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Marriott is clearly quite aware that their loyal guests are keen for details about the missing piece of the puzzle – how they are going to allocate their hotels into award categories in the new loyalty programme. Joe wrote last night about the five destinations that were released as examples of the new Marriott award chart.
I share Joe’s first impression that the changes appear to be rather benign. The most obvious observation is that Marriott is spacing hotels based on brand and quality, when they could easily have placed every New York hotel into Category 7 for example.
But here’s the thing… It is often hard to justify spending points on high-end hotels. Here’s why.
What is a Marriott Point Worth?
I suspect that a sizable number of InsideFlyer readers buy Starpoints during the 35%-off promotions. I certainly do. Joe does as well. Here’s a link to the latest version.
When we all buy Starpoints, we end up paying 2.28 US cents per Starpoint. In sterling terms, that’s 1.65p or so. It doesn’t matter whether you also earn Starpoints from a credit card or hotel stays, if you’ve bought points at that price, I sincerely hope that you don’t receive less than 1.65p when spending them.
So, dividing by three to work in the new point system, a Marriott point is going to be worth 0.55p.
Hotel Stays Versus Airline Miles
We find it easy to justify that valuation, because of the backstop of converting to airline miles. Despite my concerns, this isn’t going to change. 60,000 Marriott points will continue to get you 25,000 miles. In numerical terms, you are taking 60K x 0.55p = £330 and getting 25,000 miles. 1.32p per mile. Not good for Avios, except during a conversion bonus period. Potentially quite worthwhile for Alaska Mileage Plan or some other higher-value airline mile…
With that in mind, every point I spend on a hotel stay is a point I can’t convert into a mile.
But more importantly, you can take any hotel in Category 7 or 8. Any super-luxurious SPG hotels are going to cost less than before, but at 60K per night, it is still going to cost you £330 per night! Yes, you can have the fifth night free on longer stays, but:
- My budget doesn’t stretch to £330 per night hotels on a regular basis, does yours?
- The cash price is often going to be less than £330 per night, so spending points would contradict my preference of not spending points at a lower valuation than what I paid for them!
So What Do I Actually Spend My SPG/Marriott Points On?
… low category hotels. For example, the old Categories 1 and 2 in Starwood Preferred Guest (2K-4K Starpoints per night). And this is where Marriott’s teaser concerns me. There are only two SPG low category hotels shown. And both will cost substantially more points…
17,500 points is £96 per night. Let’s be charitable and assume that you flew all the way to Bali for a 5 or 10 night stay, so the fifth night free brings that cost down to £77.
But these are not nice beachfront hotels, nor are they expensive during August, which is a lovely time to visit Bali and coincides with European summer holidays and Australian winter getaways…
So I wouldn’t spend points in Bali. I’d pay cash. And that’s before doing a Best Rate Guarantee claim! 🙂
New Marriott Award Chart Conclusion
If other low category SPG hotels see similar jumps in their award pricing, then Marriott will be taking away one of the main sweetspots in the SPG programme. Savvy travel hackers will be left with Travel Packages – where miles are the main attraction with the hotel stay just a bonus – and direct airline mile conversions. Which is fine, but I had been hoping for more opportunities to spend my points on actual hotel stays without feeling like I was spending a fortune.
What do you think about the new Marriott award chart? Do you look at spending Starpoints the same way I do?