I've said for some time that the Marriott Rewards program is one of the best for casual travelers who want to score free lower-end hotel rooms with a minimum number of stays.
The Marriott Megabonus, offered three times a year, offers most members a free-night certificate for each two paid nights. In the past these certificates have been limited to Category 1-4 hotels. So in New Orleans we could get a free room at the Springhill Suites in the Warehouse District, but not at the full Marriott on Canal Street. This suited us just fine.
Earlier this year Marriott announced a pretty massive "devaluation," whereby many of its Cat 4 hotels were moving to Cat 5. This leaves us without an acceptable hotel option in New Orleans, Little Rock, and elsewhere. The silver lining is that the changes don't take effect until May 16 -- that's tomorrow!
So if you're sitting on some of these certificates -- Jinny has five of them -- now would be a good time to book a possible trip. I'm studying the Ole Miss "Away" calendar and trying to think of a good time to visit New Orleans this fall. If you don't book now, your options may be limited.
The "Loyalty Lobby" blog has a good explanation of these changes, along with advice to book rooms one night at a time so one can make changes.
On the good news front, this summer's Megabonus offer for most is for certificates that are good for Cat 1-5 hotels. So we can still earn the certificates and they still have real value, allowing Marriott to retain its status as the top loyalty program for casual travelers, in my view.