Deep Dive Into Hyatt’s Free Night Award Category Changes, Not As Bad As 3-1 Negative Would Look!

Hyatt has announced changes to hotel category assignments for award pricing set to go into effect Tuesday, March 26, 2024, at 8:00 a.m. Central time.

  • 46 hotels go down in category
  • 137 hotels go up in category

These category changes won’t tell the full picture, though, since Hyatt has high and low season redemption pricing within each category. We don’t know how many hotels may be getting more high season dates!

However, while we’re seeing 3-to-1 category increases (seems bad!) it’s interesting that these are very different from similar clusters of increases in the past. Make no mistake, these are negative changes for members, they just don’t seem as bad as I expected from the headline number of properties changing category.

Previously we’ve seen a lot of high end hotels become more expensive as redemptions. This time we’re seeing lower category hotels go up the most. The bulk of the action with these changes are in the bottom half of the chart’s distribution. The biggest grouping of changes is category 3 hotels becoming 4’s, while we also see 1’s become 2’s and 2’s become 3’s.

Lower category changes also mean the amount of points being increased is smaller. Moving from category 1 to 2 is a 3,000 point increase, while moving from category 7 to 8 is a 10,000 point increase. So focusing increases on the lower categories means the amount of points they’re asking members to spend isn’t going up by as much as when the increases are focused at the top end.

Notable Hotels Changing Category

Here are some of the specific changes at individual hotels and also trends that stood out to me, noting that I tend to be more interested in using my points for the more premium hotels:

  • Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Gainey Ranch goes up to and Hyatt Carmel Highlands go down to category 6

  • Alila Marea drops from 8 to 7

  • Grand Hyatt Denver, Hyatt Regency Denver Convention Center, and Hyatt Centric Downtown Denver all go up to category 4 – which is fine because they’re still eligible for category 1-4 free night awards. Still that points do Denver as a market doing well.

  • Park Hyatt DC goes from 5 to 6, which surprises based on the rates I usually see

  • Hyatt Regency Coral Gables which I’ve used for many Miami airport overnights goes up to category 4

  • Hyatt Centric Waikiki Beach where until recently it was largely impossible to get award nights anyway goes up to category 6

  • The only Manhattan hotel changing categories is The Grayson Hotel (5 -> 6). Everything else stays the same.

  • Alila Jabal Akhdar, Park Hyatt Zanzibar, Grand Hyatt Istanbul, Park Hyatt Istanbul all go up a category

  • Alila Fort Bishangarh goes up to category 5

  • Alila Ubud, Andaz Bali, and Alila Villas Uluwatu all go up a category (this last to category 8)

  • Andaz Papagayo goes to category 7

All-Inclusives And Free Night Awards See Negative Effects

Some of the biggest increases are in all-inclusives, in particular three go up to inclusive ‘category F’ which is a 10,000 point per night jump to 50,000 for a standard (non-peak) night. The only property changing by two categories is Secrets Tulum Resort and Beach Club which goes from all-inclusive category B up to category D.

At the high end on non-inclusive properties, 5 hotels go from 7 to 8, while 1 drops from 8 to 7. Three of the increases are U.S. ski properties. This is an important threshold because category 1-7 free nights, achieved after staying 60 nights in a year, no longer cover all Hyatt hotels.

Similarly, 19 hotels go up from 4 to 5, while just 5 drop from 5 to 4. This is another important threshold because category 1-4 free nights (the most common) are no longer valid once a hotel is bumped above category 4, and Hyatt doesn’t allow topping off of these free nights with additional points. So this cluster of property assignments to categories do make Hyatt’s free night certificates less valuable.

Managing Your Reservations Going Into These Changes

Book any hotels going up in category now while paying attention to cancellation policies. You can lock in future stays at current prices before the category changes go into effect. However any changes you make to reservation dates after the new pricing goes into effect will be at.. the new pricing.

However if any hotel you’ve already booked goes down in price after these changes, you do not need to cancel and rebook. Hyatt will refund you the points difference automatically.

Hyatt Award Category Changes Overall

I find Hyatt to have by far the best elite program of any of the major hotel loyalty programs. As an earn and burn program it is not as good – partly because elite earning bonuses are weaker than in other chains.

They still have award charts which is commendable, the other big chains have ditched those which undermines transparency and always and everywhere means higher pricing. But the benefit of those charts is mitigated by high and low season pricing dates.

These changes, though, while at first glance quite brutal (3 increases for every decrease in category) turn out not to be as bad as I’d have feared based on the focus being the lower-priced hotels this go-round.

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, 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. In all honesty, I often don’t see much of a quality difference between a Grand Hyatt, Hyatt Regency, Hyatt Centric, or Thompson. I am happy to stay in any of these properties, whichever has the lowest rate/category.
    In Europe, locally owned properties give the best bang for the buck. American chains like Hyatt are horribly overpriced in Europe and Asia.

  2. @ Gary — Hyatt is becoming less and less attractive. They really need to do some serious renovating at many poperties, especially Regency properties. The points are definitely not worth what they were two years ago, which is sad because Hyatt points held their value for a very long time. I’m not just talking inflation here, but the ratio of points to cash has gotten significantly worse lately.

  3. “Lower category changes also mean the amount of points being increased is smaller. Moving from category 1 to 2 is a 3,000 point increase, while moving from category 7 to 8 is a 10,000 point increase.”

    I don’t think this is the right way to look at it. The percentage increase is what really matters (e.g. 3,000 point increase from category 1 to 2 is an increase of 60% in cost).

  4. The Hyatt Regency and Grand Hyatt in D.C. are both going up to category 5. That’s pretty par for the course here where outside of Portland and Capetown it’s tough to find any good news amongst the plethora of bad.

  5. The worse of the domestic US point price changes seem to have a parking element involved. Maybe Hyatt wants to go cheaper on Globalist and Globalist’s Guest of Honor awards where parking is expensive but included for such award nights,

    I suspect that the changes are actually going to be worse than what the charts may indicate to many others. The peak/offpeak/standard tiers are subject to being gamed by Hyatt and the properties so as to minimize revenue leakage from award night staying guests, and it’s not easy to keep track of the anti-consumer games that get played that way. Keeping track of category changes is easy — too easy — and it’s another reason why hotel programs seem inclined to go toward ever more variable pricing of award nights.

  6. Category 1 to Category 2 changes are a brutal devaluation of 60% just for standard award nights. Then there is the devaluation aspect that comes from the tweaking of “peak”, “off-peak” and “standard” periods in order for Hyatt and the hotels to further limit the value customers get from redeeming points and to minimize substitution out of regular paid nights and into award nights since there is an opportunity cost for Hyatt and the hotels when that substitution happens.

  7. “Park Hyatt DC goes from 5 to 6, which surprises based on the rates I usually see”

    I would think that Hyatts making these decisions based on the rates they pay hotels when near capacity instead of the overall average rate. Without knowing hard data, I’d imagine 75% of the time PH DC might be below capacity and what Hyatt pays the owners is minimal, but college graduation happens, or presidential inauguration, big convention and the rates are much higher.

  8. @ GU Wonder — Hyatt properties cannot game the peak/off-peak/standard award pricing. The dates for each is set by Hyatt corporate. Of course, the hotels can collude wth corporate to have those “set” dates changed, but that piece isn’t dynamic (yet).

  9. Hotels don’t care what category they are in, or whether it is a peak or off-peak night. That’s not how their compensation is set. It’s based on average daily room rate for the year and occupancy. That’s it. World of Hyatt varies points pricing based on a guess about the year ahead about when they might face high occupancy increased reimbursement rates to the property (and, speculating a bit, perhaps they might err on the side of more peak nights for a hotel that’s on the upper range of the ADR band for the category).

  10. Lower category changes are rough for families. I’m very happy to spend 5k points vs ~$140 for a Hyatt Place when traveling with my family. That 60% increase makes the redemption much less attractive.

  11. This spin seems a little too positive. The Cat 4 free nights from Chase are rapidly heading the same direction as the Amex Marriott 35k certs. No more Grand Hyatt DC, Boston Hyatt Regency, etc. You are basically SOL if you want to use Cat4s at full service properties in major US cities.

  12. Some Hyatt properties owners do sort of care what award category they are in because they prefer regular paid rates over the discounted rates which are what they get paid for award nights. Add in that properties have tended to increasingly prefer to maintain higher rates and have a bit lower occupancy than to to fill up with discounts, and that mentality also motivates some hotel owners to care to see higher award night prices in points to limit award night customers who are effectively paying a discounted rate to the hotel courtesy of Hyatt.

    And on high regular paid occupancy rate nights for a property, Hyatt doesn’t want to see that coming with lots of award night guests when the reimbursement rates Hyatt is to pay the hotels are at the high end.

  13. @GUWonder – yes, there are scenarios where a hotel cares their category, even though it doesn’t affect the rate they’re paid for the room. For instance many owners WANT free night award compensation for empty rooms. They may be a slightly less desirable hotel, or in a slightly less desirable location than the chain’s other hotels. Their room rates are lower. But the room rate ‘band’ sweeps them all into the same category so they get fewer redemptions. Hotels sometimes argue themselves down a category because of that, to get their natural share of redemption bookings.

  14. +1 on the call to be able to top off Cat 1-4 certificates. At this point I’ve got more of those than I can use and have started booking in-town stays just to get the elite night credits before they expire. Also, you can’t use a suite upgrade award on stays booked with certificates, so they are no good to me for nice family trips.

  15. The problem with Hyatt’s devaluations is that it gets harder and harder to gin up the points for free night stays Like 20000 points/night is a lot of points if you want to stay a few days.

  16. Overall not bad for places we stay. SF now has a Category 4. And Santa Cruz went back to 4 after bumping up to 5 last year. A couple of Portland locations are down as well. A few raises, but overall a wash for us.


  17. @Gary,
    There is a number of required dates for off-peak, peak and standard point rate for a hotel. I see some hotels have reduced the number of off-peak dates and increase the number of peak dates.

  18. @Gary,
    Is there a number of required dates for off-peak, peak, and standard point rates for a hotel?. I see some hotels have reduced the number of off-peak dates and increased the number of peak dates.

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