OUCH: Marriott Hotel Category Changes 2020 (Last Chance)

Filed Under: Marriott

Update: This is just a reminder that these category changes kick in for bookings made as of Wednesday, March 4, 2020, so you have just a couple of days remaining to confirm bookings before the big price changes.

It’s normal for the major hotel programs to shift award categories annually (for example, World of Hyatt has announced category changes for 2020). Well, Marriott Bonvoy has just announced their category changes for 2020, and they’re the worst I recall seeing in a long time, or possibly ever?

Marriott 2020 hotel 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 2020, which kick in for bookings made as of March 4, 2020.

You still have about a month to make bookings at the old rates before the changes kick in — this is all about when you book, and not about when you stay.

Marriott’s category changes for 2020 are absolutely massive. About 29% of hotels will be changing in category:

  • 7% of hotels are decreasing in price
  • 22% of hotels are increasing in price

That means that net we’re seeing an increase in cost at 15% of all properties, and of those properties changing categories, over three quarters are going up in price.


For context, here’s Marriott’s award chart:

As a point of comparison, in 2019 only about 5% of hotels changed categories.

As Marriott describes these changes:

  • Most of the 2020 annual category change movement (84%) takes place between categories 1-5 for a standard redemption stay.
  • As a reminder, members who have either the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card or the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card receive one free night award worth up to 35,000 points every year after their account anniversary, which now will be redeemable at 89% of the Marriott Bonvoy portfolio during standard redemption rates.
  • Members who have the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card receive one free night award worth up to 50,000 points every year after their account anniversary, which now will be redeemable at 96% of the Marriott Bonvoy portfolio during standard rates.

The W Hotel Aspen is going down in category

These aren’t the only negative changes

It’s pretty incredible to see just how many Marriott hotels will be going up in award category, especially when you consider the other negative changes that have been made to award pricing:

The Langley in the UK is going up in category

Bottom line

This is one of the most drastic annual award category changes we’ve seen from Marriott in a long time, as nearly 30% of hotels will be changing in cost, with over three quarters of those increasing in cost.

When you combine this with capacity controls on legacy Starwood hotels, as well as the introduction of peak redemptions in 2020, this is a really rough change.

It seems pretty clear to me that Marriott thinks their costs associated with award redemptions are simply too high, and they’re doing everything they can to control that.

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

  1. Ritz Carlton Visa card from Chase also receives one free night award worth up to 50,000 points every year after their account anniversary.

  2. Ouch is right! But this hobby is cyclical so they’ll get people to “abandon” the program and burn all their points, and then come back around and do something like Delta (e.g. offer flights to Japan for 10,000 miles) after everyone has burned their points/miles.

  3. This program is racing to the bottom faster than even the most cynical expected, will be making plans accordingly.

  4. it seems like everything in UAE increased… was on the 2020 list to visit.
    on the other hand, some places I visit frequently in Asia are decreasing so that’s a plus.
    it is what it is

  5. Outside of transfers to Alaska, these points are worthless. Glad I redeemed all of mine shortly after the merger at 40-45k levels for the highest cat hotels.

    Now I just try and travel more in the shoulder seasons with cash or use Hyatt points in the peaks

  6. Ben. Would like to see your updated Marriott point valuation with all the recent changes. Been moving towards Hyatt recently and this will only help.

  7. What I’m suprised about is that out of the 68 hotels in China that changed categories, 44 of them went up. Was expecting for most to go down becasue of the coronavirus situation.

  8. The Category 5 to 6 changes in Vancouver and Vienna, combined with last years changes in San Francisco make the credit card nights increasingly difficult to use in places there you get great value.

  9. Raising prices in Hong Kong and Turkey?! They are really just raising prices because they can, those hotels will never be full.

  10. By far this shows how out of touch MR really is:

    Sheraton Grand Wuhan Hankou Hotel Sheraton China 2 3

    me thinks they can give rooms away for $0 and they still wont find many takers

  11. in all fairness, these category change requests from china was probably done all before January 2020. but marriott is too slow to adjust to current situations.

  12. Ben — I don’t have any reason to doubt that 89 percent number that you posted but it sure doesn’t seem that way to me. I’m finding great difficulty using my 35k cert on pretty much anything that seems like a good value for my annual fee for the card. I don’t doubt there are good category 4 properties out there but it always seems like the cash rate is usually so low that I don’t really care about the cert and every time I find a category 5 that might be nice it seems like it’s at the 40k level. With more 4s migrating to 5s I just don’t think these cards are keepers any longer. I guess people who travel frequently to places where the categories aren’t as high will find use for them, but that’s not my profile I guess.

  13. The epidemic has already been dragging down travel industries in many Asian countries and that will become a global problem if the situation cannot be contained quickly, and Marriott decides to do this at this moment…

  14. Changes are probably based on supply and demand analysis. Quick look into some countries show that. Argentina and Brazil which are going through a tough economy hotels went down in category. Italy has hotels in small cities going down and in big cities going up. Canada is all over the place depending on the hotel location. As someone said this is a cyclical business and if we are hit by a recession both airlines and hotels will basically beg for customers and have amazing promotions. When economy is hot they will take advantage. Nothing new here.

  15. Glad I am not invested in Marriott as a customer beyond a few free night certs and whatever points I have left from SPG. They’re too devalued to be worth my time any longer.

  16. This is a brutal devaluation. There is no other way to view it.
    Shame on Marriott.

    The credit card free night certs are mostly worthless to me.
    I am moving my valuation of Marriott points to $0.06cpp with this and will plan accordingly.

  17. @Mike, UAE is most likely due to the World Expo happening in Dubai from October 2020 to April 2021. I’ve locked in my stays with Hyatt for December in Dubai and Abu Dhabi because I expect them to have those all of those months on peak-pricing when they are being implemented into WoH in a couple weeks. Should they miraculously be off-peak, nothing to lose here since you can simply rebook for the lower award rates.

  18. At this rate, it won’t be long before a Marriott Point is worth the same as a Hilton or IHG Point….

  19. First thing I noticed is that my Ritz Carlton card 50k free night will now no longer get me a stay at a Ritz Carlton…unless I’m going to Cleveland, Westchester NY or Perth. I also have a list of about 40 hotels I care about that were Category 6 that I could use my free night at. Almost every one has changed to Category 7 now. My list of 40 hotels is now a list of 5 that are still 50k.

    They just basically lied to their members at that media event launching the new program. Within 2 years they did almost everything they said they weren’t going to do.

  20. Something nobody is saying: This is at least the 4th or 5th change since 2018. Marriott made changes in early or mid-2018 when the combined loyalty program was announced, further changes at the end of 2018, and then one or two additional changes in 2019. So, again, the 4th or 5th change in 2 years. You can partly blame all the points travelers bragging about hotels that were or are a bargain since most of us concur that the number of guests redeeming points at a property has some sort of impact on what category a hotel is placed into. Marriott could at least be transparent and explain the formula it uses in determining which category a hotel is classified under since a brand new hotel flagged as a Courtyard or Fairfield Inn can start at category 5 whereas there are existing Westin and Ritz-Carlton hotels classified as category 3.

  21. Either they need to lower the fee on their credit cards or increase the value of their annual night certs.

    Other than late checkout (which is inconsistently provided), I honestly have not noticed much a difference between having status and not having status with Marriott. The rebate component of their program continually becomes worthless and ever complicated.

    I’m tempted to focus on only Hyatt and Four Seasons. Hyatt has a much better rebate component and the points are easy to earn with the Chase UR cards. Four Season properties tend to value their repeat customers.

  22. The JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay Resort & Spa is going from a 5 to a 6. As a 5, I thought it was a pretty good value for what it is.

  23. Another exhibit on the list of reasons I’ve diversified away from points into direct cash back. Hyatt is the only of the big 3 hotel brands worth bothering with for award redemptions anymore. Almost always more value to be had in using cash back toward Airbnb stays.

    Kind of a bummer to watch the Marriott program value go down the toilet since the merger- hopefully Hyatt doesn’t get sucked down with it.

  24. increasing rates in Wuhan in hopes that so many people are gonna get stuck there for months maybe and want to take advantage haha. #BONVOYED

  25. AC Hotel in Asheville is a cat 7?!??! Cosmo in Vegas to a cat 8?! A lot of other big city increases to cat 7 too are just crazy. Nice properties for sure, but not worthy of a category 7.

  26. AC Hotel Asheville Downtown is a bummer – well-done hotel with a perfect location. Will likely switch to the new Kimpton there myself. Easier/cheaper to buy points.

  27. Seems like the only value left of the Marriott branded cards is the 15 elite night credit. Now that you can only get that benefit on one card per year, really no point to having multiple cards (personal, business, etc.).

    And to Jeff’s point above, it feels like the upside of having Platinum status is becoming of diminishing value lately.

  28. I complained to a property I frequent several times per year. This property went from a category 4 in 2018 to a category 5 to a category 6 in 2019 to a category 7 now. The general manager said this is 100% the decision of corporate Marriott. It should be noted that her property is NOT managed by Marriott. So if she is being honest it isn’t greedy owners.

  29. So why would corporate raise a franchise-operated hotel? Perhaps to protect the properties Marriott manages in the market. If other properties within the market NOT managed by Marriott are at a lower category then Marriott is losing revenue since Marriott makes MORE money at properties it manages.

  30. Lucky: it would be good to run some earn vs. burn analysis for Marriott after the merger. I know this would be difficult because many ambiguities but my personal feeling is that now Bonvoy is rather at the bottom vs other chains.

  31. I’ve just been through the list, and brutal is one way to put it. I’m amazed, though, that Domes Corfu in Greece remains unchanged at Cat 5. That was an obvious sweetspot when it joined the program last year, and its sister properties (Chania and Elounda) are now at Cat 8! Curious.

  32. It’s actually worse than it looks. The 22% increasing in price are all in major metros. New York and Boston are all going up a category across the board.

  33. Unless you want to waste points on a Courtyard or Moxy, basically every full-service hotel in London, Paris, Mexico, Hawaii and major cities in the United States, is now category 7 or category 8.

  34. What if a hotel is not listed on the redemption chart?

    I can’t see changes for the Residence Inn Nashville Vanderbilt/West End, or the Courtyard Zurich North.

  35. Definitely the worst I’ve seen.

    I generally find some of the best value at lower category properties, and even recently completed a 25-night “stay” on points at a cat 1 PointSavers hotel, mostly off-peak, to get my nights up for the year so I can requalify for Platinum quickly and cheaply (would be expiring at the end of this February otherwise) (just checked in, slept, and drove home lol, did it entirely for the elite nights). I planned on repeating this process every two years, plus the 15 credit card elite nights, plus the 10 for holding a meeting (which they also just discontinued this year without advance notice), for the needed total of 50 to keep Platinum.

    Well, I just searched for the category 1’s in all of the following states: IL, NC, OH, VA, WV, IN, GA, KY, MO, PA. There are currently 31 category 1’s in all those states combined – already a pretty narrow selection.

    Guess how many of those 31 are staying category 1?

    A whopping 3. All extremely basic Fairfield Inn & Suites: Jasper IN, Kinston NC, and Poplar Bluff MO.

    Marriott’s category 1 selection was already kind of a joke, but it seems like they’re trying to kill it off entirely with this new devaluation. And it’s going to be nearly impossible now to find one anywhere near where you’d actually want to travel that’s also a PointSavers property for the purpose of racking up nights cheaply. (I mean, maybe that’s intentional, but I can’t imagine that enough people actually plan ahead and go that route that it would be a big enough “problem” for Marriott to actively try to keep people from being able to do it – so I doubt that that’s their motivation here.)

    If you compare, say, Hyatt’s award chart with Marriott’s, even pre-devaluation (but especially post), it’s easy to see what a joke Marriott’s is. A cat 1 Hyatt corresponds to anywhere from a cat 1-4 Marriott in terms of quality and value. A cat 2 Hyatt is about a category 4-6 Marriott, and cat 3 is about category 6-7. It’s ridiculous…the only one worse than Marriott is Hilton, but it’s like they’re challenging them to a race to the bottom. Hyatt’s the only one left with actual mostly-honest evaluations of what award category their hotels belong in. If only they consistently had hotels everywhere I needed to travel, I’d just keep my Globalist status with them and not worry about status with a secondary brand at all. Who knows, maybe this will be the last year that I do anyway…

  36. This is it. Final straw for me, I’m moving to Hilton and Hyatt. Every hotel I regularly use is going up in category except for one. I will dump all my points into an extravagant week in Hawaii or something and move on, it’s time. I have had the spg card since 2007 and will also cancel the frankenstein version of what’s left of the original card I signed up for.

  37. I really hope American Express Platinum can consider switching World of Hyatt for Marriott Bonvoy as the Marriott Gold that we got is simply useless. Now they are increasing the points required to redeem for a free night and limit the award rooms available for redemption. This is just a useless program.

  38. This is terrible and definitely puts me over the top to get rid of my current Amex Bonvoy card. While my absolutely favorite Marriott isn’t on here (and I find that shocking) many of my other preferred properties have been hit. I had burned up all my points and was basically staying with my Amex to use my 35K cert once a year…now that’s turning out to be pointless.

    Think they might make the basic card certificate a 50K and give the premium cards a 60K?

  39. @Mike? Hawaii? Come on. Go to Southeast Asia. You can get some incredible properties in Indonesia and Malaysia for category 5-6 and below. Besides no resort fees, staff will wipe your butt or jump off a roof if you ask.

  40. that s ok, I stop staying wz them since last epidemics mess up 🙂

    They can do whatever they want. Im glad they are sinking their ship faster than expected. There r some people that good at talking….u know ‘Ill quit staying wz them’ yet they still staying at marriott and support their business.

    Until those people realize that they need to quit for real,not just talk, then marriott will feel nothing.

    If u wanna teach them a lesson, gotta hurt their business. So people need to wake up and start doing for real.

  41. I used to be a very loyal SPG member, and made the effort to get Lifetime PLAT in the first year after the Marriott acquisition so I have a “base level” of status when I have to stay at a Marriott property.

    But Bonvoy points have essentially become worthless and are no longer part of my purchase decision. These days, whenever I can, I take the unconditional 10% cashback from Hotels.com . Talk about value x choice.

  42. @ FNT I just got back from a two week trip to Myanmar and Vietnam. I’m aware of how nice it is there. Having someone wipe my butt or jump off a roof isn’t a goal of mine while visiting a foreign country. I have only been to Hawaii once for work and my wife has never been before, seems like a good points redemption to me.

  43. @Mike: Well, avoid Honolulu and Oahu. Waikiki is a concrete jungle and overrun. The North Shore of Oahu is nice but the only Marriott option is a Courtyard that is by the BYU campus and not on the beach. If you have to do Oahu, do one night at the Halekulani. It isn’t Marriott but it isn the nicest hotel on Oahu. La Mer, the restaurant, is amazing as is their bar L’Aperitif. I would skip Oahu, however, and instead go to the Big Island. The Westin and Mauna Kea, Autograph Collection are nice and neighbor each other.

  44. I’m not surprised. This was exactly what Marriott did before the Starwood merger. The cat 5 free night that came with the Marriott card was basically useful. And this is actually what is happening to Bonvoy. Basically Marriott is going back to being Marriott after a honeymoon period.

  45. Looks like I will using Booking.com, Hotel.com and AirBNB more often instead of using my Marriott /SPG Points. I own Starwood / Westin timeshare properties that I would use sometimes into SPG points. Since the merger with Marriott I have been doing that less. Marriott has not increased my points with Conversion, now they devalued my points and property options. I smell a class action suite coming to Marriott unless they balance things out.

  46. Umm… My beloved SPG did this every year. For example, NYC used to have quite a few Category 4 and 5 properties. 6 and 7 became the norm just before the acquisition. Maybe it wasn’t 30%, but I remember my anger waxing hot with them too every year. Also, very few hotels went down in category annually for SPG. Did folks forget this?

  47. I’m a casual traveler who used to be Starwood Gold, which is now Gold Elite, or whatever they call it. Under SPG, I got a 4 p.m. checkout, which was the biggest benefit to me. Weekend trip, stay out late, sleep in. After the merger, they dropped it to 2 p.m. The only real reason I’ve kept the AmEx is due to the free night and semi-decent award points. Now my “free” night won’t be at a hotel where I’d want to stay, and my point accumulation won’t buy me half of what it would before March 2020. Ridiculous.

  48. Sheraton CDG goes from Cat 5 to Cat 6, knocking out cert redemptions. Easy to deal with: Dump a Bonvoy Amex card and stop buying 25 euro club sandwiches.

    Oh, and wonder who The Points Guy will vote program of the year. (That was a joke).

  49. Marriott should freeze all category hikes (they can still go ahead with category reductions) in the current covid19 situation.

    That is the easiest and most practical thing to do. Hiking categories helps no one. Its plain silly to waste time (not mention wasting resources) to do a category hike now for anyone.

    Almost every hotel is reducing rates in hope of boosting a bit more occupancy. There is absolutely no justification in any hikes, and any properties that goes up in category will give customers an unfavorable impression (greedy, out of touch, etc).

    And ultimately, it does not look well on Marriott’s management expertise. It is absolutely the wrong time for any hikes.

  50. You know what? Screw loyalty. Buy the best package in the best room that you can afford, and forget about chasing shiny cards and the upgrade crap-shoot. The hotel chains are playing us all for suckers. Same goes for the airlines – find the best price in the best cabin you can afford and stop paying over the odds because you carry one particular airlines’ loyalty card. They don’t really value your loyalty. It’s a con.

  51. So it looks like my 50k certificate from the Bonvoy Brilliant are worthless. I just checked weekend dates in Philadelphia and I can’t even get a typical Marriott for 50k. They’re all 60k or above.

    You would think a premium Amex card with a 450 annual fee should give you access to even the standard Marriott.

  52. Between this massive point devaluation up and down the chart and the covid 19 Marriott will see most of their Bonvoy customers abandon Marriott. Points currently are worth less than .005 each.

  53. I was looking for a decent deal to use on points or a Marriott Card 35,000 point certificate, just to get outta the house and hit the beach in Clearwater/St Pete FL. The chart above showed the new rate for Category 3 in Peak of Season for 20,000 points, yet all rooms are 35,000… and Cat 4 hotels advertised at 30,000 are 50,000 points = OUTRAGEOUS! I had earned Platinum for Life over a 19-year IT career and Marriott was the best program for over a decade… sadly, no longer! I really feel betrayed, no other way to put it.

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