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Marriott quietly suspends category changes at mainland China hotels

March 13, 2020
3 min read
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The rapid spread of a novel coronavirus that originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan has caused demand for travel to evaporate at an unprecedented rate. Airlines have canceled flights and grounded hundreds of planes worldwide, and travel providers are grappling with ways to keep their loyal customers coming back in these difficult times.

Related: Visit this page for TPG’s full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak

One popular strategy so far has been for airlines and hotel chains to extend the elite status of customers who might not be able to travel as much this year, but Marriott Bonvoy has gone one step farther with a decision that will benefit all members, regardless of elite status. Marriott's annual category changes were scheduled to go into effect on March 4, 2020, and this year was an especially brutal change with a whopping 22% of Marriott's global portfolio moving up a category.

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It now appears that Marriott has suspended category increases for properties in mainland China, though hotels that were slated to move down a category are now bookable at these cheaper prices.

One property that I had my eye on was the St. Regis Sanya Yalong Bay resort in Hainan, a stunning hotel that was supposed to move up from Category 6 to Category 7 on March 4. When you search for hotels in Hainan on the Marriott website, you'll see the St. Regis is still listed as a Category 6 hotel. The property is currently available at off-peak rates, meaning you can book a free night here for only 40,000 points instead of the 50,000 that would be required for a standard award.

Related: Maximizing Marriott Bonvoy points

The same is true at the W Xi'an, a vibrant and psychedelic hotel that might be the most extreme iteration of the W brand I've ever stayed at. The property was supposed to move up to Category 5 during the recent round of category changes, but it's still bookable as a Category 4 hotel:

The category changes weren't suspended entirely though, as properties in China that were slated to move down a category are now bookable at these cheaper rates. The Westin Xi'an was a solid hotel with a decent location, and I loved using my Marriott Suite Night Awards here to upgrade to a three-bedroom duplex suite. The hotel was a Category 4 when I stayed there last summer, but as of March 4 it dropped as scheduled to a Category 3.

Related: How to choose the best Marriott credit card for you

Bottom line

The coronavirus has reshaped the travel landscape, and it will take a long time for demand to recover to previous highs. In the meantime, it's nice to see companies doing what they can to take care of their loyal customers with low prices and attractive deals.

Featured image by Photo courtesy of JW Marriott Shanghai

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  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
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TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

    Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points
    60,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $95
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent, Good

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases