HomeMiscellaneousI'm not "done with Bonvoy" but my Marriott strategy has definitely changed

I’m not “done with Bonvoy” but my Marriott strategy has definitely changed

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The Marriott Bonvoy program has been on a downhill trajectory for some time (some would say it’s been on the decline ever since it gave up the pretense of keeping all the good parts of the SPG program) and with the removal of award charts and the move to dynamic pricing, we’ve finally reached a point where I’ve had to sit down and think seriously about whether or not it’s worth persevering with the program at all.

My relationship with Marriott goes back a long way, and it’s the lifetime Titanium elite status that I’ve earned over my years of ‘loyalty’ to Marriott that’s been a big part of why I’ve continued to book a significant number of stays with the chain even as its loyalty program sinks to new lows.

Over the past year, however, as I’ve watched service levels at various Marriott properties decline, as Suite Night awards have become increasingly hard to use (when I want to use them) and as it has become obvious that more and more properties are keen to offer as few program benefits as possible, I’ve come to the conclusion that lifetime elite status isn’t a good enough reason to keep on staying at Marriott properties.

I’ve been around the miles and points game for far too long to come out with statements like “I’m done with Bonvoy” or “I’m never staying with Marriott again” because I know that neither of those statements would be true…but that doesn’t mean that my attitude towards the Bonvoy program isn’t changing. In fact, it has already changed.

This year has been different

So far this year, I’ve credited 50 elite nights to the Bonvoy program, and on the face of things that would appear to suggest that not much has changed at all, but if you dig into where those 50 nights came from, the story is very different to most years.

a screenshot of a device
Almost all of these nights came from award bookings

As usual, 15 of these elite nights have come courtesy of my Chase Ritz-Carlton credit card (a card no longer open to new applicants) but where, in the past, most of the remaining 35 nights would have been earned from cash bookings, most of this year’s 35 nights have been earned from bookings made with points or free night certificates. The amount of money that I’ve been sending Marriott’s way has plummeted.

The reason? I’m burning my Bonvoy points while the going is still good.

Why the burn?

Last year, I was pretty sure that regardless of what Marriott had been telling us, as soon as the Bonvoy program moved to dynamic award pricing (which happened earlier this year), the number of points needed to make even the most ordinary of bookings would increase dramatically, so I’ve been using points instead of cash to make sure that I wasn’t left with an enormous number of mostly useless points should the worst happen.

Fortunately (and surprisingly), Marriott kept to its word, and since the introduction of dynamic award pricing, only a subset of its properties have, so far, seen disappointingly high rate increases…but we know that’s not going to last.

Continuing the burn while the going is good

Marriott has admitted that come next year things will be different, and while currently only a small(ish) percentage of its properties can charge astronomical prices for award nights, the shackles will soon be coming off and from some (as yet unspecified) date in 2023, all Marriott properties will be able to join in the “fun”.

It’s not going to be pretty.

Right now, however, there can still be good value to be had when using Marriott Bonvoy points selectively, so I see no reason to give Marriott any of my cash while these deals are still around.

Here in Los Angeles, for example, it’s still not difficult to get over 1 cent in value out of every Bonvoy point used…

a screenshot of a website

…and when you value Bonvoy points at just 0.6 cents each (as I do) and when Marriott is happy to (occasionally) sell points for less than 0.85 cents each, those are pretty good deals.

Looking elsewhere in the US, similar deals are also not too hard to find.

Here are a couple of properties in Austin where a Bonvoy member could get between 1.1 and 1.4 cents/point in value:

a screenshot of a website

These Chicago deals look good:

a screenshot of a hotel

And even in price-crazy NYC there are some very good deals to be found if you look hard enough*:

a screenshot of a hotel a screenshot of a hotel

*Admittedly, the St. Regis is only a good deal if you really, really want to (or need to) stay at that particular property.

Importantly, these deals aren’t restricted to the United States.

Here’s a chance to get 1.1 cents of value out of every point used at the London Edition or the Sheraton Grand in Sydney

a screenshot of a website a screenshot of a website

…and if you’re prepared to get yourself to the Maldives, a healthy Bonvoy balance could still save you a small fortune!

a screenshot of a websiteAt this point, I should mention that while all the examples I’ve given above were remarkably easy to find, it was equally easy to find other examples where the value on offer was simply terrible and where you’d have to have to be mad to use points instead of cash…but that’s not really relevant to the point that I’m trying to make.

The point that I’m trying to make is this:

Currently, we’re living through a window of time in which it’s still possible to get great value out of Bonvoy points if you’re willing to put in a bit of effort, but as that window is expected to close (very firmly) in early 2023, this is when those of us with significant Bonvoy balances should be looking to use those points up.

Points can still be “king”, for now, and that’s why I’m still burning them while I can.

When the points are gone

My Marriott Bonvoy account is far from bottomless so at some point (probably soon) I’m going to find myself with barely enough points to book a night at a run-down TownPlace Suites in the middle of nowhere…and I’m ok with that.

I’m ok with that because unlike in previous years, I don’t feel there’s much reason for me to care about Marriott or its loyalty program any more.

I’m not going to ignore Marriott or the Bonvoy program, but as I expect it to get considerably harder to book the kinds of deals that I’ve been highlighting above, and as I don’t really get much benefit out of my elite status unless I travel to Asia, I no longer see a need to keep a healthy balance of Bonvoy points or to go out of my way to earn Marriott Bonvoy points when I travel.

In fact, I’ll probably start treating Bonvoy points in the same way as I treat IHG points – I’ll mostly ignore their existence until I think I’m going to need them and then I’ll buy some in a sale if/when it makes mathematical sense. If I can’t buy enough points for the trip I have in mind, I’ll move on to plan B (whatever that may be).

Logic dictates that I’ll still stay in Marriott properties a few times a year because Marriott offers more options than Hyatt (my preferred hotelier) and I’ll still have two free night certificates (from my credit cards) to use every year, but my days of allowing my Marriott elite status or my desire to earn Bonvoy points to influence my booking patterns are over.

Marriott and the Bonvoy program will probably still have their uses to me, but in a much more limited way than before.

Bottom line

I’ve had a good run with Marriott and I’m sure I’ll still have some good Marriott stays in the future but the way things are now and the way I expect things to be in the future means that I’ve lost interest in making a concerted effort to engage with the Bonvoy program.

I’m deeply immersed in the miles and points world so, of course, I’m still going to keep Marriott and the Bonvoy program as part of my overall miles & points strategy but where both were once focal points of that strategy, both will now be sitting much closer to the periphery.

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  1. Well, I will be the first one to say, “If I had Lifetime Titanium status, I’d quit too!” But — even with Lifetime Gold — I’m willing to all-but-leave the program. (I agree, you can never say “never.”) With Diamond status @ Hilton via my Amex card, I don’t have to worry about minimum stays, spend, etc. So no more mattress runs when I’m one to three nights short of requalifying as a Platinum member with Marriott. And, of course, Hiltons are everywhere…

    Hyatt is more problematic for me because of everyone’s complaint: small footprint. Too many places I visit there are no Hyatts around, or else I want something more upscale than a Hyatt Place.

    • Hyatt is the big problem for me. I love the program and I almost always like or love the Hyatt properties at which I stay…but it’s SO hard to keep Globalist status without a serious amount of spending or a great double nights promo.

  2. I’m in same boat. LTT and only burn what’s left of my points.
    That said, on this months trip to Europe I realized something even better… with LTT it is easier to book BETTER rooms and MORE amenities using my BETTER valued AmEx MR points and booking via AmEx Platinum Card – plus I get the LTT points and incremental benefits (unlike Chase or others). Hands down, AmEx MR becomes my Marriott strategy, and am cancelling my Bonvoy AmEx.

  3. I agree with you about how points are devaluing BUT at least in Europe and Asia I find my marriott titanium status is still worth a lot more than my Hilton Diamond and hyatt globalist.
    Not even to mention Radisson and IHG and Accor which i find to be completley useless in terms of elite benefits (breakfast, 4pm checkout, suite upgrade). Hyatt is a big disapontment not only due to footprint but also many Hyatts now label most of their suites as Premium so not upgradable and they dont honor the guarantee of offering rooms for points if available for cash. And Hyatt Place and Hyatt House do NOT offer the Globalist room upgrade benefits.

    1. Still opportunities in europe to get close to 1 cent per mile with Marriott while Hiltons are almost never more than .35-.40 cents.
    2. Many European Marriots still have amazing lounges with a full dinner in the evening while Hiltons just snacks in evening.
    3. I almost always get upgraded to a suite at marriott while at Hilton more of a tossup and at Hyatt never available

    So considering the competition Marriott is still number one pick for my colleagues and I.
    Although hope to see a new player in the loyalty game who can offer to beat the others. willnot be hard..

    • I’ll admit that Titanium is great in Asia but I haven’t been as lucky as you in Europe. Still, if the rumors about Marriott withdrawing lounge access for Platinum elites turns out to be true (no evidence so far that it is), Titanium will be a little bit more special.

      • Surprised to hear about europe. Marriot/Sheratons in frankfurt, stuttgart, heidelberg, warsaw. berlin. zurich. istanbul. bucharest. madrid have all been great past year with elite status. Suite upgrades and dinner in lounge top notch.
        I imagine you have been in other locations.

        • Mostly, yes. Trips to London, Paris, and Dublin have all resulted in very mixed experiences (although I’m still a fan of the Marriott Canary Wharf where I always seem to get treated well). I have an upcoming trip to Madrid so we’ll see how that goes.

  4. Also lifetime Titanium. Retired so don’t have the 100 or so paid business nights to build points. Frankly I view all programs as a free agent. Hilton Diamond as well plus Hyatt Explorist ( rotating match from Gold MGM) and Platinum IHG. I check each when planning a trip plus look at points vs cash to decide if getting value. However I also look at independent hotels if no points options exist plus those available through my Amex Platinum or CSR. Only have 500,000 Hilton points, around 225,000 Bonvoy and 100,000 Hyatt (almost out of IHG) so have a few decent points trips left (plus the 6 free night certificates I get) but honestly have zero loyalty to any program at this point. Couple that w lifetime DL and AA status and completely off the hamster wheel of earning or retaining status which IMHO makes things a lot easier

    • I hear you. I’m not quite diciplined enough to get off the wheel just yet (despite a couple of LT statuses) but I’m looking forward to the day when I am.

  5. I am in a very similar situation and reacting in a similar fashion. I am a Marriott Lifetime Titanium with Amex Aspire/ Hilton Dimond status. Combine that with Lifetime 1K on UA and million miler on AA, which can now be easily bumped up with CC earned Plus Points and I am completely off the “hamster wheel”! It sure feels good. After a great run with SPG ending with Lifetime Platinum, I truly felt my loyalties were in good stead. Since Arne Sorenson pointed out that “we all” are all just “noise around the edges” and implemented Bonvoy accordingly, I have come to view Marriot as a “little while friend” whose end is as a primary hotel program is rapidly approaching. I have 9 Suite Upgrades in account with 5 more to hit soon but I have grown cynical about their usefulness.

    Being freed from the wheel, I am discovering properties that I would not have considered before including independent boutique hotels, Intercontinental properties where a $150.per year Ambassador status includes a 1 category+ upgrade per stay guaranteed at booking.. Hint: pay 1 category below a lounge access room and don’t be a Begger at check in) You also get a free night each year and other Elite goodies Including free IHG Platinum) ….not perfect but quite workable.

    The SPG days are gone forever but I firmly believe that Marriott’s steep devaluation of Bonvoy will lead to something much better down the road, either by a competitor or Marriott itself.

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