If you are a member of Starwood Preferred Guest and/or Marriott Rewards, now is the time to start thinking about the future. Each year the major hotel chains move a large number of hotels from one award category to another. Some hotels might move down a category, but generally more hotels move up a category or two. Over time, the trend is inflationary. i.e. more hotels move up than down. Category changes aren’t great, but they do help to avoid more substantial devaluations by letting the hotel chains stick with the same award charts over time.
Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest are clearly working together. Their changes will be implemented on the same date this year – 7 March, 2017. You have a bit less than two weeks, therefore, to book any hotels that are moving up in category. (if you are interested in a hotel dropping a category, then obviously you should wait until after 7 March – or book now, cancel and then re-book later if you are concerned about award availability)
The list of Starwood Preferred Guest hotels changing category can be found here. As usual, the trend in China and India is downwards, whilst in select other countries the reverse applies. Very clearly Canadian hotels are badly hit. I find this hard to understand given the relative weakness of the Canadian dollar, but you can always aim for a Best Rate Guarantee if the cost using points appears to high relative to the cash price.
You will want to pay particularly close attention to hotels that are changing from category 5 to category 6 (or higher). Category 5 is the cut-off for the cheapest, and therefore most attractive, Marriott Rewards Travel Package, which I write about here on InsideFlyer UK.
As you hopefully know by now, you can transfer your points between Starwood Preferred Guest and Marriott Rewards on a 1:3 basis. You will also receive a status match when linking your accounts.
If you are interested in staying at any of the hotels changing category, make sure to book your stay before 7 March, 2017. Except for rare circumstances, you will get your points refunded if you subsequently cancel your reservation. So there’s no harm making speculative hotel bookings if your plans aren’t yet firm. However, if you change the dates of your reservation after 7 March, you will have to pay the updated pricing based on the new award category.