Reminder: Starwood cash & points devaluation and category changes kick in on March 5!

Just a quick reminder that Starwood is making two big changes to their program this coming Tuesday, March 5. First, they’ll be substantially increasing the cost of cash & points bookings, and second their 2013 hotel category changes will go into effect as well. In both cases you can make bookings before Tuesday for stays into the future and still qualify for the old prices. I’d highly recommend making speculative bookings if you’re planning on using cash & points or plan on booking a hotel that will go up in category this year. In most cases reservations can be canceled up until a couple of days before arrival, so you have nothing to lose by locking in a booking now.

Cost of cash & points going up by 20-25%

One of the very best values of the Starwood Preferred Guest program is cash & points, which offers substantial discounts when paying part cash and part points. It’s worth noting that cash & points has always been capacity controlled, while outright points redemptions aren’t (as long as a standard room is available you can redeem points for it).

They’re changing the redemption levels as of March 5, and adding the ability to redeem cash & points for premium rooms and suites, and also apparently improving the amount of cash & points availability.

To recap, here’s their current cash & points chart:

Here’s their new cash & points chart:

And here’s their outright points redemption chart:

This is more or less a 25% increase in the number of points needed for a cash & points redemption, with the exception of category seven properties, which were overpriced with cash & points to begin with.

Even if cash & points were always available now, I still think this is a huge devaluation, but to each their own.

2013 hotel category changes

Starwood adjusts their hotel categories annually, whereby some hotels move up in categories while others move down. This is reasonable and reflects the room rates and occupancy at properties, so just like revenue rates can vary, so can points rates. That being said, over 200 hotels are going up in price, while fewer than 50 hotels are going down in price. So while this could generally reflect the recovering hotel market, there’s no denying we have less “buying power” with our points, so it is a devaluation/deflation of our points. Just as cash is worth less when there’s inflation.

You can find a listing of hotels that are changing categories here.

Make those bookings, folks!

Comments

  1. Michael says

    One more question: If I book cash and points now and later on need to change the date will they honor the original rate?

  2. lucky says

    @ Michael — If you need to change dates you’ll be charged the new rates unfortunately.

    It’s tough to say what the best deal is with cash & points since it’s capacity controlled and very much depends on what the revenue rates would be. Generally I find category four and five properties to be the best value on cash & points, though.

  3. Michael says

    that’s a bummer. Kinda makes hypothetical bookings worthless if you don’t have exact dates nailed down.

  4. Barry says

    I wonder if one reason capacity is so tight is because of Starwood’s risk free reservation policy. In this case, Starwood benefits when speculative bookings use all the C&P capacity now, and then release it when the rates have gone up.

  5. David says

    Do you think that the upgraded rooms and suites will be available for online booking on March 5? I find good values for these redemptions, especially for this former SPG Plat member.

  6. lucky says

    @ David — I would hope so, though I wouldn’t be surprised if they could only be booked by phone, similar to how outright points reservations for premium rooms and suites have to be booked over the phone.

  7. UAPhil says

    When you change a cash and points (or pure points) booking, Starwood cancels the old booking and makes a complete new booking. That means that, if your old and new dates overlap, and inventory is no longer available for any of the “overlap” dates, you can lose the entire booking. Beware!! (I sometimes make multiple shorter bookings to protect myself on a long stay if my plans are subject to change.)

  8. BFrankley says

    Thanks for the reminder. I just gambled 40k points on sticking it to them before they stick it to us.

  9. lucky says

    @ jon — That’s right around the breakeven point. I’d probably spend the cash, but it’s not a compelling deal either way.

  10. Michael says

    If you are trying to make a redemption for a hotel in Asia that is changing category at the old rate you won’t be able to anymore because it is already 3/5 over there. Real bummer

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