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Marriott is transitioning its hotel loyalty program, Marriott Bonvoy, to dynamic award pricing — meaning award prices will vary based on demand. And that's bad news for Bonvoy members who want to redeem points for stays at luxury Marriott hotels.
Starting in 2023, Marriott will remove all limits on awarding pricing. After that, there will be no upper bound on how many points Marriott can charge for a reward night.
In the past, luxury Marriott hotels were where Bonvoy members could get the most value from their points. But, with award rates already skyrocketing at some luxury hotels, will these hotels be worth the new award costs under dynamic pricing? Let's dig into this topic.
Timeline for Marriott's transition to dynamic award pricing
At the time of writing, Marriott is part way through its transition to dynamic award pricing. Hotel categories have already been eliminated. However, award rates at 97% of hotel properties are still bounded by the old award pricing. At these properties, award rates can't increase beyond that hotel's former peak award price — or fall below the old off-peak rates.
At the other 200 properties, Bonvoy is still limiting the award price. However, awards can now price at up to 30,000 additional points per night than under the former award pricing. Unfortunately for fans of luxury Marriott hotels, these are some of the hardest-hit properties.
In 2023, Marriott will remove all bounds currently holding award prices in check. From that point forward, Bonvoy award nights will price based on demand — with no upper limits.
How dynamic pricing affects luxury Marriott hotel award stays
Before it transitioned to dynamic award pricing, Marriott Bonvoy members could plan around the published award pricing of the hotel they might want to book. This consistency was particularly useful at luxury Marriott hotels, where cash rates can be extremely high.
For example, Bonvoy members could recently pay as few as 30,000 points to book a night at an overwater villa at the Le Meridien in the Maldives. As the resort was a Category 5 property, Bonvoy members knew that reward nights would cost:
30,000 points on off-peak nights.
35,000 points on standard nights.
40,000 points on peak nights.
This predictability allowed frequent travelers and Bonvoy credit cardholders to set a points goal when collecting points. Once you collected 160,000 Bonvoy points, you knew that you would be able to book a fifth-night free stay at this property on nights with award availability.
This fixed price also meant Bonvoy members could potentially get outsized value from their points. Even if the cash price increased to over $1,000 per night, the award rate wouldn't cost more than 40,000 points.
However, starting in 2023, Marriott Bonvoy can increase the points price as high as it wants. That eliminates the ability for members to plan and budget for specific redemptions.
We anticipate this change will affect luxury Marriott hotels the most. Some luxury resorts were already priced at double the award rate just a few years ago, and there's nothing stopping award prices from getting even worse starting in 2023.
» Learn more: Your guide to the Marriott Bonvoy Program
Are luxury Marriott hotels worth the award cost?
Value is personal. What might seem like a good redemption to one traveler might seem outrageous to another. However, when considering whether to use your Bonvoy points for a high-priced luxury Marriott hotel stay, here are a few aspects to factor into your decision.
Practical vs. aspirational
What are you looking to get out of your Marriott points? Are you looking to use them as currency to book hotels you would otherwise need? Or do you see them as a key to unlocking aspirational experiences you would never otherwise have?
This was a question Bonvoy members needed to wrestle with even when Marriott had award charts. However, this choice becomes more drastic with even more variance in Marriott award pricing. For example, you can currently use 120,000 Bonvoy points to book 27 nights at a Four Points hotel in California or just one night at a luxury Marriott hotel outside Dubai.
If you see your Bonvoy points as a way to unlock once-in-a-lifetime experiences, consider splurging for those incredible properties and use cash to pay for typical stays. Don't worry. I won't judge you. After all, I recently redeemed Bonvoy points for two nights at Al Maha.
» Learn more: The best ways to rack up Marriott Bonvoy points
Your Bonvoy point earning potential
When debating whether or not to splurge on a luxury Marriott hotel award night, consider your Marriott Bonvoy point earning potential.
Road warriors that can accumulate many Marriott Bonvoy points might not need to worry about having enough points in the future. In this case, you can splurge on those nicer stays without worrying about a depleted points balance.
However, you might want to be more conservative with your points if you have limited earning potential. For example, say you recently earned the sign-up bonus on a couple of Marriott credit cards. As a result, you might have a sizable Bonvoy point balance now. However, if you're not going to be able to earn many more points in the future, you might not want to spend them all on one luxury Marriott hotel stay.
» Learn more: The best hotel credit cards right now
Ability to take advantage of Marriott sweet spots
Another factor to consider is your ability to take advantage of Marriott award sweet spots. If your travels are flexible, you can choose to be a bit more selective and maximize your points at off-the-beaten-path Marriott properties for outsized value.
For example, one current way to get excellent value out of your Marriott Bonvoy points is at a safari lodge in Zambia. Award rates at the Protea Hotel Lusaka Safari Lodge regularly price as low as 6,500 Bonvoy points. Yet cash prices start around $130 per night for "prepay and save" nonrefundable rates.
That's a redemption rate of 2 cents per Bonvoy point — almost triple NerdWallet's baseline value of 0.7 cent per Bonvoy point. That's an amazing deal if you can take advantage of that opportunity. But, not everyone is willing to fly across the world to get top value from their Bonvoy points. If your travel options are limited, you may want to splurge on luxury Marriott hotels when you have the chance.
» Learn more: How to use Marriott points
High-end Marriott stays, recapped
With dynamic award pricing, luxury Marriott hotel award stays will likely cost more Bonvoy points than before. That makes the decision to splurge on a luxury hotel stay even harder to swallow. After all, those same points can be stretched to book more nights at other Marriott hotels.
However, value is personal. If you see collecting points as a way to book extraordinary experiences or earn more points than you know what to do with, booking a luxury Marriott hotel could make sense for your situation.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2022, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card