New Marriott award chart: first reactions

The New Marriott chart is out (See: NOW LIVE: New Marriott SPG Award Category Assignments.). Greg is doing his thing and crunching the numbers with a complete analysis to come. In the meantime, here are some of my first reactions to the new chart.

As a reminder, new category assignments are published here: points-redemption.marriott.com/category-change.

#1 – Off the Charts No More: from 48K per night for the best properties

The St. Regis Bora Bora

When Greg and I first reported on Marriott merger news back in April, we noted being told that all properties would fit into the new chart, even those that had previously existed as “all-suites” SPG properties that did not fit into a category (See: The huge wins in yesterday’s Marriott announcement). As you may have noticed in our earlier post this morning, that is correct. Here is the quote from Marriott’s release:

For the first time, SPG’s all-suite hotels such the W Maldives, the St. Regis Bora Bora Resort, or the Phoenician Residences, a Luxury Collection Residence Club in Scottsdale, are now included in the published award chart. These sought-after properties can be redeemed for 5,000 fewer points.

The quote isn’t quite as clear as I’d like, but the news is stellar. Take for instance the St. Regis Bora Bora. That property is an SPG Category 7, and a standard room in that category costs 30K-35K Starpoints per night (the equivalent of 90K-105K Marriott Rewards points). But the St. Regis Bora Bora has long been classified as an all-suites property without any standard rooms, so SPG members were unable to redeem for the normal chart pricing. When I called to check on award rates in April, the lowest price the agent could find over the coming year was 90,000 Starpoints per night (the equivalent of 270K Marriott Rewards points per night).

However, as expected, Marriott classifies the St. Regis Bora Bora as what will be a Category 8 hotel next year and will cost just 85,000 Marriott points per night. That’s an amazing drop from 270K in the past. Note that the “current points required” is based on the fact that SPG Category 7 starts at 30K Starpoints / 90K Marriott Rewards points per night (despite the fact that it is impossible to book this property for 30K SPG points today).

However, it gets even better. From August through the end of this year, the top tier in the chart is actually Category 7 — Marriott’s category 8 will not debut until early 2019. See the asterisk that leads to the note under the chart that says (bold font is mine for emphasis):

An eighth category will be added in early 2019. Until then, Category 8 hotels will be available at Category 7 pricing.

In other words, properties like the St. Regis Bora Bora will cost just 60,000 Marriott Rewards points for bookings made between August and whenever the 8th category debuts. Note that doesn’t mean you need to travel before early 2019, it just means you have to book before the new charts take effect.  Marriott lets you book about a year in advance, meaning that you’ll have until at least the end of 2018 to look in plans and pricing for your 2019 travel. This will of course rely on finding availability — but if you can, it will be well worth it.

Even better, book a 5-night award stay and get the 5th night free – for an average cost of just 48,000 points per night!

Of course, the St. Regis Bora Bora is only one such example — see this post for more ideas: SPG’s Off the Chart Properties, and a Map.

#2 — New York, New York: Free night certificates galore

When Marriott released the preview, I expressed excitement about the fact that 4 properties in New York City would be bookable with the annual free night certificates that will come with the Marriott and SPG credit cards. Low and behold that was just scratching the surface. I count 32 (!!!!) properties in Manhattan that will cost 35,000 points or less and will thus be bookable with the anniversary free night certificates that come with the Marriott Rewards Premier Plus card and the SPG consumer and SPG business cards.

Including the other boroughs, there are nearly fifty New York City hotels that are within the range of those free night certificates. New York is not the only vacation destination on earth, but it can certainly be an expensive one. Getting a free night there every year in exchange for a $95 annual fee looks pretty good on you, Marriott.

#3 — Book Ritz-Carltons and St. Regis hotels with your annual free night certificate

View from my balcony at the Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi

Not only are there a ton of New York properties that will be bookable with annual free night certificates, but there are 27 Ritz-Carlton properties that will be bookable with the annual 35K free night certificate from the Marriott and SPG credit cards. There are a further 14 St. Regis properties that will also be available with 35K free night certificates, though exactly half of those are in China.

Note that this does not mean a drop in price on all of those properties. In fact, out of the 27 Ritz properties available for 35K, only ten are dropping in price (by 5K points each) while 17 are increasing in price by 5K points. Still, some will be happy to redeem annual Marriott free night certificate at Ritz properties.

A hot spot in terms of St. Regis: The St. Regis Astana will be dropping by 25,000 Marriott points to just 35K.

#4 — Travel Packages aren’t going away

There has been some fear about what would happen with Marriott’s Air + Hotel packages, and I’ll even admit to having gotten spooked into redeeming for one earlier this week when the Travel Packages page on Marriott’s site temporarily went down.

However, Marriott was clear that these popular packages will be sticking around:

Travel Packages –Travel Packages now include all SPG properties. Previously, SPG Nights & Flights applied to SPG categories 3 & 4. Starting in August, Marriott Rewards and SPG members can redeem points for airline miles and hotel stays at any of the 6,500 participating hotels. This offer remains one of the richest among travel loyalty programs. As always, United’s Mileage Plus members receive 10 percent more miles under the RewardsPlus program.

That’s good news. I do not see any updated information in terms of these packages, so at this point it is unclear to me how currenty unused certificates will transition and/or what changes will be made in terms of redemptions. But it’s great to get new confirmation that these packages will continue to exist, and it will be good news to have access to more properties. Hopefully, we will have more information soon about the treatment of outstanding certificates and new redemption rates moving forward.

#5: Some Hawaii properties drop in price

View from my balcony at the Westin Ka’anapli, which will be dropping in price by 10K Marriott points.

Surprisingly, a number of properties in Hawaii are dropping in price. A quick scan of the chart is a challenge because many properties don’t include “Hawaii” or the name of the relevant island in the name, but my first reaction when searching various terms like “Maui”, “Wailea”, “Ka’anapali”, “Princeville”, etc was surprise that a number of properties will drop in price.

On the other hand, others will increase. If you are holding a 7-night certificate from a travel package and are eyeing a property that will increase in price, it might be time to make your move now.

#6: There is a cash & points chart

A great way to stretch value out of points can sometimes be to use a mixture of cash and points. Hyatt has long had a strong cash & points chart. Marriott introduces a cash & points chart in today’s announcement.

My first reaction is to feel like it looks fairly expensive at the high end. That said, I could see where it may be situationally useful. At the very least, I’m glad to have a chart that Greg can analyze so he can tell me at which levels I should use points vs cash and points. I expect more on that later today.

#7: Mickey Mouse is getting even more expensive.

It’s not all roses and sunshine, though. Redemption rates at the SPG Disney properties have gone up yet again. Both the Disney Swan and Dolphin are going up by another 14K Marriott points per night. That’s in addition to the fact that they went up in price with SPG earlier this year. Reddit user erin_mouse88 points out what an astronomical increase this represents in just a few months time.

More analysis coming

This is of course the tip of the iceberg. Greg is busy crunching numbers more completely and we will have posts today with more analysis of opportunities now and in the future. This is really just a first reaction. At first glance, I see a lot of positive to be found. That said, with a deeper dive into the details, Greg will have a much fuller analysis of both the good and bad to come this afternoon.

Thus far, the sky once again has not fallen. We’ll see what 2019 holds with peak pricing — but there are certainly some opportunities to get strong value for bookings made by the end of this year, whether at properties going up in August (so you’ll want to book them now) or those which will drop in price.

For more on the transition, see our Marriott SPG Ritz Transition Guide, or click through to the guide via any of these topic links:

Last updated on June 29th, 2018

About Nick Reyes

Nick Reyes is a (fairly) regular guy with an animalistic passion for maximizing the value of miles and money to travel the world in comfort and style. There is little in life that he loves more than finding a fantastic deal and helping you shop smarter & harder to achieve your travel dreams.

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Brian Cohen
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Brian Cohen

Boroughs, Nick — not burroughs.

Just trying to be helpful, as I was born and raised in New York…

geoff
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geoff

“Mickey Mouse is getting even more expensive.” Cool, another reason to avoid ever going near Disney.

Stephen C.
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Stephen C.

Here’s the link to the new marriott travel packages:

https://lacek.hs.llnwd.net/e1/marriott/redemption/HAR18036_TravelPackages_Chart2.pdf

Alex
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Alex

The updated travel packages are posted. Pretty big devaluation there (DOC has them). Purchased a cat6 package with united today. Hoping it gets converted to new cat5 or above, as Greg speculated in a previous post.

Thomas
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Thomas

If I keep the old Marriott credit card is my free night certificate still category 1-5?

Larry
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Larry

This is really great. Thanks Nick. Is there any clarity yet on what happens to existing cat 1-5 cents from the Marriott visa or is that still up in the air like the travel package certs?

Steve T.
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Steve T.

Nick:
I think you got one item wrong in a big way! I recently received the new Marriott credit card, hoping I could use the free night (35,000 points or less) in New York City. No Way. All the Marriott properties (except one near LaGuardia) are Category 6 or higher meaning 50,000 points. Drops to 40,000 points in 2019 during the off peak periods. Check it out.
The only ray of possible hope is in 2019 a Category 6 hotel, during BOTH PointSavers and Off Peak would drop to 35,000 points, but I am not sure Marriott would honor it.
Nick, you’ve got some investigating to do. Thank you.
Steve

Jeff
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Jeff

This is SUCH a small thing, but I noticed the Four Points Airport hotel in Kansas City went from Category 1 to Category 2. That move is baffling as it has always been one of the…let’s say “justifiably more affordable” hotels in the entire SPG portfolio. In fact at one point it was one of only 3 SPG Category 1 Hotels in the US. I’m not aware of any upgrades they have made, and shocked it went to Category 2.

Tim Grable
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Tim Grable

Any word on the 5 night travel packages for Vacation Club owners?

Ricardo
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Ricardo

Its going to be a lot harder to get massive Marriott points since the main way of getting points (AKA credit card spend) is being devaluated by 33%. This whole merger thing is a big devaluation of the program in disguise (like when they say current price is 36000 marriott points for a 12000 point spg hotel. This is only true a this point with the 3×1 conversion, but no more in August). Business owners that used to put the majority of expense on SPG cards are going to use other cards (unless they come with bonus opportunities). AMEX is not goint to like it and will suffer from people migrating to other cards. There is a say (in spanish): The worst blind person is that one that does not want to see. It was nice while it lasted, yes, there are going to be amazing opportunities for a couple months (if you have enough SPG points) but a year for now is going to be a masacre.

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[…] This morning Marriott unveiled award pricing for every hotel in the combined Marriott / Ritz / SPG program effective August 2018 (See: NOW LIVE: New Marriott SPG Award Category Assignments).  And, while I was crunching numbers, Nick published his initial thoughts: New Marriott award chart: first reactions. […]

Corridor
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Corridor

Which room were they quoting for 90k spg points at the St. Regis Bora Bora?

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[…] New Marriott award chart: first reactions […]

kim
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kim

I am arriving in Bora Bora before the 18th. Any chance I can book with Marriott points after August 1 before the 8th? Can I use a ritz cert or a Marriott 1-5 cert? Thanks!