Starwood and Marriott announced their category changes last month, which come into effect March 6, 2018. There are only a few days left to lock in the lower rates. For Canadians, the only way to earn Marriott and SPG points directly is through the SPG American Express Card and SPG Business American Express Card.
Starwood – 276 Properties Changing in Category
The SPG changes are not too bad. Roughly half of the properties are going up in category, while the other half is going down. Sadly, one of the best redemptions out there – the Westin Whistler, is moving from a Category 5 to 6. It’s a phenomenal value during peak ski season, so you still have the chance to look in lower rates for next year.
I’m happy that a good variety of properties are coming down. You have hotels like the St Regis Dubai, W Las Vegas, Le Meridien Seoul, Sheraton Zurich, and many others that all decrease in category March 6th.
These changes would not be significant because of the upcoming merger. However, it looks like the SPG program will be sticking around a little longer as there have been few announcements on aligning loyalty programs further, especially involving elite benefits.
Review the SPG Category Changes here.
Marriott – 1,330 Properties Changing in Category
I never had much faith in Marriott points, and I’m not entirely surprised with the cuts they dealt this time. This year, 1,330 properties are changing category. A whopping 80% of properties are going up, with only 20% of properties going down. This has consistently been the trend. Each time, the award chart becomes more ridiculous.
You now have properties like the Residence Inn St. Petersburg that are Category 9 properties, requiring 45,000 Marriott points a night. As well, there are fewer reasonable Category 5 hotels available. One of the favourites of many members, the JW Marriott Phu Quoc, which will now be Category 6. This is fine if you are redeeming points outright or booking Hotel and Air packages, but it will be crappy for those using their free night Cat 1-5 certificates.
Unfortunately, I can only see these devaluations getting worse, as the transfer ratio skews Marriott hotel prices. The highest Marriott Category 9 Property cost 45,000 points, and a Ritz-Carlton Tier 5 properties 70,000 points a night. At the 1:3 ratio, thats only 15,000 SPG and 23,333 SPG a night. SPG Category 6 and 7 properties require 20,000-35,000+ points, so the disparity is quite apparent.
Review the Marriott Category Changes here.
SPG and Marriott are tremendously diverse chains in terms of their credit card offerings and elite status benefits, so presumably we’d see those align (along with award prices) soon. One merger that I’m interested in watching is Fairmont and Accor.
Fairmont President’s Club was a significantly more rewarding program than Accor Hotels. Now, Fairmont Hotels is staying around as a brand, but President’s Club is not. The parallel is that Starwood Platinum is much more valuable than Marriott Platinum.
If I was to hesitate a guess – the new “Platinum” will require 60 nights, matching Hyatt and Hilton. Then, there could be a Platinum- status for those with 30 stays, and a Platinum+ status (like SPG P50, P75, and P100) for those with more than 60 nights. We’ll see.