Marriott Rewards has historically allowed its members to make award reservations without having the required number of points in the account. Soon these Points Advance reservations will be available for legacy Starwood properties as well.
You are required to have the points in your account a minimum of 14 days before the intended stay or the stay is either canceled or converted to a Best Flexible stay as per the T&Cs of the program.
You can access Marriott’s page for Points Advance here.
Here’s the relevant part of the T&Cs:
Members who seek to make an Award Redemption with an insufficient Point balance may make the Award Redemption and either (1) purchase Points (as described in Section 2.9) to make a valid Award Redemption, provided that the aggregate amount of Points purchased and/or received as a gift by the Member is less than or equivalent to 50,000 Points per calendar year; or (2) the Member accrues sufficient Points to use Points for payment of the Award Redemption no less than fourteen (14) days prior to Member’s arrival date.
3.6.a. If a purchase of Points is not an option, or if a Member does not have sufficient Points to pay for an Award Redemption with Points fourteen (14) days or less from Member’s arrival date, Member will forfeit the Award Redemption part of the reservation. The Award Redemption may be canceled by the Loyalty Program or the Participating Property and the reservation will be converted to a cash reservation at the best available rate.
Why Points Advance was not an issue with Marriott Rewards?
Marriott Rewards never tied the award availability to the standard room. Even when hotels were selling standard rooms for cash they were not necessarily available using points.
Also, when Marriott Rewards advertised that they had no blackout dates that was simply not true. This merely meant that there were no program wide blackout dates. Individual hotels could have redemption blackout dates for months at a time after a request to Marriott.
Marriott Rewards simply didn’t have highly sought after inspirational properties where this would have been an issue.
Why is this likely issue going forwards?
Theoretically at least now the award availability should follow the standard room availability.
Marriott Rewards now suddenly has aspirational properties in Maldives, Bora Bora, Seychelles and other places where people REALLY want to burn their points.
Members can make highly speculative bookings “just in case” without having any idea if they have enough points in their accounts 14 days before of the intended stay. There is no penalty for this per the T&Cs. You reservation will merely be canceled and/or converted to Best Flexible one (that you can then cancel).
The standard room availability at the smaller hotels will be tied with all the award reservations of which most will be canceled. This is neither optimal solution for the hotels nor the members who actually WANT to stay at them.
What I see hotels doing:
1. Make sure that they have a very small number of standard rooms.
2. Sell their standard room inventory to OTAs or tour operators.
3. Work with Marriott to make award reservations non-cancelable at certain locations.
This Points Advance does make sense in theory if the award room inventory is infinite at all hotels but it is not.
Members know that they get the best return on their points when they redeem at the few $$$$ hotels that are already very difficult to find any availability.
When you have everyone trying to do Points Advances at these same hotels it moves them from highly unlikely to a theoretical category.
Hotel revenue managers also aren’t stupid. If they see that most/some of their award reservations suddenly vanish at the 14 day mark and they end up with unsold inventory as a result, they will deal with the issue accordingly.