The Marriott Rewards gravy train is dead. Long live the Marriott Rewards gravy train.
First the bad news
Marriott Rewards has released its second Megabonus-type offer of the year, and it doesn't include the stay-twice-get-a-free-night room certificate offer of which I've been so fond. Casual travelers such as myself are offered the chance to earn double points starting with the third stay during the promotion.
There has been a great deal of weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth over on the Flyertalk board by Marriott customers upset over the changes. And indeed, for casual travelers the new promotion is virtually worthless.
For two or three years now Marriott has targeted the free night certificate offer to its low-end customers. It was a sweet deal. Twelve Mariott Family stays per year would yield six free-nights at either Cat 1-4 hotels or Cat 1-5 hotels. If used wisely it was almost like getting a 100 percent rebate on the cost of a hotel room.
I tend to stay at the cheaper Marriott properties, with room rates in the $79 to $129 range. So four stays with the old Megabonus offer would likely cost me about $450, and in exchange I would get two free nights. We've almost always gotten $150 in value out of our certificates, and I am using my Fall 2013 certificates for a $250-per-night hotel. So with most of the past Megabonus offers I've been about to spend $450 and get certificates worth $300 to $500.
The new offer gives double points starting with the third stay during the promotion. My expected bonus after spending $450 on four stays will be about 2,200 point. If valued conservatively at a penny a point the value of the bonus is about $22. So not such good deal.
Frequent travelers tended to be targeted for a better deal. Jinny was offered a 25,000-point bonus after 15 nights (not stays), with an additional 10,000 points after five more nights. She had the same offer in the last Megabonus, and earned the 25,000 points with exactly 15 nights. She earned an additional 25,000 through regular point earnings and elite bonuses, for a total haul of about 50,000 points.
Marriott has one of the best aspirational awards in the loyalty club business, with a travel package offering seven hotels nights plus 120,000 airline miles for 270,000 to 540,000 points. That's enough airline miles for two round-trip tickets to Europe in the shoulder season, and unless one just has to stay in a Ritz-Carlton most hotels are available in a package costing 360,000 points or less.
So even though Marriott Rewards has pulled the rug out from under casual travelers, the program continues to be very generous to the most-frequent hotel guests.
I have a few Marriott points of my own. Spouses are allowed to pool their points with Marriott, so by my calculation we ought to have enough points next year to redeem for the free trip to Europe (or elsewhere). Where do we go? Ask Jinny.
Now the good news
Marriott Rewards has gotten rid of the free-night certificates, which certainly hurts occasional travelers like me. But they have a new promotion that gives members up to 2,000 points per month for "Liking" and promoting Marriott on various social media platforms. The promotion lasts six months but we can hope it will be extended.
The program is called Marriott Rewards Points Plus. You can sign up by clicking here. The Loyalty Lobby blog has a good description of how the program works. For a husband and wife team, that's 24,000 points for a few "likes" on Facebook, Foursquare, etc. That's about seven percent of the points needed for the free European vacation.
A spoonful at a time, folks.
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