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Marriott has just issued a release from its President and CEO Arne Sorenson in which it outlines what it is doing to keep guests safe during their stays, how it is changing its cancellation policies and what steps its taking to minimize the losses by Marriott Bonvoy members.
Prepaid Rates Can Be Canceled For Free
Marriott is essentially following what a number of other hoteliers have already announced in announcing that all of its rates (including prepaid rates) can now be changed or canceled for a full refund without any extra fees being levied…but only for a limited time.
Here’s the new policy per Marriott:
For guests with existing individual reservations, including reservations with pre-paid rates that are typically more restrictive, Marriott will allow changes or cancellation without a charge up to 24 hours prior to arrival as long as the change or cancellation is made by 30 April 2020.
For guests making new individual reservations between today and 30 April 2020, Marriott will allow those reservations to be changed or canceled at no charge up to 24 hours before a guest’s scheduled arrival date.
Points Expirations Are Paused
Under normal circumstances, Marriott Bonvoy points expire after 24 months of account inactivity but Marriott has now confirmed that it is pausing the expiration of all points scheduled to expire between now and 31 August 2020.
Marriott doesn’t appear to have announced what will happen to the points that would have expired between now and 31 August 2020 once 1 September comes around so, to be on the safe side, anyone finding themselves in this situation should do what they can to get some activity in their accounts as soon as they can…no matter how small.
Outside of staying at a Marriott property, there are a number of easy ways to generate some points activity in a Marriott Bonvoy account:
- Use a Marriott Bonvoy co-branded credit card to make a purchase (a purchase of just $1 will be good enough).
- Transfer points into your Honors account from Amex Membership Rewards or Chase Ultimate Rewards (if you’re only transferring to keep a balance alive make sure you only transfer over the minimum number of points).
- Register a credit card (any credit card) with Marriott’s “eat around town” dining rewards program and dine at a participating eatery and pay with your registered credit card.
- Buy the minimum number of Marriott Bonvoy points allowed.
There’s no real reason that you should ever allow a Marriott Bonvoy points balance to expire and now that Marriott is temporarily pausing expirations you have a bit more time to generate the required activity.
Suite Night Award Expiration Dates Extended
In news that is music to my ears (because I’m struggling to see how I’m going to use my Suite Night Awards this year), Marriott has announced that all Suite Night Awards with an expiration date of 31 December 2020 will have that expiration date extended by a year to 31 December 2021.
Free Night Award Expiration Dates Extended
Members who currently have an active Free Night Award expiring in 2020 as part of their credit card benefits package, annual choice benefit, promotions or travel package will be able to use that award through 31 January 2021.
No Change For Elite Status Earning…Yet
IHG Rewards lowered its elite status thresholds for 2020, Hilton says it’s reviewing its thresholds and will update us all soon and Marriott has now said this:
“We understand that earning status for 2021 may also be on your mind. As the current situation is still evolving, it is too early for us to make any changes. We will keep you updated on all loyalty program changes through our Marriott Bonvoy member benefits website.”
So, essentially, Marriott is keeping all of its options open.
The most generous news hare is that Suite Night Awards earned last year will now not expire until 2021 and, considering these are a benefit generally reserved for the higher tiers of the Bonvoy program, this is almost certainly Marriott’s (small) attempt to be nice to its more loyal guests.
Another bit of good news is that all of Marriott’s rates can now be canceled and/or changed without penalty (even the prepaid rates) and ordinarily I’d count that as a pretty generous gesture. However, Marriott was essentially forced into making this move by Hilton and IHG who have already announced the same policy.
The pausing of points expirations is fine (and more generous than Hilton’s new temporary points expiration policy) but I doubt this will be affecting all that many people – Bonvoy points don’t normally expire for 24 months and they’re easy to keep alive.
Lastly, the fact that free night award expirations have been extended is nice…but it would have been nicer if Marriott had extended their expiration dates by a year just as they did with Suite Night Awards. Still, a January 2021 expiration date will better than a 2020 expiration date for most.
A lot of what Marriott has announced is broadly in line with what we’ve heard from chains like IHG and Hilton but that’s not a bad thing.
I’m delighted to hear that I’m going to have a whole extra year to use up my 5 suite night awards (they were almost certainly all going to go unused this year) and that’s the most surprising news today because its unusually generous for an otherwise miserly program.
Overall, better late than never is probably the best way of summing my feelings on this news.