Way back in ancient times, circa 2010, the SPG American Express was my go-to card for all non-bonused spending. It earned a whopping 1 Starpoint per dollar. Those points could be used for stays at Starwood brand hotels. You could also transfer points at a 1:1 ratio from SPG to over 40 airlines and if you transferred 20,000 points you’d receive a 5,000 point bonus. So if you’d maximize the bonus, non-bonused spend would earn you 1.25 airline miles per dollar spent, which at the time was great as almost all other co-brand cards would earn 1 point per dollar.
When Marriott purchased Starwood, the exchange ratio for Starpoints to Marriott was set at 1:3. Spending money on the SPG AMEX still made sense since you could still redeem points at SPG or Marriott hotels. Up until 2018, it only took 12,000 Starpoints to stay at a hotel like the Sheraton New York Times Square and if you booked 4 nights, the fifth night was free (A free night at that hotel now costs 40,000 to 60,000 Bonvoy points).
I’m not going to spend time crying about the past two years. Ongoing technology problems, unhelpful agents who make things up, and executives who refuse to admit there’s even a problem are all baked into the program at this point. There’s no turning back now.
However, on top of the problems with the Bonvoy program, earning points from the credit card portfolio were also devalued when the cards from Chase and American Express were consolidated. Instead of earning 3 points per dollar for non-bonused spending (1 SPG=3 Marriott points), all of the cards now earn 2 Bonvoy points per dollar for regular spending, a 33% decrease in value.
While the cards now earn less, the ratio for transferring points to airlines is still set at the 3:1 ratio. You’ll need 60,000 Bonvoy points to get 20,000 airline miles and earn the 5,000 point bonus.
Marriott also has devalued points even further by introducing a three-tier pricing system for its rewards. In addition, they’ve raised the prices of their more popular redemptions. For example, the Swan and Dolphin hotels at WDW used to cost 36,000 points a night (12,000 SPG points) but now cost from 50,000 to 60,000 Bonvoy points a night (or 40,000 if you can find an off-peak night). Oh, and Marriott lets their hotels charge resort/urban destination/fake charge fees to guests even if they’re staying for a free night with points.
That must be why I’m not excited about this offer I just received on my Bonvoy Brilliant American Express card.
The holidays are upon us. And your next reward won’t be far behind. Register your Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card by 11/30 and earn 10,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 or more on eligible purchases on your Card by 12/31. So use it every time you shop to earn even more points for your Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals and for your last-minute gifts.
This offer will pay a bonus of 10,000 Marriott Bonvoy points when you spend $5,000 on the card by 12/31. Since all spending on the card currently earns 2 points per dollar, with this bonus you’ll be earning 4 Marriott Bonvoy points per dollar for all spending. Since I used to put spending on this card when I earned the equivalent of 3 points per dollar, I’m sure going to take advantage of this offer for 4 points per dollar. Right?
I don’t think so.
In my mind, Marriott has killed all the value of their program. Now, I’m not saying I’m not going to stay at Marriott hotels or give up on the Marriott Bonvoy program altogether. We still love some of their hotels like the St. Pancras Renaissance. We’ll stay at a Courtyard hotel because they’re consistent, even if it means you’re not able to distinguish between their hotels from one city to another.
It’s more that I’m not going to view the Marriott Bonvoy program as a place to store my points. They’ve shown that they have no qualms about devaluating the program with little to no notice. Points are only worth what they say they are worth, and that can change from one moment to the next.
In that respect, I think Marriott Bonvoy is a lot like the Delta Skymiles of hotel points. Given, they still publish point charts but you have no idea what redemptions will cost until you go to book it. Will it be a standard redemption? Maybe it will be priced at peak value, Who knows?
I am kinda sad about this. I really liked Starwood’s program. We stayed at some nice hotels and I felt that I got value for putting spending on my credit card. When the merger happened, we were able to stay at some nice Marriott properties as well. Now, all of the really nice Marriott Bonvoy properties are mega-expensive for points plus what you’ll have to pay for hotel fees. We’re reaching the end of our year of Marriott Platinum status and now that we’ll be back to Gold, there’s less value added to stay at their hotels.
I’ll look for redemptions that are a good value for our points, like when we stayed in New York over Thanksgiving, but I’m not going to look for them first. I’m also not going to try to earn points on the program with spending on their co-brand credit cards. Even if they did pique my interest with 4 points per dollar for non-bonused spending.
In the end, this entire post was a roundabout way of saying that I currently view 4 Marriott Bonvoy points less than I used to value 1 Starpoint.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary