The Marriott hotels to book before award rates increase on March 4

Feb 11, 2020

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If 2018 and 2019 were the years of the Marriott IT challenges during its integration with Starwood Preferred Guest, then 2019 and 2020 have been the years of the meteoric rise of Marriott award prices.

First came the delayed implementation of Category 8 pricing that took the top end of the chart from 60,000 to 85,000 points (along with some modest shifts in categories), followed by peak- and off-peak pricing which took the award chart all the way up to 100,000 points per night. Now, we’re coming up against yet another Marriott hotel recategorization … this time, with widespread changes that are largely negative. To put math to it, a staggering 22% of Marriott hotels are increasing in award price on March 4, while only 7% are going down in award cost.

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With this change coming in less than a month, here are some Marriott hotels you should lock in before the new prices arrive on March 4. Assuming you have the Marriott points at the ready to lock in award rates at one of these properties, you can book stays as far our as late January to early February of 2021 at the current award rates. Just keep in mind that Points Advance only secures you a physical room, and does not lock in the award cost until you actually spend the points to pay for the award reservation.

Related: Analyzing the 2020 Marriott award chart changes

In This Post

W New Orleans (Photo courtesy of Booking.com)
W New Orleans (Photo courtesy of Booking.com)

Hotels moving out of range of a 35,000-point certificate

There are several Marriott cobranded credit cards that issue an annual award certificate valid at Marriott hotels costing up to 35,000 points per night. The currently available Marriott cards that award this certificate at each renewal include:

These certificates are valid for stays at Marriott Category 5 hotels (when those hotels aren’t on a peak priced award night) and below. So, when a hotel moves up to Category 6, it takes it out of range of these awards. On March 4, there are 216 Marriott hotels going from a Category 5 to a Category 6, and only 15 coming down to a 5 from a 6.

Beginning on March 4, here are some of the 216 hotels that will go out of range of a Marriott 35,000-point certificate:

Two changes that will actually be helpful for travelers? The Westin San Diego and Westin San Diego Gaslamp will fall from Category 6 into the very useful Category 5 price range. So, starting March 4, you’ll be able to redeem 35,000-point certificates for a free night at either of these hotels.

Related: Best ways to earn Marriott points

Curacao Marriott Beach Resort (Photo courtesy of booking.com)
Curacao Marriott Beach Resort (Photo courtesy of booking.com)

Hotels moving out of range of a 50,000-point certificate

Similar to how it works at the Category 5 level with the 35,000-point certificates, hotels classified as Category 6 and below are within range for booking with an up to 50,000-point certificate that’s awarded each year with the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card.

Sadly, 95 properties will move from Category 6 to a 7 on March 4, with only nine coming down from Category 7 to 6.

Here are some of those 95 properties going out of range of a 50,000-point certificate beginning on March 4:

Bodrum Edition (Photo by Nick Ellis / The Points Guy)
Bodrum Edition (Photo by Nick Ellis / The Points Guy)

Category changes to ski resorts

Paid rates for otherwise standard rooms at ski resorts tend to skyrocket between $500 and $1,000 on ski weekends, and then plunge as low as $100 to $200 per night during the off-season. Because of this, ski properties are generally exceptional places to redeem points during the ski season. It was reasonable to hope that Marriott’s introduction of peak- and off-peak pricing would have stabilized ski resort categories, but it didn’t work out that way. Many Marriott ski resorts are heading up the award chart:

Related: Review of the Westin Snowmass

Westin Snowmass as seen from the lift (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
Westin Snowmass as seen from the lift (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

The silver lining? The new W Aspen will come within range of a 50,000-point certificate beginning on March 4 on all but peak dates. The hotel was overpriced as a Category 7, but is a great use of a 50,000-point certificate if you can find availability during ski season.

Related: Review of the W Aspen

Caribbean resorts

Many of the best points hotels in the Caribbean are Marriott properties. Frustratingly, many of them are increasing in award cost on March 4.

Basically, this means that going to Atlantis on points is going to cost you more — as will resorts in destinations such as Aruba, Grand Cayman and beyond.

(Photo courtesy of French Leave in the Bahamas)
(Photo courtesy of French Leave in the Bahamas)

Hawaii resorts

Hawaii is a fantastic place to travel with points. But, like many other hot spots, a number of Marriott properties in the Aloha State are moving up the chart.

Sheraton Kauai (photo courtesy of the hotel)
Sheraton Kauai (photo courtesy of the hotel)

Related: Using free night hotel certificates in Hawaii

New York City hotels

While award chart increases are happening all over the world at Marriott properties, some cities are particularly hard hit. The Big Apple is one such destination. As with Hawaii and ski towns during peak season, cash rates can become painful in Manhattan, making points redemptions a smart way to save money. But it’s going to cost you more points at dozens of New York City Marriott hotels when the new rates take effect. The value-friendly Category 5 New York City properties were especially hard hit.

Here’s a sampling of the upcoming changes:

Sheraton Tribeca (Photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy)
Sheraton Tribeca (Photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy)

Related: Review of the Marriott Marquis

Bottom line

It wasn’t a surprise when Marriott added an eighth award chart category in 2019. We all knew peak- and off-peak award pricing was coming long before it arrived. We also weren’t surprised when some hotels moved categories this year. After all, that happens every year.

But to have all this happen in such a short timeframe is a massive blow to Marriott loyalists.

To put this all another way: In six months, we’ve gone from hotels costing a maximum of 60,000 Marriott points per night to a whopping 100,000 points per night.

What’s arguably worse than what happens at the extreme end of the award chart, is how many of properties are creeping up in the middle of the chart. Even if you never want to redeem points at the St. Regis Maldives, what happens in those key Category 5 and 6 ranges matters to pretty much all points-savvy travelers.

There are, of course, a few bright spots — the W Aspen, for example, and the Westin San Diego and Westin San Diego Gaslamp properties — that will become cheaper on points beginning March 4.

But by and large, this is a painful recategorization that will leave the average Marriott award price higher than it was before. Our advice? Book those Marriott stays for the next year if the hotel you want is one of the 1,686 that will cost more points on that date.

Featured image of the Westin Maui courtesy of booking.com

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