We’ve talked a lot about the impact of the coronavirus on flights and travel, but one angle we haven’t talked much about is travel reward points. And there happens to be great news on this front, something that was necessary given that no one can travel now.
Marriott Bonvoy is by far the best hotel rewards program for Canadians, as is Air Canada Aeroplan in terms of airline rewards programs (some would argue that both are the best “by default”, but it’s hard to argue that they are in fact the best for us, no matter why they are).
Both programs have recently announced positive changes in response to the current crisis, and it is very reassuring for the many of you who have the amazing free night certificate by virtue of having applied for the Marriott Bonvoy Card (and getting its welcome bonus of 50,000 points—or up to 8 free nights).
Both programs have also announced more flexible change policies and a pause on points expiry (although for both programs, expiry really shouldn’t be an issue), but Marriott’s giving everyone more time for both changes and expiry.
Both programs have announced innovative charity initiatives for the coronavirus.
Finally, both programs have great news for their members with elite status: it will be extended (the Marriott Card has a great shortcut so you might have status like we do, while the Aeroplan status is only realistic if you travel for work or like paying way too much for your flights).
Here are the changes announced:
Up until June 30th, you can cancel any Marriott booking for free as long as you do it 24 hours before check-in. I will keep my Marriott reservations for my June trip to Czechia and Austria for as long as I can, just in case.
2. Free Night Certificates
The best news for many of you is regarding the free night certificates. Kevin has explained the Marriott annual free night certificate in great detail when telling you about the $1,100 overwater bungalow in Fiji he got for free, so I won’t repeat it all.
What you need to know is that if you had a certificate expiring in 2020, it will automatically be extended to January 31, 2021, so no need to worry about that for a while.
3. Points Expiry
Points expiration will be paused until February 2021, but since points don’t expire for 2 years when you have account activity (you use your Marriott card once or stay one night in a hotel), it’s as if they never expired anyway.
4. Elite Status
For those who made an effort to reach Marriott Bonvoy elite status for 2020, you won’t need to requalify this year: all statuses will be extended to February 2022. I was getting very nervous personally being a Titanium Elite, which requires staying 60 nights in Marriott hotels. Last year it took me until the very last day possible to reach that threshold (thanks to 53 free nights paid with points!) and while Hilton and Hyatt had already announced an extension, Marriott was holding out.
SNAs from 2020 will also be extended to December 2021. There are many benefits to being Platinum Elite or Titanium Elite, like free upgrades. But the status also gives you “Choice Benefits”, the most popular of which is the “Suite Night Awards” (SNAs), which allow you to get a guaranteed upgrade in advance (rather than hoping you get it at check-in).
And for those who wanted to earn status for the first time this year, there will be reduced requirements, but they will be announced at a later date.
5. $10 Million Donation
Finally, Marriott (in partnership with American Express and US bank Chase) will be donating $10 million worth of free hotel stays to medical personnel on the frontlines of the fight against the coronavirus.
Here are the changes announced:
We had previously told you about Aeroplan’s free flight change policy up until March 30th, but it has since been extended for an extra month. I personally have an Aeroplan booking in August that I had decided to keep, so I’ll get a chance to reevaluate on April 30th.
2. Points Expiry
Miles expiry will be paused until May 14th, but like with Marriott, it’s really not very hard to avoid the expiry: you just need one transaction a year, so you can simply use the Aeroplan online shopping portal once to get a full year.
3. Elite Status & Charity
Aeroplan has now also announced a way to earn status from home, by donating miles to charity. While that is definitely not the best way to maximize the value of your valuable hard-earned miles, at least it’s a very innovative initiative.
Otherwise, Aeroplan status will be extended by one year as well. Like I said, airline status is a whole other beast than hotel status and is extremely hard to attain without spending a ton of money on flights, which we hope you don’t do (so that you can travel more).
4. Program Relaunch
As a reminder, when I talked to Air Canada’s VP Loyalty in January at the AC A220 unveiling, he confirmed a few things about the program relaunch, and every Canadian traveler should know about what needs to be done to maximize your Aeroplan Miles before the changes.
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Featured image: Luxury Collection Hotel Hyderabad (photo credit: Marriott website)
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