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Marriott has announced its annual devaluation and while it’s not as bad as last year’s, it doesn’t make for happy reading if you have any 25,000 or 35,000 point certificates to use from your Marriott and/or SPG credit cards. That’s because there will be 120 fewer properties you can use those certificates at starting from next month.
You can find the full list of 2019 category changes here, with those changes going into effect on March 5. That gives you a few weeks to book before the points requirement increases. In total, 4% of Marriott’s portfolio will be going up a category, while 1% will be going down a category.
Credit Card Anniversary Nights
The Marriott and SPG credit cards all come with an annual free night after your first cardholder year. The value of these will be decreasing as there will be fewer hotels at which they can be used.
Some of the credit cards come with an annual free night at category 1-4 properties costing up to 25,000 points per night. With these changes coming on March 5, 2019, 63 hotels will be increasing from category 4 to 5, while only 12 will be decreasing from category 5 to 4. That means you’ll have 51 fewer properties to choose from. This includes many downtown hotels in large cities like New York, Chicago and Bangkok – locations where you could get excellent value from having the free night certificate.
If you’ve applied for a new card or had one renewed since last August, you should be sitting on a certificate for a free night at a category 1-5 hotel costing up to 35,000 points per night. These free nights are being hit even harder. 72 properties will be increasing from category 5 to 6, while only 3 will be decreasing from 6 to 5. That means there will be 69 fewer properties you can use your category 1-5 free night at.
March 5 also brings the introduction of the category 8 tier requiring 85,000 points per night. There will be 62 hotels included in this category, although only 9 of them are included on the list we’ve linked to above. That’s because most of them have already been allocated at category 8 properties but had been charged at the category 7 level up until now. If you want to see which properties are already allocated as category 8, check out this list and click the ‘Current Award Category’ column a couple of times to sort it so that the category 8 properties are listed first.
If you’re planning on taking advantage of Marriott’s Points Advance feature to book those (or any other) properties now, then beware.
Lucky at OMaaT has noted that if you make a reservation at the lower cost now but won’t have the points to pay for it until after March 5, you’ll be charged at the new – higher – category level. That could leave you needing to pay for tens or hundreds of thousands of points you hadn’t budgeted for. If you’ll be in that scenario, it might therefore be worth purchasing the points before March 5 to ensure you don’t get hit with an unexpected points bill. Update: View from the Wing has verified that bookings made via Points Advance will maintain the rate from the time of booking. In other words, it is possible to lock in the current category now and earn the points to cover it later. See this post for more.
Keep Or Cancel?
Between my wife and I, we have five Marriott and SPG cards. I’d been planning on keeping them all, assuming we’d be able to get good value from them each year by using them for stays in larger cities downtown. With Marriott giving us 120 fewer hotels that these certificates can be used at, this devaluation has me rethinking that plan.
Paying ~$500 per year in annual fees now seems less appealing, especially since taking advantage of Amex Offers on the SPG cards won’t help offset their annual fees anymore. To clarify that latter point, that’s due to the ‘one card per Amex Offer’ restrictions that went in place last year. Other than Marriott Amex Offers, there’s rarely any value in loading an Amex Offer to an SPG credit card now.
How about you? Are these category changes going to result in you cancelling any of your cards, or are there still enough category 1-4 / 1-5 properties that make keeping them worth your while? Let us know in the comments below.