Starwood’s 2015 Hotel Category Adjustments

Every year Starwood has a hotel category adjustment, whereby they change the categories that some properties belong to. For a bit of context, here are the category changes from recent years:

In other words, Starwood isn’t changing the number of points required per free night redemption at a particular category of hotel, but rather is adjusting which hotels belong to which categories.

As a reminder, Starwood has seven hotel categories, with free night redemptions priced as follows:


As I’ve explained in the past, these adjustments aren’t based on the quality of the hotel as such, but rather based on the anticipated average daily rate and occupancy for the year. Often these category changes have more to do with the market as opposed to the specific property.

The category changes kick in for bookings made on or after March 10, 2015.

This year’s changes actually look quite good:

  • 22% of hotels are changing categories
  • 10.49% of hotels are moving up in category
  • 11.78% of hotels are moving down in category

The St. Regis San Francisco is going from a Category 6 to 7 property

Of course whether these changes are positive or negative is highly dependent on your specific travel patterns. In other words, if a hotel you frequent goes up or down in category you might be greatly impacted by these changes, or there’s a chance you don’t usually redeem at the properties that are impacted by the adjustment.

It is interesting to look at the trends for the increases and decreases we’re seeing:

  • Hotels moving up in category: a vast majority of increases are in North America, along with a decent number in Asia/Pacific (literally not a single hotel in Europe is going up in price)
  • Hotels moving down in category: most decreases are in Asia/Pacific and Europe, and there are also a good number in Latin America and North America

In looking at the category changes, I notice quite a few hotels I’ve stayed at over the past couple of years, including the following:

Suite at Le Meridien Cairo Airport — category going down is all the more reason to move there!

If you book a hotel that’s going up in category, be sure to book before March 10, 2015, as you can still pay the old rates that way. If you’ve booked a hotel that’s going down in category, simply rebook after March 10, 2015, though make sure there’s award availability before you do so (Starwood won’t otherwise automatically refund the difference in points).

Bottom line

Objectively these changes are more or less neutral, given that roughly the same number of properties are going up and down in category.

How these changes impact you depend entirely on which properties you redeem at. I can’t help but notice that a lot of the properties changing categories are very seasonal. For example, take the St. Regis Saadiyat Island, for example. In winter rates are quite high there, while in summer they’ll basically pay you to stay there, given how hot it is.

With the changes a lot of hotels are still great value on points during peak season, while in the off season you’re better off paying cash (which has always been the case).

How do you feel about SPG’s 2015 category adjustments — are any hotels you frequent going up or down in category?


  1. Based on your assessment of location sounds like this has more to do with the strong US dollar or it might have at least limited increased we might have seen otherwise.

    Surprised SF St Reg wasn’t already a cat 7. It is almost never cheaper than 450/night even on a weekend.

  2. Great for me. Have 2 weekend nights at Four Points Sheraton Barcelona. Going from 3 to 2, which also means 2 weekend nights will only cost me 3,000 points night, instead of 7,000.

  3. If you’re planning a trip to California and plan to use SPG points, better make your reservations before March 10th.

  4. Maybe somebody can explain it to me.

    These redemptions don’t look very valuable to me compared to airline miles. In a typical chain hotel (category two to four) you pay US$100 a night or about one to two cents per point value. Airline coach tickets go for about two cents and business class five cents per point.

    Unlike the hotels where cheaper offerings and quirkier ones are available at similar or better values based on a little research, airlines don’t have low cost competition — at least not on international routes. And people who collect points love to do research and try quirky local things. IT seems like airfare is a better use of your points and spend in every way.

    So why blow points on cookie cutter chain hotels?

  5. As an example, I just looked up the fanciest hotel I’ve ever stayed at — though not nearly the most expensive. The Hilton Waikoloa Village costs US$229 a night and this is high season. I recall spending more than twice that, so maybe it’s a deal or it has become run down in the past decade. In any case, they want 50,000 Hilton points a night. That’s not a good value for points.

    Next time I want to ride the hotel’s private light rail to the artificial lagoon to swim with the dolphins, sea turtles, and sharks I’ll save my points for the ride and just pay for that room in cash.

  6. I wish I had more trips to Europe or Canada planned this year, instead of ones to Boston and the Bay Area, where properties like the Aloft Cupertino is now a Cat 5 and the Four Points Logan airport is a shocking Cat 4! *sigh*

  7. Not particularly happy as 13 hotels in Texas are going up and nothing going down: 6 hotels in Houston, 4 hotels in Dallas/Fort Worth area, 1 in Austin, 1 in San Antonio, 1 in College Station.

    Although, California has it even worse (+21/-2)… Good time to visit Europe though, I suppose.

    About the only place in the US going down is Hawaii. Three hotels in Maui are going down: Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa (6 to 5), The Westin Ka’anapali Ocean Resort Villas (7 to 6), The Westin Maui Resort & Spa, Ka’anapali (6 to 5).

  8. Not a fan based on my personal affinity for domestic lower-category hotels. The one cat 1 here in Florida is disappearing, and most of the cat 2 options are moving up to cat 3. Huge lower-end domestic devaluation, but good news for European travelers I suppose.

  9. Hey, Lucky’s favorite hotel (Sheraton Skyline) is dropping from 3 to 2. That’s actually an amazing deal!!

  10. Since when exactly is Tunisia in Europe?! 😀


  11. @ B — You’re exactly right, and the ability to convert Starpoints into airline miles is one of the things that makes them so valuable. That being said, I do think there are valuable hotel redemptions as well. For example, take a hotel stay in Venice or London or Paris or Rome in peak season, where a decent hotel costs you a LOT more than $100. There’s value in redeeming points there, in my opinion.

  12. If I currently have a points-based reservation at a hotel which is going down in category, will they rebook it at the lower rate?

  13. @ Brian — Yes, you’d have to rebook, so you’d get the points refunded and then could book again. You just have to be outside the cancellation window and be sure that there’s still award availability.

  14. I’m happy with the changes, cause I have maily planed trip within europe. e.g. Barcelona, Vienna, Canary Islands and that meens I’ll save lots of points due to the change 🙂

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