Marriott Rewards recently announced their yearly hotel reward category adjustments which will take effect for award stays booked on or after March 19, 2015.  Most of the changes are negative for Marriott Rewards members and I definitely consider this a devaluation since 27% of Marriott’s total properties are going up a category.

These changes do not impact the number of points required per free night at a certain category of hotels, but the hotels moving categories results in an increase or decrease in the number of points required to redeem an award night.

How Many Hotels Are Affected:

Marriott’s announcement tries to minimize the number and magnitude of changes. It points out that:

64% of the properties remain unchanged
64% of the programs properties will remain in Categories 1-4
36% of the hotels are changing; of these 25% are decreasing by one category and 75% are increasing by one category

As mentioned in the statement, the vast majority (75%) of hotels changing categories are increasing by a category. This means 27 percent (27%) of Marriott’s total properties are going up at a category.

Why These Category Changes Can be Considered a Devaluation:

Hotel award category changes are regular occurrences-like other major hotel chains, Marriott periodically adjusts the hotels within each of its award categories. However, this is a major change because 75% of hotels changing categories are increasing. (By comparison, SPG’s recent category changes had slightly more hotels moving down a category than moving up a category.)  As a result of these changes, 27% of all Marriott properties are moving up a category therefore requiring more points to book free award nights.

While the difference in points required for an increase of one category is not that big (a Marriott hotel moving a category is a difference of 5,000 points), this affects anyone holding free night stay certificates that can be used at Category 1-4 hotels and Category 1-5 hotels.  Many properties are moving from up from category 4 to 5 or from category 5 to 6.

Which Hotels Are Affected:

The hotels changing categories are listed on a 35 page pdf document.  The first 9 pages of the pdf are the hotels going down a category and the remaining pages are hotels going up a category.  Just a warning, the list is horribly organized and very hard to read.

The properties are listed by hotel name and are in approximate alphabetical order by city name.  Sometimes the hotels are out of alphabetical order.  Hotels in suburbs are usually listed near the hotels of the major city they are nearby and in a few instances a city is randomly listed out of order.

What makes the list even harder to read is that the state or country of the property is not listed-the only indication of the geographical location is the city name included in the name of the property.  This makes it harder to notice properties in less well known cities.  It is also hard to spot properties in cities where there is only one hotel affected.

The best way to look at the list is to use the find feature to search for any specific properties you are interested in. There is no way to search by state, country or region.

In looking at the pdf, I noticed a few trends.  The majority of properties changing categories are in the United States.

In terms of the few properties going down a category, some cities with multiple properties being reduced include: Atlanta, Birmingham, Charlotte, Columbus, Fayetteville, Fort Lauderdale, Jackson, Little Rock, Orlando, Omaha, Philadelphia, Richmond, Rochester, St. Louis, Tucson and Moscow, Russia.

In the large list of properties going up a category, the areas that were hit hardest with multiple properties going up a category include: Boston, Denver, Miami, Los Angeles/Orange County, San Francisco/Bay Area and Austin.

Other areas in the US with a lot of Marriott hotels going up a category include: Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Charleston, Cleveland, Charlotte, Columbus, Colorado Springs, DC, Detroit, Fort Lauderdale, Indianapolis, Houston, Lexington, Louisville, Kansas City, Memphis, Minneapolis, New Orleans, New York City area, Nashville, Portland, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Providence, Portland, San Diego, Sacramento,  San Antonio, Savannah, Seattle, South Bend, Tampa, Tallahassee and Virginia Beach.

Some international cities negatively affected (although to lesser degree) include Hong Kong, Shanghai and Berlin.

EDITION hotels in Istanbul, London and Miami Beach are changing from Marriott to Ritz Carlton.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, 27 percent (27%) of Marriott’s total properties will be moving up a category and you have until March 18, 2015 to make any bookings at the current award rates. Bookings can be made up to 50 weeks in advance of your stay, even before having the required points in your account.

If you are Marriott Rewards member with points to use or have free night certificates, you might want to take a look at the pdf and consider making an award booking on or before March 18 if any hotels you plan to stay at will be going up a category. This is especially the case if you have any free night stay certificates as a lot of hotels will be moving up from Categories 4 and 5.  The list is hard to read so I recommend you search for specific properties you are interested in.

Any Marriott Rewards members, let us know your thoughts in the comments below. Will you be booking any Marriott hotels before March 19?

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