BOOK NOW! Marriott Making “Enhancements” To Hotel Categories (aka Bad News)

Welp, Marriott Bonvoy just announced their latest category changes and it’s not good news as many more properties are increasing than decreasing, continuing a devaluation pattern that’s hard to overlook and makes it even harder to extract excellent value for your points.

MARRIOTT AWARD CHART

All changes will go live 4 March 2020.

As a reminder, Marriott recently transitioned to a peak / off -peak award chart with peak / off-peak hotel dates that change every month. In other words, if you are looking to stay at a Category 1 hotel on a specific date, it could cost you 5,000 points or 10,000 points depending on when you redeem your points.

If you found that last sentence confusing, it’s about to get much worse but here is the Marriott award chart:

MARRIOTT CATEGORY CHANGES

Of the 2194 hotels that are changing categories, 1687 are increasing in category and 507 are decreasing. Yes, 70% are increasing! And that’s not where the bad news ends.

If you’re interested in seeing ALL 22 PAGES of changes CLICK HERE. You can easily sort by category, location, brand, etc.

If you’re interested in a specific property, you can also search using the search box.

DEVALUATION OF THE FREE NIGHT CERTIFICATE

Perhaps, the most painful part of the of these changes is the devaluation of the free night certificate. Those who have either the Chase Marriott Bonvoy Boundless or the Marriott Bonvoy American Express card (the old SPG card) get an annual free night certificate that can be used for properties charging up to 35K points per night (i.e. a category 5 hotel).

Well, there are 139 properties in the US moving from Category 5 to Category 6. In other words, you’ll only be able to use your annual free night certificate at fewer hotels.

THE UPS AND DOWNS

While I love staying at top-tier properties as much as anyone else (LIKE THIS), I prefer more of the ‘middle of the road’ – type properties (LIKE THIS) and stretching my points as far as they can go.

In my experience, Marriott hotel categories tend to reflect how popular they are rather than how nice they really are.

For example, it pains me to see how many of the Protea properties in South Africa are increasing from Category 1 to 2. I’ve stayed in Protea properties throughout Africa and many are a steal for the service and amenities they provide!

As many of them will now move to Category 2, I’ll be looking at the following changes:

  • Off peak: Increases from 5,000 points –> 10,000 points
  • Standard: Increases from 7,500 points –> 12,500 points
  • Peak: Increases from 10,000 points –> 15,000 points

That’s a heck of an increase!

In contrast, I’ve stayed at Category 6 or 7 hotels and spent A LOT more points and found that they were not as good as the Category 1 Protea hotels.

And then there are questionable increases like the Sheraton Grand Wuhan Hankou Hotel increasing from Category 2 to 3. Wuhan, Marriott? Are you sure about that!?

As you probably know, I am planning a trip to Japan in a few weeks and I noticed that Japan is being targeted pretty hard as many of the properties are increasing in an already expensive city.

Although not many hotels are decreasing, there are some surprises. Interestingly, one of my favorite hotels in the world (The Westin Doha Hotel & Spa) is decreasing from a Category 4 to a 3. I think this warrants a trips back to Doha to celebrate. 😉

MARRIOTT IS DOING THE MOST!

As shocking as these increases are, I’m a firm believer in the quote “the best indicator of future behavior is past behavior.”

Over the past few years, Marriott has incrementally increased categories for a few hotels and it’s largely gone unnoticed.

For example, in June 2019, the now Sheraton Kauai Resort was a Category 4 Courtyard Marriott (25,000 points/night). However, it was rumored to become a Sheraton. Fast forward to October 2019, it moved to Category 5 (30-40K points per night). And now it is on the list to to become a Category 6 (40-60K points per night) in March.

In other words, in less than 9 months, it will have gone from Category 4 (as low as 20K points per night) to Category 6 (as much as 60K points per night). Yowzers!

LOOKING FOR DEALS

St. Regis Tianjin

Those searching for luxury for a bargain may have to look off the beaten path.

For example:

And although this isn’t “off-the-beaten-path,” I’m surprised to see the St. Regis Singapore decrease from a Category 7 to Category 6.

FINAL STAMP

Typically, Marriott announces category changes each year in February for bookings beginning in March.

While I do understand that prices will rise, increasing the price for 22% of entire portfolio is a bit over kill and definitely disappointing.

(Un)fortunately depending on how you look at it, at this point, I don’t think I will be retaining any sort of status with Marriott for next year.

Again, all changes will go live 4 March 2020, so if you are planning to stay at a marriott property, you may want to book now as many are increasing in price. Alternatively, if the property is decreasing in cost (like my precious Westin Doha), wait until after 4 March 2020 to book.

What do you make of these changes? Do you have a preferred hotel chain?

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