Marriott Peak Off Peak Strategies

22 September 2019

Update 29 September 2019 - pricing analysis of alternatives to points-only redemptions.
For more information on Marriott's loyalty program, refer to our detailed Marriott Bonvoy guide.

This article is based upon Marriott Bonvoy Terms & Conditions dated February 2020

Contents

Peak and off-peak pricing now launched - what is the availability like?
Cheat-sheet for minimising your cost of free nights using the Peak and Off-peak pricing
Key Bonvoy features to help make the peak, off peak pricing work to your advantage
Use multiple bookings to take advantage of pricing changes
Step-by-step guide to using PointsAdvance


How to use our cheat-sheet for Bonvoy Peak and Off Peak pricing

Before booking, always check to see if your preferred property is participating in a PointsSaver promotion.
If your preferred property has a PointsSaver promotion, this is always cheapestwith only one exception - always use Cash+Points for Category 6 properties at Peak pricing.

If not, then...
If booking for off-peak nights at any property, using all Points is always cheapest.

  1. Categories 5 and 6 properties are cheaper using Cash+Points for standard and peak nights. For off-peak bookings use all points.
  2. If booking a category 5 or 6 property during peak pricing, always book with Cash+Points (see above), with the PointsAdvance feature. Should your stay be re-classified to standard pricing, you will pay the reduced quantity of points required and be in the cheapest option possible.
  3. Categories 3 and 4 properties are also cheaper using Cash+Points, but only at peak times.
  4. During a Bonvoy 30% off promotion, buying the required points to then make a peak booking in categories 1 to 3 is even cheaper - ideal.

Chart 1 - cost converted to all-points for Marriott award nights - green highlights best choice, amber is second best.

Cheapest cost for Marriott award nights using points only, cash + points or PointSaver

The Marriott peak off peak pricing - more relaxed about changes now

This feature was introduced to match demand with supply in a manner that maximises Marriott revenue. My original concern was that peak pricing would be concentrated in the higher category (more expensive) properties and the off-peak pricing would be mainly with the lower category properties. After preparing multiple dummy-bookings, I am more relaxed about this (at least for now) since it appears to not be the case.
I looked across multiple months for multiple categories of properties (including the more popular ones) and there is good supply of mostly rooms with standard prices and there were generally only slightly more peak vs off-peak rooms. This can of course be changed at any time by Marriott.
Reassured for now, rather than spend time analysing in minute detail the Marriott Bonvoy peak, off peak mix of today, I set about focusing on how to make the new Marriott peak, off peak pricing work to your advantage.

Helpful features of the Bonvoy program

More advanced strategies for using Marriott Bonvoy peak, off peak pricing

These rely on the PointsAdvance feature, so you must have fewer points in your account at the time of booking than is required for your planned stay – otherwise it will become a points (or Cash+Points) booking and you will “lock-in” the amount payable. PointsAdvance locks in your booking, but not the number of points required. So, should the amount required be later reduced, you should only need to pay the lower amount. The risk is that if the requirement increases, you will pay more. If you don’t want this risk, just book with points or Cash+Points.

Your booking must also be more than 30 days prior to your stay(s) to be able to use the PointsAdvance feature. This isn't listed under Bonvoy's terms and conditions, but has been confirmed by their customer service and is consistent with their booking portal.For the same reason, if you have a large balance, it will work best with two members, who have been members longer than 90 days, so that points can be consolidated into one member’s account, with a low balance in the other member’s account.

Multiple bookings to take advantage of any changes to a lower price tier - for all-points only

Shown below is the current redemption table, showing the points (only) requirement for each of the 3 pricing tiers.

Marriott 2020 awards table by category

Note that generally, the off-peak price (in points) is the same as the peak price of the category below it (eg off-peak category 4 and peak category 3 are both 20,000 points per night). The exceptions are

Both are only 1 price tier different, not the usual 2 tiers.

This anomaly creates a sweet spot by booking standard pricing rooms in both category 6 using all-points and category 7 (using all points with PointsAdvance). If the category 7 room is re-classified as off-peak (only 1 tier lower), you have higher category room for the same price and you can cancel the category 6 room booking.

If the price doesn't drop you use the category 6 room and cancel the category 7 room booking.

The same approach works for peak pricing, with the category 7 room booked using PointsAdvance.
I realise that this won't be practical for everyone, but for folk that can, this is the sweetest spot of all.
This strategy doesn't work for other categories, because they would require a 2 tier re-classification from peak to off-peak, which seems unlikely.

The re-classification from standard to off-peak is most likely to happen (I expect) towards the end of shoulder season, so start your search there.

Doing this may not provide you with a lower price for all of your nights during your stay, but a saving of 10,000 points per night is possible. At a valuation of US$8 per thousand, this would be a potential saving of $80 per night.
Not too bad!

How to use the Marriott PointsAdvance feature - step by step

Step 1 - Short-list up to3 stays at different locations or times

The new “flexible date finder”, which shows you the calendar breakout for all off peak, standard and peak dates for a particular property is helpful for this:

Step 2 - Ensure you can use the PointsAdvance feature

Ensure you do not have sufficient points in your Bonvoy account to fully cover any of the 3 bookings. You may need to transfer points to another member’s account to do this, which will be effective 48 hours later.Should you personally have too many points, you need to utilise a second Bonvoy member account. If this member has only recently joined Marriott, they need to have some activity before either purchasing or receiving/transfering points. In this case, you will need this additional step.

Step 2a - Ensure a second member can receive a points transferIntroduce another member and transfer points once they have been a member for 90 days. Or after 30 days for a member with "activity". To create this activity, use the following steps:

Step 3 - Member with minimal balance makes booking(s)

At least 44 days before your stay, have the member with the lower balance use the PointsAdvance feature to book up to 3 stays (the maximum allowable), noting the number of points required for each at the time. That locks in your booking, but not the number of points required. Should the number required be later reduced, you should only need to pay the lower amount. The risk is that if the requirement increases, you will pay more. If you don’t want this risk, just book with points or Cash+Points without PointsAdvance.

Step 4 - Monitor the remainder and finalise if the quantity of points required drops

Monitor weekly the amount of points required to finalise your booking. Ensure you do finalise no later than 14 days prior to your arrival.

Have the other (non-booking) member use the flexible date finder to check the latest Marriott peak, off peak requirements for new bookings (in private or incognito mode) to see if there has been a change from say peak to standard. Compare this against the booking. If it now requires fewer points, provide the amount outstanding and finalise your booking, locking in the quantity required. Don’t forget to cancel the other bookings.
If the amount required increases after booking, cancel that booking (at least 14 days prior to the stay, or more if that is the cancellation policy of the particular property. For St Regis Maldives this is 30 days but for Sheraton Mirage Australia it is only 2 days) with no penalty and use one of your other 2 preferences.

Step 5 - Check-in and enjoy your stay and your savings !

Conclusion

There is still good value to be had if you are Marriott rewards member. You just need to be better informed as to how to use the key features to your best advantage - this isn't as clear as it was prior to the merger into Bonvoy.
Some folk still talk about changing their loyalty. I wouldn't rush to leave for the above reasons. If you must leave, a good place to start thinking about where to move to is our Comparison of hotel rewards programs - I hope it helps you get a better picture of which alternatives may suit you.