Revealed: Marriott 2019 Hotel Category Changes

Filed Under: Hotels, Marriott

While Marriott’s three loyalty programs were mostly combined last August, there are still some major changes coming this year, particularly in the next month.

Marriott Bonvoy launches February 13, 2019

Marriott’s loyalty program will be rebranded as Marriott Bonvoy as of February 13, 2019. Not a whole lot will be changing overnight, but rather they’re just rebranding the program, since up until now the program has still operated under three names (Marriott Rewards, Ritz-Carlton Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest).

With these changes we’ll also see Platinum Premier rebranded as Titanium, and we’ll see Platinum Premier with Ambassador rebranded as Ambassador.

Marriott Category 8 pricing coming March 2019

We know a much more substantial change will be happening to Marriott award redemptions as of March 2019. Starting then, Marriott will introduce Category 8 award pricing, while currently properties are capped at Category 7. Initially Marriott was also supposed to introduce peak and off-peak pricing then, but it looks like that has been delayed, which is good news.

For example, currently the most expensive Marriott properties cost 60,000 points per night. Once Category 8 is introduced, properties will cost up to 85,000 points per night. Then when peak pricing is introduced, properties will cost up to 100,000 points per night. So the savings of booking before then are potentially significant.

Marriott announces 2019 category adjustments

Every year Marriott also has award category adjustments. Essentially Marriott changes which hotels are in which categories, in order to reflect market conditions. In theory these categories are decided based on the cost Marriott incurs from redemptions there, which reflects both the average daily room rates and average occupancy.

Marriott has just released their full list of category changes for 2019, which kick in for bookings made as of March 5, 2019.

So you still have time to make bookings before then at the old rates, even if you’re staying after the changes kick in (this is all about when you book and not about when you stay).

In total about 380 hotels will be changing categories (a bit over 5% of Marriott’s global portfolio), and of those fewer than 40 hotels will be decreasing in cost, and more than 340 hotels will be increasing in cost.

As Marriott describes these changes:

  • The overall percentage of hotels changing categories is smaller than in the past five years. Only 5 percent of the entire Marriott International portfolio are affected by the annual category changes process.
  • Of all participating hotels, 1 percent are decreasing, and 4 percent are increasing in point cost with 95 percent remaining unchanged.
  • Fewer hotels are moving up this year than in the past – over the past 5 years between 10 – 15 percent of the portfolio went up a category.
  • Ninety-one percent of all hotels require between 7,500 – 35,000 points per night.
  • As a reminder, cardholders of Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Credit Card (soon to become the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card on Feb 28) or the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express (soon to become Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card on February 13) receive one free night award worth up to 35,000 points every year after their account anniversary.
  • Cardholders of Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express Luxury Card (soon to become Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card on Feb 13) receive one free night award worth up to 50,000 points every year after their account anniversary, which is redeemable at ninety-seven percent of the Marriott International portfolio.
  • Members can save up to 25K points per night by redeeming points for one of the 62 luxury properties in Category 7 that are slated to move to Category 8 on March 5.

Note that their bullet points exclude the properties that are increasing to Category 8, so excluding those 62 hotels really doesn’t paint a very fair picture.

Bottom line

These changes are rough, especially when you look at the number of properties increasing vs. decreasing. Ultimately we knew this was coming so it’s not unexpected, but when you combine the category changes with the introduction of Category 8 pricing, a lot of properties will be a lot more expensive.

On the plus side, it sounds like peak and off-peak pricing will only be introduced later in 2019, which is good news.

Are there any hotels changing categories that particularly stand out to you?

  1. Bummer. Marriott Renaissance Uluwatu in Bali is going up from category 4 to category 5 so you can’t redeem your cheap travel certificate after March 9. Looks like I’m booking by then.

  2. Athenee Bangkok is also going up from 4 to 5. Look like I have to use my 7 night package before March 9.

  3. How is peak vs off peak determined? Is it based on the prevailing cash room rate at the time of booking, or is it based on time periods of the year?

  4. Let’s not forget that some hotels also went up in August when the programs were merged and they reevaluated categories at that time! This could essentially be a double devaluation if there are hotels on the increase list that had increases in August.

  5. Hotels dropping from category 5 to category 4 are Aloft Palm Jumeira (Dubai), Courtyard Isla Verde Beach Resort (Puerto Rico), Courtyard Stockholm Kungsholmen (Sweden), Four Points by Sheraton Sheikh Zayed Road (Dubai), Imperial Riding School Renaissance Vienna Hotel (Austria), Sheraton Dubai Creek Hotel & Towers (Dubai), Sheraton Sopot Hotel (Poland), Sheraton Gateway Los Angeles Hotel (USA), Sheraton Munich Westpark Hotel (Germany), Sheraton New Caledonia Deva Spa & Golf Resort (New Caledonia), Sheraton Old San Juan Hotel (Puerto Rico) and Sheraton Samui Resort (Thailand).

  6. Question on a property that is actually decreasing as of March 5th. Am I able to book now and call Marriott on the 5th and ask for the lower tier points? I am only thinking about this because I am worried about rewards points availability for this hotel.

  7. Yesterday I checked in to the Andaz Mayakoba on my first official stay as a Lifetime Globalist. My new Hyatt concierge called ahead apparently and when I entered my room it was filled with balloons, cakes, a large framed photo of the entire staff, and a signed card by over 30 staff members. All congratulating and thanking me for becoming a Lifetime Globalist. Even better they upgraded us from a standard king bed room to a two level beachfront villa.

    When I reached that milestone with Marriott two years ago I received nothing. Just an email. No one has ever acknowledged it. Nor with Hilton. Years with a VIP card from Four Seasons and to get an upgrade 10% of the time was like pulling teeth.

    I am telling you, Hyatt is changing the game and if they can get one more agreement or merger with a luxury group that will expand their footprint, well, Marriott can totally kiss my grits.

  8. Ugh London Edition is going up to Cat 8. I remember when it was just RC Tiger 3.

    All good things eventually come to an end…

  9. Ben, with the new table, all awards are in 10K points increments. Will free night award currently worth up to 35,000 points be adjusted, as there is no longer such threshold ? Or would it effectively max out at a category 5 off-peak and category 4 peak award ?

  10. Still very concerned about the whole peak vs off-peak pricing. My fear is the free annual night certificates will become useless. If the Marriott program merger is any indicator, I’m sure this will come to fruition.

  11. Disaster. They raised the Marriott and Westin grand cayman from cat 6 -7. Marriott was 180k for 5 nights pre merger and will now be 280k in peak season post. Horrendous TRIPLE devaluation. And now Marriott, Westin AND RITZ cayman are all the same cat 7, despite being vastly different properties. Truly a nightmare.

  12. @[email protected]….I only did it for NYC since that is where I typically like to redeem certificates and with these increases it eliminates the redemption of the certs at 6 hotels!

    The Lexington Autograph Collection NYC
    CY NY Manhattan Times Square
    CY NY Manhattan Soho
    RI NY Manhattan Central Park
    RI NY Manhattan Times Square
    Sheraton NY Times Square

  13. Basically every hotel I was thinking of using my FN certificates for is moving up. What’s the point of keeping Marriott or SPG cards? Just going to give up on Marriott and move everything to Hyatt.

  14. Christian, wow, that’s a big hit for NYC – that (anniversary free night scope shrinking) is probably the biggest negative!

  15. I know this has been covered in other places but, just to double check, a points advance reservation done today at the current rate will NOT go up in cost (points) as March?

  16. By my count, this is the 4th time since November 2017 that Marriott has changed award-redemption categories in a mostly negative direction. This is absurd. Four times in 14 months!

  17. Lucky, your thoughts on this note in the changes…

    “Points Advance — Members can book stays when they do not have enough points if they earn or purchase the needed points at least 14 days prior to check-in. Members who wish to book a points advance redemption under the current Marriott Rewards and SPG award chart are encouraged to order redemption certificates before March 5 to lock in the rate. On March 5, redemption bookings are subject to the new unified program award chart.”

  18. “Just going to give up on Marriott and move everything to Hyatt.”

    Well there certainly are a handful of those around. Maybe even a baker’s dozen

  19. For those complaining that they won’t be able to redeem their free night certificates at certain hotels because they are moving up in category, when the new peak vs. non-peak times are announced, you should still be able redeem at those hotels during non-peak times.

  20. Funny. They initially slotted many Manhattan hotels and a couple in SF in cat 5 which meant you could use the anni cert. Waited til the program settled now they’re quietly moving em all up to cat 6.

    Might be time to move back to hyatt

  21. It is sad to see how a program is on a declining path. This Bonvoy name is an empty name change for this weak program. They are devaluing their points to improve their horrible balance sheet. It has to be taken into account when valuing their points. 0.8 is no longer an accurate valuation for Marriott points. Perhaps 0.6 or 0.5.

  22. Sam that’s not true. You can only use FN for 35k and below. No off peak qualifies except 5, which you can already get at regular 35k prices. The peak off peak can only FURTHER screw those of us with FN certs, who are explicitly being targeted with this current devaluation. The certs are practically worthless if you take into account the annual fee.

    All Hyatt from here on out. Not spending a cent on Marriott.

  23. Many sweetspots I previously loved so much are axed. All decreasing are some crazy C5 Aloft I would keep 1 mile distance.
    Darn you Marriott!

  24. Bonvoy – age, to my Starwood and Marriott Cards. With peak pricing and transition from 4’s to 5’s 35K certs are worthless to me.

  25. I was under the impression RC Tokyo and RC Kyoto were going to go from category 7 to 8, but neither of them are on that list.

    Are they remaining category 7?

  26. 2 quick points

    #1 You cannot take this in isolation. Combined with the previous chart devaluations the total devaluation is massive. It is so bad that I can no longer value Marriott points as more valuable than Hilton points, and I can generate Hilton points for a fraction of the cost.

    #2, as noted above re: Grand Cayman, the recent devaluations are following a pattern where Marriott raises the redemption for some of the hotels in an area, then members use their points on the lower priced hotels and Marriott then raises the redemption on all the remaining hotels in the area.

  27. What I would like to know is how the value of the free night will be affected. Currently its any Category 5. It looks like many Category 5 are now 6. Compound with potential Peak Date awards changes and I am disappointed. This merger is reminding me of the airline and elite massacre post merger a few years ago.

  28. Lucky, as a couple others have asked, what are your thoughts on Marriott misleading people into booking points advance reservations with supposedly “locked in” rates and then switching the rates on them if the points aren’t fulfilled in March, with no warning? I’m referencing the following language in the new Bonvoy terms:

    “Points Advance — Members can book stays when they do not have enough points if they earn or purchase the needed points at least 14 days prior to check-in. Members who wish to book a points advance redemption under the current Marriott Rewards and SPG award chart are encouraged to order redemption certificates before March 5 to lock in the rate. On March 5, redemption bookings are subject to the new unified program award chart.”

  29. Funny how they tell us how only 5% of the properties are changing cat. but at the same time 100% of the properties have now peak season rates which means that on top of the 5-10k increase in cat. well they have the option to add from 2.5k-5k plus on every hotel they want to. Many hotels that were 15-20k will now be 30k-40k in peak season which is when people redeem their points on vacation.
    MR points are now worth about 0.02 cents more/point while they were 0.05 cents more just 18 months ago.

  30. The number of hotels going from 4-5 especially in a place like Anaheim is what will hurt the most as someone holding on to an old Cat 5 (new Cat 4) TP certificate.

  31. And I just saw that they bumped the last two local category 5 hotels up to category 6 which now makes it impossible to do use the 35K CC certificate on a quick emergency basis. Man, the hits just keep coming.

  32. They’ve raised categories on almost half of their Chinese hotels worth going to. There was a lot of value there that’s now gone.

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