Thanks to r/churning and /u/nimbus29 for the heads up. Starwood and Marriott both released their award category changes for the 2017 year. This comes into effect March 7th of the year. Thus, be sure to check the change lists to see if the hotels you plan to book go up or down in category. Book accordingly – if the category goes down, wait until 3/7, if it will go up, then book immediately! The last thing you want to be is caught off guard come March and find out you do not have enough points for that trip you were eyeing.
Category Changes Premise
This is simply my opinion, but I believe the hotels regularly revalue their point systems, trying to match supply and demand appropriately. Thus, if they see a high amount of award redemptions for a particular hotel, signifying high demand or a good value, they will raise the category (and points price) accordingly. Similarly, if the demand is low for a particular hotel and their award redemptions, they will likewise lower the category to adjust. This does not affect the standard cash rates (I believe), just the Points and Points + Cash costs. Starwood link here and Marriott link here.
Marriott Changes and Analysis
The 2017 Marriott Rewards Category/Tier Update affects a broad swath of hotels, with a majority (again!) representing an increase in category. There are roughly a thousand hotels on the list, with 560 of them located in the United States. However, the ones I’ve stayed at previously and have booked for this year (thank you weddings) have not changed.
On March 7, 2017, 23% of our hotels and resorts will change category. This year, of those that are changing, 60% will move up and 40% will move down.
You can review the preliminary list now and plan how to maximize your Marriott Rewards® points. Then decide if you’d like to redeem your points prior to or after the changes take place on March 7, 2017.
As my experience and familiarity is with Starwood, that is where I will spend the most time looking. Additionally, a bump in Marriott category represents a measly 5,000 point increase. This is equivalent to 1,666 Starpoints, and so it’s likely to not make a tremendous difference for my travels.
Starwood Changes and Analysis
Starwood has a smaller portfolio, and a decent mix of hotels going up and down in category. Of the 325 on the current list, 116 are in the North America (36%), with 63 of those in the United States (19% of the total).
Again, none of the hotels I will stay at this year have changed in category, so these changes largely escape me. However, this may pose problematic for travelers as the difference in category is much larger for Starwood than Marriott.
For example, while a category 1 to 2 is only a 1,000 Starpoint difference, a category 6 at 20,000 jumping to a category 7 at 30,000 points is a 10,000 difference! Realistically, you should see about a 3,000-6,000 or so difference, with the most common ones being 4,000-5,000. These are categories 4 to 5, 5 to 6, and 6 to 7.
Per the Starwood site:
Our annual category changes will take effect on March 7, 2017. Take a moment to review these changes now to maximize your Starpoints®. If your favorite hotel or resort is moving up to a higher category, you can still book now at the current redemption rate before the 2017 category changes go into effect. Please note that the hotels and resorts listed below are only the hotels and resorts with category changes and are subject to change.
Additionally, the Starwood site has a quick Search function – by country, name, city, region, category, etc. This is especially helpful for those looking at future target hotels.
One interesting point to note is Starwood is continuing to shave its United States category 1 hotels. Two years ago there were four, all located near random city airports. Last year they cut one, and this year they are cutting another (Four Points by Sheraton Detroit Metro Airport). This only leaves two category 1 hotels in the US, which cost just 2,000 points on a weekend night. I have yet to experience these last two, the Tuscon, AZ, and Kansas City, MO Four Points.
With not-even-four weeks to quickly research your targets for future travel plans, Starwood and Marriott have compressed their change schedules and timelines. Be sure to check where you have already booked – perhaps it went down a category or two, saving you plenty in points. If it will go up on March 7th, be sure to book before then! These companies will continue to make adjustments and revalue their programs, and we must stay on top of them. Lastly, please note that these are not final and may change, up to and closer to March 7th.
What do you think of my analysis? Let me know in the comments, or reach me directly at TheHotelion@gmail.com! Like my posts? See more here, on TravelUpdate! Follow me on Facebook (The Hotelion) or on Twitter and Instagram: @TheHotelion