I just published an article this morning about how true inside scoops rarely happen, and then View from the Wing got a scoop. But Gary’s usually an exception to the rule. 😉
According to Gary, unidentified sources (who may or may not work for Marriott) provided him with information about upcoming changes to the Marriott Rewards loyalty program. These do not include many specifics. But given the significance of Marriott to many business travelers, I think it would be of great interest to many readers.
Unconfirmed Changes Coming to Marriott Rewards
I have reason to trust Gary’s information, but obviously I recommend caution until any of these changes are announced by someone at Marriott along with any necessary terms and conditions.
Improvements to Cash and Points Awards
Marriott currently has a jerry-rigged approach to cash and points awards: if you don’t have enough points for your entire stay, you can pay for some nights with cash and other nights with points. This means the cash portion can increase depending on prevailing rates, although availability is pretty good as long as a room is still for sale.
I prefer the true cash and points awards provided by many other chains, which have a separate rate category and fixed cash amount. Availability is typically more limited, but the potential value is much greater (e.g., the cash portion on a $600 room may be only $150). It sounds like Marriott will provide something more consistent with this approach.
Improvements to Sharing Points
Many hotel programs allow customers to transfer points between accounts, although they stipulate that it must be a spouse or family member or only permit you to book an award on behalf of someone else.
Marriott appears to be moving toward a much more liberal policy that will enable members to share points with anyone. It will come with a cost of $10 unless you have Gold or Platinum status. This is great news if members of your family or extended circle focus on different programs, as it will make it easier to share those points.
Formal Policy on Booking Rooms with Insufficient Points
Marriott already allows customers to book award nights if they have insufficient points, enabling you to lock in award availability. This will become a formal program benefit. Members will still be required to have the necessary points by the time they check-in.
Reward Nights Count toward Status
This is perhaps the best benefit in my opinion. Marriott has very high elite qualification requirements, as much as 75 nights per year for top-tier Platinum status and no opportunity to reach the same milestone with a smaller number of stays (instead of nights). Marriott does have other generous offers toward the end of the year to help out customers who may fall short, and you can earn qualifying nights through credit card spend. Still, it’s tough,
It sucks when you feel locked into booking more paid nights just for the status and can never take advantage of the points you’re earning along the way. Many other chains help ease the burden by letting you earn credit for award stays, too, and it appears that Marriott will move in this direction.
People who read this blog know that I’m not very impressed with Marriott Rewards due to its high qualification requirements and relatively weak guaranteed benefits. (It’s still a fine hotel chain; my complaint is specific to the loyalty program.) Gary’s news doesn’t contain anything about changes to benefits. However, new ways to share and redeem points — as well as the chance to earn status more easily with award nights — would be welcome. Hopefully more concrete details are soon provided through an official channel. He expects, and I agree, that they will probably be in place by the start of 2016.