Marriott Rewards 2018 Hotel Category Changes: 1,300+ Hotels Are Changing In Price

It’s normal for the major hotel loyalty programs to make annual hotel category changes. With these changes they’re not adjusting the number of points required for a stay at a particular category of hotel, but rather are changing which hotels are in which categories. Earlier today I shared the details of Starwood Preferred Guest’s 2018 hotel category changes, which weren’t too bad. 276 hotels were changing categories, with slightly more hotels moving down in price than up in price.

Marriott Rewards has now shared the details of their 2018 category changes, which are a bit worse.

Marriott Rewards 2018 hotel category changes

It’s probably worth mentioning off the bat that historically Marriott Rewards is pretty brutal when it comes to their annual category adjustments. In my experience they consistently move more hotels up than down, and in particular, move many decent hotels out of Categories 1-5, which is where most of their free night certificates are valid. So even without changing the number of points required for a stay at a particular category, this is a way that the Marriott Rewards program is quietly devalued year after year.

Marriott Rewards’ 2018 category apply for bookings made as of March 6, 2018, giving members nearly a month to make bookings before these changes kick in. Members can make reservations for dates after the changes kick in, as the deadline is based on when you book and not when you stay.

In 2018, 1,330 Marriott Rewards hotels will be changing categories, which represents about 26% of their hotels. With these changes, about 81% of hotels will be moving up in category, and 19% of hotels will be moving down in category (OUCH!). Here’s how Marriott describes the changes:

  • Among properties participating in Marriott Rewards, 5% are decreasing by one category and 21% are increasing by one category with 74% remaining unchanged.
  • 72% of all hotels will remain in Categories 1-5 in which cardholders of Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card receive a one night free stay every year after their account anniversary.

You can find the full list of Marriott Rewards category changes here.

To compare these changes to Marriott Rewards adjustments in the previous two years:

This year we’re not only seeing more hotels change categories, but we’re also seeing a higher percentage of hotels go up in price rather than down in price. That’s rough.

The Fairfield Inn Key West will be a Category 9 (Marriott’s highest category)

For reference, here’s the Marriott Rewards redemption chart:

And here’s the chart for Ritz-Carlton properties:

Bottom line

While these category changes are an annual thing, I feel like Marriott Rewards is one of the worse programs both in terms of the number of properties where they make adjustments, and also in terms of the percentage of properties where we see increases. These changes are supposed to reflect the projected occupancy and daily rates at their hotels over the coming year, so it’s interesting that the percent of properties going up in price is significantly higher than virtually all of their competitors, and even significantly higher than at Starwood.

I’m curious to hear what the Marriott loyalists think about these changes.

Are there any hotels that you like to redeem at that are changing category?


  1. This is exactly why I’ve cashed in nearly all of my Marriott points and why I worry about the impending merger; I’ve seen year-over-year increases at many properties. There are still some good values to be had (I redeemed in Denmark for well over 1 cent recently), but it’s embarrassing to have a Fairfield Inn at a 9.

  2. The reason behind it is because of the transfer ration with SPG. 1:3

    Most Marriott is too cheap comparing to SPG especially in Asia.

  3. JW Phu Quoc is going from 5 to 6, which isn’t surprising. Two Nashville hotels are going from 6 to 5, so that’s a nice break, since hotels there seem be overpriced.

  4. @ Lucky – I’m curious if you think that, considering the number of properties going up vs down, this is more of a re-alignment in preparation for the merger of the two programs.

  5. This is bad — at least for the hotels I’ve burn MR and SPG points at. Honestly, they have been too good of a deal at a category 2, but it is terrible when all my 5 cat 2 properties are now a cat 3-4!! This is always an ever evolving game.

  6. If I book a hotel that’s going up in category far in future and change the date after the category go up, do I need to pay extra points?

  7. I’m not surprised Phu Quoc is going up, but I’m definitely disappointed. Wish I could have taken advantage of it at the lower category!

  8. A category-9 Fairfield Inn — the Fairfield Inn Key West? That’s just crazy. Yes, the room looks nicer than most full-service Marriott properties, but that’s a crazy amount of points for a limited-service hotel in a market (Key West) that isn’t exactly known for luxury hotels. I get the Fairfield Inn Key West will be more expensive, both in terms of paid cash rates and award redemptions, than say the Fairfield Inn Omaha but there should be caps for each brand.

  9. It’s also time for Marriott to boost the credit card night to category-6 or category-7 as category-5 hotels are few and far between now.

  10. For full-service properties I notice that Marriott, Renaissance and JW Marriott hotels recently renovated have all increased by a category. Some of these properties were category 2 or category 3 partly because they were pretty tired. It also seems that most properties with M Club lounges are now category 8 or category 9.

  11. it is kind of mind-boggling because some of the international properties are 10 times better than domestic properties yet domestic properties are category 7-9 while these excellent foreign properties are lower level categories. you would think the international, 5-star or 4 1/2-star properties were be higher.

  12. @Andrew B, I was looking for that one as I just came from staying there for a week. Best Marriott redemption EVER!

  13. Marriott needs to boost the credit card free night category from 1-5 to 1-6! they have become virtually worthless in Canada/USA.

  14. Given how unreasonably expensive many SPG redemptions are, this makes sense to me. Almost all of the outsized value in the combined program would be redeeming for legacy Marriott properties. Sad to see, but they are just aligning with the poor value in SPG

  15. I’m a Delta & Marriott loyalist… Unmistakably the two worst affinity programs out there. So why am I loyal? Product / Quality of service.

    I’ve never understood Marriott’s hotel categories. There’s an obvious bias towards desirable vacation locations having higher categories, but sometimes in the same city, a co-branded property (Courtyard / Residence Inn attached) will have one property a higher category than the other when they’re both owned by the same owner, same shared facilities, etc.

    At the very least, the point structure in and of itself isn’t changing, so points still help you get around ridiculously-high room prices in peak times.

  16. Marriott has traditionally had high award rates at places where people redeem points a lot and low rates at places where people don’t really redeem points, which explains the high Thailand rates and low rates in places like Kazakhstan where properties are expensive but most are business travellers. Seems like they are simply raising prices because they can, as many of the properties going up are cheap on cash and not popular.

  17. I find it interesting they used a picture of Charleston. Marriott does not have many nor very good properties in Charleston.

  18. I also believe that they are attempting to match up better with SPG. I am staying at JW Marriott in SF for 15,000 Starpoints (45,000 Rewards Points) while the equivalent SPG properties in SF are 25,000 Starpoints. Earn at SPG — burn at Marriott.

  19. Mark: Great comment. Earn at SPG — burn at Marriott. So true. Agree that they need to look at going from Cat 1-6. Living in Vancouver, BC there is not one single property in the province lower than a Cat 7. So makes having the Marriott credit card pretty much useless in Western Canada. Not to mention the 3:1 ratio with SPG AMEX. Why put $10,000 in expenses on a Marriott card (for only 10,000 points), when you can get 30,000 points with SPG AMEX when you transfer over. Marriott needs to change that perception or risk losing the die hard enthusiasts.

  20. If you book a future stay at a property going up before the deadline but don’t have the points yet, will you still get the lower redemption rate when you finally have the points and order the certificate?

  21. @Shawn, I made a booking about 2 months ago at 25,000 points per night….without having the points as yet.
    My booking is only for another 2 months away…now when I look at my reservation details it shows 30,000 points per night….

    @Lucky, will they actually now take 30,000 per night or if I call them – do you think they would honor the rate it was initially booked at?

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