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Suddenly, my Hyatt free night certificates feel nearly worthless -- book these 24 hotels now

Feb. 14, 2022
8 min read
The Alila Napa Valley
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Devaluations are an inevitable reality in the world of loyalty programs.

But when one program that has long been a standout in terms of value loses some of its luster, it stings just a bit more than usual.

Earlier, we learned of Hyatt's annual award chart update, a rejiggering of the categories to which Hyatt properties are assigned. In early 2021, at the height of the pandemic, Hyatt shifted only 10 properties up in award category.

Therefore, it took me a bit off-guard that this year, we saw a whopping 70 hotels go up in category. But travel demand is returning, omicron is waning and Hyatt is still retaining a published award chart despite one of its major rivals imminently switching to dynamic pricing.

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But here's why I'm most frustrated by these changes.

Hyatt's award chart shifts go beyond requiring more points to book a favorite property. More significant is the impact on Hyatt's lauded free night certificates.

Simply put, I won't be able to use Category 1-4 free night certificates anymore at over a dozen existing fan-favorite properties worldwide. And some properties, including six Park Hyatts, two Alilas and one Andaz will no longer be bookable on any Hyatt-issued certificate. Period.

Let's take a closer look at why free night certificates, earned by some of Hyatt's most loyal members like myself, are the biggest loser.

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World of Hyatt is chartering a different path

The Park Hyatt Sydney. (Photo courtesy of Hyatt)

World of Hyatt is chartering a path that diverges significantly with the loyalty programs from IHG, Hilton and soon, Marriott.

First, there's the fact that Hyatt has published award charts (though now with peak and off-peak pricing). But there's another factor that I wrote about recently -- the flexibility of free night certificates.

In recent weeks, IHG and Marriott announced that members who use free night certificates will be able to book higher-tier hotels by "topping off" with points from their accounts. However, this added flexibility is coming at the cost (literally) of potentially more expensive award pricing.

Meanwhile, Hyatt has chosen to stay the course. It's keeping award charts but, for now, you won't have the option to "top off" with additional Hyatt points to stay at more premium properties. And with this 2022 award chart shuffle, it will be harder than ever to use free night certificates at some of my favorite hotels worldwide.

When is this happening?

The IHG and Marriott changes are set to take place sometime in March. Whether it's sheer coincidence or not, Hyatt has announced its slew of award chart updates that are set to take into effect in, yes, March.

Effective sometime in March (exact date TBD):

Effective as of March 22:

14 popular properties will take a major hit

Confidante Miami (Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

Hyatt issues two forms of free night awards: Category 1-4 certificates and Category 1-7 certificates.

Category 1-4 certificates can be earned from a variety of means, including the World of Hyatt Credit Card. You'll earn an automatic one free Category 1-4 night each year after your cardmember anniversary and another Category 1-4 night when you spend $15,000 on the card per calendar year.

Where I've redeemed Category 1-4 certificates

Some of my best redemptions of these certificates include The Confidante Miami Beach and Park Hyatt Istanbul. These properties typically provided outsized value for certificate users as they require high nightly paid rates that can go for $300 or more.

I have received two or even three cents in value per point, way more than what TPG values a single World of Hyatt point to be worth (1.7 cents apiece). But these two hotels, along with 12 others, are going up from Category 4 to Category 5.

Park Hyatt Istanbul. (Photo by Chris Dong/The Points Guy)

In addition, when the Gild Hall moves to Category 5, there won't be a single Hyatt that falls within Category 1-4 in New York's Manhattan borough. I have frequently recommended readers and friends to use their certificate at this property — and I won't be able to do so after March 22.

And yes, while you can still get a free bed somewhere, there are now very few places that I would want to stay at since they aren't destinations in and of themselves (and again, it's harder to get amazing value).

Category 1-4 certificates will be no longer valid at these properties:

  • The Confidante Miami Beach
  • Park Hyatt Istanbul - Macka Palas
  • Gild Hall, a Thompson Hotel
  • Hyatt Place Santa Barbara
  • Hyatt Place Santa Cruz
  • Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel and Spa on Del Monte Golf Course
  • Hyatt Place Portland-Old Port
  • Hyatt Place State College
  • Hyatt Residence Club Dorado, Hacienda del Mar
  • Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa
  • Park Hyatt Zanzibar
  • Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Golf Resort, Spa and Marina
  • Park Hyatt Hangzhou
  • Hyatt Regency Seragaki Island, Okinawa

10 exclusive properties will be out of reach

Alila Ventana Big Sur will no longer be bookable with a free night certificate. (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Come March, Hyatt is not only taking the sledgehammer to the Category 1-4 certificate but also to the harder-to-earn Category 1-7 certificate.

A Category 1-7 free night certificate is much more difficult to attain. It can only be acquired when you pass 60 elite nights as a World of Hyatt Globalist. Long story short: it requires a lot of work (and Hyatt loyalty) to earn this certificate.

The Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort. (Photo courtesy of Hyatt)

So it's particularly noteworthy now that Hyatt is moving a handful of its flagship properties to Category 8, a category that cannot be booked with any certificate. This is a major blow to top-tier elites, such as myself, who stay at Hyatts for 60 nights or more per year.

As a current World of Hyatt Globalist striving to reach 60 nights in 2022, I won't be able to use a Category 1-7 certificate at some stellar hotels worldwide, including six Park Hyatts on four different continents and two California-based Alila properties that are TPG favorites.

Category 1-7 certificates will be no longer valid at these properties:

  • Alila Napa Valley
  • Alila Ventana Big Sur
  • Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort
  • Park Hyatt New York
  • Park Hyatt Kyoto
  • Park Hyatt Niseko Hanazono
  • Park Hyatt Sydney
  • Park Hyatt Paris-Vendôme
  • Park Hyatt Milan
  • Hôtel Lou Pinet

Even if you're not using a certificate, the price hike from Category 7 to Category 8 is substantial. Standard Category 7 nights cost 30,000 points per night while Category 8 costs 40,000 points per night, which is a huge 25% price increase.

Bottom line

I commend Hyatt for retaining published award charts. After all, we still don't know what exactly to expect from Marriott's dynamic award pricing changes nor do we know much about how IHG intends to change its loyalty program, either

But this is an unmistakable devaluation for some of Hyatt's most popular properties worldwide. Hyatt is making some massive changes to its award chart and to me, the biggest loser appears to be those who earn (or currently have) free night certificates.

I know I'm not alone in saying that Hyatt's free night awards provided the opportunity for incredible, outsized value (way beyond our own valuations). That'll now be harder to come by as Hyatt pulls the plug on some of the best ways to use its certificates.

Featured image by The Alila Napa Valley. (Photo courtesy of Hyatt)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.