Is it Bad News for Marriott Travel Packages Afterall?

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I try not to post about rumours, but given the nature of the article I published earlier about the logic of Marriott treating existing Travel Package Certificates in a generous manner, I think it’s right to flag this one. Reader ‘Pangolin’ drew my attention to a comment over at Head For Points where Rob (Mr. Head For Points) says that following a discussion with a senior Marriott Rewards executive today, he now expects bad news for Travel Packages.

Most readers will be familiar with the great work Rob does over at HFP and will therefore understand we should take his comment very seriously. Unless he has agreed to embargo the news on this particular issue, I imagine we should find out the details early tomorrow morning (due to HFP’s normal publishing schedule).

What would bad news look like?

This is the killer question.

I think it’s fair to say that the idea of Marriott converting Certificates to their Points equivalent is now out – as that would be excellent news!

Similarly, if Marriott were going to upgrade some or all the Certificates in order to make everybody (at least) even, that would also be generally seen as very good news – so it’s probably not that.

It’s possible that “bad news” may actually just means “not good news”, and Marriott has come up with some way of ensuring that members will be in (more or less) the same position as they are now. It might be complicated and mildly irritating to understand/navigate/book, but basically ok.

As far as I can think, the potential genuine bad news scenarios range from “quite bad” to “awful”.

“Quite bad” would be something like converting the old Category Certificates across to the new Categories at a harsh rate, when they don’t match up directly. It might work out something like this:


Cat 1-5 (7.5k-25k) —-> Cat 1-4 (7.5k-25k) FINE

Cat 6 (30k) —-> Cat 4 (25k) BAD

Cat 7 (35k) —-> Cat 5 (35k) FINE

Cat 8 (40k) —-> Cat 5 (35k) BAD

Cat 9 (45k) —-> Cat 5 (35K) VERY BAD

Ritz Carlton

Tier 1 (30k) —-> Cat 4 (25k) BAD

Tier 2 (40k) —-> Cat 5 (35k) BAD

Tier 3 (50k) —-> Cat 6 (50k) FINE

Tier 4 (60k) —-> Cat 7 (60k) FINE

Tier 5 (70k) —-> Cat 7 (60k) VERY BAD

Here’s the new award chart so you can see why many of the old Categories don’t map across easily to it:

“Awful” would be converting the existing Certificates into their residual cancellation value. What I mean by this is the amount of Points that Marriott Rewards has always been willing to give you if you cancel these Certificates. If  you cancel a 7 night Cat 1-5 Certificate, you only get back 45,000 Points. This is extremely poor value when you consider that a 7 night Cat 1-5 Certificate could book you a stay worth 150,000 Points!!! (25k per night x 6, because 5th night free).

Perhaps the plan is to give a week or two’s notice that existing Certificates must be used to book hotels at the current rates before the new programme begins sometime in August, but if you don’t make a booking with your Certificate before then, it will be converted into the sort of meagre number of Points mentioned above.

I would be surprised if Marriott took this path as it would infuriate a lot of loyal members and overwhelm their call centre staff – but it would be a relatively simple solution, and simplicity is something I imagine Marriott would value here.

Note of caution

Senior Marriott Rewards executives have briefed incorrect information to bloggers (including Rob at HFP) about the new programme before. I’m not suggesting (at all) that this was done to deliberately deceive, but mistakes and miscommunications do happen.

Until Marriott releases the official details publically themselves, don’t believe anything you read 100%.

What’s best to do then?

If you have a decent use for your Certificate already in mind, I would personally book it tonight. If Marriott is intending to announce something negative, the phone lines could get very busy over the next week or two.

If you’ve been putting off planning your holiday but do have some idea of what you’d like to do, now might be a good time to firm things up and get it booked.

If you’re really not sure yet about where you’d like to use your Certificate, I wouldn’t panic or rush, but it could be sensible to start thinking about it. Keep a close eye on your favourite travel blogs and any emails from Marriott over the next week or 2. You’ll then be in a better position to act (should circumstances require it) once the full info has been released.

Bottom line

Oh Marriott – you’re certainly keeping me busy today!


  1. Russell Wilson says

    Another into the mix, only redeemable at off peak periods. Looking forward to your further take on things tomorrow Joe. Thanks for keeping us informed.

    • Joe Deeney says

      Cheers Russell – off peak is an interesting idea, but there would still be the gap between August and whenever in 2019 Off Peak is introduced. As I say, I think what they will be looking for is simplicity wherever possible (technologically, financially and in terms of PR/loyalty).

  2. Raffles says

    I think my idea of ‘bad news’ is not the same as yours. As we are now past the 10am embargo, it seems that existing certs will be voided and points returned – but we don’t know how.

    This is bad news if you were planning to use an existing cheap package at an SPG hotels which it seems won’t be possible.

    • Joe Deeney says

      Good evening Rob – lovely to see you over here!

      Hmmm, very interesting. All seems to depend on how they calculate the Points refunds then. If it’s generous (full value), everyone’s a winner – including those who want to redeem at SPG hotels, who will now have much more flexibility on how long they want to stay. If it’s the cancellation value (45k for a Cat 1-5), it’s a bit of a disaster all round.

      I’m going to remain optimistic, on the basis that if it was going to be a harsh calculation, the ‘fair’ thing to do would have been to give advance notice – few people would have been too upset had they let it be known a few months ago even. To now be weeks away, give no news, and then effectively take away more than 2 thirds of the value of the certs would be pretty scandalous.

      On the other hand, if they intend to be generous, the reason for staying quiet is obvious.

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