Marriott often receives criticism for being unfriendly when it comes to dealing with its loyalty program, Marriott Bonvoy. In fact, a term called “being Bonvoyed” is used whenever someone feels that Marriott has wronged them in some way. This could be as significant as a major devaluation of the program, difficulty in using a suite night upgrade certificate, the room type you booked not being available, or even something as small as having to wait 30 minutes past the time when your room was supposed to be ready.
Although we’re not particularly loyal to Marriott, some guests seem to use any issue they encounter during their stay at any Marriott property as an excuse to claim they were “Bonvoyed”. It’s like we’ve become obsessed.
That’s why I think Marriott is getting a bum rap when it comes to the stories about their abrupt change in policy about extending the expiration on free night certificates.
Marriott offers several ways to earn a free night certificate that can be redeemed at any of their properties worldwide. One of the most popular ways to earn these certificates is by having a Marriott co-brand credit card from either Chase or American Express. These credit cards offer a range of benefits, including bonus points for spending, elite status, and free night certificates. Depending on the card you have, you may receive different valued free night certificates from Marriott each year.
Marriott offers an alternative method to earn a complimentary night through its Annual Choice Award program, which is granted to members who achieve 75 nights or more.
Marriott Free Night Awards expire 1 year from when they’re issued. Marriott did a good job during the pandemic by extending the expiration dates on the free nights earned from credit cards, eventually allowing them to be used until January 2022. At that point, Marriott stated that there would be no more extensions.
Many people have reported that if their free night is about to expire within two weeks, they can call Marriott and request an extension for another year. This has been an unwritten rule since at least October 2022.
Within the last few days, people who called to extend certificates were told that the policy was changing back to the official rules and there would be no more extensions of free night certificates as of 12/5. That date has come and gone and some have confirmed that Marriott is firm about sticking to the rules and is no longer extending free night certificates.
Of course, people are having a field day online criticizing Marriott about such an unfriendly customer move. But how does Marriott’s policy compare to the other major hotel loyalty programs?
- World of Hyatt – no extension of free night certificates, but you may be able to get some points from Hyatt once the free night certificates have expired.
- Hilton Honors – maximum 14-day extension if you have a hotel stay planned
- IHG Rewards – no mention online of extending free night certificates.
Since Marriott was the only hotel loyalty program that was still extending the expiration of free nights, they are only coming back to the pack and enforcing the policy that’s been in place since 2022. Although they could have given more notice, this was never a stated policy by Marriott, only an exception to the rule that went on for over a year. Only those who are deeply involved in the points world would even know that an extension existed. I’m sure that most people who receive one free night a year from their Marriott co-brand card have no problem using it.
I don’t see any issue with Marriott changing their unwritten policy back to the written one, even if it’s on short notice. People shouldn’t have counted or relied on on the goodwill of Marriott to use their free nights after the expiration date. They should have been aware of the risks of getting Bonvoyed.
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