Use Points Advance to Lock In Current Marriott Redemption Rates Before Prices Go Up

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.

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, 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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  1. @gary
    gary what is the policy in general, lets say for hotels that are NOT changing category
    as a general rule marriott allows to book properties with points until you have enough points?
    want to book december hawaii properties but not enough point right now

  2. Gary, there may be 346 properties changing category, but aren’t there 6900-plus properties that will be implementing peak and off peak rates? And since we don’t yet know what dates will be peak, isn’t every stay for March-onwards at risk of a points increase, unless booked before March 5?

  3. How exactly does one make a”Points Advance” booking? If I have only 5,000 points in my account,. can I simply make multiple reward bookings each costing 30,000 points for sometime in the future? Or is there a special mechanism for making ‘Pointrs Advance’ bookings?

  4. @Gary – I know you do not use them but could you ask your contact at Marriott on a points advance reservation where the category goes up will they still allow attachment of a Travel Package cert after March 5th if the TP cert is for the pre March 5th category? I am trying to avoid converting an OC cert to NC until the expiry date to extend the expiry as long as possible but I have a points advance reservation for tentative dates at a property where the category is going up which, depending on the policy, may require me to convert and attach before 3/5 to lock in the old rate even though that would limit the expiry date of the converted cert in case I decide I do not want the tentative reservation.

  5. @Gary – what are the rules with shifting a reservation that’s “locked in”? Meaning if I book Dec 2-4, can I shift to Dec 4-6 at the same rate (post-3/5) if the same room type is available?

    I’m thinking of this in the same vein as when AA changed their award chart, and one could book LAX-HKG in F at the old 67.5k rate and change dates/carriers (up to a certain date), as long as the routing didn’t change.

  6. This is awesome Gary, thank you for reaching out and getting clarification on this.
    I really appreciate your effort everytime you do something like this.

  7. St. Regis Maldives is not showing any reward redemption for January 2020. Really irritated. I have been watching it closely. A waste of travel certificate.

  8. St. Regis Maldives is not showing any reward redemption for January 2020. Really irritated. I have been watching it closely. A waste of travel certificate.

  9. I currently have a single night “points advance” reservation for mid May. It is currently a Cat 4 but will increase to Cat 5. I have a Free night Anniversary Certificate (Cat 1-4 ) that I will use likely use for the night.

    Should I just add the Certificate now or wait until closer in to date? I was all set to add the certificate hen I first heard about the changes but it seems safe to wait with what you have reported today. I can’t decide which is more advantageous or it it doesn’t matter.

  10. Gary , is it permissible to make the following three bookings at the same hotel, using points, but without using points advance? (If not three perhaps just the first two):

    1. Check in December 1, check out December 6
    2. Check in December 2, check out December 7
    3. Check in December 3, check out December 8

    I will stay only one of the three bookings. Too far in advance to know when I can travel, as well as airfares, and also where I stand in terms of some other parts of the Marriott program, some things are under dispute with them.

    Are these kids of bookings acceptable. A Marriott agent told me a few minutes ago that it was ok. An ex Starwood agent told me a couple of months ago we encourage it.
    However I don’t want problems, so I am asking the expert.

  11. @Gary – Thank you so much for taking the time to confirm this with Marriott. The possibility of Marriott re-pricing points advance bookings would have really messed up a few of my stays for later this year.

  12. So you can still pay using points at the rate you reserved using Points Advance, great!

    Need some clarification if you can pay using an Annual Free Night Certificate at the rate you reserved using Points Advance. Any news on that?

    I just don’t trust Marriott. I had the issue you describe as #2 happen during last year’s Deval and when I called to apply my 7 night cert, they didn’t honor it and made me use 30k additional points to upgrade to the new level. I guess I should have fought it?

  13. @Gary
    I have an upcoming trip to Vegas in September and I booked the Cosmo for 50K pts/night (going up to 60K pts/night on 3/5/19) for two nights. I have a 50K certificate coming in April/May once my SPG Luxury card renews. Could I make a new points advance booking and then be able use my 50K certificate and 50K points when the points come due 14 days before my stay? It would save me 50K points and allow me to use my 50K cert from my card renewal.

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