Marriott Bonvoy has been unafraid to remove almost any lingering value in its once great loyalty program, somehow found another valuable benefit to remove – with almost no notice.
Marriott Bonvoy Removes Air and Hotel Redemption Program
Another segment in the world’s least funny joke, Marriott Bonvoy has removed yet another valuable piece of their once reasonably valuable loyalty program. The Air and Hotel redemption program was one of the few last bright spots in a program hell-bent on deeming itself worthless to participants. The Air and Hotel program allowed Bonvoy participants to redeem their points for category hotel stays and a bulk of miles for their preferred airline to package the entire trip together.
One of the off-peak charts looked like this before the rug was ripped from underneath its loyal guests:
Due to airline transfer rates, the Marriott Bonvoy program conveys one mile/airline point per three Bonvoy points (before bonuses) made those category 1-4 redemptions free on the right side of the column with 110,000 airline points distributed. Granted, in most cases the hotel brands available in the 1-4 category are more likely to be an airport Fairfield Inn rather than a Ritz-Carlton but just another 60,000 points (or 8,571/night) would have opened up some relatively strong hotels like the Le Meridien Maldives.
None of that matters now.
On Wednesday, January 12th, 2022 Marriott International announced that one week later (January 19th, 2022) the program would be terminated. Smart travelers can still burn their ever-declining Bonvoy points for flight and hotel vacation packages but the time to do so is vanishing quickly.
Latest In Long List of Value Reductions
For elite status holders still frequenting Marriott hotels… my sympathies. The hotel rewards program has done seemingly everything short of shutting down the program altogether to disincentivize loyal guests from wanting to continue to earn Marriott Bonvoy points. Here are just some highlights:
- Established a new elite tier (Ambassador) requiring 100 nights and $20,000 on hotel spend (excluding taxes and fees) with a dedicated Ambassador.
- Removed direct access to ambassadors
- Reduced the number of ambassador employees
- Service return times are more or less, “we’ll get back to you” for these top tier customers
- Introduced Peak/Off-Peak rewards for free nights increasing the cost for most desirable stays
- Not to worry, they are doing away with award charts completely in 2023.
- Breakfast benefits seem simple on paper but require a secret decoder ring to decipher when and where they are offered
- Upgrades to the best available suite at check-in
- upgrades no longer state “best available” and in many cases are simply a larger room or a desirable floor if honored at all
- “Guaranteed” late checkout is offered at 2-4 pm for elites, but not at resorts, or convention centers, or if unavailable…
- General devaluation of points
- Most of these benefits do not apply to Ritz-Carlton even though those guests may have earned their Bonvoy status via Ritz-Carlton stays.
What’s Left of Marriott Bonvoy?
This will be the shortest section of this blog post. There’s not a lot of unique value left. Marriot Rewards was fairly competitive and even pioneered reciprocal status with airlines (United.) The Starwood Preferred Guest program was unquestionably the leader in the space and initially, Marriott retained many aspects of this program.
There are some bright spots that remain. Bonvoy Moments (formerly SPG Moments) has come back and offers value. The ability to convert hotel certificates earned from credit cards to points is a nice benefit and one others should consider.
The last remaining benefit that really matters is the conversion bonus when transferring Bonvoy points to airlines. At present, that bonus (a holdover from SPG) is a 20% bonus per 60,000 transferred. For example, if a remaining Marriott Bonvoy member transfers 60,000 points to an airline, the normal rate (3:1) puts 20,000 miles/points into their airline account but with the 20% bonus, the recipient will actually receive 25,000 miles.
Marriott has complete disregard for its loyal members. Some deserve sympathy, but that’s running out as they’ve had every indication that Bonvoy is no longer a program worth earning points. Some might be stuck due to their company commitments, involvement in the Marriott Vacation Club, or undying love for genuinely lovely properties that have done nothing to contribute to Bonvoy’s assault on its own program. However, for those that find themselves traveling to major metro areas like Washington DC, San Francisco, London, Mexico City, Beijing, or similar – it’s likely time to try a new chain.
What do you think? Is there a remaining value that I am missing? If you’re still loyal to Marriott, why?