We talk a lot about hotel stays in the Travel on Point(s) Facebook group, including ways to maximize points, certificates, and elite status. One of the programs that comes up a lot these days and not always for the best, is Marriott Bonvoy.
Marriott Bonvoy Status
I have carried elite status with Marriott for quite a few years, with the last two years being Platinum status. Platinum status requires 50 nights, but can be achieved fairly easily. You can earn up to 30 nights by holding Marriott credit cards (15 nights from one personal card, and 15 nights from one business card). I hold the Chase Marriott Bonvoy Boundless card and the Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card.
Some of the benefits you can enjoy with Marriott Platinum status (you can view a full list of benefits here):
- Guaranteed 4 pm late checkout (subject to availability at resort and convention hotels)
- Welcome gift choice (points or breakfast, varies by brand)
- Enhanced room upgrade (based on availability)
- Lounge access
- 50% bonus points on stays
- Annual choice benefit with 50 elite night credits. (Choose one of the following: five Suite Night Awards, 40% off a mattress and box spring from your favorite hotel brand, give the gift of Silver Elite status to a family member or friend, $100 charity donation, or five elite night credits)
Suite Night Awards
I have highlighted the key benefit I am discussing today: the five Suite Night Awards (SNAs). Basically, you can use one SNA per night to get confirmed in a suite. When you apply SNAs to a reservation, the hotel begins searching for an upgrade five days prior to check-in to confirm your upgrade. Seems simple, right?
Well, Marriott is notorious for playing games to avoid awarding SNAs. Here is how and when they are awarded.
Digging deeper to see how you can actually use the awards brings up a lot more fine print. The rules can be viewed here, which is actually under section 4.3.c. Here are some of the main terms:
- Suite Night Awards may be redeemed for advance confirmable upgrades for select, premium rooms or standard suites on a per room, per night basis, subject to availability and the applicable terms and conditions set forth below for Suite Night Awards
- Suite Night Awards may be used only on Loyalty Program eligible paid stays as well as Award Redemption Stays.
- Suite Night Awards may only be used for standard suites or other Premium Rooms as designated by the Participating Property.
- Suite Night Award use is based upon availability of the requested suite or Premium Room. Checking for availability begins five (5) days before arrival. If availability is not confirmed five (5) days before arrival, availability is checked each day before arrival up to 2 p.m. local time of the Participating Property one (1) day prior to arrival. If at that time Suite Night Awards cannot be confirmed, the Suite Night Awards are credited back to the Member's account.
- One Suite Night Award is required per room per night. Suite Night Awards are required for each night of the stay including any nights that may be designated “free” such as the Stay for 5, Pay for 4 Offer.
- Members who book separate reservations for consecutive nights that precede or follow a reservation that has confirmed Suite Night Awards will be required to change rooms to the confirmed room type on any night(s) where a Suite Night Award is not used.
- Requests to use Suite Night Awards on a reservation may be made up to 2 p.m. local time of the Participating Property one (1) day prior to arrival.
How I got Bonvoyed
Recently, I tried to use a Suite Night Award for an award stay and ended up getting Bonvoyed. For those unfamiliar with the term, “Bonvoyed” is when Marriott botches a stay or published benefit, whether due to bad IT, poor customer service, or by intentionally playing games.
For this stay, I actually went back to the Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort and Spa, a resort where I had successfully used these SNAs before. In fact, last year, they upgraded me to an older but great suite using SNAs.
I booked this stay pretty last-minute and immediately ran into an issue with the hotel's cancelation policy. The SNAs started being approved five days out, as expected, but the cancelation policy required allowed for free cancelation only up to 7 days out. This meant I would not get the upgrade confirmation before I was within the cancelation window.
When I booked, I checked suite availability ahead of time. There were multiple suites available. I booked the basic room available as an award stay, which was a combination of certificates and points.
I then went in and submitted a Suite Night Awards request.
Suite Night Awards request.
And then this email the day before I checked in.
My Chat With Marriott
I did not give up yet as I was already in town and staying at a Sheraton a few miles down the road. A check of rooms showed there were still suites available. I decided to chat with the hotel via the Marriott Bonvoy app.
First, the hotel claimed no suites were available. Then when I pushed back on that, they came up with this.
So then I pushed back again, and asked that now they were claiming they had suites available?
The hotel went from having no suites, to only suites on two of three nights. As you can see, they would not let me have the suite for even one or two nights. Marriott Bonvoy elite status at its finest.
After this chat, I looked again and all suites were still available. Within 30 minutes they all vanished, leaving one upgrade available, which was to a non-suite. I am not joking! I took screen shots of all the suites available on the site, but by the time I got to the last one and went back on, the suites were gone. Was it a mistake? Was the hotel playing games? You tell me.
How It Ended
I got the last room listed, but not a suite. It was a second floor room, looking at the roof of the first floor building. Yes, I could see the ocean, yes it was technically a upgrade, but after that mess, I was not happy. To add insult to injury and here is the room key I got:
Oh, and my upgraded room did have a refrigerator as you can see.
Normally, I would not have felt Bonvoyed, but there were suites available. They were available all the way up until I told the hotel they were there the day before. Then they vanished all of a sudden.
I am not the only who has experienced this. You can find hundreds if not thousands of people that get SNA requests denied and simply cannot use the Suite Night Awards. How a hotel goes from having four different suites to none in just 30 minutes after I point that out to them is beyond me.
This is one of the reasons Bonvoy irritates me so much, especially considering I am also a Hyatt Globalist. What is the point of issuing suite night awards that are nearly impossible to use? On a final note, as of this writing I was still trying to get my nights to post to my account. two weeks and nothing including no replies from Marriott to my messages and inquiries.
Have you tried to use your Marriott Suite Night Awards? What was your experience like? Come over to our Facebook group and share your thoughts.