Unbonvoyed? Making Lemonade with Marriott’s New Variable Pricing

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Marriott Variable Points

Marriott Variable Pricing

It happened.  I forgot to redeem two free night certificates before Marriott variable points pricing kicked in on 29 March.  Like others in my situation, I’ve known for months that I needed to use them.  I’d done some general searches, even finding a wacky resort fee inclusion along the way, but I never pulled the trigger on a reservation.  My to-do list had been filled up with other stuff, and I dropped the ball in crunch time.  As I sheepishly searched rates after the changes, I found a few surprises, though.  Maybe this new variable pricing isn’t as bad as I thought it would be, or maybe it is.  I still don’t know.  At any rate, I found a solution for those free night certificates.  Here’s the story.

Plan A

After reviewing dates a few weeks ago, the wife and I had found a low season weekend to visit the TownePlace Suites Kill Devil Hills in the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  The simple fall weekend trip nearby fit in perfectly to use the certs.  I saw the property was available at 40k points per night, easily within the range of our 50k certs.  For reasons I can’t quite remember, I didn’t see the booking through.  I’ll blame the Marriott site’s two-factor authentication and my own laziness.

Attempting to Book

On the night of 29 March, after Marriott variable points pricing had kicked in, I finally hopped online to actually book.  I was greeted by this:

Marriott Variable Points
Source: Marriott.

Nuts.  The 50k certs wouldn’t work anymore, plus the top off with points capability doesn’t appear to be an option yet, either.  Even though I planned to use certs, the thought of 112k points for two nights at a TownePlace Suites seemed absurd, anyway.  I quit trying to understand and went back to the drawing board.

Plan B

I scrambled to look at other options for the same weekend.  We wanted something simple without taking a road trip.  We set our eyes again on another nearby property I’ve been curious to try out, anyway – the newish Marriott Virginia Beach Oceanfront Resort.  I’d actually considered this one months ago when I got the certs, but the hotel was out of reach with them.  At the time, the property consistently priced at 60k points nightly, even in low season.  But in the Marriott variable points world we now live in, I found this:

Marriott Variable Points
Source: Marriott.

Bingo!  The two nights were 45k and 50k each – pretty much perfect for using my two 50k certs.  I booked, albeit holding my nose for the upcoming ~$100 in resort fees and additional parking charges that come along with the award stay.  Okay, Marriott, you win there.  Nonetheless, I came away with some feeling of accomplishment for being able to use my certs at a desirable property.

Upon Reflection

And that sense of satisfaction I got?  That also means that Marriott’s latest trick has worked – on me temporarily, and maybe some others indefinitely.  They’ve been successful in this latest devaluation in that they are giving less “free” to me (long term) while I still feel that dopamine rush of booking a preferred property (short term).

Perhaps that’s exactly why Marriott’s doing it this way.  I and others theorize that Marriott may have left many properties at attainable, not terrible rates to ease us into the devaluation.  A nice, soft landing into the steaming pile of crap.  I’ll be happy for Marriott to prove me wrong.

Marriott Variable Points

Marriott Variable Pricing: Conclusion

I solved my near term goal – using certs at a property where we actually want to stay.  I’m so encouraged by this pricing that I’ll probably go hunting for other gems ASAP at attractive points rates, even for speculative bookings.  But big picture, I don’t know what to think of Marriott’s changes at this point.  Maybe that’s exactly where Marriott wants us – not knowing what to think.  Perhaps they prefer customer bewilderment over outright disdain.  Rest assured, we’ll get a clearer picture with keen eyes and time.  What do you make of the Marriott variable points pricing currently?

Benjy Harmon
Benjy is a fan of points, miles, and financial independence (FI). An experienced world traveler, husband, and father, he currently focuses on roaming throughout the USA expense-free (or close to it). He enjoys helping others achieve their FI and travel goals.

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13 COMMENTS

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13 COMMENTS

  1. Honestly, I have been surprised at the reasonable rates for business properties. Aspirational rates are way up but for the everyday business/lesiure traveler booking are actually cheaper using points.

  2. So far, I rebooked all my upcoming bonvoy stays at lower rates, which came as a huge surprise. That said, when ihg first moved to dynamic, there were some phenomenal bargains, so my fear is that this may be short lived

  3. I booked the Mauna Kea Beach hotel right before the values changed. I spent 200,000 for 5 nights. It’s 332,000 now which is even more than the top end they said. I booked there 2 years ago just before everything shut down and it was 160,000 points. They have doubled the point rate for 5 nights in about 2 years. This is absurd.

  4. Their changes really stink. I was able to get Fiji and Sydney Harbor booked the day before and then saw those two sites double in what I had paid. My once massive Marriott stash of points is down to about 350K. I blew a wad at Al Maha and LeMeridien recently. I will never have the points to go to those places again, and both were outstanding.

    I cannot understand why Marriott did this and why they did it so harshly.

    • I whole heartedly agree! They have taken many a loyal (like me – initially SPG based) fan, spending much on points purchases and paid stays, and turned us into disloyal, angry curmudgeons stewing in disdain for their wretched and greedy devaluations. Added insult is the horrendous IT that they continually attack us with whether through Bonvoy or Timeshare participation. BAH HUMBUG!!!

  5. I’m not seeing wins for my travel wins. I’m seeing material differences in point prices when the cash prices are basically the same. And off season nights in Dublin I’ve been eyeing for awhile have gone above the prior pricing and I can no longer use a 50k cert. I’ve got a few more years ’til lifetime PL and I’ll meet the requirements but after that I’m done. And to signal my displeasure to Marriott, I’ll be canceling 1 of the 3 Marriott cards I have.

    PS – Marriott can make it marginally better for us if they give us 50k points instead of a cert.

  6. For some reason I thought Marriott lost a court decision and now has to include resort fees into the nightly rates. Did I dream that up or is it a diff hotel chain that lost the court decision ?

  7. Paying $100 in resort fees makes you a “Bonvoy Sucker”. Bad enough to pay $10 or $20 pd for parking but that is where I draw the line. Plenty of other hotels that actually want customers.
    If there is a resort fee I call the hotel to give them a chance for my business by waving the fees. If they do great and if they don’t I politely explain to them that they are out of step with customers and one of their competitors actually wants my business.
    I would rather pay a fair price at a competitor than use my not so free night cert.
    I temper common sense with my convictions but I also know every time you give in to not so free night certs you are supporting their polices.

    • Bill,
      Perhaps we have different definitions of “Bonvoy Sucker.” Regardless, good luck with your resort fee strategy!

  8. A Marriott resort I was looking at in Fountain Hills, AZ dropped from 50K/night to 33-38K per night even while cash prices are $500+. Still on the hook for $40 of resort fees and $25 parking but that’s a solid win.

    • Nathan,
      Bravo to you! I tend to agree that there’s still value to be found, and one can hold their nose on resort fees/parking for said values. Like most things, I don’t think it’s an all or none proposition. Thoughtful, nuanced decisions can bear fruit.

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