Book These Marriott Category 5 Properties Before March 5
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Update: The 35,000-point pricing detailed below is no longer available for the following properties as of March 5, 2019. For details on Marriott redemption options, please visit How to Redeem Points With the Marriott Bonvoy Program.
Last August, the new award chart for the combined Marriott, SPG and Ritz-Carlton program launched. If you were just starting to feel comfortable with it, there are still a few big changes left to come. While we’re still waiting to find out when peak and off-peak pricing will take effect, we now know when the program’s annual category changes will take effect, a date that also brings the implementation of Category 8 pricing.
On the surface, Marriott’s 2019 updates seem minor, as the program will be changing the categories of less than 400 hotels to re-align award pricing with consumer demand. These changes, which take effect on March 5, 2019, represent just a tiny fraction of the overall Marriott portfolio. You can read TPG Editor Nick Ewen’s detailed breakdown of the changes here, but there’s one important implication for award travelers re-evaluating their Bonvoy credit card strategy: over 70 properties are moving from Category 5 to Category 6.
This is critical, since the entry-level, cobranded credit cards from the program (like the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card) offer an annual free night certificate worth up to 35,000 points, which corresponds to a Category 5 property at standard pricing. In other words, starting March 5, you’ll no longer be able to use these awards at 72 properties.
You can see the full list of hotels changing category here (warning: PDF link), but if you’ve been sitting on a 35,000-point anniversary free night certificate, here are some of the top properties to lock in before the category changes take effect in just a few short weeks.
Average nightly rate: $250
The JW Marriott Phuket offers guests easy access to the beautiful Mai Khao beach, as well as the Phuket Airport (HKT) and marina. Ground floor rooms offer direct access to the hotel’s pool or garden, while those on higher floors have balconies for you to step out and enjoy the fresh air. While there’s plenty to see and do around Phuket, the hotel offers everything you need to enjoy a relaxing vacation without moving. There are 10 different bars and restaurants, ranging from poolside tapas to a Thai cooking school to fine Italian dining.
Average nightly rate: $300
Big European cities like Amsterdam are often a great use of hotel points, as high cash rates don’t always accurately reflect the quality of the properties. The Renaissance Amsterdam is perfectly situated to serve both business and leisure travelers, providing easy access to Amsterdam central station and a number of the cities most well known landmarks. The 400+ rooms at this hotel feature mellow but modern designs, with as much natural light as possible.
Average nightly rate: $450
The ability to book a $400+ Ritz-Carlton for simply holding a credit card with a $95 annual fee is a no-brainer, and losing this property from the list of eligible hotels is disappointing. While the hotel itself isn’t directly on the beach, it provides easy access to both downtown Miami and South Beach, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding a sandy spot to relax. The 115-room property is currently in the midst of a $10 million renovation, one that promises to breathe new life into the hotel in the form of updated guest rooms, a redesigned 6,000-square-foot spa, destination cocktail bar and a new onsite restaurant.
Average nightly rate: $350
The Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain offers guests an unparalleled chance to unwind in the Sonoran desert, with the Tortolita mountains serving as a backdrop to this high-end hotel. The guest rooms here are spacious and outfitted with marble bathrooms and balconies. Guests can choose which view they prefer: the ridge, the mountain or the canyon. With an onsite spa and six dining options from which to choose (including sushi and a wine bar), there’s really no reason to venture off the gorgeous grounds of the property.
Average nightly rate: $450
If you ask award travelers the three most important factors when picking a hotel, at least one will likely respond, “Location, location, location.” This may be a bit of an exaggeration, but in a big city, it can easily be true. Located on 7th Avenue between 52nd and 53rd in Midtown Manhattan, the Sheraton Times Square is a perfect example. New York is an obscenely expensive hotel market, with lower-tier properties like Moxy and Courtyard often selling for several hundred dollars a night. While Sheraton isn’t the most upscale brand in the Marriott portfolio, this property offers clean, quality guest rooms and a well-stocked club lounge. The ability to redeem a free night certificate for a room in the heart of New York City was an undeniably great option, and it will be sad to see this one go.
Average nightly rate: $450
The St. Regis Istanbul is one of just a handful of hotels in the ultra-luxurious St. Regis brand that was eligible for free night certificate redemptions. The modern art-deco hotel serves as a focal point in the heart of one of Istanbul’s most vibrant districts. The guest rooms have a thoughtful design with views of Maçka Park and a much needed splash of color that’s often missing from the rigid design of many high-end hotels. With rooms starting at roughly 500 square feet, no one in this hotel will be pressed for space, but if you’re lucky enough to score a suite upgrade, you can take advantage of the signature St. Regis butler service while you unwind. And no visit to a St. Regis would be complete without tasting the property’s local twist on the original Bloody Mary from its flagship New York location. Dubbed the “Misty Mary” thanks to the dry ice presentation, the drink includes a splash of Raki, a locally-sourced, anise-flavored liquor.
Average nightly rate: $650
While some hotels use exaggerated buzz words to drum up excitement, that’s not the case with this stunning hotel. Located in the Porta Nuova district and well connected to public transit, the Westin Palace Milan exudes the high class its name foretells. Whether you’re looking for an address to impress for your next business event or simply want to feel like royalty as you relax in one of the hotel’s 231 luxurious guest rooms and suites, this property has something for everyone. With cash rates often exceeding $600, especially in peak season, this hotel was a great way to lock in a high value redemption for your Marriott free night certificates.
Marriott’s annual free night certificate is one of the easiest ways to justify paying an annual fee on the entry level personal and business Bonvoy credit cards. The 2019 annual category changes hit this perk especially hard by raising some popular redemption options to Category 6. If you’ve been eyeing an award redemption at any of these properties, make sure to book before March 5, 2019 to lock in the current pricing.
For more details on how to book, be sure to check out our guide on How to Use a Marriott Bonvoy 35,000-Point Certificate.
Featured photo courtesy of the JW Marriott Phuket Resort & Spa
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