Marriott Hotel Award Category 2014 Changes – 21% Going Up

by on March 18, 2014 · 29 comments

in Marriott

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Like the other major chains, Marriott periodically adjusts the hotels within each of its award categories, and it has just released the list of hotels that will be changing categories in 2014. About one fifth of Marriott’s properties are moving up in categories, and those new rates will kick in for reservations booked on or after April 8, 2014, so if you have any stays you can book before April 7, even for travel after that date, I would recommend doing so.

Marriott is one of the biggest hotel chains partnered with Southwest.

Marriott released a lot of changes today.

Here’s the full list as posted by the Community Manager on the Marriott Rewards Insider Blog: 2014 Rewards Hotel Category File

And here’s what they had to say in the accompanying statement:

  • All redemption reservations booked on or before April 7, 2014 will be honored at the current point price, even if the stay occurs after April 8. 2014. If you have not ordered your certificate prior to April 8, 2014, call Guest Services prior to your stay to request the lower priced certificate.
  • As always, you may book redemption reservations up to 50 weeks in advance of your stay, even before having the required points in your account.
  • You can also use Cash + Points to take advantage of booking your redemption stay early.

How many hotels are affected?

73% of the properties remain unchanged
66% of the programs properties will remain in Categories 1-4
27% of the hotels are changing; of these 22% are decreasing by one category and 78% are increasing by one category

Is my existing redemption reservation impacted?

All redemption reservations booked on or before April 7, 2014 for stays beginning April 8, 2014, will be honored at the point price booked. If you have not ordered your certificate prior to April 8, 2014, call Guest Services to request the lower priced certificate before your stay.

How long can I book a redemption stay using the current hotel categories?

You may book redemption reservations up to 50 weeks in advance of your stay, even before having the required points in your account. For example, on April 1, 2014 you may book your redemption stay as far out as March 15, 2015.

So most of the hotels that are changing are going up one category – and that equates to about 21% of all Marriott properties going up in award redemption levels – not good news at all for Marriott Rewards members. While that’s not as bad as last year’s news that Marriott was creating a new, more expensive, top-tier Category 9, and that about a third of all their properties were moving up a category, it’s still a devaluation in my book.

The Cosmopolitan is one of the many properties going up in category.

The Cosmopolitan is one of the many properties going up in category.

Of the over 800 properties moving up, half of them are category 5 jumping to category 6 and from category 6 to category 7, while it looks like 75 will jump from category 7 to 8 and 16 will jump up to the top tier of category 9. Included in those jumping to the top tier are some notable properties like the Cosmopolitan in Vegas, the Marriott Beachside Hotel in Key West, and the Renaissance Paris Hotel Le Parc Trocadero.

Given the recent hotel and airline devaluations we’ve seen, I can’t say I’m surprised, but I am disappointed that it’s going to take even more points to book more Marriott hotels now, and this is just more of the same – and more bad news for the consumer – from loyalty programs. That said, it’s not the end of the world, because when hotels jump a category, it’s a difference of 5,000 points – and with some savvy spending strategies, you can make up for that by maximizing category spending bonuses and other credit card benefits.

Ritz-Carlton Changes

Ritz-Carlton also announced that 20 of its 85 properties would also be changing categories – and they’re all going up. Four will jump from 1-2, seven from 2-3, six from 3-4 and three from 4-5. Included in those jumping to the top tier are the Ritz-Carlton Tokyo, Grand Cayman and Dubai, while the property at Kapalua on Maui will go up to category 4, as will those in LA and Tahoe, among others.

Pool cabanas at the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua.

It’ll cost you 10,000 more points per night to stay at the  Ritz-Carlton Kapalua.

Ritz-Carlton Tiers are 10,000 points apart, so though there are fewer properties, Ritz-Carlton devotees are bound to feel the devaluation here a bit more.

Competition Comparison

To put this in perspective, I thought I’d take a look at how much you’d have to spend to earn enough points for an award night at a top-tier hotel. Excluding credit card bonuses and elite status, it takes the following base spend to achieve a top tier award night:

-$4,500 at Marriott (45,000 points at 10 points per dollar spent)
-$5,000 at IHG (50,000 points at 10 points per dollar spent)
-$6,000 for Hyatt (30,000 points at 5 points earned per dollar spent)
-$6,333 for a free night at a top-tier Hilton (95,000 points at 15 points earned per dollar spent)
-$15,000 for a Starwood Category 7 property (30,000 points at 2 points per dollar spent)

So Marriott is actually not looking so bad there, but clearly there is more to a hotel program than just top-tier redemptions, and credit cards and elite status make earning free nights easier in many cases. However, the fact that Marriott is shifting over 20% of its properties up a category including to its new top-tier is not good news for anyone. Marriott is not one of my main hotel programs and I prefer to transfer my Chase Ultimate Rewards points to other partners like United and Hyatt, but for you Marriott Rewards loyalists out there, what are your thoughts?

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Ruthlessly Absurd

    Something you’re missing — this is more than just a 5000 point raise when half of them are going from 5 to 6. Considering that Megabonus nights are often categories 1-5 and the CC renewal night is 1-5, that prices a ton of hotels out of the equation

  • shonuffharlem


  • Joe

    Yes, the megabonus and CC certificates are painful changes. And, nearly all of those going up are in major urban areas. I can recall most of these hotels have gone up 2 categories in the past couple of years. Creep just keeps getting higher. I’m almost exclusively a Marriott guy, but I’m starting to look more into Hyatt now.

  • Befuddled

    I’m embarrassed to say, but I don’t get it. HOW / WHERE are you getting 10pts per $ spent for Marriott & IHG? I don’t get that (max of 5pts per $ for staying at Marriott & charging room to Marriott c/c.) Help please??

  • dean

    I have a lot of Marriott points from work and like them b/c there is almost always an option to any int’l destination I’ve been to. I, of course, have a fair amt. of Starwood as well…for those time when a Marriott just won’t do. It sucks that points aren’t going as far and the sign-up bonuses/free nights/etc haven’t kept pace w/ their ‘devaluation’.

  • dean

    credit card gives 5, 5 more for being plat

  • Chris

    Ok, that will definitely make my decision to cancel the Marriott Chase Credit card easier. I was anyway already having difficulty finding good chooses in the 1-5 category already…

  • Todd

    He states it excludes elite status. Befuddled is right, it’s only 5 points on the Marriott premier card.

    Although the Hilton at 15 points per $1 doesn’t make sense either, as the Amex surpass gets only 12 points p $1 at Hilton’s I believe.

  • Todd

    I’m so close to the lifetime platinum status, but this (yet again) makes it difficult to keep going with Marriott stays and hanging on their branded CC’s.

  • Stripy

    Marriott has just made it’s bonus promotions even more useless than before. What use are Cat 4 or Cat 5 certs when anything even half decent is a Cat 6 oo above?….even the LAX airport Marriott family hotels are now mostly Cat 6!

  • John

    Marriott gives you 10pts per dollar spent at their property, he’s not talking about CC points earned, just the hotel program itself. Chase also gives you 5pts per dollar and if you’re Plat with Marriott you get a 50% bonus so a Plat using the Chase card could earn 20pt per dollar spent at Marriott properties.

  • Dave

    Actually now I am thinking spent all my 150K points across different credit card and spent to normal cash back card. Since I only travel on leisure and the speed I earned points is far slower than the devaluation. The points seem to be useless to me if you can not rack up a huge amount of points within 1 year and use them at the same time. Cash is better for me.

  • sherman

    It’s good idea to calculate and show readers how much to spend to get a top-tier night; even better if you can give the amount spent to get to an “average” night and “median” night among all hotel.

  • dee seiffer

    Last Spring’s promo bonus was for 1 – 4. Had a hell of a time finding anything decent to use the cert on before it expired. Settled on a SpringHill near LGA the night before an early flight. Still a free room from a paid stay we would have done anyway.

    Not sure I’ll renew the CC next year though. It might make room for something more valuable in my portfolio.

  • thepointsguy

    Agreed, which is why I don’t play with Marriott!

  • thepointsguy

    Make sure you let Chase know why you’re canceling- if these programs continue to devalue, they need to know they’ll lose precious credit cardholders

  • thepointsguy

    10 points per dollar is base earning on Marriott hotels and other top tier brands within the portfolio

  • thepointsguy

    It is base Marriott earning- not including credit card

  • mommabean

    I think the benefits of being in the Gold tier far outweigh the devaluation of points. Using the card for purchases I’m going to make anyway provides me with points faster than expected. If I end up with too many free nights, it might be more difficult to maintain the Gold tier. Marriott, to me, still has the best selection of various branded properties in the most cities around the world. I love their product.

    It’s pretty easy to use the points on pricier properties and just pay for the cheap hotels. Hotel category and price are not always related. They raise the hotel category because more people are using points for those hotels. That’s how I understand it. So, book hotels with points, that aren’t so popular with others using points. Book 4 nights with points and stay 5 nights as the program allows.

    I just returned from one of the nicest Marriott hotels we’ve ever stayed in – Panama City, Panama, fabulous executive floor offerings, upgraded room honored – all for $111 a night. I’m looking forward to our coastal view Ritz Carlton, Half Moon bay $600 a night room for just 50,000 points a night. If I got it for 60,000 points a night, I’d be happy to not pay $600 a night or more.

    I still see the value of the Marriott program. I like it way more than Hilton’s program. I like IHG, too, but they don’t have an executive floor so prefer Marriott’s program overall. I don’t even like Hyatt or Sheraton hotels and they don’t have the worldwide availability so they are off my radar.

  • Jose

    Poor format of list by Marriott. Do they expect everyone knows all hotels by name? It would be nice to include the country of these hotels are in.

  • dbennnett38

    Do you know if you book now and have to change the dates later, will it rebook at the the higher category? Sucks that all 3 Courtyard Hawaii properties are going up to Cat 6. We used certs for 2 nights in Maui and it’s not worth a Cat 6 even though you have a lovely view of Costco.

  • Danny

    Marriott gives you 10 pts per dollar spent not including credit card or status.

    with CC+Platinum Status you can get 20 pts per dollar

  • Danny

    This is why I’m not too bummed by this news – not a huge devaluation and it’s still VERY easy to rack up tons of marriott points fast. I stay at fairly nice hotels for work travel, and with my status and CC I can get 20 marriott pts per dollar spent. For a single work week where the bill might be 1500 bucks, that’s 30K Marriott points. Hard to pass up, especially when you know how to use them correctly – the travel package lets you transfer up to 120K of those into any airline you choose, which is awesome value for easy-to-earn points.

  • Danny

    Marriott still has a ton of value for me. Their points are super easy to earn (up to 20 pts per dollar spent) and if you are smart about spending them you can easily get a lot of value out of them. Top tier hotels are routinely more than 1 cent in value for redemption, and you can use the travel package to transfer up to 120K marriott points to nearly any airline. Plus, Marriott has far better coverage worldwide than most of their competitiors – they’re everywhere.

  • Scott

    It’s disappointing to see some of my favorite hotels move up a category but that will not change my loyalty to Marriott. It is still the best hotel chain rewards program for the $$. There are still tons of nice properties that are category 5 or less especially in the Northern VA/DC region which I frequent often. So I have no problem using the Certificates.

    For those who do have problems using certs you can always request your MegaBonus promotion change to points. I’ve switched my Megabounus offer several times with no issues. I actually prefer the Megabonus certificates because they hold more value than the Megabonus points offer.

    With any rewards program you just have to be smart on how to get the best value for your points. With Marriott Rewards you have lots of options in how you redeem your points.

  • no name

    For analysis – you should compare whatever the point requirement for the top tier Ritz redemption is, not just top tier marriott.

  • LAKnight

    What I worry the most is the MegaBonus for certificate, it seems there is no point to earn those certificates for stays.

  • David

    Double-dip opportunity: Get 2.5% cash back by clicking through eBates before booking on Marriott, Orbitz, Expedia, and even buying on Amazon!

    Get $5 for signing up! (Full disclosure: I get $5 too after you make a purchase)

  • Jeff

    I’ve been a Plat member for years, that last 3 I was short any ware from 6 to 15 nights and Marriott continued to give me my Plat membership. I have 650 nights and get great service from every Marriott and continue to bank my points. Hell it is free nights and being a Plat gets me top notch service. I have no complaints and I have tried Hilton and Holiday inn… no thanks!

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