When Marriott announced their award category changes that go into effect March 5, I noted that 346 hotels would cost more points and 37 would cost fewer. That includes 68 that are going up to Marriott’s new ‘category 8’.
A category 7 hotel moving up to category 8 will go from costing 60,000 points per night to costing 85,000 points per night. That’s before Marriott institutes low and high season pricing later this year at a date to still be announced.
I initially wrote that you could use points advance to lock in reservations now at the current rate even if you don’t have the points, and redeem later (after March 5 when prices go up).
And in fact since most hotels have 72 hour cancellation policies (watch out for those that are more stringent) you could even make several speculative bookings now on the chance you might need them in the future.
Several readers pointed out to me that Marriott implied in their announcement that this wasn’t the case,
Members who wish to book a points advance redemption under the current Marriott Rewards and SPG award chart are encouraged to order redemption certificates before March 5 to lock in the rate. On March 5, redemption bookings are subject to the new unified program award chart.
Al Maha Desert Resort
As a result I updated my post not to give anyone this idea while I investigated with Marriott. Did Marriott really change how points advance works?
- It would seem reasonable to place this kind of limit. After all, they don’t want members booking out every week of top properties, not knowing which week they’ll use, and cancelling most of them.
- But it would be a change to how the program worked in practice, one that had not been announced. There’s been a lot of chaos with the new program since it launched August 18 last year. Had this change gotten slipped in?
One Mile at a Time called this a ‘sneaky change’.
However Marriott assures me that, in fact, nothing has changed.
There is no change. We included language in the category changes email encouraging members to order redemption certificates before March 5 as a suggestion to help members lock in the rate because having a certificate attached makes it easier to retrieve the original reservation and the original rate. While we can retrieve a reservation without a certificate attached, it is a more involved and time-consuming process requiring the help of a CEC agent.
St. Regis Maldives Overwater Villa, credit: Marriott
I followed up further, for avoidance of any doubt, and was told that when you make an award reservation using Points Advance “[t]he rate is locked in.” So you just need to have the points in your account 14 days prior to check-in.
This is a very generous approach by Marriott. It’s one that no doubt some members abuse. But it’s good to know that it’s still available, so that you can more effectively make plans to travel next year at current award rates for the 346 of Marriott’s 6900-plus properties whose points prices are going up in 3 weeks.