Forever Bonvoyed – All the Ways Marriott Still Annoys Me

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Marriott Bonvoy Loyalty Program

Marriott Bonvoy Loyalty Program

I’ve come almost full circle on Marriott over the past year or so.  Since zeroing out my Marriott points balance on redemptions before the SPG acquisition, I had steered clear.  I decided I was leaving easy points and solid redemptions on the table, so I cautiously returned about a year ago.  Our targeted redemptions to achieve specific travel goals have generally worked out.  But there’s plenty about the Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program that still annoys me.  Here’s what I’ve found particularly irksome.

Middling Service

Since our return, we’ve experienced multiple occasions where Marriott can’t deliver the basics.  On one occasion, we were unable to obtain our room until about two hours after official check-in time.  The property made no proactive attempt to make this right.  I had to bring up this shortcoming with the front desk for them to address it.  On this and other stays, Marriott housekeeping staff has missed previously-coordinated service requests.  During the pandemic, I can understand service limitations a bit more than flat-out incompetence.

Marriott Bonvoy Loyalty Program

Marriott Elite Breakfast Masochism

I lost my advanced calculus skills years ago.  Not coincidentally, I still haven’t mastered Marriott elite breakfast benefits.  I’d need a chart the size of most NFL offensive coordinators’ to understand it.  And seemingly half the time I get my head around it, the answer is “no benefit.”  In contrast, Hilton mid-tier Gold members receive better elite breakfast/property credit benefits than Marriott Platinum and above members often do.

Credit Card Funny Business

It seems Marriott and card providers have taken steps to limit how much members can benefit from the Marriott Bonvoy program.  Here are just a few examples.

Stingy Points Earning Options

Everyday points earning options on Marriott credit cards are relatively limited compared to options with their competitors.  Hilton, Hyatt, and even IHG cardholders can often do better.  And the higher-end cards like the Brilliant, Bevy, and Bountiful cards top out at the same 6x Marriott property earning as some cheaper cards like the Amex Business and Chase Boundless.  Other chains’ more expensive cards reward cardholders much better earning rates.  But that’s not the only limitation.

A Clearly Inferior Ultra Premium Card

At best, Marriott and Amex slightly improved their top end Brilliant card in return for a sky-high $650 annual fee.  But even with these perceived upgrades, it’s well behind the benefits of the Hilton Aspire, which is also $200 cheaper annually.

Confusing and Limiting Application Rules

Bonvoy members can substantially increase their Bonvoy point balances with credit card welcome offers, but only so much.  The terms substantially limit when and where members can earn these bonuses.  And, shocker, it can be overwhelming to figure out.

Marriott Bonvoy Loyalty Program

Free Night Award Obfuscation

Are you sensing a pattern?  The free night awards associated with the Marriott Bonvoy program and credit card partners are unnecessarily perplexing.  Multiple levels exist, including versions eligible up to 35k, 50k, and 85k properties.  And, oh, those can now be topped off with points (yay), but only up to 15k per night (boo).  And if this weren’t enough, in my experience, many properties are priced just over the combined free night award and top-off totals.  For instance, I’ve seen plenty of properties listed at 70k or 102k points for a free night.  Funny how that works out, huh?

Awful Resort Fee Policy

Many Bonvoy members naturally look forward to aspirational redemptions at a variety of Marriott properties.  Wouldn’t you know, a lot of these properties have hefty resort fees.  Unlike Hilton and Hyatt, Marriott forces members to pay resort fees on award stays.  And those resort fees have seemed to skyrocket with each award stay we’ve booked.

Conclusion

These are just the major bones I have to pick with the Marriott Bonvoy program.  I’m confident many of you have other grievances, and I welcome your comments below.  But despite all these annoyances, I’ll still effort for lucrative Marriott earning and redemption opportunities.  Marriott has made the endeavor more difficult but not impossible.  For now, I’ll embrace this grind.  How do you feel about the Marriott Bonvoy program these days?

Benjy Harmon
Benjy Harmon
Benjy focuses on the intersection of points, travel, and financial independence (FI). An experienced world traveler, husband, and father, he currently roams throughout the USA close to expense-free. Benjy enjoys helping others achieve their FI and travel goals.

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16 COMMENTS

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16 COMMENTS

  1. So go with Hilton and all your loyalty problems will be solved — at least until you have to stay at Hilton hotels.

  2. Right there with you, buddy! Let me share how right you are. I have stayed at an older Courtyard in a mid-South capital city twice this year. Besides the convenient location (my client’s office is in a rural area), I chose this property because 2022 was the last night it still offered a long-term stay rate of $89 a night with a 5-night minimum. I have stayed at some other subpar Courtyard properties over the years. So, I didn’t expect much, but this was even worse. The hotel is so short-staffed that elites could not spend their dining credit on breakfast even if they so desired. The hotel restaurant only is staffed in the evening and, even then, not every night. My main gripe, though, was the housekeeping. I am aware that most owners couldn’t be bothered to remember that they own A HOTEL rather than an ATM. They cut every single corner they can find. I was prepared for that but, when I checked in (this property is so old and stingy that mobile check-in accomplishes almost nothing), as a Titanium, I was allowed to request the frequency of housekeeping. I arrived Sunday to left Friday and requested Tuesday and Thursday cleaning. What a joke! During those 2 visits, the housekeeping failed to make the bed, change the linen or restock the toiletries. The maids vacuumed, replaced the towels and restocked the TP. That was the extent of my “high-level elite entitlement”. While I’m on the subject of gripes, I share your view that the resort fee is, in a word, insane. I go out of my way to avoid properties which assess it and look forward to rewarding myself by avoiding it like the plague henceforth.

  3. You left out the imminent points devaluation with them going to dynamic pricing next year and ditching their category chart.

  4. After earning lifetime platinum by actual stays I see Bonvoy and Am Ex will be awarding the equivalent of my hard earned status for a $650 fee

    I will not renew my $650 Bonvoy Am Ex Card

  5. I fired Marriott 4 times at least at this point being a lifetime titanium elite. They keep adding tier levels and increasing points required first days we weren’t born last night.
    Recent stay in Lisbon Portugal checked in early was charged €120 for breakfast at 10 AM. Given probably the worst room and had five night suite upgrade certificate denied. I’m done with Marriott The rest of the trip spent it IHG InterContinental in Porto was upgraded room, wonderful free breakfast treated like a king. I’ve taken refuge at Hyatt and even though I don’t travel near as much as I used to I’m still globalist through 2023. Marriott wake the heck up! The only way they’re going to hear from us is to vote with our dollars.

  6. I would say based on my recent experience the comments are correct. Marriott has been my brand of choice, but loyalty goes both ways. It appears corporate has forgotten that profits ($600 million) are generated by loyal customers not by the corporate office.
    I am a lifetime Titiumn, but it doesn’t seem to mean much anymore.
    My last stay was to celebrate our 46th anniversary. I told the gentleman this when making the reservation and using 3 suite upgrade certificates. The room we were given was a king not a suite upgrade and I was told the king was the upgrade.
    The room was on the ocean side of the hotel, which half are. Our view was mostly rooftop and some ocean. I was told corporate makes all the decisions on any room upgrades now. That each hotels upgrade policy is different. Consideration for being a loyal customer and consistent exceptions are some of the reasons for choosing a brand. We also had to pay $10 a night to park ourselves.
    I always told employees that work with me, your best customer is your current customer. Treat them right!

    • After the resort fee, paid self-parking is my #1 gripe! The hotel OWNS the @#$%^&* parking lot! I would prefer to stay at a Fairfield or Springhill with free parking than spend triple for a nicer Marriott high-rise which charges for self-parking.

  7. We hear the complaints and echo them. Covid was an excuse to lower service levels and never return to what members have grown accustomed to. Sad day!

  8. Bonvyage Marriott.

    I have high status that’s gets me ZERO benefits!

    Ugrades- more like downgrades to the worst room with the worst view!

    Ugrade Certificate for suites- funny how they’re rarely useable

    Recognized status- no

    Last night was it for me after 20 plus years of loyalty.

    Booked a JW ( Springfield,Courtyards,etall are better then this place) as it was one night for a special event I was attending and it turned into a nightmare

    Basic things that the lower end properties have – they didn’t have here. Like hot water amongst others

    Had to call housekeeping 2X to bring things to room that they didn’t supply like other JWs.Time consuming,frustrating and a COLD shower to get ready for my event.

    For my nightmare stay they offer me free parking- what a joke.
    I’m doing something with my Bonvoy points but it won’t be spending them with them.

    I’m done.

    Hilton treats me better and has better trained staff and actually gives me upgrades

  9. My local Ritz (Dove Mountain) approaches 2 cpp on a lot of high-season dates, so of course I’ll book with points if I do an upscale “date night” with my wife, and suffer the resort fee on the award night. But other than that sweet spot (and I suspect it will disappear shortly), I have no loyalty to them, for every reason you mentioned, except the anti-churning card rules (that’s fair defense).

  10. As always I am but a tiny fish in the points ocean:
    I ignored Bonvoy until the Boundless 5 nights SUB. The cheapest of the 5 nights I booked would have been $500. This is $95 + whatever the return on minimum spend for these nights. And I can tell you and your readers definitively: Bonvoy is terrible. After a year I will cancel the card and continue being a Hilton stan with my Aspire card. Have a good night.

  11. If you receive “Middling Service”, then you’re winning at Marriott properties. I’ve had so many negative experiences at Marriott properties since COVID gave them the ultimate excuse for everything that I’ve switched to other brands and received significantly better service for the same $$.

  12. Look, we’ve all seen the erosion of tier benefits. We’ve all seen the petty things that properties pull regarding tier benefits. The only way to look at Marriott (and others) is a purely points game. That’s it. Nothing more. The sooner a person recognizes this, the sooner one will become a free agent.

  13. Long time Marriott member (over 35 years) and lifetime Titanium (almost 1500 nights total). Agree earnings on cards needs to be improved. As for breakfast, not a huge priority for me unless, like now, in Europe at higher end properties. In any event I don’t have a problem figuring it out and requesting when available (never been denied or not satisfied w results but again I do my homework and am lifetime Titanium so that may matter).

    I can even put up with the uneven benefits since I don’t get bent if no upgrade is offered or I’m not otherwise “recognized”. However the changes to the high end Amex card do bug me and I’ll likely drop it. I don’t even have an issue with the $25/month restaurant credit (but preferred the $300 annual Marriott credit). My issue is the net cost went from $150 w a 50K certificate to $350 w an 85K certificate and I just can’t value that. Sure I could stay one night and get value but usually stay more and would be out a lot of points or cash to stay there. Also free agent and have certificates from Hilton, IHG and Hyatt (plus decent balances) so no problem finding somewhere to stay. I’ll still frequent Marriotts and keep my Chase Bonvoy card but the high end Amex one will be cancelled before my AF comes up in March

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