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Marriott Announces 2020 Hotel Category Changes and It’s Bad News

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On Wednesday, Marriott Hotels released its list of 2020 hotel category changes that will go into effect on March 4, 2020, and it is bad news.

While it is normal for hotel brands to adjust the award categories for their properties each year, there is no other way to spin this one than a huge devaluation.

Roughly 29% of the properties in the Marriott portfolio will be changing categories. 22% of those are going up a category and increasing in price while only 7% are going down a category and decreasing in price. 

See the full list of Marriott award category changes here


What This Means for Travelers

Devaluations are nothing new to the points and miles world. It is why we preach diversifying your points balances across multiple accounts and focusing on flexible points programs. Because when these devaluations ultimately hit, they will sting less if you have more ways to use them. They're also another reason why being a status free agent is often times the best option.

By Marriott increasing the hotel category on 22% of the properties in their portfolio, it essentially means it will now cost more Marriott Bonvoy points to book a room at the same hotel come March 4, 2020. If you have an upcoming Marriott award stay, you may want to book before March 4 to lock yourself in at the lower rate. 

And if you hold a co-branded Marriott credit card that offers a free anniversary night certificate for properties costing either 35k or 50k points per night (depending on the card) you will lose the ability to book a category 5 hotel that moves to a 6 on a standard pricing night. You'd have to book one of these properties during an off-peak time – a pricing structure Marriott introduced last year.

See Marriott's award chart below.


marriott hotel category changes


Take for example the Renaissance Chicago Downtown Hotel. This is currently a category 5 hotel that will be moving up to category 6 on March 4. That means a standard night will now cost 50,000 points instead of the 35,000 points it currently costs.

Further, you will no longer be able to use your free award night certificate for a standard night at the property unless it's the free night that comes with the Amex Bonvoy Brilliant Card, which is redeemable for properties costing 50k points or less.

This is just one example of many. See the full list here.


Our Analysis

Marriott just can't seem to get out of their own way, and program devaluations have seemed constant lately.

Earlier this week, Marriott introduced capacity controls on award stays. This essentially means their hotels don't need to make standard rooms available using points on all nights of the year, which was first reported by View from the Wing. This policy is on top of the peak and off-peak pricing that went into effect late last year. Said simply, they are making it harder to use your Bonvoy points.

And with these new category changes, it might be in your best interest to book your Marriott award stay before March 4, 2020, depending on the property. If your hotel is going up a category, it will cost you more points to book the same stay after March 4. And if your property is moving down a category, booking after March 4 will, of course, save you points.

Anything booked before March 4 will be honored at the current pricing.


Bottom Line

Marriott is making it harder to use your Bonvoy points.

Roughly 29% of the hotels in Marriott's portfolio will be changing categories on March 4, 2020. 22% of those will be going up a category which means they will cost more points to book. And while category changes are all but a guarantee from hotel brands, ones of this scale certainly sting.

If you have an upcoming award stay with Marriott, check the full list of changes here. Booking before the 4th of March could save you points.


Lead photo courtesy of Marriott Hotels

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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