Caution: Marriott’s New Chart is Good for Top Hotels, But Not As Good as You Think

I’m seeing a ton of coverage of Marriott’s new award chart lauding the top points price of the most expensive hotels. For instance, Dan’s Deals: wrote AMAZING! Marriott’s New Award Chart Is A Dream Come True For Aspirational Hotels. This is indeed good news, but it needs to be tempered.

Starwood used to charge double points for its most expensive properties. That is, they’d assign category 7 prices (30,000 points per night but 35,000 points in high season). Then their super luxe hotels would be considered not to have any standard rooms and those would cost double, e.g. Al Maha Desert Resort is all suites, with private pools, including meals and two daily activities so it costs 60,000 points per night.


Al Maha Desert Resort

Then some hotels cost even more than that. For instance I booked the St. Regis Maldives at 90,000 points per night.

While it’s true these hotels are often expensive, and don’t always have what you would consider a basic room, it’s precisely the special nature of the accommodations that drove the room price in the first place making it category 7.

For example the W Koh Samui in Thailand is a category 7 double points hotel, 60,000 Starpoints per night, but regularly sells for less than $600 per night. A redemption at that price is simply silly.

Marriott is fixing this, it’s true. All hotels are on the regular award chart. Starting in August the highest points price is 60,000 points per night, equivalent to 20,000 Starpoints. Next year that will go up to 85,000 points going up to 100,000 points in high season. That’s like 33,333 Starpoints. It still seems like an amazing value.

And it is. Except you won’t have access to as many rooms for redemption as you do today. And they may not always be as premium rooms either. As I wrote this morning, because I specifically asked and I spoke with Marriott executives around the world about this,

[Standard rooms] may be defined more narrowly in the new Marriott program [for these hotels].

That means more limited award inventory than before at some top properties. While pricing is much cheaper, it may be a race to get bookings at some of these hotels.

And the rooms you’ll get may be less premium than before, e.g. a beach villa rather than an overwater villa at some hotels.

As I was told, think ‘beach villa’ instead of ‘overwater villa’ as an example of the room type that would be considered for award redemption in the new program.

That said, this won’t always be the case. Nearly all the rooms at Al Maha are the same, you’ll be able to get a suite with private pool for 60,000 Marriott points come August. I’ll be interested to see whether award redemptions still come with meals and activities there.

Meanwhile the old better room types should still be available at various properties as well — they’ll just cost more than the base points price listed on the chart.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. One big question is the one you raised earlier- will points bookings made earlier at higher rates be automatically refunded or will we need to rebook (if available)? Do you know if you can find our definitively? So far I have seen contradictory answers.

  2. I’ve run into a pretty negative example of the new chart. I’ve been awaiting the changes to book the King George in Athens this Fall. Currently, it’s 20k points per night at a category 6. Under the new system, it goes to category 7, the highest in existence. It still remains overpriced at 60k new points per night, compared to ~$230 per night. The ridiculous part is charging the same as a top Marriott hotel in the most expensive market on earth for this place. Yet another misstep from Marriott.

  3. Its going to be a lot harder to get massive Marriott points since the main way of getting points (AKA credit card spend) is being devaluated by 33%. This whole merger thing is a big devaluation of the program in disguise (like when they say current price is 36000 marriott points for a 12000 point spg hotel. This is only true a this point with the 3×1 conversion, but no more in August). Business owners that used to put the majority of expense on SPG cards are going to use other cards (unless they come with bonus opportunities). AMEX is not goint to like it and will suffer from people migrating to other cards. There is a say (in spanish): The worst blind person is that one that does not want to see. It was nice while it lasted, yes, there are going to be amazing opportunities for a couple months (if you have enough SPG points) but a year for now is going to be a massacre.

  4. There is unfortunately no correlation between brand and star level and the award category. You have category 3 or 4 J.W. Marriott properties in Asia, which are among the best hotels in Marriott’s portfolio, but then dumpy 3-star Marriott or Sheraton properties at airports in North America ranked at category 5 or category 6.

    I also guarantee many of the hotels moving up now will only again move up in 2019 for 2020.

  5. What about rooms at the st. Regis Bora Bora? What do those rooms currently cost? Will the over water bungalow be 60k per night?

    TIA

  6. “Business owners that used to put the majority of expense on SPG cards are going to use other cards (unless they come with bonus opportunities).”

    Precisely.

  7. I think the seasonal pricing is key because I always travel on shoulder seasons and it’s almost never worth spending points compared to what I can pay for the room. The number of points really should go down as the room gets cheaper.

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