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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available – Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express

It’s that time of the year again — both Marriott and Starwood Preferred Guest are making category changes for 2018. Overall, 276 properties in the SPG portfolio are changing category, and roughly 1,330 properties in the Marriott Rewards portfolio are increasing or decreasing in category or tier. Not only are both of the programs shuffling categories, but SPG is also making one change to align the program more with Marriott. Find the details of the changes below.

In This Post

Starwood Preferred Guest 2018 Changes

In all, 276 properties — or 17% of the total SPG folio — are changing categories. Of those, 9% are moving down one category and 8% are moving up one. These award pricing changes won’t take effect until March 6, 2018, so you have time to plan accordingly if it’ll be better to book now or wait, based on the property you’re looking to stay at. As a point of comparison, in 2017, a total of 325 Starwood properties changed category, so 2018’s changes encompass fewer properties.

As a reminder, here’s how many Starpoints it’ll cost you to redeem for a free night at each category level:

Before jumping into some notable changes to individual properties, here are some highlights on the category changes as a whole:

  • 91 properties in the US are changing in category — 42 are increasing, and 49 are dropping.
  • Only one property in the Africa/Middle East region — Sheraton Annaba (3 to 4) — is increasing in category. The other 30 properties in the region are dropping in category.
  • All 10 properties in the Central & South America region are dropping in category — none are increasing.

You can find a full list of the properties that are increasing or dropping in category here, but here are some highlights:

  • Increasing in category:
    • Walt Disney World Dolphin — Was Category 4; now Category 5 (requires 12,000-16,000 Starpoints per night)
    • W Guangzhou — Was Category 4; now Category 5 (requires 12,000-16,000 Starpoints per night)
    • Sheraton Tel Aviv — Was Category 5; now Category 6 (requires 20,000-25,000 Starpoints per night)
    • Great Northern Hotel, London — Was Category 5; now Category 6 (requires 20,000-25,000 Starpoints per night)
    • The St. Regis Osaka — Was Category 6; now Category 7 (requires 30,000-35,000 Starpoints per night)
  • Decreasing in category:
    • Le Roch Hotel and Spa, Paris — Was Category 7; now Category 6 (requires 20,000-25,000 Starpoints per night)
    • The St. Regis Dubai — Was Category 7; now Category 6 (requires 20,000-25,000 Starpoints per night)
    • W New York — Was Category 6; now Category 5 (requires 12,000-16,000 Starpoints per night)
    • Four Points by Sheraton Kolasin, Montenegro — Was Category 4; now Category 1, a three-category drop (requires 2,000-3,000 Starpoints per night)

There are plenty more changes to properties in the SPG portfolio, and you can find the full list here. As a reminder, these changes don’t go into effect until March 6, 2018, so you have time to book the current levels until then. This can work to your advantage if you’re planning a trip and want to redeem at the current levels — just be sure you don’t wait on something that is moving up a category.

If you’re looking to increase your stash of Starpoints in order to take advantage of some of these changes, consider signing up for the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express. The card comes with a sign-up bonus of 25,000 Starpoints after you spend $3,000 in the first three months. You’ll earn up to 5x Starpoints on purchases at SPG and Marriott properties, and there are no foreign transaction fees.

Marriott 2018 Changes

In 2017, nearly 1,100 Marriott properties (including some Ritz-Carltons) changed in category. In 2018, Marriott is changing even more than last year — roughly 1,330 hotels are moving up or down on category. In all, 5% of the Marriott Rewards properties are dropping one category and 21% are increasing by one, meaning that 74% of Marriott’s properties remain unchanged. In addition, 72% of all hotels in Marriott’s portfolio are remaining in Categories 1-5.

As a reminder, here’s how many points you’ll redeem at each category level:

And here’s how many points you’ll need for Tier 1-5 Ritz-Carlton properties:

Before jumping into some notable changes, here’s a look at several highlights on the category changes as a whole:

  • The vast majority of the properties changing in category — both up and down — are in the US.
  • Most of the shifts in the US are for less premium brands, such as Courtyard, Fairfield and Residence Inn.
  • Worldwide, four Ritz-Carlton properties are dropping in category, and two are increasing in category.

You can find a full list of the properties that are increasing or dropping in category here, but here are some highlights:

  • Increasing in category:
    • The Ritz-Carlton, Dubai International Financial Centre — Was Tier 2; now Tier 3 (requires 50,000 points per night)
    • The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota — Was Tier 3; now Tier 4 (requires 70,000 points per night)
    • Fairfield Inn & Suites Key West — Was Category 8; now Category 9 (requires 45,000 points per night)
    • JW Marriott Washington, DC — Was Category 8; now Category 9 (requires 45,000 points per night)
    • San Francisco Marriott Marquis — Was Category 8; now Category 9 (requires 45,000 points per night)
  • Decreasing in category:
    • JW Marriott Hotel Rio de Janeiro — Was Category 8; now Category 7 (requires 35,000 points per night)
    • The Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne, Miami — Was Tier 5; now Tier 4 (requires 70,000 points per night)
    • The Ritz-Carlton Coconut Grove, Miami — Was Tier 3; now Tier 2 (requires 40,000 points per night)

With this announcement, travelers are getting just less than a month of warning, meaning you still have time to take advantage of the 2017 rates. If a property you’ve been eyeing is dropping in category or tier, it’d be best to wait until March 6 to book your stay, as you’ll get to redeem at the lower rate. You can find the full list of properties for both Marriott and Ritz-Carlton that will be changing categories or tiers here.

If you’re looking for more Marriott Rewards points to use toward your next redemption, consider signing up for the Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card. The card comes with a sign-up bonus of 75,000 points after you spend $3,000 in the first three months. You’ll earn 5x points on Marriott and SPG stays, 2x points on restaurants, car rental agencies and airline tickets purchased directly with the airline and 1x points on everything else. The card comes with one free night stay at a Category 1-5 hotel every account anniversary, and there are no foreign transaction fees.

Changes to the SPG Program

Beginning February 11, 2018, SPG is changing its booking window. Previously, the SPG program allowed members to book their future stay a maximum of 550 days in advance, but as of February 11, the program is aligning itself with Marriott and only allowing booking (paid or award) 350 days in advance. If you already have a reservation, it will not be affected by this policy.

Bottom Line

If you’ve been eyeing a redemption with SPG or Marriott, be sure to take note of these changes. If the property you’ve been considering is increasing in category, try to book before March 6. However, if your property is dropping in category, hold off for booking until after March 6 in order to save yourself some valuable points.

Featured image courtesy Wanderlust.

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