Marriott Increasing Points Prices of Over 1000 Hotels Should Strike Fear in the Hearts of SPG Members

When Marriott announced they were acquiring Starwood, there was tremendous consternation from Starwood Preferred Guest members. Starwood cultivated a reputation for delivering benefits and experiences members care about. Marriott was all about delivering consistency and not peak experiences.

The purpose of the deal was to give Marriott greater leverage according to Bill Marriott. People initially talked about leverage with suppliers, but it was clearly also leverage with customers – hence they led the way with stricter hotel cancallation policies.

Though Marriott’s approach to loyalty was historically staid, CEO Arne Sorenson emphasized to me how important it is and that he wants to offer the only loyalty program customers need. It’s how they plan to tie together 30 disparate brands (and without huge marketing budgets as well). They were quick out of the gate with status matching and points transfers, and put a Starwood executive in charge of the program.

However it’s been mostly quiet on the changes front. We can expect a lot more change next year.

But if we’re looking for tea leaves about what to expect, remember that Marriott has been a steady stream of devaluations for years.

Devaluation just seems to be in their bones on the Marriott side, and the Starwood merger and Starwood Preferred Guest leadership appear not to have changed that. While they announced a reasonable set of category changes for Starwood the changes at Marriott are absolutely brutal: 21% of hotels are going up in category while just 5% are going down in category. The number of points required to redeem for a free Marriott hotel night is going up at over 1000 hotels effective March 6th.

  • Book any affected hotels now before the change
  • Get points back on any of the few hotels going down in price March 6th that you’ve already booked for travel after that

The full list of hotels changing category is available here.

Marriott consistently increases redemption prices at more hotels, and a greater percentage of hotels, than other chains. And that hasn’t changed with the merger, despite a strong desire to allay the fears of concerned members. That should tell us something.

The program does reinforce, though, that “72 percent of all hotels will remain in Categories 1-5 in which cardholders of Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card receive a one night free stay every year after their account anniversary.” And they note “some properties in popular destinations moving down one category including the JW Marriott Hotel Rio de Janeiro, THE PLAZA Seoul of the Autograph Collection, South Korea, Marriott Hotel Al Forsan, Abu Dhabi, as well as The Ritz-Carlton, Berlin.”

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. well some of these are breath taking. I see all my international stops have just gotten more expensive to say the least. Sometimes I think they are trying to push us to “cash and points” And the conversation from Marriott to SPG is disgusting,

    The only place where the points versus hotel rates is closer is internationally.

    Oh well it’s what it is and doubt much we can do while hotel occupancy is so high

  2. It must be mentioned that not all category changes are equivalent. However some category changes (SPG 2 to SPG 3) are a near doubling. When using that lens to analyze this, the changes look way worse.

  3. My experience trying to redeem my cat 1-5 credit card free night cert for the past 5 years has been an exercise in comical frustration. I always try to use it on a trip up to Boston. And since they never make city center hotels anything below cat 8, I have to keep moving further away from the city to use it. Residence inn Norwood was the one I had to use the last 2 years since the others I used to stay at are all higher than cat 5. And now, they are raising Norwood to a cat 6 so it’s looking like I have to go to a different state to be able to use this certificate on my Boston trip next year. Or I could just cancel this stupid card. I’m thinking I won’t be the only one.

  4. Cancelled my long time Marriott Card today. The 1-5 cat free night is only worth a roadside hotel which I can often buy for cash for $80-$100. Why bother keeping the card anymore and having to keep track of this cert. one less thing to worry about. The number of keeper cards is dropping like a rock as hotel chains and airlines race to the bottom. They are devaluating so much that using their cards is worthless. . Forcing us into churning

  5. Gary why are you so critical of Marriott for doing what everyone else does?

    Marriott top rooms are still a bargain compared to Hilton and IC which typically earn at a similar rate – but Hilton requires 95k per night for top properties, and IC just inflated to 70k, while Marriott still only requires 45k, with 5th night free?

    Also you always slam Hilton, Delta and others for making no-notice changes whereas Marriott is fully transparent and provides 1 month for you to book at the old rates?

    And finally the deval is much less than the Hilton massacre of a few years ago, or Hyatt’s recent gutting of its program.

    Of course nobody likes category creep but it is inevitable when programs print money (points) faster than the Venezuelan central bank. At least Marriott does it slowly and annually…

  6. @Boraxo, you fail to understand that with Hilton, points are very easy to get. If you include bonus and a Hilton credit card you can easely get 30+ point per $1 spent on the property. How many points/$ you get on your paid stays with Marriott? Also, non bonus spend with a Hilton card is 3 per $1 spend. Marriott? 1 per $1. So you need to spend $31666 non bonus in a hilton card to get 95000 hh points Vs $45000 on a Marriott card to get the 45000 points.

  7. Man, Orlando had SEVEN hotels bumped from the annual free night category up to Cat. 6.
    A silver lining is that several hotels in cities I’m planning to visit in next 18 months are now Cat. 5, including China and Spain.
    Unfortunately the Lisbon Marriott went from Cat 5 to Cat 6.
    FWIW, unless I just need an airport hotel for a layover, my practice is to use my free nights at Marriotts and Hyatts as an opportunity to stay two nights for half-price. Too bad.

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