Marriott Bonvoy Should Really Just Shut Down “Points Advance”

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Marriott has long offered its members something called “Points Advance”. Even though you might not have sufficient points in your account, Marriott will allow you to confirm your award booking anyhow. The expectation is that you will earn points, buy points, get a credit card sign-up bonus, or transfer in some points from American Express, etc. well in advance of the actual stay.

Recently, Marriott Bonvoy announced a change to its policy. This change basically pushes members to earn the points further in advance of their stay.

  • Members have 60 days from today or up to 14 days prior to arrival (whichever comes first) to earn enough Points to cover an existing Points Advance reservation.
  • Reservations made using Points Advance will be held for up to 60 days and will only be confirmed once the required Points are earned or purchased.
  • If you do not earn or purchase enough Points to cover the reservation within 60 days, or by 14 days prior to arrival (whichever comes first), the reservation hold will be canceled.

These changes are being justified by the following argument:

We have seen a rise in Points Advance bookings at [some of our most popular] resorts that are being canceled because not enough points have been accrued to pay for the stay.

In some cases, around 25% of all bookings at any one time at these properties are Points Advance. This potentially disadvantages members who would otherwise book using points in their account, and it has an economic impact on these properties.

Why Points Advance is Already Mostly Worthless

When you book a room using Points Advance, you are NOT:

  • Locking in off-peak or standard award pricing
  • Locking in the award category ahead of an announced or unannounced category change

So, all you are doing is booking a room, with the price to be agreed in the future. Admittedly, some people might genuinely find this to be useful at high-demand, low award space resorts in destinations such as Hawaii. But the policy mostly just leads to speculative bookings.

So Just Get Rid of It…

As I mentioned above, the only value of Points Advance to members is allowing them to confirm award space (but not price) at popular hotels. But hotels are popular and “sold out” for a reason. So… for every member taking advantage of Points Advance, there will probably be another member who cannot book the hotel they want, even though they might already have sufficient points in their account. A surplus of speculative bookings might also lead to Marriott moving prices from standard to peak, even when that demand is unlikely to be realized.

It’s likely that Marriott generates far more negative feeling from hotels being fully booked (for awards) or pricing at peak date rates, than the positive feelings provided by allowing speculative or “earn the points later” bookings.  So perhaps it’s time for Marriott Bonvoy to get rid of Points Advance, and just let those of us with healthy points balances spend our points more freely…