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As we covered earlier in the week, Marriott and SPG have announced significant changes to award chart categories for 2018 with a mammoth 1,576 hotels set to change award category on March 6, 2018. If you have any SPG or Marriott award bookings on the horizon, you’ll want to review these changes to ensure you’re getting the best deal. If the hotel you intend to book is moving up a category, you need to book before March 6. If the property is going down, hold off booking until after March 6, and you could save yourself a pile of points.
Starwood’s changes are relatively fair; 8% of hotels move up a category, and 9% move down. The changes overall are well balanced. Marriott Rewards, on the other hand, is on the receiving end of a reasonably significant devaluation. Of the 1,300+ properties changing category, award prices are going up on over 1,000. Of that 1,000, roughly 130 will move up from a category 5 to 6, while just a third of that number will be stepping down from category 6 to 5, representing a notable devaluation of the Cat 1-5 free night certificate provided by Chase’s Marriott co-brand cards. It also puts a dent in the value of the 7-night category 1-5 certificates issued with Marriott Hotel + Air packages.
Click the links to see a full list of changes for each program:
Marriott and Starwood Preferred Guest Award Charts
Before we dig into our list of 10 hotels worth booking BEFORE the changes go live on March 6, here’s a recap of the award charts for SPG, Marriott Rewards, and Ritz-Carlton Rewards.
SPG Award Chart
Marriott Rewards Award Chart
Ritz Carlton Award Chart
Remember that Starpoints transfer to Marriott Rewards at a ratio of 1:3, so 1,000 SPG points convert to 3,000 Marriott Rewards points and vice versa.
10 Properties to Book Before Award Chart Changes Go Live
With more than 1,000 properties climbing up the awards chart to a higher category, it’s hard to put together a list of the ‘best’ hotels to book before the changes go live. That said, here are a few that caught our eye.
Moves from SPG category 4 (10,000 points) to category 5 requiring 12,000 to 16,000 points per night. Located in the heart of downtown Atlanta, and currently one of the better value hotels available on points. If you book before March 6, you can secure free night awards for just 10,000 points per night.
Moves from Marriott category 8 to category 9 requiring 45,000 points per night. Just a 10-minute walk from the White House, the JW Marriott Washington, DC is the perfect location from which to explore the nation's capital. Book before March 6 and secure a free night award from 40,000 points.
Moves from SPG category 4 to category 5 requiring 12,000 to 16,000 points per night. If you’re visiting Charlotte, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better location than The Westin Charlotte. Parked next to the Convention Center and an easy walk to the NASCAR hall of fame, if you book before March 6, you’ll pay 10,000 points per night.
Increasing from SPG category 4 to category 5 requiring 12,000 to 16,000 points per night. Doing Disney on points is already a hard task, and it’s about to get harder, with the Walt Disney Dolphin Resort moving up to a category 5. Book before March 6, and you’ll pay 10,000 points. As an FYI, the Walt Disney World Swan Resort is already a category 5, so this is your last chance to grab its sister property at category 4 prices.
Moves from Marriott category 8 to category 9 requiring 45,000 points per night. Theme parks appear to be under fire in this round of award category changes, with both Marriott and SPG raising the cost of award stays for free nights. Get in before March 6 and bag an award night for 40,000 points.
Increases from SPG category 6 to category 7 requiring 30,000 to 35,000 points per night. The St. Regis Osaka is one of the most aspirational properties in the SPG portfolio and was a steal as a category 6. If you book before March 6, you can still secure this property for as little as 20,000 points.
Moves up from SPG category 4 to category 5 requiring 12,000 to 16,000 points per night. Set in the idyllic beachside town of Port Douglas, the Sheraton Grand Mirage is perched on the front of Four Mile Beach and is just a short boat ride from the wonders of the Northern Great Barrier Reef. Book before March 6, and you can redeem free nights for 10,000 points per night.
Increasing from SPG category 3 to category 4 requiring 10,000 points per night. For SPG fans, the Le Méridien Chiang Mai’s popularity is its curse, with the award price rising every other year. Initially a category 1 up to 2012, it was raised to a category 2 in 2013, increased again in 2016 to category 3, and this year rises to a category 4. If you book before March 6, you’ll pay 7,000 points per night.
Rising from Marriott category 8 to category 9 requiring 45,000 points per night. One of the most sophisticated hotels located in the heart of old-town London, it was only a matter of time before St. Ermin’s was bumped up to Marriott’s highest category. If you book before March 6, you can land a free night for 40,000 points.
Changing from Marriott category 5 to category 6 requiring 30,000 points per night. Changing in part due to recently completed renovations, you can still redeem the Renaissance Paris for 25,000 points per night if booked before the changes go live on March 6.
According to the SPG website:
“The number of Starpoints required for a reservation is based on the hotel category at the time the reservation is booked.”
Provided the hotels above are booked before the changes go live on March 6, 2018, you can redeem points at the current award rate. If you book after March 6, you will pay the new, higher award rate for the property.
Properties to Book After March 6
While the award chart changes may appear fairly bleak when taken at face value, there are also plenty of properties that are dropping categories and will cost less after March 6. Below are a few that will offer top value after the award chart changes go live.
- W New York decreases from SPG category 6 to category 5 requiring 12,000 to 16,000 points per night
- The Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne, Miami decreases from Ritz-Carlton tier 5 to tier 4 requiring 60,000 points per night
- L’Hermitage Gantois, Autograph Collection decreases from Marriott category 7 to category 6 requiring 30,000 points per night
- The Ritz-Carlton, Berlin decreases from Ritz-Carlton tier 3 to tier 2 requiring 40,000 points per night
Award chart reclassifications happen at around the same time every year, but it’s never an enjoyable experience seeing so much value wiped out of a rewards program. The value of Marriott’s category 1-5 free night certificates have taken a hit with these award chart changes, as have the 7-night certificates received with the Marriott Hotel + Air packages, although there is still plenty of value to be found if you put in the legwork.
If you happen to be in a city with both Marriott & SPG properties, be sure to do a price (points) comparison before booking. Remember, SPG points transfer to Marriott at a ratio of 1:3, so a Marriott property priced at 45,000 points would be the equivalent to an SPG property at 15,000 points. Do the math!
If you want to secure a redemption at the current award rate for properties that require more points after the changes, you’ll need to book by March 6, 2018. If you want to book a property that is set to drop, wait until the exchanges go live before locking in the redemption.
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