If you’re a Marriott Bonvoy member, there’s some good news and bad news.
The good news is that Marriott is extending elite status, points and suite upgrades. The (really) bad news is that Marriott will be doing away with award charts and introducing dynamic pricing from March 2022.
Marriott Bonvoy extensions
Elite status extended till February 2023
Let’s start on a positive note. Marriott Bonvoy will be extending all 2021 status by a further 12 months, all the way till February 2023 (remember: even though status is earned on a calendar year basis, Marriott gives you an extra two months’ validity).
This applies to all elite levels, and the extended year will count towards lifetime status in Bonvoy.
However, if you want to select Choice Benefits, you’ll still need to earn 50/75 elite nights as per normal. Marriott already gifted all members elite nights equal to 50% of their current tier, for what it’s worth.
Suite night awards extended till June 2022
Marriott Bonvoy suite night awards that were due to expire at the end of 2021 will be extended for a further six months (i.e. 30 June 2022). This applies to previously-extended certificates as well.
Bonvoy points valid till December 2022
Marriott Bonvoy points normally expire if there’s no activity (defined as earning or burning at least 1 point) in a 24 month period. However, Marriott paused points expiry during COVID-19, and is going to further pause it until 31 December 2022 at least.
Marriott Bonvoy doing away with award charts
Extensions are a good thing, but Marriott has paired that with some very bad news.
From March 2022, Marriott Bonvoy will transition to dynamic award pricing and remove its award chart. As a reminder, here’s Marriott’s current award chart:
According to a press release sent to me, Marriott expects redemption rates for more than 97% of all properties to continue to range between current off-peak and peak redemption rates throughout 2022. Less than 3% of hotels will have redemption rates in a higher range than the current award chart.
However, that promise is only good till the end of 2022. For stays in 2023 and beyond “rates will be adjusted based more closely on hotel rates.” Where exactly that falls, no one knows.
While I doubt that Marriott will be moving to a fully dynamic scheme (where 1 point is worth x cents towards hotel stays), there’ll definitely be a strong correlation between a hotel’s nightly rate and the number of points required for a stay.
At the very least, it means that aspirational properties like the St. Regis Maldives will surely become much more expensive, and what concerns me is we don’t know whether there’ll be an internal ceiling on how expensive an award can be.
There’s also no word as to whether Marriott will be making more types of rooms available with points. I’d certainly be interested to redeem a Ritz-Carlton club room with points if that were possible (although the price is likely to be astronomical).
What are the implications?
One of the great things about collecting hotel points (at least historically speaking) was the opportunity to get outsized value. With award charts, points prices remain fixed even when cash prices go up- so you could save a lot of money by redeeming points during peak periods.
With dynamic pricing, the opportunities to get outsized value from points are significantly reduced. When revenue rates go up, so do points costs. You could argue it works both ways, in the sense that points costs will fall during off-peak periods. That’s true to an extent, although it might be better to pay cash in those situations (and maybe it’s just the conspiracy theorist in me, but it feels like we see more instances of astronomical points pricing than distressed pricing).
When these changes come into effect, Marriott Bonvoy becomes more similar to Hilton Honors, which also did away with award charts and uses dynamic pricing for award nights. IHG did this as well, which means that the only major programmes still using award charts are:
- Shangri-La Golden Circle
- World of Hyatt
- Wyndham Rewards
I’m trying to think of a silver lining amidst all this, and perhaps if you don’t actively seek out Marriott’s most aspirational properties, you won’t feel the pinch as much. Someone whose idea of a good value redemption is a night at the Sheraton Frankfurt Airport might not feel as aggrieved as someone saving up for a blowout at the Al Maha.
Make no mistake about it: Marriott Bonvoy’s introduction of dynamic pricing is going to have a major impact on how valuable your points stash is, and probably not for the better.
My advice would be to pre-emptively lock in award stays before March 2022, especially if you’re eyeing a Category 8 property. This gives you a hedge regardless of what happens- if the price goes up, you’re protected. If it goes down, you can cancel and rebook to pocket the difference. Points reservations can anyways be cancelled for free, subject to the hotel’s usual policies.
At least they’re not touching the 5th night free perk, which remains available on all award stays regardless of Bonvoy status.
What do you make of these changes?