Marriott has an award chart with each hotel assigned a category from 1 to 8. That determines the price you’ll pay in points for a standard room, as long as that room is available. (Each category has a low, regular, and high season price and Marriott adjusts the dates that apply to each for a given hotel monthly.)
Every year Marriott re-categorizes hotels, moving them up or down, largely based on whether the rates are expected higher or lower than the previous year. There’s some wiggle room for adjustment, but changes largely track the hotel market.
Each Year At This Time Marriott Increases The Category And Price Of Hotels
Last year in addition to introducing a new highest hotel category 8 (1% of hotels), Marriott raised the category of 4% of their hotels and lowered the category of 1%. Overall increases outnumbered decreases 9-to-1.
I’ve been tracking this since 2012 and in every single year more hotels have gone up in category (and thus in redemption price) than have gone down.
- Substantially more hotels became more expensive in points than less expensive in 2012.
- Then in 2013 they increased the price of 36% of hotels and dropped only 1% while introducing a new more expensive award tier.
- 2014 saw a 4:1 ratio of increases to decreases in points prices for hotel redemptions.
- 2015 was 3:1 increase.
- In 2016 ‘only’ 560 hotels went up in points prices while 237 went down.
- In 2017, with Starwood merger news fresh, they only increased 1.5 times as many hotels as they reduced.
- In 2018 they increased points prices at over 1000 hotels with 21% of hotels getting more expensive and 5% getting less expensive.
So it should be no shock to anyone that on top of the news that capacity controls on redemptions are being imposed at legacy Starwood hotel brands, this year’s re-categorization of hotels means substantially more going up than going down.
More Hotels Going Up, Up, Up in March
Out of Marriott’s roughly 7500 hotels a whopping 22% are going up in category March 4, 2020 while just 7% are going down, or over 1000 more increases than decreases. That’s especially brutal, even compared to prior years, and comparable perhaps only to 2013.
- 1687 go up in category
- 507 go down in category
- Only one hotel, Four Points by Sheraton Bali Ungasan, moves two categories and that is a decrease.
- Four hotels move from category 8 to category 7: the W Hong Kong (for obvious reasons), W Aspen, Hotel President Wilson Geneva and Cristallo in Italy.
- Although Marriott says most of the change “takes place between categories 1-5” don’t let the smaller number of changes in the upper categories fool you – they just have fewer truly top end hotels.
While 4 hotels drop out of category 8 Marriott is adding 37 hotels to the top redemption tier.
Cosmopolitan Las Vegas, A New Category 8 Hotel
Marriott Has Engaged In Consistent Devaluation Since Launching Their New Program
Since the new combined Marriott loyalty program launched a year and a half ago we’ve gone from the most expensive redemption being 60,000 points per night to 100,000 points per night; a new limit on redemptions at ex-Starwood hotels; and more hotels costing more points. Oh, and Marriott’s CEO claims not to believe in devaluation.
Remember to book any hotels going up in price before March 4, and to request refunds of points for hotels that drop in price come that date. This is complicated of course by shifting high and low season pricing.
2019 was a banner year for hotel occupancy and room rates, so it’s not surprising to see the price of hotels going up in points too. Late 2019 seemed to plateau, so hopefully changes going forward will moderate somewhat.