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Hotel chains try to avoid substantial changes to their award charts. This strategy shields them somewhat from negative customer feedback – think “MASSIVE DEVALUATION” shouted across social media!!! Instead, many hotel chains make annual adjustments to the allocation of hotels to award categories (i.e. how many points are required for a free night) and hope that the vast majority of their members won’t really notice.
Marriott Rewards / Bonvoy is perhaps the worst offender when it comes to such “category creep” devaluations. Every year, a substantial number of hotels are moved into a higher award category, with just a handful moving to a lower category.
With the arrival of 2019, we are already bracing for the implementation of the new Category 8 – click here. However a mere six months or so after Marriott and SPG’s combined award chart was implemented, Marriott has announced that approximately 400 hotels will be changing award category on 5 March, 2019. And true to form…
- approx. 90% of those hotels are going to cost more points
- the remaining 10% will cost fewer points
I highly recommend that you check out Marriott’s list of changes by clicking here.
What Should I Keep in Mind?
One of the attractive elements of Marriott Bonvoy is “Points Advance“, where you don’t actually need to have sufficient points at the time of booking your award stay. I have seen conflicting reports of whether Marriott will honour the “old” pricing – should you book a hotel using Points Advance before 5 March.
If you are generally risk averse (like me) you should attach a reward certificate or assign points to any hotel stay where the hotel is going to increase in award category on 5 March. It took me nearly an hour on the phone with Marriott, but I did that for one of the hotels on the list, using one of my old 7-night Travel Package certificates.
Speaking of those travel packages, you might want to pay special attention to any hotel that is changing from Category 4 to Category 5. Both the old and new “entry level” travel packages allow members to spend up to seven nights at a “new Category 1-4” hotel. However it is no longer possible to spend extra points to “upgrade” travel packages to a higher award category. So unless you book hotels such as the Sheraton or Marriott in Lisbon, the Renaissance Bali Uluwatu or the Renaissance Orlando (Sea World) before 5 March, you won’t be able to use your certificates at those hotels.
Another element to remember is that you can book award stays before 5 March, but any changes, no matter how minor, will likely result in a repricing to the new, higher cost. So by all means make multiple speculative bookings (using Points Advance if necessary), but know that you won’t be able to change your travel dates after 5 March.
Hotels shifting from one award category to another is a disappointing element of the loyalty hobby. However since we get some advance warning at least, hopefully you can book a hotel stay or two before the price increases come into effect…
What do you think of these changes?