Marriott category changes on 3/3/21: Pretty mild

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Marriott Bonvoy has announced that category changes are coming on March 3, 2021. My first-glance take is that the changes don’t actually look that bad. I see a lot of properties decreasing in price and relatively limited circumstances where increases will put properties out of reach of free night certificate stays, so as category changes go this looks about as good as one could expect. Of course, during a global pandemic in which travel has seen such a drastic decrease, one might not expect any hotel category increases, but the truth is that we see these every year and this year’s are mild.

Want to see the news visually? Here’s our spreadsheet

Greg created a handy spreadsheet that is easily searchable / sortable and visual. Here is a link to open it and play with it as you see fit or have a look through below:

Again, a first glance there shows a lot more green “down” boxes than red “up” boxes, so the news really isn’t bad here.

Only two USA Category 1 hotels move up to Category 2

Those intent on mattress running toward Marriott elite status will be happy to know that only two US Category 1 properties are moving up to Category 2: The Fairfield Inn & Suites Jasper and the Fairfield Inn & Suites Williamstown. Not surprisingly, both are located in outdoorsy locales which are likely seeing an increase in interest given the current environment. I believe that the Williamstown location is newly-opened this year (I don’t know about Jasper). The Williamstown Fairfield is reasonably close to a Simon Mall and as such I was thinking that it might replace the Category 1 Marriott I used to stay at sometimes on weekend mall runs that moved up from Category 1 to Category 2 last year, but alas it wasn’t meant to be.

If you were intending a mattress run involving either of those properties, you’ll want to book now to lock in the rate (and then keep an eye on your reservation and make sure you don’t get overcharged).

Category 5 to Category 6: Bye-bye 35K certificates

One of the category changes that interested me the most was to see which properties are increasing from Category 5 to Category 6 since these properties will move from 35K standard pricing to 50K standard pricing, which is both a huge jump (43% higher) and puts them out of reach with the 35K certificates that come with many Marriott credit cards.

I was happy to see that only 4 properties in the USA are making this move, with two of them in Ocean City, Maryland.

Out of the other two, one is the Sheraton Kauai Coconut Beach. That one hurts. We had previously reported this as a Category 4 25K property in 2019. Then, it increased to Category 5 in October 2019 (35K standard). Now, it is moving to Category 6 (50K standard). That’s an increase of double the number of points per night in less than a year a year an a half. That’s disappointing to see as someone who was saving up points a year and a half ago for this property (and who likely had to put off a stay during the pandemic) is now looking at needing double the points for that trip. Ouch.

Category 6 to Category 5: Hello 35K certs

The good news is that there are more properties moving down from Category 6 to Category 5, including a couple of Autograph Collection properties in the US. Of course, that looks good on the surface but won’t mean much practically if they price them at “peak” 40K rates. But in the current environment, it should be possible to get some nice places on your 35K certs.

Here are the US properties that move from Category 6 to Category 5:

A couple of non-US hotels that move down from Cat 6 to Cat 5 that may be of particular interest include:

Bad news: Book these properties with 50K certs while you can

Only 3 properties move up from Category 6 to Category 7, with none of them in the US. This category change means that these three hotels will no longer be bookable with the 50K certificates that come with the Ritz-Carlton credit card or Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant. You can book these before March 3rd for stays after March 3rd at the current rates (though any subsequent change after March 3rd will re-price).

That’s not such a painful list.

At the other end of this spectrum, two properties move down from Category 7 to Category 6, the Grand Hotel Suisse Majestic, Autograph Collection and the JW Marriott Parq Vancouver, so you will soon be able to book those with 50K certs. I haven’t looked at cash rates at either, but a 50K cert to stay on a lake in Switzerland sounds like it’s probably pretty good based on my experience with Swiss prices.

Bottom line

The new Marriott category changes aren’t really bad at all. Sure, there are some properties going up and it’s always painful to see a property you like or visit often go up in category. But as a whole, this is a mild set of category changes. That should be expected in the current environment. Truthfully, I’d prefer not to see any increases in category given the current circumstances and I think that many more properties should decrease in award rate, but it’s rare that we have a category changes post with 3 or 4 properties making key changes that affect free night certificate status and as such I take it as a net win that we didn’t lose more. Overall, I’d say the news here was as good as one could reasonably expect — or at least as not-bad as one could hope for it to be.

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