(EXPIRED) Marriott category changes: Bad news

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Update 3/3/20: Just a quick reminder that these changes come in tomorrow (March 4), so today is your final opportunity to lock in the rates for properties going up a category.

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Marriott Bonvoy has today announced its latest category changes that will go into effect on March 4th 2020 and the news is not good: many more properties are increasing than decreasing, continuing a devaluation pattern over the past few years that makes it harder to get excellent value for your points.

The award chart

As a reminder, here is the full Marriott award chart, with the “Points” column indicating standard, peak, and off-peak rates along with PointSavers and Cash + Points rates.

More than 3 times as many hotels are going up in category than down (1687 increasing vs 507 decreasing). And that’s not where the bad news ends.

The changes begin March 4 2020

You can find the full list of properties changing in category here. You can easily sort by category, location, brand, etc. You can also search with a search box. It is telling that there are 22 pages of results. Gary at View from the Wing notes that 22% of Marriott’s portfolio is changing categories.

Free night certificates devalued

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. There are 139 (!!!!) properties in the US going up from Category 5 to Category 6, where you’ll only be able to use your annual free night certificate if you catch an off-peak time (when it will probably make for a poor value). This is just a snippet of them:

Note in particular how many times you see “New York” on that list. I’ll save you some counting: you see fifteen above, but in total there are 24 Marriott properties in New York City that are moving out of range of your 35K annual free night certificate during standard or peak pricing. That’s disappointing to see. I know I’ve looked at New York City as being a solid backup option for my free night certificates particularly because of the large number of properties there where they are valid. It was already a bit of a challenge to find a time when those properties were not in peak pricing mode, so I can’t imagine we’ll see them available at 35K very often when they move up.

And those are certainly not the only properties increasing from Category 5-6. In total, there are 216 properties worldwide that are moving from Category 5 to Category 6.

My personal pain point: Cat 1 to Cat 2

While I love staying at top-tier properties as much as anyone else, my personal pain point with these category changes is seeing the lone Category 1 in my vicinity move up to Category 2. That’s going to kill the value of using Marriott points for stays at that property.

The past two straight weekends I’ve redeemed 5,000 points to stay at a Category 1 Fairfield property thanks to off-peak pricing. Room rates have been in the range of $95-$110, making for a good use of Marriott Bonvoy points at this particular property, which just happens to be located in a perfect spot for our needs for a variety of reasons.

As it 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

I’ve never seen peak pricing at this particular property and have scored off-peak pricing quite a bit over the past several months. That means what was an excellent value at 5,000 points is about to double in points price to 10K per night. While getting around 1c per point with Marriott is actually pretty good, it certainly doesn’t feel that good to see the price double.

That is of particular disappointment to me from an elite qualification perspective. Last year, my 71st night of the year was planned to be a stay at this Category 1 property, which would have cost me 5,000 points. Thanks to the 5th night free on award stays, I was able to instead book 5 nights for 20K total points. The end result was that I spent an extra 15,000 points to get myself to 75 total nights. That trade gave me access to a 75-night choice benefit (I chose a 40K free night certificate).

This year, I definitely will not make it to Titanium again. I probably won’t make the 50 nights necessary to qualify for Platinum for next year. However, my back-up plan has been that if I made it to 40 nights, I’d consider booking a couple of 5-night off-peak Category 1 stays to bridge the gap. Unfortunately, my preferred choice for that purpose is now gone. Further, this is just one of 185 properties going from Category 1 to Category 2, so I imagine I won’t be alone in finding this path difficult moving forward.

Luckily, my Capital One account still has the ability to convert 64,250 “miles” into a $900 Marriott gift card. I made that redemption today and I’m glad I did because this news doesn’t make me bullish on Marriott points moving forward.

Not much notable decreasing

Out of the properties decreasing in category, I just don’t see much of note. Roomers in Munich moves from Category 6 to 5 as do a couple of Autograph Collection hotels in the US like Hotel Republic in San Diego. The Hotel Blackhawk in Davenport, Iowa drops from Category 5 to 4.

I stayed at the Hotel Republic last year. It’s a nice enough Autograph Collection property and room rates may make this a decent deal for a free night cert.

One property that I’m glad to see drop to a Category 5 is the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani. It doesn’t excite me for its stellar TripAdvisor reviews (spoiler alert: it gets a 3.5 out of 5), but rather the potential to use free night certificates there could make for a really reasonable getaway to Hawaii if paired with the Turkish Miles & Smiles sweet spot for United flights.

Those searching for luxury on the cheap will note that the St. Regis Astana in Kazakhstan has dropped from Category 5 to 4 and the St. Regis Tianjin will be a Category 3 starting on March 4th, though the latter is surely in part due to a sharp decrease in demand across the board in China at the moment due to the Wuhan coronavirus.

I’m no less curious about the St. Regis Astana than I was when it became Category 5. Now at Cat 4 starting on 3/4, you could book 5 nights for 100K points.

Despite the fact that the current spread of coronavirus is causing a dip in travel to Asia, I’m still surprised to see the St. Regis Singapore drop in category.

Many properties increase for the second or third time in the past couple of years

Also standing out for us at Frequent Miler is the fact that many properties that we’ve written about have increased in category a few times over the past couple of years.

When I started working at Frequent Miler in 2017, I stayed at the just-opened JW Marriott Phu Quoc and wrote about it here. Several readers have reached out since to say that they stayed there. Modeled after a mythical university, it was an awesome property with terrific rooms.

My room at the JW Marriott Phu Quoc

When I stayed in February 2017, the property had just opened and it was 25K points per night.

In 2018, it initially went up to 30K points per night, then it moved up to Category 5 at 35K points per night.

It now moves up to Category 6 on March 4, 2020 at 50K points per night for a standard award (and as high as 60K when peak pricing is in effect). With standard awards having doubled in price in 3 years, this property is no longer the clear bargain it once was.

Still, that’s a relatively slow increase compared to the Sheraton Kauai Resort. We first wrote about it in June 2019 when it was still a Courtyard property charging 25K points per night because we had heard that it was under renovation to become a Sheraton. Then in October 2019, it moved up to Category 5 (30-40K points per night). On March 4, 2020, it increases to Category 6 (40-60K points per night). 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). That’s a huge swing in a short period of time.

Update: The above was incorrect. There are two Sheraton properties on Kauai. The property about which we’ve previously written is the Sheraton Kauai Coconut Beach Resort (in Kapaʻa). The property increasing in category is the Sheraton Kauai resort in (Koloa). Thanks to reader Chuck and Kirby in the comments below for bringing this to my attention.

The Waterline Marina, which went up from Category 5 (30-40K points per night) to Category 6 (40-60K points per night) in March 2019, increases in category once again to Cat 7 (60-70K points per night). And Greg didn’t even like it that much.

While I do understand that prices will rise, there are a number of very large increases when taken in context and that’s disappointing from a customer perspective.

Bottom line

Marriott typically announces category changes each year in February for bookings beginning in March, so it is not shocking to see properties changing category at this time of year. What is unfortunate is the huge swing of properties increasing in category, especially given that we’ve seen a similar trend of declining value from Marriott for the past couple of years.

H/T: View from the Wing

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John
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John

Hotel loyalty programs are devolving into a total joke as these brands continue their endless drive to squeeze pennies anywhere they can be found. If people bothered to shop around, most locations have nonchain options that are better and cheaper (even taking account of whatever value you put on points and status).

A K
Guest
A K

Not to mention that people often will forego most optimal locations just do stay with a brand.

JB SanDiego
Guest
JB SanDiego

U just got Bonvoyed! Again!

Didn’t we just get Bonvoyed?

Maybe I am just imagining things?

Mary Jane's
Guest
Mary Jane's

Next time my SPG business card is up for renewal, I doubt very much I will renew it. They are destroying the incentive to utilize their award program. If their aim is to promote brand loyalty-they are blowing it.

Aloha808
Guest
Aloha808

For this, and many other reasons (especially when they canceled and rebooked folks at higher rates recently), decided to cancel my bonvoy biz.

ktc
Guest
ktc

did a 5-night back in Jan for 16k, now all 4 cat 1 hotels within 1 hr’s driving are becoming cat 2.

losingtrader
Guest
losingtrader

I’ll use my free nights, then likely get rid of the cards. Can we use points plus a certificate?
I know you can’t use the 40,000 from IHG and combine with more points.

OK, so the only value of these points is for transfer to airlines.

I guess they actually want to make money off the credit cards. I’m not down with that (or up with it )
There’s no point is using the card without a bonus offer, is there?

Frank
Guest
Frank

Wife and I have 5 Marriott cards at nearly $500 in fees. Not many properties left where I go, except Europe where I can get a reasonable value. I can’t use these free nights easily where I live or within 200 miles even. I think I’ll just lwt then go. But I noticed that they are now giving me my free night cert quite a while after I pay the fee (actually they are now charging the fee a month earlier is more like it). .

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

Just Flip the card then Burn it . The Good old days were just 2 years ago . I got 15 nites @ 4* hotels out of 30 nites for nothing . First trip in like 7 years no Free Nites I had to shop all costly !!!. U mean we are just like regular people now HaHa .
CHEERs

George
Guest
George

I had hoped the Cat. 1 & 2 properties in Spain and Italy would stay the way they were for another year or two. Cat. 1>2 is a 67% increase; Cat. 2>3 is a 40% increase. Two more “good uses of Bonvoy” gone. As a New Jersey resident, I had also been eyeing NYC as a good place to use FNCs (weekend city break); then peak pricing came, and now these Category changes come, leaving “meh” choices.

Sad.

Bctraveler
Guest
Bctraveler

With Marriotts room rates soaring between 20 and 60 percent in the last year, my gold for life no longer matters much. I have since re-discovered the delights of IHG platinum and the complete joy of bidding on Priceline for 4 and 5 star hotels with excellent value.

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

I have never used Priceline is it safe or can there be a hassle @ check-in .How about the hidden hotel Fees like I had on a Deal rental car.
Good option I need good value.
CHEERs

Michael Tarlow
Guest
Michael Tarlow

I am a 30+ year owner of Marriott timeshares with lifetime platinum status collecting on average 200k Bonvoy points per year. I paying fees on 6 Bonvoy cards and my business means squat to Marriott. I have had many amazing travel experiences thanks to my Marriott loyalty which has made me reluctant to look for alternatives. But now I am waaay beyond bulls**t with the way Marriott has treated its most loyal customers since its merger with SPG. It doesn’t stop with the devaluation of properties. “Free” breakfast at some hotels doesn’t even cover a cold breakfast, some executive lounges charge for drinks. In my experience 3 out of 4 properties do not accept suite night awards. Despite their written policy, often there have often been better rooms available on line at check in than the one I was upgraded to. Now there are blackout dates. This devaluation is the straw.

Marriott’s strategy is brilliant; grow too big to fail. No readers on this site or sites like it have anything good to say about Bonvoy. The same can be said for Marriott TS owners on the multitude of sites hosting bitching sessions. You would think that the multitude of complaints online would move the needle but it hasn’t. The only answers that I can come up is that those who are vocal are either representative of a much smaller group than general population customers or too fragmented to be able to exert any pressure to stop the continual devaluation. If the latter is true the question becomes how do you get their attention? I can’t offer any good suggestions but perhaps a starting point is to try to raise a coordinated collective voice. There must also be a ton of people who are equally pisses that don’t participate on these pages. How do we tap into that. I will start by more frequently posting my concerns on the various Facebook pages and maybe even #boycottbonvoy (though I’m not a savvy tweeter). The time has come to stop bitching to each other and do something meaningful. What are your ideas?

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

Really Simple book @ other sites and Get The Best Value for your stay . All big chains will figure it out and when all the booking come from 3rd parties they will change . The bloggers aren’t bitching their just telling what happened to them .
I was gone with the Hotel Super Gold ++BS cards 2 years ago No Value for me .
CHEERs

Michael Tarlow
Guest
Michael Tarlow

I understand your position. And it makes perfect sense for those with no/low status. However, having high status is like having golden handcuffs. Booking thru a 3rd party means giving up 1) lowest price guarantee, 2) booking lowest $ room and getting some upgrade (sometimes amazing), 3) free breakfast/executive lounge access of varying value 4) 6 points for every $. Marriott keeps cutting benefits but still makes it difficult to book elsewhere. The lower your status the easier the choice. Perhaps the fatal flaw is when long time loyalists age out of the picture and are not replaced by younger customers who did not have the incentives to become loyal. Marriott seems to be seeking their sweet spot where they can cut benefits without cutting significant loyalty. Just another facet of a smart marketing plan. Will they out smart themselves?

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

MT
I agree with you I only travel about 12 weeks a year . It’s Very Nice to know what u will get when u check-in like I Had BUT they change the rules every day then the hotel change them too.
Happy Booking.
CHEERs

Pam
Guest
Pam

Not to mention Autograph Collection & other super cool props not easily found in other chains with loyalty programs. If Marriott’s inventory just wasn’t so dang good…

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

Maui next week Freeze !! looks like rain caught a cold last trip .

Pam
Guest
Pam

Just got back before the rains started! Chk out Paia Fish Mkt, sev locations.

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

I’m going to visit Nick’s uncle’s place ( Lucky him) ur Mt. place in Kona @ Happy Hour’S !! Paia showed right up on search let’s see it’s affordable for lunch . I’m going back to the Super Nice Sheraton for dinner again and entertainment by the Free shuttle good till 11:30pm .
Thanks!!

Pam
Guest
Pam

If Sheraton on Maui, get there in time for cliff divers. If Kona, check out the mantas, beautiful!

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

Yup Maui it is Breath Taking Hotel . I stayed @ the S. Kauai one for like 25% less on points for 5 nites .
THX’s

Pam
Guest
Pam

Then try for 5:30 at Cliff Dive Bar for torch lighting, talk story, then dive (not you, though!). Good live music playing, too, fun scene.

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

No Need to Reply .
I saw that Cliff Diving posted while there @ 7pm on my last nite HaHa . Just booked 3 rt’s on Robert’s Shuttle (Great) HNL , KOA, OGG ($150) like 25% more then last year .
CHEERs

Pam
Guest
Pam

Great rates but how do you get around once at your hotel?

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

Easy I do car or Tour Bus Recon every place I go on the first trip .Waikiki I get a hotel in the center of the beach walk (Nick’s uncle) or bus $5 (24 hrs) .
In Kona I stay @ King Kam (pier) or Holiday Inn center but 1 block off beach . King Kam the Trolley start’s there and go’s 1 hr N or S to Sheraton $2 many stops. A taxi is $10 to go from one side of the cove to the other .
In Lahaina I stay @ Royal Lahaina there’s a nice place to eat BK Castaway’s on beach 5 min walk .Right out front there’s a free trolley takes u to 10 hotels(Sheraton) and Two food courts like 20 mns each way . There’s also a $3 Shuttle which takes u just south of the court house (pier) in Lahaina and will stop anywhere on the route.They Love tips as anything go’s.
In Kauai I rent a Jeep to see every thing . I turned most of Hawaii into the EU like easy to get around or rent a car 8am to 8pm no $40 pk per nite in Waikiki.
CHEERs

Kirby
Guest
Kirby

Note the Sheraton Kauai Resort is not the same as the new Sheraton Coconut Beach… (the former Courtyard)

Platinum
Guest
Platinum

Guess I am taking a drive up to Greenbush in the next few weeks to get 5 nights for 20k while i can. I am almost at LT Platinum so I don’t want to give up just yet. I earn and burn so less than 100k in my account at this moment.

Alohashirt
Guest
Alohashirt

Another day, another devaluation. I’d say that more than a few people who read this site use their certificates and points to get Platinum status. The days of the inexpensive mattress run are nearing their end. While Marriott continues their push to devalue every aspect of the customer experience while raising the prices, those of us with Platinum status and higher face a tough choice: Keep riding the declining curve or start at the bottom elsewhere.

I have to admit that “elsewhere” is beginning to look more appealing.

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[…] we reported the news that Marriott would be changing the category of more than two thousand hotels worldwide on March 4, 2020. The vast majority of hotels will increase in category and therefore cost more points beginning on […]

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[…] latest devaluation is coming March 4th 2020.  As Nick previously reported, Marriott is making its annual category adjustments and the news is mostly bad.  One thousand six […]

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[…] Marriott Category Changes:  Here’s some bad news from Marriott.  They’ve announced some category changes for several properties effective March 4, 2020 and many of the changes are not in our favor.  Does this sway your hotel loyalty preference? […]

Maifriend
Guest
Maifriend

On top of the devaluation there is the ridiculous resort fee. I’ll keep my cards until the fee is due and will cancel it. Hyatt doesn’t charge the resort fees to Hyatt credit card holder and that’s where I will stay from now on whenever possible.

AlexL
Guest
AlexL

I think Hyatt does not charge resort fees on points stay or even paid stays if you have globalist status. Holding Hyatt credit card does not help with the resort fees.

YoniPDX
Guest
YoniPDX

Its a shame that the Cornoa virus will do little to bring value back to the devaluations and Category changes.

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

Should get worse their looking to cut costs .

James
Guest
James

The part about the hotels that are now too expensive (points wise) to use the free night cert is why I hated how most companies changed to this scheme. I kept my Radisson biz card since it gives points (that I think are more flexible) instead of a cert based on points value.

Captain Greg
Guest
Captain Greg

HUGE THANKS for this reminder. Just used a 25k certificate that would’ve disappeared – along with all other marriott hotels near lax – tomorrow.