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Marriott Hotel Guests Are Outraged About This Major Change

The world's largest hotel chain has decided to get rid of a popular perk.

Whether you're sorting out a business trip or planning the perfect vacation, a lot of a getaway's success hinges on finding the right accommodations. And thanks in no small part to its status as the largest hotel chain in the world, Marriott has amassed an intensely loyal customer base of travelers who count on the company's dependable lodging options across the many brands it operates. But now, fans of the company are frustrated after it took a popular perk away. Read on to see what change has hotel guests outraged at the usually beloved Marriott brand.

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Marriott is getting rid of "free night award" stays for its loyal customers.

PHILADELPHIA, PA -4 OCT 2018- View of the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, a large business hotel close to the Philadelphia Convention Center.

In February, Marriott made waves when it announced that it would be switching its award pricing system for its Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program away from its fixed award chart to a dynamic pricing system by the end of March. But after an update to the program's terms and conditions on March 29, the hotel chain has also dropped the popular "Free Night Awards" redemption from its offerings, replacing them with "Gifted Award Stays," customer rewards website LoyaltyLobby reports.

Experts point out that the former "free" nights often came with $50 to $100 or more in fees.

Marriott International Bonvoy logo visible on the phone screen.

While the change is jarring to longtime fans of the Marriott Bonvoy program, it may have been a calculated move by the hotel chain. Loyalty Lobby explains that when guests redeemed their "Free Night Awards," they were often still subject to expensive charges, including Resort and Destination Fees that could total $50 to $100 or more per day.

"Once Marriott branded hotels—from Fairfield Inns to Ritz Carlton properties—started adding resort fees, destination fees, and breakfast co-pays, even for top tier guests, the term 'free' became a very loose definition anyway. Now, it's simply been removed," writes loyalty program website God Save the Points, adding that the hotel change likely made the change to "keep the company out of legal jeopardy."

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The latest changes have greatly devalued Marriott's reward program.

A young woman traveler sitting with her suitcase and looking angrily at her laptop

Even though the chain may have removed the promise of "free," the switch to dynamic pricing means Marriott Bonvoy members will now have to get accustomed to possibly shelling out more of their hard-earned points to see any benefits. After a brief hold for the remainder of the year, all of Marriott's properties will be able to price outside of their previously assigned bands beginning in 2023, according to The Points Guy. This could make it much harder for guests to predict what an award night might cost them in the future, which was seen as "one of the merits of the Marriott Bonvoy program," the travel site explained. In the past, members had to take peak pricing into account, but there was a maximum rate they knew it wouldn't surpass. That will no longer be the case next year.

"For stays in 2023, we are focusing on ensuring even our most aspirational properties offer a mix of great rates during the year. Changes in rates for stays in 2023 above or below the high low range for stays in 2022 are planned to be incremental," Marriott said in a statement to The Points Guy.

Experts are concerned that more changes could soon come to Marriott's loyalty program.

Building Sign on Marriott Hotel , red letters on a glass tower.

Regardless of what Marriott is choosing to call its loyalty benefits, some argue that such moves could be the beginning of a slippery slope for once-devoted Bonvoy members.

"Is this a pedantic change? Sure. But now, the floodgates are open," God Save the Points warns. "A so-called 'award redemption stay' has no implicit notion that it's free. Marriott can now add restrictive terms or bring more fees into these 'awards' when members redeem their points. What's next? No free breakfast for 100 night a year guests when using points?"

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Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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