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The world’s largest hotel chain is making some big changes to its loyalty program in 2022. On Tuesday, Marriott extended the expiration dates on existing elite status, points and certificates held by its customers, but also unveiled changes to its program as a whole that will have effects well beyond the new year.
The news is both good and bad. But, unfortunately, the good news is for the short term, while the bad news will have much longer-term implications on the Marriott Bonvoy program and how members can maximize their points.
Marriott elite status and point extensions
As part of Tuesday’s announcement, Marriott has confirmed that as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and its lasting effects through 2021, it will be extending members’ elite status once again.
All Bonvoy members who currently have elite status will have that status extended through February 2023. This latest extension applies to all Bonvoy members, regardless of whether their elite status was previously extended or newly achieved in 2021.
When the Covid-19 pandemic first shut down the world of travel in March 2020, Marriott extended all members’ elite status through February 2022, which means with this latest extension, some members will have status for almost three years in total without having to requalify for it.
All Marriott Bonvoy points in your account will also get an extension of their own. The program is extending its pause on points expiration through Dec. 31, 2022. Typically, in pre-pandemic times, Marriott points would expire if there was no account activity within a 24-month period.
Free Night and Suite Night Awards also extended
In another piece of good news, the chain is extending the amount of time members will have to use both their Free Night Awards (FNAs) and Suite Night Awards (SNAs).
Free Night Awards, also known as free night certificates, are a benefit of several Marriott credit cards and can be used for a free night on stays that would normally cost up to a specified number of points. For example, the following Marriott cards offer annual free night certificates starting with the second year you have the card:
- Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card — Free night certificate that can be used at a property costing up to 35,000 points per night. The card has an annual fee of $95.
- Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card — Free night certificate that can be used at a property costing up to 35,000 points per night. The card has an annual fee of $125 (see rates and fees).
- Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card — Free night certificate that can be used at a property costing up to 50,000 points per night. The card has an annual fee of $450 (see rates and fees).
If you have a free night certificate that’s currently set to expire between Jan. 3, 2022, and June 29, 2022, it will now be extended through June 30, 2022. This extension applies to those certificates that have already been extended as well.
In addition to the extension of these certificates, Marriott announced on Tuesday that in early 2022, members will be able to combine their 35,000-point certificate with 15,000 of their own points to redeem the certificate at a property that costs up to 50,000 points per night.
Similar to FNA certificates, members who have Suite Night Awards will also have more time to use their certificates. SNAs that were set to expire on Dec. 31, 2021, will be extended and will now expire on June 30, 2022.
Five SNA certificates are available to Bonvoy elite members who stay between 50 and 75 nights at Marriott properties each year as part of Marriott’s Choice Benefits program.
Permanent changes to the Marriott program
Unfortunately, Tuesday’s announcement from Marriott wasn’t all good news. The chain also announced that, beginning in early 2022, it will be changing the way it categorizes hotels. As a result, members should expect to see a much greater range in the way a hotel is priced if they want to use their points.
Marriott told CNN Underscored that it will be transitioning to “Flexible Point Redemption Rates” in March 2022, meaning that the program is getting rid of the award chart categories it currently uses to group properties. Instead of assigning properties to categories with set price points based on the date of the stay — off-peak, standard and peak — point redemptions will now vary based on the prevailing cash rate.
So, if the cash rate of a hotel stay is high, members can expect to pay more in points than they would if the cash rate of the hotel stay is low. Unfortunately, that means that the overall value of Marriott Bonvoy points is likely to decrease, as members can currently take advantage of fixed-point rates even when the cash price of the hotel is high.
The Marriott award chart will disappear in March 2022. However, when the new dynamic pricing system is implemented at that time, Marriott says that nearly all its hotels — more than 97% — will continue to be priced in the current range that members are accustomed to based on the existing award categories. However, that’s also expected to change for stays starting in 2023, when Marriott plans to align award rates more closely with a hotel’s cash rates.
By getting rid of its award charts and moving to a dynamic pricing model, Marriott is following the lead of Hilton Hotels, which made a similar change in 2017 to its Hilton Honors loyalty program.
Ultimately, this move won’t be popular with loyal Marriott members, as award redemption rates will be unpredictable. However, it’s a change that follows much of the travel industry, with both airlines and hotels aligning their award redemption rates with the cash rates on a given flight or night.
The good news is that these changes don’t take effect until March 2022. Until then, Marriott’s award chart and redemption rates based on set categories will remain in place. So if you’ve got upcoming travel plans and have been saving your Marriott Bonvoy points, you’ll likely want to redeem them before these changes come into force.
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