An Interesting Thought on What Might Happen to Existing Marriott Travel Package Certificates in August…

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One of the main unanswered questions about the new Marriott Rewards/SPG loyalty programme (due to launch sometime in August!!!), is what will happen to existing Marriott Travel Package Certificates.

FrequentMiler has written an excellent post here laying out the details, but essentially the problem is that Marriott’s new categories don’t match their old categories directly, so mapping old certificates across to the new programme in a way that isn’t either overly generous, or likely to cause fury, is difficult.

For example, a current Category 8 Certificate can be used at properties which require 40,000 Points per night, but the closest options on the new award chart are Category 5 which requires just 35,000 Points per night, or Category 6 which requires 50,000 Points per night.

This means that Marriott can either effectively upgrade current Category 8 packages by 60,000 Points in total (not 70,000 because 5th night is free), or effectively take away 30,000 Points from members. I can’t imagine either looks like a great option from Marriott’s point of view – one costs money, the other annoys members.

Perhaps the simplest solution to this conundrum is something that I actually originally discounted as being too generous: refunding the Points values of the existing Certificates in full.

The reason that I thought this seemed too generous is because it would mean that, for example, someone who redeemed for a (current) Category 6 Travel Package would get 180,000 of the 300,000 Points they paid for the package back – meaning they would have got their 100,000-132,000 airline miles for just 120,000 Marriott Points, which would be a remarkable transfer value.

It was actually something my learned friend here at InsideFlyer Towers, Craig, said that made me reconsider that view – so the “interesting thought” mentioned  in the title is credited entirely to him. The argument goes like this:

Is it possible to convert existing certificates into something on the new chart in a way that keeps everybody happy?

No – any option either costs Marriott more, or angers members.

The problem is actually even more complicated, because even if Marriott decided to be generous there are still members who might be unhappy. This is because there would be situations where people who had redeemed for, say, a current Cat 7 package, would receive the same value award certificate in the new programme as someone who redeemed for a Cat 6 package.

Marriott could give those Cat 7 people the difference in Points back I suppose, but that’s creating more expense – and perhaps more importantly – another layer of administrative complexity.

Does refunding Points equivalent to the 7-night stay make anybody unhappy?

No, nobody could complain about being given the full Points value of their Certificates. They would have lost nothing and gained considerably more flexibility when it comes to redemptions.

Does it cost Marriott any extra for these refunded Points to be used on different reward stays instead of a one week stay?

This is the crucial point I hadn’t really considered properly.

Craig says no it won’t cost Marriott Rewards more – except perhaps a little at the margin due to rare circumstances like people not using all 7 nights, or sub-optimally staying in a Cat 1-4 when their certificate was Cat 1-5.

I don’t fully agree with Craig on this point, as I think when you give people the flexibility of Points rather than a 7-night certificate, they are likely to be able to create better value. Transfers to airline partners, for example, would cost Marriott real money.

That said, I do think the additional cost would probably be quite low when averaged out. It’s easy to forget that most members aren’t ‘travel hackers’ looking for the best angle on every deal – a lot of people will just want to book a week’s holiday at a nice hotel, exactly the same as if they still had the 7-night certificate.

Does Marriott prefer you to have a near-term one week stay instead of Points that might not be used for a while?

No – Points redeemed in a year or two are worth less than Points redeemed today.

When it comes to Points/Miles, devaluation is a constant risk given that the ‘currency’ is controlled entirely by the issuer – in this case Marriott Rewards. Points that are to be redeemed at some unspecified point in the future must therefore be valued at less than Points redeemed today, due to the relative risk they carry.

When you redeem your Points, you are crystallising a theoretical liability for Marriott at some point down the line, into a real cost today.

Bottom line

When you combine all the answers above, you end up with a pretty compelling argument for why Marriott might decide to turn Travel Package Certificates into Points at full value. To sum up why:

  1. They get to look like an ultra generous hero to everyone, rather than potentially annoying at least some members. PR is a vital consideration for the new programme.
  2. It might actually save them money directly overall, depending on a few factors.
  3. It’s simple for everyone (agents and customers) to understand, relatively easy to process from a practical point of view, and avoids any complex legacy issues in the years ahead that could take a lot of untangling. In other words, implementation should be cheaper than the alternatives, because it won’t involve the same amounts of staff time.

What do you think? – Has my mind been melted by hope and Craig (a potent mix!), or is this scenario the most plausible solution? 


  1. RichT says

    I’m hoping they go the points route. Especially as I went for a 7 night package when really a 5 would have done me (but I didn’t know about them and didn’t have a friendly agent like you!)

    Maybe they’ll take a leaf outta Iberia’s book and make them “non transferable” to Airlines and only allow them to be used for hotel redemptions?

    Can they impose a shorter expiry?

    Is that too complicated?

    Is this turning us all into paranoid conspiracy theorists?

    • Joe Deeney says

      Haha, yes it is beginning to feel a little bit like that!

      I’m not sure about the practicality of different classes of Points – I imagine the focus is simplicity wherever possible when dealing with something as big and complex as the Marriott/SPG merger. The benefit of doing so would have to be substantial to justify the increased complexity.

  2. Russell Wilson says

    @RichTs, I like the ring fencing idea but Marriott’s customer services may not be able to cope. I’m going with everyone involved (do we know numbers???) gets automatically upgraded to the next tier for a set time. After that they fall to the lower tier. An IT fix would be simple and cut out talking to Cust services.

    They must know what they’re going to do by now as all their other launch dates have been adhered to. 1st August is going to be busy for bloggers.

    • Joe Deeney says

      The numbers of people involved is an interesting question – but not one I can answer with anything more than very broad speculation. I suspect, very small as a percentage of members, but non trivial in terms of actual numbers.

      Upgrading everyone (where a certificate doesn’t match directly to a new category) sounds sensible on the face of it, but there are problems. 1) It costs Marriott more than just issuing Points at current rates. 2) It will still annoy some members (because in some cases, people who paid less will now have the same certificate as people who paid more). 3) Potential complexity in terms of process (setting up new Certificates in the new programme and making sure they relate accurately to the old ones is harder than just cancelling the Certs and issuing equivalent Points in the current programme); but more importantly, the complexity of explaining to members (and staff) what has happened and people getting confused about whether they’ve still got something of the same value (or more) than before, etc.

      The more you look at it, it really is a bit of a minefield (many issues could perhaps have been avoided by simply having more Categories in the new award chart?…), which is why I’m coming round to Craig’s way of thinking. It seems to be the simplest, lowest cost and doesn’t upset anyone.

  3. Pangolin says

    You better get prepared for some bad news on the TP front (Rob of HFP hinted at this in one of his comments).

    Looks like we’ll find out the extent of the damage tomorrow.

    • Craig Sowerby says

      It’s far too exhausting to monitor Rob’s comments section, especially since half of them are off-topic. I don’t know how he manages it. (other than through knowing that each page view is more £)

      After his (and other bloggers) “exclusive interviews” with Marriott execs about SPG Gold –> Marriott Platinum, I tend to only trust what Marriott get around to publishing online on the official website.

      I would be shocked if everything happens on 1 August though…

  4. Richard King says

    I want to stay at the Marriott County Hall hotel in London for 4 nights in Aug. 2019. The booking calendar only goes into June 2019. Should I book 4 nights @45k now using points alone for June 2019 and as soon that I can move the date as the calendar opens for Aug. 2019…. Or would it be better for me to book a 7 night vacation package for this category 7 Marriott, taking the 132K United miles now, reserving 7 nights in June 2019, and hoping that as the calendar opens I will be able to move the 7 nights into August once available, even though I’m only going to use 4 nights. Which makes better sense assuming booking these before Aug. 1, 2018. Also if I cannot book 7 consecutive nights, does that mean I will not be able to use any of the package? If I can book 7 consecutive nights, is it OK if I only use the first 4 nights without penalty, losing of course the final 3 nights.

    • Joe Deeney says

      Hi Richard,

      4 nights would 180,000 Points, a 7-night Cat 9 Package (with 132,000 United Miles) would be 390,000 Points. So, if you had absolutely no intention of using more than 4 nights of the stay, you’d basically be looking at paying 270,000 Marriott Points for 132,000 United Miles.

      That’s not a terrible deal because if you transferred them from Marriott to United directly now, you would get 125,000 Miles for 280,000 Marriott Points, so it works out pretty similar. But, spending all the Points now obviously comes with a significant cost in terms of future flexibility, so it would really depend on what your plans for the Miles were and how many Marriott Points you’d have left over (if any) after such a transfer.

      It would be worth asking Marriott if they could do a 5-night airline package for you, though reports suggest that’s not happening much anymore.

      The other thing to consider is perhaps playing ‘Travel Package Roulette’ – ordering the travel package in the hope that Marriott ends up refunding a load of Points (the reasons why they might do this with certificates that haven’t been linked to a booking are laid out in the article). But, there is potential risk there too.

      As far as I understand it, there does need to be award availability for all 7 nights of your stay to apply a certificate, but I don’t think that would be a problem when booking this far out (remember, you should be able to make 7 1-night bookings if required as the award space comes up and then ask for them to be merged and have the Certificate applied.) There is no penalty for ending your stay early.

      Hope that helps!

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