Several changes are coming to the Marriott Rewards program starting Jan. 15, 2009: Blackout dates will be eliminated, Platinum Elite member bonuses will increase from 30 to 50 percent of the total points earned during their stay, when you redeem four nights you’ll get the fifth night free and a new category 8 award level is being introduced at the cost of 40,000 points per night.
The blackout date policy means that every Marriott hotel will have standard rooms available for award redemption every day. This does not mean you are always guaranteed a room, but members will not have dates that are entirely unavailable. Hotels can still limit the number of rooms available for redemption, but according to Marriott, on a limited number of nights. The current Stay Anytime Awards are being eliminated.
The category 8 award level will be in effect for 14 properties including two in Paris, five in London, three in New York and one each in Capri, Rome, Santa Monica and Miami.
Marriott Rewards members on FlyerTalk were swift as always in dissecting the changes. The consensus is that the Elite bonus increase and no blackout dates are welcomed, but the introduction of another category with higher redemption rates, along with the change the fifth night free brings to the current very popular seven-night travel package awards, has disappointed members. The cost for travel package awards that offer free hotel nights and miles for flights will be going up. For example, a package for a seven night stay at a Category 6 hotel and 120,000 American AAdvantage miles will be 300,000 points, up from the current 250,000 points.
You can read the details about these changes at http://www.insideflyer.com/link/?1286 – All changes take effect Jan. 15, 2009 and awards under these new rules can be booked only from that date.