When Marriott revamped the Bonvoy line of credit cards issued by Amex and Chase, one big, positive change to the cards was the addition of a free night certificate at the card anniversary date. For most of the cards, this free night is capped at hotels redeemable for 35,000 points or less, except for the Bonvoy Brilliant American Express card which has a free night capped at hotels redeemable for 50,000 points.
This currently makes sense because a category 5 hotel costs 35,000 points and a category 6 hotel costs 50,000 points. However, Marriott has announced that sometime in 2019 they will introduce peak and off-peak pricing for hotel redemptions, which may wreak havoc on some cardholders’ plans on how to use their free night.
Category 5 hotels will cost 30,000 points for off-peak and 40,000 points for peak season. Category 6 hotels will cost 40,000 for off-peak redemptions and 60,000 points for peak season,
With the upcoming free night structure, the majority of cardholders getting a 35,000 point certificate will be locked out of category 5 hotels during peak season.
So, here’s the idea? Why can’t AMEX, Chase and Marriott give a 40,000 point certificate instead? Given, it doesn’t correspond with any standard level of pricing but it would allow booking a category 5 hotel even during peak season and a category 6 hotel during off-peak times. I bet this would get more people to book off-peak awards while getting them to think positively about the new tiered pricing structure. Instead, what you are going to have is cardholders locked out of a category of hotels with no option but to book a lower category property and feeling like they are now getting less value than they did previously (which they are).
If you’re going to Disney World, what’s a better-looking redemption? The Swan or Dolphin hotels on Disney property, which are both category 6 hotels, even if you have to stay off season:
Or this category 4 hotel located on Hwy 192?
Because with tiered pricing and a 35,000 point certificate, enjoy your stay during peak season at the Fairfield Inn.
The 50,000 point certificate from the Bonvoy Brilliant card already has this structure. Once tiered pricing comes out, you’ll be able to book category 7 hotels when they are pricing as non-peak. I love the idea of being able to book the St. Regis Osaka or the Goldener Hirsch in Salzburg with my free night in the off season.
Realistically, how many people are going to redeem for 40,000 points instead of 35,000 points? I’m sure plenty of people redeem these certificates at hotels lower than the maximum point levels already. If more people use the certificates for aspirational hotel stays, I’d bet the retention of cardholders might increase.
So Marriott gets some goodwill at a time when they’re going to be making another negative change to their program and the banks (American Express and Chase) have more customers keeping their cards. The hotels get more guests using point redemptions during slow seasons, which means they can possibly sell those rooms for cash during the busy season instead.
I’m sure there will be a spreadsheet showing a tick up of redemptions of the higher levels which may cause alarm with the people who love looking at spreadsheets for a living. All it takes is an executive to say that those outlier numbers are nothing to worry about because that’s only some “noise around the edges,” right?
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary