7th (Category) Heaven: These Are the Marriott Properties We Just Booked Ahead of Category 8 Pricing
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Update: The 60,000-point pricing detailed below is no longer available as of March 5, 2019. For details on Marriott redemption options, please visit How to Redeem Points With the Marriott Bonvoy Program.
Marriott’s addition of Category 8 pricing is just days away now, which means you’re running out of time to lock in stays at some of Marriott’s top properties at current rates. As TPG’s new Travel Analyst, I wanted to work with the rest of the team to identify some top properties that we could book for reviews this year before the pricing increases on March 5, 2019.
Hotel chains regularly make category changes to individual properties so that the properties’ redemption costs better align with average daily paid rates. When Marriott first announced its new, combined award chart in 2018, it held off on the implementation of Category 8 pricing, allowing all hotels in this future tier to be booked at Category 7 rates.
Once this pricing takes effect on March 5, Category 8 hotels will require 85,000 points per night for a standard award, whereas current Category 7 prices are 60,000 points per night. This is all before peak and off-peak pricing is introduced later in the year, too, which could push nightly award rates as high as 100,000 points.
To sweeten the deal, Marriott gives the fifth night free on award bookings. So, when planning your stays at Category 8 properties, try booking in five-night increments, and you’ll only have to pay 240,000 points, a savings of 100,000 points compared to the same booking made after March 5. Also, pro tip: When searching for points availability, don’t use the Marriott app. Head to the Marriott website and search using the flexible calendar to find nights available with points.
What if you don’t have enough points to make a reservation? Use one of Marriott Bonvoy’s best features: Points Advance. In essence, it allows you to book award reservations even if you don’t have enough points for the redemption. You then have up to 14 days before your check-in date to earn the required number of points (through upcoming stays, points purchases or spend on Marriott credit cards). As long as you book Category 8 properties before March 5, Marriott has confirmed that it will honor the current rates.
If you’re unsure how you’ll earn those points, I’d recommend picking up the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card, which is currently offering a 75,000 point welcome bonus after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
Naturally, we at TPG wanted to book as many properties as possible before the introduction of Category 8 prices. Below are the six hotels we were most excited about booking for the coming months.
With its iconic location on Central Park South, The Ritz-Carlton New York, Central Park is one of the brand’s flagship properties. The hotel was just recently renovated, and its location affords sweeping views of Central Park. Since room rates hover close to or over $1,000 per night, this property makes for a great redemption at 60,000 points per night, well above TPG’s most recent valuations, which peg Marriott points at 0.8 cents apiece. And, it’s also the only Ritz-Carlton property left in New York City, as the brand’s former location in Battery Park recently left the chain.
The St. Regis Rome boasts a storied history — the palazzo it occupies dates back to 1894. With its recent renovation, rooms have been taken from the 19th to 21st century. The contemporary design by Pierre-Yves Rochon, who is also responsible for the Four Seasons George V in Paris, The Peninsula Shanghai and The Savoy in London, enlivens and modernizes this historic gem. This hotel is perfect for that summer getaway to Italy, and with rates around $900, spending 60,000 points per night is a great deal.
The Scrub Island Resort has come roaring back after sustaining damage due to Hurricane Irma, with all 52 guest rooms ready for guests. The resort covers an entire private island and has recently upgraded all of its dining options. Expect relaxing days by the pool or exhilarating scuba dives. Whatever you choose, you’ll be happy with this crowd-free Caribbean destination. Note that this wasn’t on the original list of Category 8 properties in 2018, but it’s among the eight that will shift to the top tier as of March 5. That said, it’s still a great value, with paid rates north of $1,200 a night in the high season.
The Maldives is having a moment. The island nation is welcoming several new properties, and many accept points, including the JW Marriott Maldives, Waldorf-Astoria Itaafushi, Saii Lagoons Maldives, Curio Collection by Hilton and the recently opened Westin Maldives Miriandhoo. Between all these new properties and some fan favorites, like The St. Regis or Park Hyatt, the W Maldives often gets lost in the fold. The W commands high room rates too, so redeeming points here is a great option. Plus, we’re curious how the W’s brand image fits in the Maldives, if at all. TBD if loud music and night clubs work well on a private island.
Napa Valley, a short one-hour-ish drive from San Francisco, doesn’t have many great points hotels. Las Alcobas looks stunning, beautifully nestled in the vineyards. The hotel is pretty pricey, too, so if you’re trying to save cash for the wine (and maybe a dinner at Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry), you’ll want to redeem 60,000 points here before it’s too late. Note that this one, like Scrub Island, was also a recent addition to Category 8.
One of Marriott’s most expensive properties in Japan, The Ritz-Carlton Tokyo is a luxurious respite in the center of this sprawling metropolis. The hotel recently rebranded its spa and redesigned its restaurants. With rates as high as $1,200 a night for a standard room, redeeming 60,000 points per night will definitely make you feel like you’ve scored a deal.
No matter what your current points situation is, with a little bit of planning you could easily find yourself sipping wine in a restored palazzo or martinis on a private island. Lock in that summer trip now before you’re paying 40% more for the same exact room, and remember that you can use Points Advance if you’re short of the required amount of points. Run, don’t walk before this deal goes away forever!
Featured photo of Scrub Island Resort courtesy of Marriott.