Marriott’s acquisition of Starwood has been messy, with horrendous IT issues and a data breach. However, one positive benefit available is hotel pricing at lower rates on top-tier properties. Until March 5th 2019, hotels in the highest category are in Category 7, which costs 60,000 Marriott points per night. Peak and off-peak pricing is also delayed until that point. The highest tier properties that formerly part of Starwood cost the equivalent of 90,000-105,000 Marriott points per night.
Marriott Bonvoy Category 8
The easiest way to earn Marriott points in Canada is through American Express Credit Cards. The Starwood Preferred Guest American Express and Starwood Business American Express both have a signup bonus of 50,000 points each after completing minimum spend. They earn 2 points per dollar on most everyday purchases. The American Express Cobalt Card has Marriott as a transfer partner, with a 1:1.2 ratio. What makes this card special is its category bonus of 5x points on Dining and Groceries, with no limit. With just a few steps, you can manufacture spend to earn the equivalent of 6x Marriott points on all your purchases.
Additional Reading: Getting 4% Back on All Your Purchases
These redemptions have had a very high cent per mile value. Once Marriott adjusts their hotel pricing, Category 8 properties will require up to 40,000 more points per night. There are less than four weeks left to secure some of the best hotels in the world at a steep discount. Hotels open up inventory up to roughly 50 weeks in advance, so you could book all the stays you need through February 15th, 2020.
The consolidated Marriott Bonvoy award chart has eight categories.
Marriott also has Points Advance, which lets you book stays without currently having the points in your account. However, Marriott has not clarified whether Points Advance reservations will be honoured at existing rates. Regardless, the combined program still has IT flaws. With one of my redemptions, the system automatically deducted points even though I booked a Points Advance reservation, making my account balance negative.
A complete list of Category 8 properties that will rise to 85,000 points is listed on the Marriott website. Marriott offers the fifth night free on redemptions, so the cost of each night could be as low as 48,000 points per night. You could easily get upwards of two cents in retail value per point at many properties. Nonetheless, I would always check the costs of other comparable hotels. Even though 60,000 points per night is a very good deal, I don’t think it is worth it at certain properties in Paris and Tokyo, for example.
Because I have Platinum Premier status (now Bonvoy Titanium), I avoid Design hotels and properties not generous with benefits.
Marriott Category 8 Hotels Highlights
While I have been to Japan several times,
I have not yet made it to Kyoto (I have since the first draft of this post). There are two Category 7 properties in Kyoto. Both are absolutely stunning. Sky-high rates at this Ritz-Carlton makes it an ideal option on points. Breakfast was also complimentary on my stay, which was nice. Rates start at $747 USD.
Al Maha, a Luxury Collection Resort
I booked Al Maha back when Starwood was offering a promotion on resort properties. I really enjoyed my time and they are one of the few luxury properties that are all inclusive – most food and activities are free even with points. Rates start at $913 USD.
St. Regis Bora Bora
I have never been to French Polynesia partly because getting there (with miles) is a little tricky. Availability has been a bit scarce so I am looking to book a longer stay if space opens up. You need to take a boat transfer to the property, but it will be less costly than the Maldives, for instance. Rates start at $1,080 USD.
The Category 8 redemptions at Category 7 prices have been truly enjoyable. This is one of the best ways to get elegant accommodations without any out of pocket cost. Again, the award chart will change March 5th, 2019. Reservations made before then will be honoured at the lower price; changes will likely incur the new difference. If you haven’t already gotten the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express, you should. It is by far the best hotel credit card in Canada. Since you get elite credit and a free night worth up to 35,000 points each year, it is worth keeping long term.
What Marriott Category 8 properties have you stayed at?