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Marriott Announces Category Changes for 2016

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Like many of the major hotel chains — such as IHG and Hilton, which already announced their 2016 changes — Marriott adjusts the award categories for many hotels within its portfolio each year, and this year is no different. This week, the company announced its most recent round of category changes at a select number of properties in its worldwide portfolio.

Here are the highlights of the category changes:

  • 82% of its more than 4,000 properties will remain unchanged
  • 62% of those changed will remain in Categories 1-4
  • Of those changing, 30% are decreasing by one category and 70% are increasing by one category
  • 6% of those going up a category are outside the US, and 36% of those going down a category are outside the US

If you’re planning on traveling to one of the locations where the category has changed, you can use the changes to your advantage. If you book stays by March 24, 2016, you can redeem points for your stay with the 2015 rates — even for stays beyond that date. Meaning, if you plan to stay at a property that’s moving up a level, you can book your stay at the old rate before March 24; otherwise, it may make more sense to wait.

Some notable changes:

The Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage

The Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage. Image courtesy of Ritz-Carlton.
The Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage. Image courtesy of Ritz-Carlton.

This picturesque Palm Springs luxury hotel, less than two hours from San Diego and Los Angeles, increased from a Ritz-Carlton Tier 2 property to a Tier 3 property. After March 24, redemptions will require an additional 10,000 points per night.

London Marriott Hotel Kensington

The London Marriott Hotel Kensington. Image courtesy of Marriott.
The London Marriott Hotel Kensington. Image courtesy of Marriott.

This London property is located close to train stations with easy access to Central London and Heathrow Airport. It’s also walking distance from the Natural History Museum, Royal Albert Hall and High Street Kensington shopping. It’s increasing from a Category 7 to a Category 8 property, requiring an additional 5,000 points per night.

JW Marriott Hotel Rio de Janeiro

The JW Marriott Hotel Rio de Janeiro. Image courtesy of Marriott.
The JW Marriott Hotel Rio de Janeiro. Image courtesy of Marriott.

This is a great decrease, especially if you’re planning on making use of the waived Visa requirement for travel to Brazil this summer. The property is located close to Sugarloaf Mountain, Christ the Redeemer and nightlife in the city. It decreased from a Category 9 to a Category 8 property, for a drop of 5,000 points per night.

Here’s how Marriott’s redemptions break down, including the options for Cash + Points:

New cash and points redemptions for Marriott and Ritz-Carlton.
Full and Cash + Points redemptions for Marriott and Ritz-Carlton.

You can find the full list of all the properties that will be changing categories here. Overall, while this isn’t a positive announcement, category changes are expected, and you do have time to book future stays at current rates. Coupled with the launch of Marriott’s new Cash + Points redemption options (as seen in the chart above), there are many ways to redeem points for a stay at one of Marriott’s properties.

The Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card also recently increased its sign-up bonus to 80,000 points when you spend $3,000 in the first three months. You can earn an additional 7,500 bonus points when you add the first authorized user and make a purchase within the first three months.