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Marriott has announced major changes to its Bonvoy program. There were a couple of good things in today’s announcement, but overall, the changes aren’t positive ones with the announcement that they are eliminating their award chart in March 2022, and award pricing will instead be fully dynamic. 

The short story is that award pricing is likely to go up in most cases. If you are planning any award stays in 2022 and have a good stash of Marriott Bonvoy points, start thinking about what you want to do with them and possibly go ahead and make some bookings now to lock in current pricing.

Let’s take a look at the changes Marriott has announced. 

Marriott Bonvoy Is Eliminating Their Award Chart

Let’s start with the bad news. Bonvoy is going full Hilton, IHG and Delta on us and is getting rid of its award chart. The changes will go into effect in March of 2022, and the new dynamic pricing will be based directly on the current cash rates at the property. 

Marriott currently prices its hotels at standard, peak and off-peak rates. So even if you can only travel the peak season, you know the upper limit of what each property is going to cost. Unfortunately, this isn ’t going to be the case anymore. If you’ve ever booked a Hilton property with the Hilton Honors points, you know how wildly the points rates can fluctuate, even inside of one week. 

Let’s look at the full breakdown and the timeline of the changes to come:

  • There will be no changes prior to March 2022
  • The award chart will be removed in March 2022
  • Starting in March 2022 Marriott Bonvoy will transition to dynamic award pricing 
  • Between March 2022 and the end of 2022, award pricing at more than 97% of properties will continue to be set as off-peak and peak. That means the properties will still fall in one of the program’s eight categories and the prices are expected to fluctuate only within the current off-peak and peak ranges
  • About 3% of hotels are expected to change pricing starting in March 2022. We don’t know which properties are on this list, but we can speculate that these will be the higher end properties in popular destinations, such as the Maldives, Hawaii etc.
  • Starting in 2023, there will be no more limits on award pricing

Marriott claims that flexible points redemption rates mean that properties will open more rooms overall for redemption stays, but that sounds like PR speak. Going back to the Hilton example, yes you see more rooms open for award stays, but they are often billed as “premium” rooms and the award rates are two or three times higher than standard room awards. 

Right now there are eight hotel categories on the current Bonvoy award chart that range in prices from 5,000 to 100,000 Bonvoy points per night. Going forward, there’s no limit on how much an award night can cost and we are likely to see prices top 100,000 in some of the more expensive destinations during the peak travel times. 

Now, it’s important to point out that yes, we might see award rates drop below the current prices in some hotels in less popular destinations or in the off-season. This change might be good for travelers who aren’t looking to redeem their Bonvoy points at the super expensive aspirational properties, or are super flexible in planning travel around lower priced dates. 

Free Night Certificates to Become More Flexible

Now to the good news. “Can I top off my free night certificate?” is one of the most commonly asked questions when it comes to the Marriott program. Right now the answer is no, but soon members will be able to top off free night awards certificates by up to 15,000 points.

For example, under this new policy, if you have a 35,000 annual free night award certificate that comes with the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card, you’ll be able to redeem it for an award night that costs up to 50,000 points as long as you have enough points in your account to cover the 15,000 point difference. 

This change is slated to start in early 2022 (we don’t know when exactly). If that happens before the award chart is eliminated, there might be an opportunity to use the 35,000 certificate to book a room at peak category 5 or standard category 6 rates by adding points. 

This change will make the certificates more usable in popular destinations during the peak travel times until the award chart goes away entirely. 

Marriott Extends Elite status, Upgrades and Pauses Points Expiration

Another piece of good news is that Marriott elite status will be extended through February 2023, regardless of when it was earned. So, if you haven’t requalified for status this year, you get another year of your current status level.

Marriott will also continue to pause point expiration until Dec. 31, 2022. Marriott Bonvoy points expire after 24 months of no account activity, but we don’t have to worry about this until the end of 2022 with this announcement. This is not hugely important because the points can be so easily extended by earning or redeeming even the smallest number of Marriott points. It is a gesture nevertheless that recognizes that it’ll take time for travel to rebound to pre-pandemic levels. 

Suite night awards that were previously expiring by Dec. 31, 2021, and the free night award certificates that were set to expire between Jan. 3  and June 29, 2022, will also be extended through June 30, 2022. This includes all free night award certificates, including awards from cobranded credit cards and elite status annual Choice Benefits. 

This is good news for those of us with a number of free night certificates in our accounts because soon you’ll be able to top them off with points.  

The extensions will be automatically reflected in members’ accounts. 

Preparing for Marriott Dynamic Pricing

If you have a significant stash of Marriott points, you might be wondering what to do right now, before the dynamic pricing is going into effect.  

We would recommend preemptively, and yes, sometimes speculatively, book upcoming award stays now. This will allow you to lock in future award nights at the current award chart rates.

There’s very little downside to doing so. Award stays usually have a flexible cancellation policy and you can cancel them and get your points back until a couple of days before arrival. And if the award stay goes down in price in the future, you can cancel and rebook your stay. 

Final Thoughts

Overall, the changes made to the Marriott Bonvoy program aren’t good news. The change is not entirely unexpected, as more and more airline and hotel loyalty programs are moving to the dynamic pricing model. 

There are some positive changes, however, including the ability to top off the free night certificates with points and the extension of elite status through February 2023.

If you’ve had a particular redemption in mind but haven’t pulled the trigger yet, there’s no time like the present. We’ve been given some time before the changes are implemented fully, so book your Marriott stays now. In case your plans change, or the property goes down in price, you can always cancel and rebook. 

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