What will happen to existing Marriott Travel Package certificates?

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Marriott 7 Night Travel Packages

Everyday, Nick and I are asked about Marriott Travel Packages.  What will happen to unused certificates when Marriott and SPG merge programs sometime in August?  Which packages are the best to buy?  Should we upgrade or downgrade our existing packages before the merger?  When is the deadline for buying the packages?

Unfortunately, we don’t know.  Marriott has been extremely secretive about what will happen with existing travel package certificates when the programs merge.  In my earlier post “Potential huge win with Marriott Travel Packages before August,” I detailed the possibility that the certificates will be converted to the number of points needed to book the same 7 night stay.  I quoted a Starwood representative who wrote “Floater certificates, including outstanding Marriott Travel Packages, will be cancelled and converted to equivalent points, credited to the member’s account for future redemption.”  That would be awesome, but at the time I estimated the chance of that happening at only 20%.  For background on this topic, please read the prior post.

As time has ticked away, I’ve revised my probability estimate upwards.  The primary reason that I can think of for Marriott to stay so quiet is that they know they’ll be very generous with the travel package certificates, and they fear that leaking that information will cause a run on the market.  Everyone with enough points will buy them.

One of the reasons I had been hesitant to believe the Starwood representative’s statement was that it didn’t make much sense to me.  After all, Marriott has already publicly stated that existing free night certificates would be converted into points-based certificates of equivalent value.  Why not do that with travel package certificates as well? Let’s play out that scenario and a few others…

Points-Based Certificates

Converting current category-based travel package certificates into points-based certificates isn’t as straightforward as it sounds.  The following chart shows how I previously tried to map travel packages based on categories from old to new:

As you can see in the above chart, only three types of certificates map one to one to the new program: Category 1-5, Category 7, and Ritz Tier 1-3.  In all of those cases, Marriott could replace the certificates with certificates for new categories 4, 5, and 6, respectively.  But if they issued point-based certificates for those that don’t map exactly, things get weird…

Consider if a current category 9 certificate were converted to a certificate that can be used at any hotel costing up to 45,000 points per night.  Then look at the new award chart (above).  There are never any hotels worth 45,000 points per night.  At best, you could redeem the certificate for a 35K hotel (until peak and off-peak pricing appears and then you can use it for a 40K hotel).

OK, so Marriott could be generous and give you a points based certificate that matches the next higher category (50K in this example).  But then the new travel package certificates would really be category based rather than points based.

And, it makes sense that they’d want to offer category based certificates since that’s what they’re planning to offer for new travel packages bought within the new merged program (see: New Marriott Travel Packages: a first glance)

This shows pricing for travel packages in the new program. The main point of interest here is that the new packages continue to be category based rather than point based.

Category-Based Certificates

Ideally Marriott would map old certificates to new certificates in such a way that nobody loses.  As discussed above, some are perfect one to one matches:

  • Old category 1-5 is the same as new category 1-4 (Good for hotels costing up to 25K points per night, either way)
  • Old category 7 is the same as new category 5 (Good for hotels costing up to 35K points per night, either way)
  • Old Ritz tier 1-3 is the same as new category 6 (Good for hotels costing up to 50K points per night, either way)

The problem is that several old categories do not match up with the new categories.  The current values are in-between new category values.  If Marriott wants to keep customers happy (and I think they do), they could bump up the value of their certificates to the next higher level.  If they did so, they would map the other categories as follows:

  • Old category 6 (worth 30K points per night) would map to new category 5 (35K points per night)
  • Old category 8 (worth 40K points per night) would map to new category 6 (50K points per night)
  • Old category 9 (worth 45K points per night) would map to new category 6 (50K points per night) or new category 7 (60K points per night)
  • Old Ritz Tier 4-5 (worth 70K points per night) would map to new category 8 (85K points per night)

One problem with the above plan is that people who paid more for old category 7, would get the same new package as those who bought old category 6.  But Marriott could make the category 7 people happier by refunding the difference in points between old category 6 and 7 packages.  That would be a solid but complicated plan.

Category-Based Certificates, Map Higher

Could Marriott be extra-generous and always map to a higher category?  If so, it would look like this:

  • Old category 1-5 (25K) –> new category 1-5 (35K)
  • Old category 6 (30K) –> new category 1-5 (35K)
  • Old category 7 (35K) –> new category 6 (50K)
  • Old category 8 (40K) –> new category 6 (50K)
  • Old category 9 (45K) –> new category 6 (50K)
  • Ritz Tier 1-3 (50K) –> new category 7 (60K)
  • Ritz Tier 4-5 (70K) –> new category 8 (85K)

This would have the same problem as the previous scenario: in several cases, people who paid different rates would get the same packages.  Marriott could fix this in the same way: refund the point differences of the original purchase price.

Point Return Option

The simplest option for Marriott is to exchange existing un-attached travel certificates for the number of points needed in the old program to book the same number of nights.  This would mean exchanging 7 night category 1-5 certificates for 150,000 points, category 6 certificates for 180,000 points, etc.  This is an extremely generous solution, but it’s also nice and simple.

My new estimate: 60%

By detailing various options Marriott has for dealing with existing un-booked travel certificates, I’ve concluded that exchanging the certificates for points makes a lot of sense.  Other options are unnecessarily complicated and/or will piss people off.  Merging multiple rewards programs is a huge task.  By simplifying this one part of it, Marriott would save themselves and their members lots of aggravation.

It’s possible, of course, that Marriott will return some other number of points than the numbers I suggested.  That would be simple too.  But if they offered less than the number required today to book a 7 night stay, they’re going to make us mad.  They don’t want us mad.

So, there you go.  My latest guesstimate is that travel package certificates that haven’t been used to book a stay will be converted to points as follows:

  • Category 1-5: 150,000 points
  • Category 6: 180,000 points
  • Category 7: 210,000 points
  • Category 8: 240,000 points
  • Category 9: 270,000 points
  • Ritz Tier 1-3: 300,000 points
  • Ritz Tier 4-5: 420,000 points

Questions answered, 60% guaranteed*

If we take as a given that travel packages will be converted to points as described above, we can answer the common questions we’ve been asked:

  • Q: What will happen to unused certificates when Marriott and SPG merge programs sometime in August?
    A: They’ll become points!
  • Q: Which packages are the best to buy?
    A: Always pick from the packages on the right side of the charts (the packages that return the most miles). Then, if the points-return really happens, your net cost will be 120,000 points regardless of which category package you buy now.  So, go for the category 1-5 certs so that you’ll have more points on hand for other uses in the meantime.  One exception: if you have a specific use in mind, go for a package that maps closest to the category that your hotel will be in after the merger (just in case the point-return option doesn’t happen).
  • Q: Should we upgrade or downgrade our existing packages before the merger?
    A: Downgrade if that would give you enough points to buy another package. Otherwise, only upgrade or downgrade if you have a specific use in mind where upgrading or downgrading will get you closer to the package you’ll need.
  • Q: When is the deadline for buying the packages?
    A: My guess is that they’ll stop selling packages on August 1 even if the new program isn’t introduced until later in the month (this guess is unrelated to the other guesses above and doesn’t have the 60% “guarantee”*)

* Despite the guarantee, readers are not entitled to recompense or apologies if/when Greg is proven wrong

More Info

More info about Travel Packages:

More info about Travel Packages as they relate to the merger:

More info about the Marriott SPG Merger:

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JBTx

Hi Greg – we are coming up on the 1 year anniversary of the moves we all made with Marriott. Worked out great in terms of the miles I got and a couple of wonderful redemptions (Park Lane Marriott London – 2 Rooms at Christmas using 7 nite certificates). Fast Forward almost a year – I still have 2 – Seven Night Certificates plus 2 Free Hotel Nights (Ritz Card in my wife’s account) – all of them have expiration dates in Aug. 2019.

Question: Would you or Nick consider writing a follow-up on what you know about whether the NEW Bonvoy will consider extending the expiration on either of these – the 7 Night Certificates and/or the Free Nights?

I imagine a lot of readers would find this pretty relevant. Thanks for all the great work as always.

[…] include: all certificates will be refunded for points back; certificates will be converted from category based to points-based; certificates will all be downgraded to category 1-4 (with the difference in price refunded); and […]

[…] Many of us have been waiting until August 18th to learn what will happen to the travel package stay certificates that we acquired prior to August 18th.  This afternoon, we finally got some information from Marriott.  For background on this topic, please see: What will happen to existing Marriott Travel Package certificates? […]

FlyerDad

Hi Greg/Nick: I’ve been thinking about purchasing 4 (yes, 4) Miles & More packages to get 2 round trip first class tickets to Europe. The other option, which has much less risk, is simply transferring 160,000 SPG to Asiana. But–MM has way better availability and, if your predictions (60%) bear out, I will get two F tix for the same mileage with much better availability and without having to wait until 15 days before. Plus, being on the west coast it will likely further open up some options. So my (likely unanswerable) question is–is transferring 360,000 SPG to MM (with the hope of getting 200,000 SPG back) worth the risk?

john cooper

After reading some of your posts, I recently ordered the Travel 3 package category 5. I thought I read that you could upgrade to a higher package by applying additional points. When I spoke to a Rewards rep, they said I was “stuck:” on Category 5 only. Is this true? Can I not add additional points to a higher category? If so, who who i call? Thanks

Sinfonia

Thanks for covering this topic. I am interested in a property that is currently a Marriott category 6. It will become a category 4 with the changes. I am perplexed what I should purchase today – a category 6 and attach it to a reservation? Or a category 1-5 and leave it as a floater, then attach after the changes take effect? If I purchase 6 now and attach it, will I be compensated for the downgrade after the changes? I cannot understand which is the way to go.

Susan

I was in the same boat. I bought 2 TPs, cat 6 and 8, several weeks ago for 2 weeks in Paris next spring. Both properties are going down by 5k points/night. But, it was worth it for my husband and me to go ahead and buy the packages at the lower rate, get more miles (we got United), book the hotels, and be done with it. I’ve never bought a TP before and we combined all of our points (Marriott and SPG) to do this. We would not have had enough points to do this at the new rates.

Sinfonia

Thanks for responding. I bought a 1-5 package today (before seeing this response) because four different Marriott agents advised me to book 1-5 and then wait to attach it until after the merger. I questioned them, asking if there was a chance the unattached certificate would be canceled before I could attach it, and they all said no. I finally just did what they suggested. I suppose I could call back now and upgrade to a 6, but it seems odd to me that so many agents are advising me to do it this way.

Susan

Hmmm, that’s interesting. Maybe they know something they can’t tell. I certainly don’t know what’s optimal. I didn’t even ask the reps, just went ahead and made the reservations with the certificates. We knew we would love to spend time in Paris and were able commit to the dates. If Marriott is generous in how they treat the floater certificates, I may have lost out by going ahead and attaching the certificates to a reservation now, before the merger, but we simply did not want to risk a “bird in hand” by waiting. Good luck!

Richard King

I want to stay at the Marriott County Hall hotel in London for 4 nights in Aug. 2019. The booking calendar only goes into early July 2019. Should I book 4 nights @45k=180k now using points alone for July 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 @390k for this category 9 Marriott, taking the 132K United miles now, reserving 7 nights in July 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.

Jan

If it is option 2 and those with the Cat 6 certificate including myself would receive 180k , on a 7 night redemption, I would not have enough points for the new category 5 and I would have left over for the new Category 4. (25k times 6 equals 150k) Would I lose the 30k points left over or does it go back into my account if it is converted to a point based travel certificate?

Nick Reyes

If the certificates get cashed in for points, you would just have the points to do with as you please. You could book a seven-night stay, five night stay, two nights stay, whatever you want. Break it up as you wish.

If, however, they get converted to an up to 30 K per night or 35 K per night, you don’t get anything back for booking a lower category.

Jan

If it is converted to 35k , that would be sweet, but if converted to 30k night CERTIFICATE than the best I can do is redeem for 7 nights at the new category 4 and lose out on the 30k points.
Should I just downgrade my certificate to CAT 1-5 then? Also, if I do downgrade, what should I say and the CSR do to make this a smooth transition? What will appear on my Unused Certificate? Will the 30k points come back instantly? would the CSR screw up and cancel the certificate all together? I have had plenty of CSR mistakes recently and just got solved.

Nick Reyes

This is precisely why we think the 30k certificate scenario is unlikely. Marriott has maintained that they want to keep everybody whole and I just don’t see them essentially taking value away from the travel package certificates that people have already redeemed for.

You certainly could downgrade yours, but I would suggest leaving it. I personally redeemed for a category 6 because I think these packages are more likely than not going to get converted to straight points, but if they don’t I think the next most likely scenario is Marriott bumps them up in value if your package is an in-betweener ( by that I mean something like a Cat 6 30k that doesn’t slide into the new chart easily). I expect Category 6 to then provide a small win. So I figure I’m set to win either way. If they cash in for points, it’s probably the biggest win in miles and points in a long time. If they bump it up in value, that’s great too. I’d take a week at the St. Regis Astana if that’s what they want to give me. And if I could convince my wife to go to Kazakhstan for a week.

Jan

Thanks Nick for your prompt replies. I somehow think Marriott will be generous. Marriott had been generous to give SPG gold the Marriott gold benefit for a while. I guess if Marriott really wants to give us 30k points instead of bumping it to 35k points, the rational could be that we are still able to book the new CAT 5 in the off season for 30k….but the off season definition is up in the air. And this could make people unhappy.
PS. Good to know you have a CAT 6. I will stay put.

Richard King

I had to return my Cat 6 certif. because health prevented my trip. Marriott returned 75k points (I understand Cat 1-5 returns yield 45k points). Why should Marriott now return more than that for “floater” / unassigned certifs.? We already get the air miles.

Nick Reyes

Sorry you had to cancel! Hope things are better now.

To answer your question, this is different than a “voluntary” cancellation (I’m using that word loosely as I know you didn’t volunteer to be sick). Imagine Joe Business Traveler who has a bunch of Marriott points from business travel, but doesn’t live and breathe miles and points. Yesterday, Joe redeemed for a travel package. Joe knows which hotel he wants, but it’s a stay for next May and he can’t yet commit to exact dates. Since his certificate is valid for a year, he intends to book in a couple of months.

Imagine Joe’s confusion if Marriott cancelled his certificate three weeks after he bought it and gave him enough points for just 2 free nights. From Joe’s perspective, he bought a package that included a 7-night stay. He likely feels like he paid for that stay with his hard-earned points (and he’s not wrong). Joe might not really have a firm handle on the difference in value between hotel points and airline miles — he just wanted the joy of a free vacation, and the miles and nights would give him that.

So I think it would be very difficult for Marriott to cash in Joe’s certificate (and therefore all certificates) for less than the value of 7 nights. They certainly may find a way to convert these to new 7-night certificates worth “up to X points per night”. But if they cash them in, I think it would be hard to explain to Joe Business Traveler why the 7 night stay he paid for yesterday became worth only 2 nights less than a month later.

If they had any thought about doing that, I’d have expected them to stop selling the packages and notify all certificate holders that they need to be used by August 18th or they would be cancelled for 45K + the difference in cost between Cat 1-5 and their package. Even then I think it wouldn’t be worth the hours of confusion and outrage from normal bread-and-butter customers, especially since Marriott sold them a package that Marriott was willing to honor (it’s not like these packages are a mistake — Marriott finds the value in selling you 7 nights plus miles or they wouldn’t be doing it). Since that hasn’t happened and rather they have confirmed that they will offer these packages until August 17th, I can’t see them cashing these out for such low value (unless of course a customer requested it).

Keep in mind that Marriott will usually extend these for a year just by asking and upgrading/downgrading has historically extended the expiration for a year, so for those coming up on expiration before the 18th, it’s worth pursuing how to keep the certificate alive for another year rather than cancelling at this point.

Entrada

I am interested in using a TP at a Starwood Hotel that will be a CAT 5 (35,000) under the new program. Of course I can not book it via Marriott until August. I was able to find a hotel that is currently a marriott CAT 5 (25,000) and will remain a CAT 5 (35,000) in August (an increase of 10,000). I am thinking of attaching a CAT 1-5 TP certificate to a reservation at this hotel in hopes that I can change it to another CAT 5 hotel in August since I would not be changing categories. I know nothing is certain but am curious what you think the downside might be.

James

I really want a cert for JW Marriott Phu Quoc but its Cat 6 at the moment (was Cat 5 last year !) and I do not know what on earth is going to happen with the certs or the category of this hotel.

If I buy a Cat 6 cert now I’ve no idea if I’ll be able to use it going forward at the JW Marriott Phu Quoc.

Any ideas ?

I haven’t got enough SPG points for the cert outright so will need to transfer some Amex MR too.
I’ll have to transfer 60K MR points (half my stash) in order to get the Cat 6 cert with 120k airline miles.

I just don’t know whether to just keep the SPG points and try to book a fancy high tier hotel after the change or to get the TP.
I’ve no doubt I’d prefer the TP if (and it is an IF) I can still get the JW Marriott for the Cat 6 TP price.

Grrrrr………….

Nick Reyes

You can see all of the new categories online. Marriott previously released the full new Award chart. The JW Marriott Phu Quoc is going up to 35k per night. If you want a travel package for that property, I suggest buying a category 6 today and making a reservation. However, it’s questionable as to whether or not it’s worth transferring 60,000 Membership Rewards points for it. You’re getting significantly less of a deal since Membership Rewards points already transfer 1:1 to airlines. The value in the travel package is turning less valuable points (Marriott points) into more valuable points (airline miles). You could do that, because you’re still converting mostly Marriott points, it’s just less compelling unless you’re transferring to an airline like Alaska that doesn’t normally transfer from Membership Rewards.

Jan

I like the 60% estimate as it seems the fairest. I wonder if Marriot would base the calculation for the off peak rate so Old Cat 1-5 would be new Cat 4 and off season rate is 20k (x6) and those with unused certificate would receive 120k then for every category , 30k ( or a bit less) would be awarded for each category up.
Cat 6 will be 120k plus 30k ( or a bit less)
Cat 7 will be 120 plus 60k
ETC

Diana

I currently have 243,000 Marriott points and am planning a trip to Hawaii for next year. Which travel package would give me the most value for airline miles for a family of four to Hawaii?

Nick Reyes

This kind of depends where you’re located and which airlines serve your airport. If you’re on the West Coast, you might be best off with British Airways since they charge 12,500 on either Alaska Airlines or American if you can find saver availability from the West Coast. If you’re not on the West Coast, it somewhat depends on when you’re thinking about going. Since Southwest is maintaining that they’ll start selling tickets to Hawaii this year, we expect that they’ll begin flying to Hawaii in 2019. You might be best off redeeming for a package with Southwest, but it’s a bit of a gamble since they’re not actually flying there yet. They do have gate space and I do expect that it will start, we just don’t know when. Otherwise, your best option out of travel packages would probably be United I guess. Really, the best value for getting to Hawaii on miles has long been via either Korean Air Skypass or Air france-KLM Flying Blue for travel in economy class, but those travel packages only award 85000 miles. And now Flying Blue has variable award pricing. Add on to that that you’re relying on finding Delta saver space, whatever that might mean today, and I think United becomes a better pick. It’s definitely not an easy answer. Note that Singapore Krisflyer charges fewer miles for travel on United than United does, but that’s another airline in the 85,000 category.

Diana

Thanks for the feedback!! We live in Florida and plan to go in the summer or for winter break in December . My original plan was to get the southwest package and try to get the companion pass for my husband and I again to save on points, but it does feel like I’m kind of gambling with that since we still don’t know how many points it will be to get there and whether we will both qualify to get the companion pass. I thought about the Korean Sky pass package too, but like you said it doesn’t give as many points , so I thought maybe getting another card bonus like chase Sapphire Preferred or business Ink to make up the difference? I also thought about using some our southwest points that’s we have already to get to the West coast and use BA avios via American or Alaska, but I’ll have to look into United as well. I don’t have much experience with flying other airlines other than southwest, so I wasn’t sure which ones have the best chances of finding award flight availablity to Hawaii?

LTL

Greg – I’m trying to make a decision about how to use 150k SPG points. I want to stay at a Cat 8 hotel next year — the kind that will temporarily be Cat 7. Do you agree with this analysis (realizing it’s a gamble):

-140k SPG –> 420k Marriott
-Buy Ritz Tier 1-3 travel package for 420k Marriott and get 120k miles
-The gamble: The Ritz package gets converted to 300k Marriott points, which can be used to book 6 nights at a “Temporary Cat 7” hotel (60k x 6 = 360k with 5th night free)

My logic for buying Ritz Tier 1-3 is that it’s the ‘second highest’ priced travel package, and gambling that it will map onto the ‘second highest’ category of hotels, i.e. Cat 7.

I think the downside risk here is that the Tier 1-3 package converts to a category-based package *and* it maps to Category 6 *and* it costs an exorbitant amount of points to upgrade to a Cat 7 (if I buy the package at the current price of 420k but they want an additional 150k Marriott points (to total 570k, the new Cat 7 price). Because then I wouldn’t be able to buy a “Temporary Cat 7” hotel and I would have certs, rather than points

How risky do you think my gamble is? (And, do I have the math right?)

Thanks!

Jay

I am planning to book a week at the end of Aug of 2019 so I am not sure if I should wait or pull the trigger now due to your article. Rep told me they will not extend the certificate post Aug 1st but I am guessing they will either give us the 300k points (best case) or re-issue a new certificate that will have a 1 year expiration from the new date of re-issue ?

Current Redemption
420k Marriott travel package
7 night + 120,000 miles
Total cost 420,000

After Aug 1st Redemption
35k/night (level drop in category)
390k Marriott travel package
7 night + 100k miles
Additional 10k miles will run me ~ 24k miles
Total cost 414,000

Thoughts ? Advice ?

Nick Reyes

I don’t really understand your details.

Your “current redemption” looks like Ritz Tier 1-3. I guess you’re thinking about redeeming for a Ritz Tier 1-3? Ritz Tier 3 is currently 50K per night.

After the programs merge (remember, it’s probably not going to be August 1st), your numbers are a “new” Category 5 travel package. Are you trying to decide between redeeming for a Ritz Tier 1-3 today or a new Category 5 later? If that’s the case, you definitely want to redeem for a package today. The new packages are a much worse value. I think they aren’t completely destroyed if you value the hotel certificate, but they are unquestionably a worse deal. You’re looking at paying more for a less valuable certificate.

I don’t really undersand where you’re coming up witht he idea of an additional 10K miles costing you 24K (24K what?). I’m further not sure why you’re comparing with 10K additional miles.

Overall, I’m confused. What are you debating?

As for a rep saying that the certs will no longer be extended: that’s possible, but I wouldn’t take one rep’s word for it on that. Reps are often wrong about stuff like that.

Jay

Hi Nick –

Sorry, let me explain better…

I am trying to decide if I should grab a travel package at the current rate of 420k for 7-night Tier 1-4 package + 120k or wait after Aug 1st to grab the cat5 7-night package for 390k points + 100k miles (hotel maps down to new cat5). Additionally, perhaps it be better to secure a cat7 7-night package now as it seems that it might convert to the new category 5? Thoughts?

My main dilemma is that if I pull the trigger now the certificate will expire exactly 1 year from now while our travels will be in the end of August and I am not sure if they will get extended in result to the Aug merger.

Based on the article I was thinking that if Marriott issues 300k points back to my account we could always grab another travel package in September for the additional 90k and that would be a way better value for us (7 nights at a new cat5 + 220k miles for total of 510k Marriott points) rather than waiting after Aug 1st.

In respect to the airline mile conversion, Marriot would give us 25k miles for every 60k Marriott points transferred to an airline so that would value the 20k miles that at 48k Marriott points. Thus the a 420k Tier 4 package today would cost us 438k at a category 5 after Aug 1st for the same hotel. There is too many scenarios in the air so not sure what is the best/safest approach in my case 🙂 .

Shall we book now/wait and what is the safest category to book?

Thanks for the input/help!!

NinjaX

FYI. marriott-spg-ritz-transition-guide should be updated with the latest posts.