Just about everyone knows by now that there’s a phenomenal, limited-time opportunity to redeem Marriott/Starwood’s top-tier hotels. That’s because the merger created a new award chart which maxes out at 60,000 points per night until 2019, when peak pricing and Category 8 gets introduced. At that time, the most expensive property will jump to 100,000 points.
Any way you look at it, 60,000 points (the equivalent of 20,000 SPG points in the old program) for properties like the St Regis Maldives, W Maldives, W Koh Samui and the Al Maha Desert Resort is an unbelievable deal. Factor in the 5th night free and the price goes down to 48,000 points a night, simply unthinkable a couple years ago.
Here’s a full list of the hotels that are in Category 8, which price at Category 7 prices until 2019.
When does the party end?
Ever since the new award chart was published, people have been speculating when exactly Category 8 and peak pricing will come into play. Most have taken the conservative view of assuming “Coming 2019” means 1 Jan 2019, and have booked their awards accordingly.
But thanks to View From The Wing we now know that Category 8 will come into effect in March 2019, which gives you the whole of January and February to absolutely stretch the horizon of your redemptions (Marriott lets you book award nights 350 days in advance). This has also been updated on the Marriott award chart.
Interestingly, View From The Wing notes that it’s possible peak pricing will not be introduced at the same time as Category 8. If you’re paranoid, you might conclude that peak pricing may come online earlier than March 2019, but until we hear otherwise there’s no reason to panic.
Points Advance rates now available for SPG properties
One of the best features of Marriott Rewards (how often do people say that?) is the Points Advance system, which allows you to make award bookings without actually paying the points right now.
Some people dislike the system because it encourages members to make speculative bookings, reducing the pool of award space for everyone else. Loyalty Lobby has astutely pointed out how this is could be a potential disaster for all concerned, a veritable tragedy of the commons as it were. I would hope that people don’t make reservations they have no intention of fulfilling, but I do understand the incentive for people to lock things in “just in case”.
Points Advance used to only be available for legacy Marriott properties, but the feature has now been added to legacy Starwood properties as well. When you make a booking on the Marriott website, click on the “Points Advance” option and confirm your booking.
You’ll receive a confirmation number in your email and must pay the points for your stay at least 14 days before arrival– if you have sufficient points in your account, Marriott will automatically deduct them to complete the reservation. If not, the reservation will lapse.
Points Advance reservations made before new rates kick in will be honored at old rates
Sam Chui quote a Marriott representative as saying the following:
“If a customer makes a points advance reservation under category 7 rates and then the hotel becomes a category 8, Marriott will honor the original rate. While we haven’t announced when category 8 rates take effect, we recommend our members order the certificate before Category 8 takes effect – we will provide ample lead time – with the main benefit being that the member can attach it themselves with no phone call to our Customer Engagement Centers. If the member doesn’t have the points by the time category 8 rates take effect, but before their stay, they can only attach their certificate at the original point price by calling the Customer Engagement Centers. “
My interpretation? As long as you do your Points Advance reservation before Category 8 kicks in, you can get it honored at the old rates at the time you decide to pay.
Marriott’s announcement means you have a bit more time to plan out your award travel for 2019 and beyond. The expansion of Points Advance also gives you more flexibility to lock in bookings at properties you think you might be interested in staying at.
I myself have upcoming stays at the St Regis Bali, St Regis Florence and W Maldives, and very much look forward to reviewing each one.