Marriott Bonvoy has announced a few major changes to the program for 2022 and beyond.
While there are some positive changes to digest, they are mostly outweighed by one decidedly negative change to the program: Marriott Bonvoy will be eliminating award charts and introducing dynamic pricing as of March 2022.
Marriott Bonvoy Introduces Dynamic Pricing
Until March 2022, the current published award charts will remain in place. Category 1 redemptions begin at 5,000 points during off-peak dates, while Category 8 redemptions top out at 100,000 points on peak dates.
As of March 2022, the award charts and category system will be eliminated, and there will be no set guidance as to how many Bonvoy points a given free night reward costs. It’ll all be determined under a dynamic pricing model instead, which more closely tracks the underlying cash rate of the hotel.
This is most certainly a negative change for those of us who seek to maximize value in Marriott Bonvoy points.
With published award charts in place, there was clear and undeniable value in redeeming Bonvoy points at the very highest end of the spectrum, with certain redemptions like the Al Maha Desert Resort Dubai offering spectacular value on points compared to the nightly cash rates.
Similarly, there’s always value in redeeming points during major events or holiday periods, when hotel cash rates could be artificially high, but the points rate was always capped by the award chart and the hotel’s designated category.
As of next March, these long-held facts about Marriott Bonvoy redemptions will evaporate into thin air. Without a published award chart in place, Marriott’s dynamic pricing model can mimic the underlying cash rate a lot more closely, eroding much of the value that currently exists in the program.
Time will tell just how dynamic the dynamic pricing will get. Marriott estimates that 97% of properties will continue to range between the currently published off-peak and peak rates through the end of 2022 – those rates simply won’t be published on an award chart. Therefore, about 3% of properties may have higher pricing than what we currently see.
From 2023 onwards, there will no longer be any limits on award pricing, and we’ll have to wait until then to see what exactly that looks like. There is quite a wide range of possibilities at play:
- The best we might hope for is something like Hilton Honors, which operates with an unofficial “cap” of 95,000 points per night for a standard room reward at its top-tier properties in the Maldives and elsewhere, with very few select properties going beyond that cap.
- The worst we should expect is pure, unadulterated dynamic pricing that results in ugly six-figure points prices across the board for the most aspirational properties.
The Fifth Night Free benefit will still be around, so if you book five nights of a dynamically priced hotel using Bonvoy points, the cheapest night out of those five nights will be free.
Ultimately, the writing has been on the wall for a while when it comes to the Marriott Bonvoy program devaluing over time – or should we say, devaluing for its members, while delivering value for hotel owners.
The program has mercilessly devalued over time since it absorbed Starwood Preferred Guest in 2018, and as sad as it is to say, the introduction of dynamic pricing was the natural next step in that progression.
Marriott Bonvoy Elite Status Extension for 2022
At the same time as the overwhelmingly negative news, Marriott Bonvoy has also offered a distraction in the way of some positive news.
The program will be unilaterally extending all members’ elite status through all of 2022 until February 2023, which is a blanket 12-month extension following last year’s similar extension due to the ongoing pandemic.
Many of us may have already earned or retained our elite status in 2021, thanks to a combination of our organic travel activity and the generous top-up of elite nights that Marriott had awarded earlier this year. If you’ve already earned or retained status this year, it would’ve been valid through February 2023 anyway, so this change doesn’t have much of an impact for you.
Starting in January 2022, all members will begin a new qualifying cycle once again, allowing them to earn elite status through 2023 and into February 2024.
Certain member benefits are also being extended:
- Suite Night Awards with an expiry date of December 31, 2021 will be extended to June 30, 2022.
- Free Night Awards with an expiry date of January 3, 2022 will be extended to June 30, 2022.
- Points expiry will be paused through to December 31, 2022, meaning that any points that would’ve otherwise expired due to a two-year inactivity period will not expire until the end of next year.
These extensions are positive but expected given the continued uncertainty around travel.
I’ll personally benefit from having one Suite Night Award and several Free Night Awards extended through June 2022, including one final Category 1–4 seven-night hotel package from the legacy Marriott Rewards program in 2018 – a reminder of the good old days in these trying times.
Free Night Awards Will Become More Flexible
In another significant positive change to the program, Marriott Bonvoy’s Free Night Awards will become more flexible as of early 2022: you’ll be able to combine your Free Night Award with up to 15,000 Bonvoy points to stay at higher-priced hotels than the face value of the free night certificate.
For example, if you hold anniversary Free Night Awards worth 35,000 points from the Amex Bonvoy Card or Amex Bonvoy Business Card, you’ll be able to redeem that towards a hotel stay priced at up to 50,000 Bonvoy points, topping up any difference as needed.
|Credit Card||Best Offer||Value|
|55,000 Bonvoy points||$429||Apply Now|
|55,000 Bonvoy points||$399||Apply Now|
- The Free Night Award worth 40,000 points as a Titanium Elite Annual Choice Benefit will be redeemable for a stay of up to 55,000 Bonvoy points.
- The anniversary Free Night Award worth 50,000 points from the US-issued Bonvoy Brilliant Card (or the Fall 2021 welcome bonus on the US-issued Bonvoy Business Card) will be redeemable for a stay of up to 65,000 Bonvoy points.
- The anniversary Free Night Award worth 85,000 points from the Fall 2021 welcome bonus on the Bonvoy Brilliant Card will be redeemable for a stay of up to 100,000 Bonvoy points.
While this is certainly a positive change on paper, it’s almost an entirely necessary one given that the Bonvoy program will be moving to dynamic pricing.
Knowing Bonvoy, I don’t imagine that the added flexibility of Free Night Awards will actually result in members being able to book a wider range of properties than before; rather, it’s more likely that the 15,000-point allowance reflects the premium that dynamic pricing will likely impose on the very same hotels that we can currently book with Free Night Awards.
Book High-Value Marriott Bonvoy Stays Now!
Needless to say, the period between now and March 2022 is the ideal time to secure some high-value Marriott Bonvoy stays before award prices are granted the license to fluctuate freely.
If you’ve dreamed of redeeming Bonvoy points for top-tier luxury stays like Al Maha Desert Resort Dubai or the major Maldives resorts, those should be your absolute top priority. There’s no telling what the pricing for these properties might look like once dynamic pricing is introduced.
Pick up as many Canadian-issued or US-issued Amex Bonvoy welcome bonuses in your household as you can, and hell, buy points to top-up the difference if needed to get to a high-value points redemption you’ll never forget.
And if you have a sizeable Bonvoy balance, don’t be afraid to lock in as many such bookings as possible and keep the ones you’ll eventually use.
We’ve all woken up to a collective and comprehensive #Bonvoying this morning.
Marriott Bonvoy will move to a dynamic pricing model in 2022, which means that much of the outsized value that’s left in the program may gradually fade away. Sure, there will be pockets of value here and there, but the prospects for squeezing out extreme value from Bonvoy points are looking very grim.
There are a few positive changes to take note of, including the extension of elite status and member benefits, and the increased flexibility of Free Night Awards.
However, these offer little solace in a world of dynamic pricing, and we’ll have to wait and see just how dynamic things get. Make sure to lock in as many high-value stays as you can in the lead-up to March 2022, and start thinking about diversifying your hotel rewards strategy beyond that date.