Marriott Hotels Change Award Category March 3, Here’s What’s Going Up And Down

Marriott just announced its 2021 award category changes for hotels, with some properties going up in category and others going down.

In total just 201 hotels are changing this year, with 150 dropping in category (and so costing fewer points) and 51 going up in category (so they’ll cost more points). In contrast last year nearly 30% of hotels changed category.

These changes go into effect March 3, allowing you to book the hotels going up in category now to lock in lower pricing and so you know when to try to reprice redemptions at hotels becoming less expensive.

Marriott offers that they’re changing rates on many new hotels where they have real world data now, often reducing category and most changes are in Asia.

First Time In A Decade More Hotels Have Gone Down Than Up

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.

Having more decreases than increases is fairly unprecedented, but having just 201 hotels change pricing is also less movement than we’ve seen in the past.

Analysis Of Changes

The changes take place across Marriott’s brands, though about 20% are with Fairfields (43), 10% Four Points (20) and 10% Marriott (19) followed by Courtyard (17), Moxy (13), and Sheraton (13). Only 2 W hotels, 2 Luxury Collection, and 1 Ritz-Carlton are changing category.

No hotel is changing more than one category. The only hotel going up to category 8 is the W Aspen. Las Alcobas in Mexico City, which I’ve much enjoyed, goes up to category 7.

Las Alcobas, Mexico City

Other notable increases: the Westin Tampa goes up to 5; the JW Marriott Gold Coast (Australia) goes up to 6; Marriott Puerto Vallarta goes up to 6; Sheraton Kauai goes up to 6.

Nearly All Marriott Hotels Should Be Dropping In Category, But Aren’t

Any time Marriott doesn’t devalue its program that’s a good thing. Annual category creep has worked against you for many years, not just under Bonvoy but years earlier too. However as a result of the pandemic and how long it’s lasted we should see a majority of hotels dropping in category.

Marriott has around 7500 hotels in its portfolio. Only about 100 hotels are dropping in category – after the biggest drop in average daily room rate we’ve seen in history. Rooms cost less and Marriott’s revenue-based program should charge you fewer points. They shouldn’t just be offering ‘low season’ rates as a promotion, they should be offering those year round. And the base category of most hotels should be lower than when the hotel business was at its peak in 2019.

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. I wish Marriott would be transparent about category determination. This is the fifth or sixth category change since Starwood SPG, Marriott Rewards and Ritz-Carlton Rewards merged in August 2018. There’s no rhyme or reason.

    Some brand-new properties start at category 7, like the soon-to-open Autograph Collection hotel in Jackson, Wyoming. Meanwhile, other high-end properties in Southeast Asia and the Pacific are category 2-5. There should be some correlation between quality or brand and category. The idea that airport Courtyards or Fairfields can be a category 6 or 7 is absurd.

    It’s also absurd that all any property is increasing in points per night given most properties are not providing full amenities and services.

  2. To me, this is all about where can I use my Category 35k night certs. Sheraton Vancouver is back to a Cat 5, which puts it back into play. However, in today’s environment, it’s infuriating to see Fairfield Inns costing 40k points (Flagstaff, any weekend in May). This constant devaluation since spg takeover makes me want to just quit Marriott altogether. I need 3 more years for lifetime plat, and that may be enough for me to stick it out.

  3. Once again this shows the only value in Marriott’s program is in Asia and Europe, at least outside major cities like London or Paris. There are some excellent hotels in Malaysia and Indonesia. Some of the limited-service branded hotels there, like Fairfield, are as good or better than a Marriott or Westin in the United States with most or all of them having a full restaurant and bar.

  4. FMT Delta. The point value has nothing to do with he brand, but correlates to the ADR at the particular hotel. Marriott reimburses the hotel based on their category if they are in a high rate area they should receive more money for the room.

  5. Thanks for mentioning at the end that pretty much all hotels should be dropping in category. Marriott expects customers to understand when award categories get jacked up during fairly good times; now that times are terrible they should accordingly be dropping hotel categories off a cliff. They will most certainly resume their ongoing devaluations once business improves so this would be a temporary move that would illustrate that they’re not huge hypocrites.

  6. I got tired of the games and gyrations that Marriott commenced in earnest after the acquisition of SPG.

    I realized that complaining about category creep and the introduction of peak/off-peak rates–which are nothing less than a failed attempt to disguise price increases–that my most effective action would be to simply cancel my Marriott credit cards (both of them), and switch to another hotel brand. I have been happy with my Chase Hyatt card and the redemption value of World of Hyatt points. I am aware that Hyatt does not have any where near the same footprint as Marriott, but there has been a Hyatt-brand everywhere I have needed one.

  7. Prices only go up, never down, in hotel programs.

    This used to be true for airlines as well, but surprisingly not this year with DL offering 2k awards.

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