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It is becoming increasingly clear that Marriott is not being generous with certificates valid for free night(s). The first downgrade was widely reported when Marriott announced – on 18 August no less – the mapping across of seven-night certificates for the hotel portion of Travel Packages. However, Marriott has back-tracked somewhat and allowed those who overpaid – i.e. Categories 6, 8 and Tiers 1-3 – to downgrade (but NOT upgrade) their travel certificate for a partial refund of 30,000 points.
When I was digging through the new Terms & Conditions, inelegantly called “Loyalty Program Terms and Conditions” – click here if you’d like to do some digging yourself – I stumbled across this clause:
Any Free Night Award(s) previously awarded to SPG Members as an Annual Choice Benefit which have not yet been redeemed have changed in value and are now valued up to 40,000 Points and will have the same expiration date.
Marriott is referring to the annual benefit that SPG Platinum members received when they reached 50 nights in a calendar year. SPG had always done a nice job of incentivising members to stay more than the minimum of 25 stays (often one-nighters) that Platinum status would require. There were a number of options, but I believe that most SPG50 members opted for one of:
- ten Suite Night Awards
- one free night at a Category 1-5 hotel
Traditionally I have chosen the free night, as it could be worth up to 16,000 Starpoints (or 48,000 Marriott points) when used at a Category 5 hotel on a peak date. It doesn’t take a maths genius to see that something potentially worth 48,000 points is now only worth 35-40,000 points. And Marriott isn’t even ashamed to say “…have changed in value…”
I reached my fiftieth night in July and I duly chose the free night certificate and attached it to a hotel reservation. Lucky for me… as my chosen hotel would no longer be available. This is because my hotel – along with several others where I have traditionally used my free nights – has now moved from SPG’s Category 5 to Marriott’s new Category 6.
This clause led me to discover yet more devious behaviour from Marriott… The website regarding the category change process has been updated, to remove all reference to the old award categories and pricing! Check it out by clicking here. So now that the new Marriott is upon us, the company would like us to forget the past – I certainly don’t recall annual category change websites disappearing on the day of the change!
Having spent the first couple of years post-acquisition carefully tending to SPG members – especially elites – Marriott now seems to be reverting to its true nature as a number-crunching corporate behemoth relying on size and footprint instead of loyalty.
Hyperbole? Or a sign of what is yet to come? What do you think?