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The past few weeks have been all about hotel points program changes and devaluations, with Hilton and Marriott announcing both individual hotel category changes and the addition of new top-tier categories requiring even more points for redemptions, and Starwood making sweeping changes to its Cash & Points redemptions.
Well, the trend continues with Starwood now announcing its annual hotel category adjustments, which is rarely good news for loyalty program members since more hotels tend to go up in category than down. In a post on Milepoint this morning, Starwood Social Media Specialist Christopher Carman wrote the following:
“We’re making our annual hotel Category adjustments for 2013 and would like to provide you with an advance look at the preliminary list of changes. We want to be sure you are able to maximize the use of your Starpoints, so please review the information to decide if it makes sense to redeem before or after the changes take place on March 5, 2013.
While our Categories remain the same, individual hotels may move between Categories each year. You can click here to see each Category’s Starpoints requirements.
This year the majority of our hotels have stayed the same, but we have a few more hotels moving up than down. To view a list of the upcoming changes, please see the attached PDF. Please note that a select number of additional hotels may be added to the list prior to March 5th.”
You can find the full list of properties in this file: CatChange2013 and for reference, here is the SPG redemption table:
There are just 47 hotels moving down by a category, including some interesting ones like the W Istanbul and the landmark Hotel Grande Bretagne in Athens, both of which are dropping from Category 6 down to Category 5.
By comparison, over 200 hotels are jumping up a category. The ones that are being raised include a property I frequently stay at, the SLS Hotel Beverly Hills, which was a Category 5 property, but will now be a Category 6, meaning each award night will cost me an extra 8,000-9,000 points. The W Westwood, where I also stay a lot, is staying put in Category 5, so I’ll probably shift more of my stays over there.
Four of Starwood’s eleven Hawaii properties – the St. Regis Princeville (which I loved) and the Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas on Kauai, the Moana Surfrider in Waikiki and the Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort Villas on Maui are also jumping categories and the St. Regis and the Kaanapali property will both be top-tier Category 7 properties requiring 30-35,000 Starpoints for an award night, or 15,000 Starpoints + $275 for Cash & Points.
Last year,The Sheraton New York Hotel and Towers, Westin Times Square, W New York, and W New York-Downtown all moved up to Category 6, where they’ll remain, but this year, just a few New York City hotels are increasing, including the Sheraton Brooklyn New York Hotel, Aloft New York Brooklyn and Four Points by Sheraton Long Island City/Queensboro Bridge.
One of my other go-to Starwood properties around the world, the Westin Palace in Madrid, appears to be remaining at Category 5 property, and a good value proposition at that requiring just 12,000 Starpoints for rooms that can go for near the $400 mark.
All in all, this is just a continuation of the devaluation trend I noted in an earlier post today with about 20% of Starwood’s hotels rising a category level, requiring more points for award stays, and devaluing those points we all work (and spend) so hard to earn even further.
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 March 5 when these go into effect to take advantage of the current rates!
On the bright side, all SPG stays—award or not—count toward elite status, so even if you have to book a property whose category has been adjusted upward, you might still reap some value from your redemption. Though the Business Gold Rewards card doesn’t have the benefits package of the more premium Business Platinum Card, it also doesn’t have that card’s $450 annual fee. In fact, the $175 annual fee on this one is waived the first year, so getting it is like a risk-free trial of its benefits plus it comes with appealing bonus spending categories like 3x on the category of choice and a range of 2x spending categories as well.
Though the Business Gold Rewards card doesn’t have the benefits package of the more premium Business Platinum Card, it also doesn’t have that card’s $450 annual fee. In fact, the $175 annual fee on this one is waived the first year, so getting it is like a risk-free trial of its benefits plus it comes with appealing bonus spending categories like 3x on the category of choice and a range of 2x spending categories as well.