February 17th, 2012

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It’s that time of the year again, when Starwood announces its SPG category changes. This rarely means good news for SPG members since most of the adjustments in category are upwards. Here’s where you’ll see some of the biggest changes in terms of properties being upped a category. Here is the new list of category breakdowns.

For comparison purposes, you can find the current chart of SPG free night redemption requirements here, and the Cash & Points options by category here.

Higher Redemptions
Some big changes come to New York City. The Sheraton New York Hotel and Towers, Westin Times Square, W New York, and W New York-Downtown are all moving up to a Category 6 which will require 20,000-25,000 points a night for free award night redemptions, or 8,000 Starpoints + $150 for the Cash & Points option. The W’s might be a decent deal, but TPG Managing Editor Eric just scored a room at the Westin Times Square for $212 a night, so the Cash & Points option seems like a total stretch in that case.

The SPG Category redemption chart.

Some other disappointing changes include the Sheraton Steamboat Resort in Colorado, the St. Regis Bahia Beach in Puerto Rico, and the St. Regis Florence all moving up to Category 7 which will require 30,000-35,000 a night depending on the season, and where Cash & Points isn’t even an option. Yes, a category 7 Sheraton. Granted, you can still reap some great value out of using points at these properties, especially in high season since rates can be so high, but it’s still too bad you’ll need 10,000-15,000 more points to do so once they leap from Category 6 to Category 7 status.

In terms of good news, though many of the resorts moving down the ranking are in the lower echelons, with a lot going from Category 4 to Category 3, there are actually a few properties like the Le Meridien Bora Bora, the W Retreat Koh Samui, and the St. Regis Punta Mita which are slipping from Category 7 to Category 6, so at least there are a few redemptions that will hold greater value for SPG members.

Why It Might Not Be So Bad
Starwood might have just upped the resorts they feel more members will book using points, but all SPG stays—award or not—now count toward elite status, so even if you have to book a property whose category has been adjusted upward, you might still reap a fair amount of value from your redemption.

Preemptive Redemption
My suggestion is to check out the new listings and if you have upcoming travel taking you to a property that’s about to change categories upwards, book your travel plans for this year before these go into effect to take advantage of the current rates!

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