Marriott Rewards’ 2015 Hotel Category Adjustments

It’s pretty normal for hotel loyalty programs to have annual category adjustments, whereby the number of hotels in each category changes. In other words, the number of points required for a free night at a particular category of hotel doesn’t change, but which hotel belongs to which category does.

While these are different than award chart devaluations (whereby the number of points required for a free night at a certain category of hotel changes), they can be even worse. If half of hotels go up in category, for example, that really ends up being a pretty big devaluation in terms of the purchasing power of your points.


With that in mind, so far this year we’ve seen category adjustments from Hyatt and Starwood:

With Hyatt the changes were actually a net positive, while with Starwood they were slightly negative at worst.

Well, now Marriott Rewards has announced their 2015 category changes, which kick in for bookings made as of March 20, 2015 (keep in mind that Marriott Rewards lets you make award reservations without having enough points in your account, so you can make speculative bookings quite easily).

Marriott Rewards categories as such aren’t changing

With Marriott’s changes, 36% of hotels are changing categories. But the shocking part is that 75% of those hotels are moving up in category, while only 25% of hotels are moving down in category. In other words, 27% of hotels are going up in price, while only 9% of hotels are going down in price. That’s a net increase to the cost of redemptions at 18% of hotels.

Here’s the link with the 2015 Marriott Rewards category categories. Be warned, it’s a tedious read. Rather than sorting by region or city, they’re literally sorting by hotel name. So your best bet is to just search for the specific properties you’re most interested in.


Bottom line

This category adjustment by Marriott is especially interesting. 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.

It’s interesting to see such a big net increase in categories from Marriott, while Hyatt did the opposite and Starwood was somewhere in the middle.

Are Marriott’s hotels commanding higher rates with higher occupancy than the competition, or is Marriott raising categories simply because they can?


  1. So are they actually changing the three ADDITION into Ritz Carltons, or have they just effectively added 5 new levels to the Marriott chart?

  2. As a big Marriott guy, this is pretty disheartening. The one property I’ve been saving up for to use 5 nights is going up, although it was probably under-valued. What’s more annoying is that so many European properties are going up, in contrast to Starwood where many of these went down due to exchange rates. Category 5 certificates are now nearly impossible to use. SPG and Hyatt definitely have been doing much better this year on annual changes.

  3. The need to devalue every year makes Marriott a poor program to accumulate a lot of points in. Luckily it looks like there are some better options like Starwood or Hyatt though most of the status match opportunities are gone. I may be be getting the Hyatt credit card soon…

  4. Finally! A program change that benefits me!

    I purchased a category 6, 7 night hotel+air package and used the seven nights at the Renaissance Bangkok, which is going to be a category 5 come March 20th. The point difference between the two packages is 30,000, which is the same number of points that I can now use to pay for my hotel in Hong Kong for one night, saving me $255 (well, saving me from having to use $255 from my Arrival+ stash)!

  5. @Nick – Beware what you wish for. What you have with Marriott that you’ll lose for sure with Hyatt or SPG is Marriott’s large “footprint”. In addition, if your beef is that Marriott has “devalued” their points, think again because before you can use points, you must earn them. You won’t do well there with Hyatt or SPG because their room rates for revenue stays, from which you earn redeemable points, generally tend to be higher than Marriott’s. And, while Hyatt and Marriott offer about the same value in terms of how much you need to spend to get enough points for a free night, SPG’s spend per free night is, BY FAR, the worst of any program, especially at the high-end properties that you seem to be interested in.

    Like I said, beware what you wish for. From where I am standing, you are doing just fine with Marriott Rewards. All that happened was a minor reshuffling of hotel categories. Marriott’s large footprint ensures that there would remain plenty of properties where you usually travel that would still offer you good redemption value. Hyatt’s and SPG’s small footprints do not offer that luxury, which is why bloggers who are into Hyatt and/or SPG think that the annual ritual of reshuffling hotel categories is a big deal. Yawn… it should not be if you are with Marriott or Hilton…

  6. Actually, Marriott’s redemption category assignments “are determined by prior
    year redemption volume at each hotel” not by “anticipated average daily rate and occupancy for the year” as you’d find with Starwood. The more redemptions a property has, the more money per redemption Marriott pays.

  7. But, Gary, if that’s the case, I would expect to see more 6 to 5 downshifts as certificates aren’t used once a property moves up to a 6. However, it seems like for several years, many more properties have gone up rather than down, including several properties that have gone up 3 years in a row.

  8. Interesting, the one property I actually have booked for May in Beijing is actually going down. Should I cancel and rebook after 3/20 for the lower pts? or would it automatically redeem at the lower pt total when I do make the stay?

  9. wow! that list is a brutal read. Smart that they put the properties going down first as halfway through it’s hard to read anymore!

  10. Another nail in the coffin for the Chase Marriott Rewards card who’s free night voucher is worth even less now…..

  11. I would say Marriott has always had the most overpriced redemption of most any program
    The revenue rates are laughable sometimes 100% more than a competing full service Hyatt or Sheraton
    And a Marriott property can be old stodgy and tired at or near double the price
    They milk the cow for all its worth because many folks just assume a Marriott might be better
    In my own experience it rarely is better. The only thing you can generally count on with most Marriott’s is that it will be severely over priced
    The local cookie cutter Courtyard off a freeway asks 250 per night and the Hyatt nearby on the Ocean
    169.00 with superior accommodation and vastly better dining
    I’m just amazed how many gullible people are that dumb to swallow the bait
    But at least they siphon off the suckers out of the high quality good value properties I prefer to stay in so there is more opportunity for quality and value
    Once in awhile I do come across a really nice Marriott or Ritz Carlton and may be willing to pay the premium

  12. “which kick in for bookings made as of March 20, 2015 ”

    Ben, where is the effective date mentioned? I can’t see it in the PDF, and their website doesn’t make it apparent either.

  13. “Marriott Rewards has announced their 2015 category changes, which kick in for bookings made as of March 20, 2015”

    Your date is wrong. It is March 19, 2015.

  14. Observation – I made a reservation at the Renaissance São Paulo at the lower redemption rate and when I looked at the reservation today on the website, the new (higher) redemption rate was shown. Furthermore, the email with the confirmation doesn’t show anything about the points per night at on the lower redemption rate.

    I suspect/hope this is just a fluke that will be fixed or just require a call to Marriott and is not a failure to honor the earlier award levels…

    Anyway, check your reservations. And Lucky, if you know anything about this, let us know. 🙂

  15. @travis – I have had the same thing happen to my reservation at the Sao Paulo Renaissance – what did you find out?

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