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Starwood adjusts the list of hotels in each of its seven categories annually, and it’s rarely good news for loyalty program members since more hotels tend to go up in category than down.
In a post on Milepoint yesterday, Starwood Social Media Specialist Christopher Carman announced the changes for 2014, which will go into effect March 4:
“Our hotel Category adjustments for 2014 will soon be in effect, and we would like to provide you with an advance look at the preliminary list of changes. Please note that we are not adding new categories or changing category pricing.
Just over 20% of hotels are changing category, of these 56% are moving down and 44% are moving up. We want to make sure you’re able to maximize your Starpoints®, so please review the information to decide if it makes sense to redeem before or after the changes take place starting March 4, 2014. Please note that Category changes are always subject to change, and while we make every attempt to provide you the latest, most accurate information, there may be adjustments necessary before or after the March 4, 2014 date.
Click here to view the list of changes.
Click here to view existing hotel categories.
When you’re ready to book, visit spg.com or contact one of our Customer Contact Centers.
Social Media Specialist
Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide”
So you can find the list of hotels changing category in the link Christopher included in his announcement, and for reference, here are the redemption levels:
As he points out, this year is a bit of a change from the past, in that more hotels are moving down a category instead of up (last year, four times as many hotels were adjusted upward as those adjusted down), so that takes some of the sting out of Starwood’s recent Cash & Points chart changes.
Of those adjusting downwards, I thought these were interesting:
- St. Regis Beijing from 6 to 5
- Le Meridien Angkor (where I stayed) from 3 to 2
- Westin Tokyo from 6 to 5
- The Laguna Bali from 5 to 4
- Sheraton Mendoza from 3 to 2
- Le Parker Meridien Palm Springs (where I stayed) from 6 to 5
On other thing to note is that, as of now, no hotels are dropping from top-tier Category 7 to Category 6.
Of those moving up a category, here are a few key ones I noted – including quite a few W’s in the US:
- W Los Angeles – Westwood from 5 to 6
- W San Francisco from 5 to 6
- Westin Riverfront Beaver Creek from 5 to 6
- St. Regis Atlanta from 5 to 6
- St. Regis Mexico City
- Aloft Chicago O’Hare from 2 to 3
- The Nines Portland Oregon from 4 to 5
- Westin Hilton Head from 4 to 5
- W Austin (where I stayed) from 5 to 6
- Sheraton Dubai from 3 to 4
- Le Meridien Abu Dhabi from 3 to 4
- Le Meridien Taipei from 5 to 6
- Hotel Grande Bretagne Athens from 5 to 6 (this is odd because last year it went from 6 to 5)
- St. Regis Rome from 6 to 7
- Sheraton Fuerteventura Canary Islands from 2 to 3
- Sheraton Buganvilias Puerto Vallarta from 3 to 4
All in all, this could have been worse, and just about 8% of hotels are rising a category level, which is far less than we’ve seen in previous years – although it seems like quite a few more are moving into the upper tiers than are moving out of them, and that’s something to consider. After all, for the most part, you can book at Category 5 hotel for 12,000 points (peak times can be up to 16,000), but Category 6 is 20,000 points – that’s a 67% increase in the points necessary for some hotels. Category 6 hotels are mostly bookable at 20,000 points, but those jumping to Category 7 will cost 30,000 points mostly (peak times can be up to 35,000 points), so that’s a 33% jump. All that means it’s going to take a lot more points to stay at these properties and if you want to save up to 10,000 points per night booking at top hotels, you need to do so before March 4.
I am going to check the new listings carefully and chart out my future travel so that I can redeem for hotels that will be going up a level before the March 4 deadline so I can book them at the current rates. Award stays are generally cancellable up to 24 hours in advance of check-in so if you have the extra points sitting around, it could be worth booking some speculative stays.
I would also look at booking any hotels that are moving from Category 4 to 5 like the Sheraton Desert Oasis Villas in Scottsdale since those properties will no longer be available for Nights & Flights redemptions (only Category 3 and 4 are). On the plus side, those moving from category 5 to category 4, like the W Minneapolis, will be.
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 get some value out of your redemption. There’s no telling how much longer these cards will be around and available for new applications because of the Marriott takeover, so now might just be the perfect time to apply. Apart from hotel redemptions, you can transfer Starpoints to over 30 airline partners, and now also transfer points from Starwood to Marriott Rewards at a 1:3 ratio, opening up even more redemption options.
There’s no telling how much longer these cards will be around and available for new applications because of the Marriott takeover, so now might just be the perfect time to apply. Apart from hotel redemptions, you can transfer Starpoints to over 30 airline partners, and now also transfer points from Starwood to Marriott Rewards at a 1:3 ratio, opening up even more redemption options.