Yesterday I saw on Travel Codex Scott Mackenzie sharing some details of Marriott's new Cash + Points redemptions, which will apparently become available early next year.
First, two important caveats. The new Marriott Cash + Points redemptions will not change or slow the relentless upward drift in Marriott property categories. Three or four years ago, the Courtyard Portland City Center was a Category 5 hotel. Today it's Category 7. Additionally, Marriott points are extremely expensive, costing one cent per point when Chase Ultimate Rewards points are transferred in, or 2-plus cents per point if you choose to manufacture spend on a Chase Marriott co-branded credit card instead of a cashback-earning credit card.
But sometimes you just can't help but earn Marriott Rewards points. And Cash + Points redemptions are going to make it much cheaper to drain those balances back down to zero, where they belong.
Always redeem for Cash + Points, where available (with 4 exceptions)
As Marriott Rewards makes clear, "members will be able to redeem their points for the NEW Cash + Points at participating Marriott brand hotels and The Ritz-Carlton hotels when available. Participation will vary by hotel."
In other words, just because a paid night is available, and just because an award night is available, a Cash + Points night won't necessarily be available. But when a Cash + Points night is available, it will usually be better than a straight points redemption.
Here's Scott's chart showing the new Cash + Points redemptions, and the implicit price paid per "saved" Marriott Rewards point:
Only at Marriott Rewards Category 1, Category 2, Category 9, and Ritz Carlton Tier 5 properties do the "missing" points on a redemption cost more than 1 cent each. In other words, if you're considering transferring points in from Ultimate Rewards, you'll be better off at all other properties simply redeeming your Ultimate Rewards points for cash and buying the missing Marriott Rewards points!
Don't compare Marriott Cash + Points rates to cash; compare them to the competition
All I've said so far is that except in a few situations, if it makes sense to make a Marriott Rewards point redemption, it will make even more sense to make a Cash + Points redemption.
But don't let that lure you into thinking that it makes sense to make a Marriott Rewards point redemption!
For example, there are two Category 7 Marriott Rewards properties in Manhattan: the Fairfield Inn & Suites New York Manhattan/Downtown East and Residence Inn New York Manhattan/World Trade Center Area. Those properties cost 35,000 Marriott Rewards points or, under the new 2016 Cash + Points regime, 21,000 Marriott Rewards points and $90 in cash.
If you're paying for your hotel stays exclusively with Chase Ultimate Rewards points, however, there are seven Hyatt Gold Passport properties that cost less than that, and one (the Park Hyatt New York) that ties at exactly 30,000 Hyatt Gold Passport points!
After the new Cash + Points redemption rates go into effect, Marriott Rewards points will still be extremely expensive to acquire and Marriott Rewards properties will still require far more points than their competitors.
But if you are stuck earning Marriott Rewards points through corporate contracts, the imperative of location, or the simple compulsion to sign up for every 80,000-point credit card offer that comes along, you'll want to keep an eye open for Cash + Points availability starting early next year.