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Marriott’s first major category realignment since the introduction of the Bonvoy loyalty program is done. Effective March 5, 2019, there’s a new Category 8 in place that requires 85,000 points per night at properties like Scrub Island Resort, Spa & Marina, Autograph Collection, The Gritti Palace, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Venice, The Miami Beach EDITION and Al Maha, a Luxury Collection Desert Resort & Spa, Dubai.
History has shown that hotel chains typically move more properties up the ladder than down, but it’s always a treat to sift through and find that a hotel you’ve been eying costs less today than it did the day prior.
Lower Category Properties
We scoured Marriott’s list of category changes and found that 37 properties around the globe were moving down one category, meaning that you’re now required to spend fewer points for a free night than you would’ve been before. Let’s take a look at the full list before highlighting some hidden gems.
|Hotel||Brand||Country/Region||Old Category||Current Category|
|AC Hotel Panama City||AC Hotels by Marriott||Panama||4||3|
|Aloft Abu Dhabi||Aloft||United Arab Emirates||3||2|
|Aloft Bangkok Sukhumvit 11||Aloft||Thailand||3||2|
|Aloft Palm Jumeira||Aloft||United Arab Emirates||5||4|
|Bankside Hotel, Autograph Collection||Autograph Collection||United Kingdom||7||6|
|The Buenaventura Golf & Beach Resort Panama, Autograph Collection||Autograph Collection||Panama||6||5|
|Courtyard Lima Miraflores||Courtyard||Peru||4||3|
|Courtyard Isla Verde Beach Resort||Courtyard||Puerto Rico||5||4|
|Courtyard Stockholm Kungsholmen||Courtyard||Sweden||5||4|
|Courtyard Sydney-North Ryde||Courtyard||Australia||4||3|
|Four Points by Sheraton Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai||Four Points||United Arab Emirates||5||4|
|Four Points by Sheraton Saransk||Four Points||Russia||2||1|
|Le Méridien Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina||Le Méridien||United Arab Emirates||6||5|
|Lugal, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Ankara||The Luxury Collection||Turkey||4||3|
|The Naka Island, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa, Phuket||The Luxury Collection||Thailand||7||6|
|Hotel Bristol, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Vienna||The Luxury Collection||Austria||6||5|
|Istanbul Marriott Hotel Sisli||Marriott Hotels||Turkey||4||3|
|Skopje Marriott Hotel||Marriott Hotels||Macedonia||3||2|
|Moxy Tbilisi||Moxy Hotels||Georgia||3||2|
|Renaissance Bengaluru Race Course Hotel||Renaissance Hotels||India||4||3|
|Renaissance St. Petersburg Baltic Hotel||Renaissance Hotels||Russia||4||3|
|Imperial Riding School Renaissance Vienna Hotel||Renaissance Hotels||Austria||5||4|
|Sheraton Batumi Hotel||Sheraton||Georgia||4||3|
|Sheraton Dubai Creek Hotel & Towers||Sheraton||United Arab Emirates||5||4|
|Sheraton Sopot Hotel||Sheraton||Poland||5||4|
|Sheraton Gateway Los Angeles Hotel||Sheraton||United States||5||4|
|Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort & Spa||Sheraton||Maldives||7||6|
|Sheraton Munich Westpark Hotel||Sheraton||Germany||5||4|
|Sheraton New Caledonia Deva Spa & Golf Resort||Sheraton||New Caledonia||5||4|
|Sheraton Old San Juan Hotel||Sheraton||Puerto Rico||5||4|
|Sheraton Samui Resort||Sheraton||Thailand||5||4|
|Sheraton Zurich Neues Schloss Hotel||Sheraton||Switzerland||7||6|
|The St. Regis Osaka||St. Regis||Japan||8||7|
|W Hollywood||W Hotels||United States||7||6|
|W Los Angeles – West Beverly Hills||W Hotels||United States||7||6|
|The Westin Dublin||Westin||Ireland||7||6|
There are a handful of aspirational properties on the list that are worth considering. The St. Regis Osaka is the only St. Regis to drop a category after the award chart realignment, and considering both the grandeur of the St. Regis brand and the beauty that surrounds Osaka, now might be the time to book an award stay in Japan’s second city. This property required 60,000 points in the lead-up to Mar. 5 as a Category 8 hotel, but that price has stuck now that it’s dropped to Category 7. 60,000 points for a $600+ room means that you’re getting slightly more than TPG’s own valuation of Marriott points.
For those who frequent LA, a pair of W Hotels have moved from Category 7 to 6. Of particular note is the W Hollywood, which is ideally positioned within walking range of the Dolby Theatre. If you’re dreaming of being in the middle of it all during a movie premiere or The Oscars, this is the spot to book. It’s not uncommon for stars to mingle nearby at after-parties following a premiere, and with rates approaching or even exceeding $500 per night, you can get some solid value for your Marriott points.
Three properties within The Luxury Collection fell a notch as well, including The Naka Island in Phuket, Thailand. We reviewed this property last year and loved its idyllic location and serene vibe. You can now snag a base level room for 50,000 points per night as opposed to 60,000 before.
While a cheaper award property in the Maldives may seem alluring, we’d avoid the Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort & Spa — even at its new, lower category. Instead, consider transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt and securing a room at the Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa, shown above. We’ve rounded up a list of the best points properties in the Maldives right here.
Lower award rates may result in a surge of award reservations, so if you’re eyeing one of these properties that has dropped in price, go ahead and snag an award room now. Remember that Marriott allows you to book award stays even when you’re short on points through the program’s Points Advance feature. It also offers a fifth night free on award stays, so if you can get away for more than a long weekend, you can drop your effective nightly rate even further.
One other reason to book now: We expect Marriott to introduce peak and off-peak pricing at some point this year (date TBD). If you wait to book until after this final award chart change is implemented, you could negate any savings you might have enjoyed. For example, a peak award night at a Category 6 property will price at 60,000 points per night, which will effectively return the W Hollywood, Naka Island and others back to pre-Mar. 5 award rates. That’s why it may make sense to lock-in a reservation now.
Change is a constant in the points and miles game, and we’re glad to see a silver lining to Marriott’s 2019 category changes. If you spot a property above that you’d love to stay at, it’s worth noting that Marriott is offering elevated welcome bonuses until April 24, 2019 as it ushers in a new range of cobranded American Express cards.
You can put one of the cards below in your wallet in order to boost your point balance, with a haul of points enough for two nights at a newly-minted Category 6 property like the Sheraton Zurich Neues Schloss Hotel or London’s Bankside Hotel.
The Marriot Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card and the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card are offering 75,000-point welcome bonuses. The bonuses have identical terms: Spend $3,000 in the first three months to earn 75,000 Marriott points.
- 6x points at participating Marriott Bonvoy Hotels, 3x points at US restaurants and flights booked directly with airlines, and 2x points on everything else
- Up to $300 statement credit for Marriott purchases — Each card member year, you and your authorized users will receive up to a total of $300 in statement credits for Marriott and SPG purchases charged to your card. This applies to room rates as well as incidentals charged to your room. So even if you just have a few Marriott stays in a year, it’s easy to take advantage of this benefit and effectively cut your fee to $150.
- Annual free night award — Each year on your card anniversary, you’ll receive a free night award worth up to 50,000 points. This gets you more value than the free night certificates that come with other cards such as the Marriott Bonvoy Business, since those are capped at 35,000 points.
- Automatic Gold elite status — Just for being a card holder. This gets you a 25% points bonus and space-available upgrades to enhanced rooms, among other perks. You can earn Platinum elite status when you spend $75,000 on the card in a calendar year.
- Application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck
- Priority Pass lounge access
- Elite Night Credits — Receive 15 elite-qualifying night credits per year. This benefit is identical to that of the regular Marriott Bonvoy Amex and the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card from Chase and is limited to one per member, not one per card.
Finally, as of Mar. 28, the Bonvoy Brilliant began offering an up to $100 luxury credit. This will apply to stays of two nights or longer at St. Regis and Ritz-Carlton properties, and you must use a special rate code to get the credit. Unfortunately, it won’t apply to room rates, but it is uncapped so you can use it multiple times a year.
Featured image of the Bankside Hotel, Autograph Collection courtesy of the hotel.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card, please click here.
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