When Marriott announced details of their new program they introduced an award chart where at least some rooms at every one of their hotels would be available at a rewards price no higher than 60,000 points.
- Luxury Starwood properties like the St. Regis Bora Bora, the St. Regis Maldives, Al Maha Desert Resort, and many more that used to price at 35,000 Starpoints (105,000 Marriott points) or even 90,000 Starpoints (270,000 Marriott points) per night became bookable for 60,000 Marriott points. And 5th night free applies, meaning you could book for as little as 48,000 points per night.
- Unfortunately this also entailed less availability than Starwood had offered, but there were some riches to be had.
Al Maha Desert Resort
Marriott told us from the get go that they would offer this kind of great value only until 2019 and that next year they’d start charging up to 100,000 points for their best redemptions with the introduction of a new category 8 along with low season and high season prices.
When Marriott announced their new program they published a start date of August 1 on several pages. Then they acted as though they never said that, and pushed the launch date to August 18. Of course they really weren’t ready even then.
New category 8 pricing was generally assumed to go into effect at the start of 2019, but as far as I can tell Marriott didn’t actually tell us that.
Now they’ve shared with me, “Category 8 redemption rates go into effect in March 2019 along with the annual category changes.” Oddly, Marriott says that the start of category 8 pricing in March may not correspond to the start of peak and off-peak pricing at each category level,
We will provide updates on the timing peak / off peak as soon as possible.
Starting in March we will have less availability at top properties than Starwood offered, and similar pricing for Starwood’s top category of hotels which didn’t charge double (or triple) points for being all suite hotels.
That’s still a value at places like Al Maha Desert Resort which was normally 60,000 Starpoints (180,000 Marriott points) though frequently discounted with the ‘Paradise is Closer’ promotion to 39,000 Starpoints (117,000 Marriott points) per night.
Note that Marriott is also warning about another round of ‘annual category changes’. Universally that has meant hotel award prices getting more expensive, not cheaper.
- Substantially more hotels became more expensive in points than less expensive in 2012.
- Then in 2013 they increased the price of 36% of hotels and dropped only 1% while introducing a new more expensive award tier.
- 2014 saw a 4:1 ratio of increases to decreases in points prices for hotel redemptions.
- 2015 was 3:1 increase.
- In 2016 ‘only’ 560 hotels went up in points prices while 237 went down.
- In 2017, with Starwood merger news fresh, they only increased 1.5 times as many hotels as they reduced.
- In 2018 they increased points prices at over 1000 hotels with 21% of hotels getting more expensive and 5% getting less expensive.
Marriott increased the price of a huge number of hotels in early 2018 only to lower them in mid-2018. That allowed them to claim that hotel redemption prices were dropping, even though prices were largely the same as what they had been at the start of the year.
For all of the disastrous IT work with the changeover, and even changes without notice just since the new program launched, Marriott Rewards is still a better program than their biggest competitors Hilton, Accor, and IHG offer.
And most importantly lock your 2019 and early 2020 travel in before March because you’ll save as much as 40,000 points per night on some redemptions.