The changes taking shape as Marriott’s new Bonvoy loyalty program are so far-reaching that they have inspired a dedicated protest website, parody Twitter account and enough angry customers to almost set the internet ablaze.
Since before the move to a new awards chart on March 5, longtime Starwood Preferred Guest and Marriott members have encountered many problems with Bonvoy. Snafus like award certificates not working, reservations disappearing, and elite status demotions and points devaluations being applied retroactively after booking are being reported on sites like Bonvoyed.com. Marriott has not yet returned a request for comment.
Here's a sampling of some comments:
“Reservation for tomorrow night completely disappeared from the system,” one user reported on the site. “Can't find it in the app under upcoming or canceled. Can't find it in the reservation system using the old SPG confirmation# nor the new bonvoy confirmation#.”
“I had 9 years of Platinum status, 2019 would have been my 10th, making it to lifetime status,” another wrote. “They've downgraded me to 7 years of Platinum claiming that 2 of my years did not qualify when in fact I know they did.”
» Learn more: Marriott, SPG cards getting new names, perks
“Booked a room direct on a Sunday night, for a Wednesday arrival," a third user wrote. "The 3 day cancellation period was expired by the time of booking. When I check the next day there are TWO complete reservations. Immediately called to cancel 2nd erroneously booked room. 'I'm sorry ma'am, we are not going the waive the 1 night minimum fee.'"
What loyalty members are affected?
Among the disgruntled are customers who thought they were locking in luxury resorts at lower redemption rates before the awards chart changes became official. On March 5, redemption categories were changed for about 6% of 5,700 properties. Some went up, some went down.
The most notable changes were for resorts formerly in Category 7, where rooms started at 60,000 Marriott points per night, to the new Category 8 rate of 85,000 points. Travelers booked stays up to 50 weeks into the future by the March 5 deadline to secure the low, locked-in rate of 60,000 points.
For some customers, at least, their plan to lock in rates didn't work out. The Middle Age Miles blog recently reported finding good availability in January at the five-star hotel St. Regis Rome. Then in March, as members were scrambling to lock in low rates for the future, there were no available rooms to be found. Yet right after the rates went up to 85,000 points per night, a number of rooms were once again available, the blog found.
» Learn more: Find the best hotel credit card for you
What should loyalty members do now?
If you’re a Bonvoy member who could be affected by these changes — or even if you had Marriott or Starwood points that would have been transferred to the new program — there are a few things you could do.
Go to the Marriott website to make sure you’re still booked If you have a current reservation — either awards redemption or cash.
Look at the rate you’re paying and scan your total for any fees you weren’t expecting.
Call Marriott right away if something isn't correct at 800-535-4028.
Print out the page or take a screenshot if everything looks good, so you’ll have evidence if your reservation is altered.
Check your rewards account. Does your elite status look right? If you have free night certificates, look closely: Are they designated for the redemption category you expected? Again, print the page or do a screenshot to record information.
Speak up. Websites like Bonvoyed.com aim to pressure the company to take these problems seriously, and you might be able to find solutions among others dealing with similar issues.
Finally, if you’re so frustrated that you’re ready to walk away, consider transferring your Marriott points to any of 40 airline partners. You’ll get a 3-for-1 exchange rate, meaning 30,000 Marriott points will get you 10,000 airline miles. But depending on your future travel plans and how badly you want to wash your hands of Marriott, it could be a good option.
Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice: