you can redeem points now and cancel later. So if you have the points you can make speculative bookings.
Some folks are wondering though whether it’s possible to book now and get points back later? Of course you can cancel a reservation and get the lower points price by rebooking. But what about at a sold out hotel? What if there are no more award rooms left?
Lucky at One Mile at a Time posted earlier today something that gave me pause. He wrote,
Marriott has said that they won’t be refunding the points for those who make bookings now for stays after August, though members can call in and rebook, assuming they’re outside the cancelation window…If you go that path, make sure you’re outside the cancelation period, and also be sure you’re aware of the risk that the room may not go back into inventory.
That’s the exact opposite of what Dave Flueck, Marriott’s Senior Vice President for Loyalty, had told me back in April. And it was important enough that I followed up to get it confirmed. When I first wrote about the new program I offered, “If you have a booking that goes down in price under the new chart, you can call to get a refund of the difference in points price. It doesn’t even require cancelling and rebooking (so you’re ok even if there’s no award space left).”
And here’s what I was told by email confirming this,
Members would need to call, but they can then order and attach the new award certificate at the lower price. So, keep the reservation, but change the award “certificate” attached to the reservation. Members could also cancel the reservation and rebook if they so desire given in most cases there aren’t unique asks [attached to a reservation].
So what’s going on here? I followed up to find out. There’s certainly been a fair amount of confusion surrounding the launch of the new program. I think they’ve caused some self-inflicted wounds rushing things out for an August launch.
- They still don’t have an actual date that the new program will launch
- They still haven’t published terms and conditions
- And facts on the ground have sometimes turned out not to quite match the initial announcements (eg Marriott Courtyard doesn’t offer ‘breakfast’ for Platinum members, they offer a $10 food and beverage credit available any time that may or may not cover breakfast, and they were giving out differing information on whether Starwood’s ‘double points’ category 6 and 7 properties would be available at the new 60,000 points price or not).
I’ve gone ahead and confirmed that you can lock in an award room now and get points back later even if a hotel sells out, or sells out of standard rooms. You don’t need to cancel the reservation and rebook. Don’t try this over the phone, call, but an agent should be able to cancel the award certificate and issue a new one without modifying the attached reservation.
Note though that for Starwood’s best properties the room types attached to awards may be changing. I have a booking at the St. Regis Maldives.
- My award room booked through Starwood may be considered a premium room in the new Marriott program.
- In that case I wouldn’t just be able to get 840,000 Marriott points back for my five night stay (90,000 Starpoints per night — or 270,000 Marriott points — times four nights minus the new 60,000 point per night cost over four nights).
- Instead I’d get any difference in points back for the same room type and the room I have will likely cost more than 60,000 points per night.
But yes — you can book award rooms now to lock in availability, and then get any points price difference for the same room back in late summer or fall if the points price of the hotel drops. And that’s true even if the hotel is sold out or is sold out of standard rooms.