Lock in current Marriott rates w/ Points Advance after all

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In this morning’s post about last-minute things to do in preparation for the full launch of Marriott Bonvoy, I noted that you should probably make reservations for upcoming stays now under the expectation that there may be IT issues for a few days this week (See: Bon Voyage, Marriott. Last-mintue checklist before Bonvoy.). However, I noted that you couldn’t lock in a good deal via points advance on the hotels going up in price on March 5th (which we had also reported yesterday). However, we now know that the opposite is true. View from the Wing has verified with Marriott that reservations made via Points Advance do in fact lock in current redemption rates. That’s awesome news and something I hadn’t realized had been the case in the past.

Rates are locked in at the time of reservation

The fact that rates are locked in at the time of reservation seems like absolute common sense in terms of cash reservations. When you book a cash rate in today, your rate doesn’t change as you get closer to checking in – it’s locked in at whatever the rate is today.

Award bookings usually work the same way: if you book a hotel with your hotel points today, your reservation is locked in at that rate. However, with most hotel programs, that means that the points come out of your account todayIn other words, you generally need to have the points in your account before you make a reservation.

Points advance reservations also lock in the rate at the time of reservation

Marriott is unique in that they don’t actually require you to have points in your account in order to make a reservation. With Marriott, you can make a “Points Advance” reservation, locking in an award stay even without any points in your account. You then have up until a set amount  of time before check-in to earn the points necessary to issue the award certificate for your stay (this varies somewhat by hotel, but can be anywhere from a couple of days prior to as many as 14 or even 30 days in advance of check-in). If you do not earn the points required to cover your stay, Marriott will reach out with options in terms of buying the points, changing it to a cash reservation, canceling, etc.

That’s awesome since it enables you to make speculative reservations for future stays just as you might with cash.

However, it gets better.

Marriott recently announced its annual list of hotels changing award categories. These changes will take effect on March 5, 2019. When we reported the changes, we noted that members could not lock in current award rates with a Points Advance reservation. That was based on the following terms released by Marriott (bold added by me for emphasis):

Points Advance – Members can book stays when they do not have enough points if they earn or purchase the needed points at least 14 days prior to check-in. Members who wish to book a points advance redemption under the current Marriott Rewards and SPG award chart are encouraged to order redemption certificates before March 5 to lock in the rate. On March 5, redemption bookings are subject to the new unified program award chart.

However, View from the Wing reports having reached out to Marriott to question this and that Marriott responded confirming that points advance reservations do in fact lock in current award redemption levels even without enough points to issue a reward certificate before March 5th. That’s huge as it enables you to make a speculative redemption today at a reduced rate for a future stay without needing to put up the points for said stay.

Frankly, I’m surprised at this revelation for two reasons:

  1. This is ripe for abuse. I’m not sure it’s a huge hit for hotels as a Points Advance reservation will force you to “put up or shut up” at least a few days in advance of check-in just as you would with a cash rate, but this is still quite generous.
  2. I was 90% sure that I had made reservations in the past for hotels that went up in category and my reservations reflected the new rates in my online account after the respective hotels increased in category.

It turns out I may not have been crazy regarding #2. View from the Wing quotes the following from Marriott in regards to the process of ordering a reward certificate for a property that has increased in category since you locked in the reservation:

There is no change. We included language in the category changes email encouraging members to order redemption certificates before March 5 as a suggestion to help members lock in the rate because having a certificate attached makes it easier to retrieve the original reservation and the original rate. While we can retrieve a reservation without a certificate attached, it is a more involved and time-consuming process requiring the help of a CEC agent.

In other words, it seems that getting your previously “locked-in” reduced rate is not automatic. It requires a phone call and some sort of process beyond just earning the total number of points required. Know that if you lock in a hotel today for 35K points per night that is moving up to the 50K level in March, you’ll probably need to call in and possibly escalate your request to issue the reward certificate once you have your 35K points. But the fact is that it can be done. That’s great news.

Bottom line

This is great news for Marriott Rewards members and a benefit I had previously missed with some of my own reservations. I’m glad to see that members have the chance now to lock in reservations at current rates, meaning that the March 5th devaluation gives us, at least in some respects, a year of advance notice since it is possible to make reservations at today’s rates through the end of the booking calendar. That’s actually a good reminder for me to lock in a couple of reservations that I’ll be needing before award categories change, so I’m thankful to VFTW for this nugget of wisdom. Just be sure to make careful note of the cancellation policy of the hotel and set a calendar reminder to check your reservations and make sure plans haven’t changed.

H/T: View from the Wing

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