First Look At New Marriott/Starwood Award Categories

As Marriott and SPG continue sharing details on their very complicated mid-year transition, one of the main questions has been which properties will be falling into which categories on the new combined award chart.

Today, Marriott has released a preview of the future award charts, showcasing the new points requirements for hotels in certain cities and regions. While this isn’t a comprehensive list, it does give us a sense of how the transition and categories will be handled.

The basics of Marriott’s new award chart

In August Marriott will introduce a new award chart valid for members of all three programs. At that point Starwood Preferred Guest points will be converted into Marriott Rewards points at a 1:3 ratio, so all stays will follow this pricing. Here’s the chart:

This compares very favorably to Starwood Preferred Guest’s award chart, though in some cases pricing may be higher than what Marriott Rewards used to charge.

As a reminder:

  • Marriott won’t introduce Category 8 hotels until 2019, meaning that stays booked between August and December of 2018 (even if stays are on subsequent dates) will cap at Category 7
  • Marriott will only use “standard” award pricing for 2018, and then in 2019 “peak” and “off-peak” pricing will be introduced

This means that between August and December of this year there will be some great opportunities to redeem points for the most expensive SPG hotels at very favorable rates.

What hotels go into which categories?

Again, we don’t have the full list, but Marriott has provided the charts for five key destinations. For ease of reading, the “current points required” reflects the number of Marriott points that would theoretically be needed for a redemption. So for Starwood properties, the “current” redemption rates are displayed as triple the SPG rate, as those points will be converting to Marriott at a 1:3 ratio later this year.

Bali

Caribbean & Mexico

Dubai

New York

Paris

What do these charts tell us?

The first thing I noticed is that numerous properties are missing in each of these lists. Al Maha would typically be included with Dubai, for example, and neither Las Alcobas nor the Design hotel properties are listed with Mexico.

I’m not sure whether this is due to geographic oversight, or because there are still contract agreements being worked out with individual hotels, or if only certain hotels were selected for the purposes of these charts.

These previews also don’t give us much insight as to how Marriott will be handling the all-suite SPG properties. Neither Al Maha, the St. Regis Punta Mita, or the St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort are listed with their regions, unfortunately, and the St. Regis in Bali doesn’t give us much in the way of data points.

Outside of that, I think these categorizations are about what we’d expect. Marriott is keen to note that the combined chart “offers even more value for your points, with more hotels moving down in redemption rates than up,” but that’s a tricky metric for me. I don’t know that the total number of hotels changing category matters as much as what the rates are in a given category, and the circumstances surrounding an individual property.

There is no imaginable circumstance under which I’d pay 16,600 SPG points per night at either of the Le Meridien resorts in Dubai, for example, so the new chart requiring 50,000 points for those seems a bit steep. But other adjustments, like bringing the New York Westin hotels down to 50,000 points from 60,000 seem reasonable. So looking at individual properties makes more sense to me.

Bottom line

I appreciate that Marriott is sharing these charts, and hope they continue to be proactive about giving members information like this.

In general, I don’t see many surprises with the pricing or category adjustments. What remains to be seen, of course, is how the peak and off-peak redemption rates are handled, and how frequently Marriott adjust categories going forward.

Anything that jumps out to you with these charts?

Comments

  1. I’m particularly excited about the fact that it looks like I won’t be stuck trying to find my favorite airport hotel when it comes time to redeeming free night certificates. There will finally be qualifying hotels in places I’d want to travel.

  2. It’s weird to leave that many hotels off the NY list, if they’re trying to use it to illustrate the example.

  3. The inclusion of St. Regis Bali is an interesting one. It is an all-suite hotel so may be there is hope.

  4. Weird hotels left off NYC list multiple hotels in Manhattan formal left of list specifically Ritz Carlton Central Park and Battery Park left off list.

  5. With the changes do we know if we can now get 5th night free on what were SPG Cat 1 properties? They used to be exempt but was wondering if now they are under the Marriott banner would they be included in their 5th night free arrangement.

  6. Any Idea what this categorisation will mean for people who have the 7 nights category 1-5 voucher from the travel package?

  7. It might just be chance but it almost feels like they’re targeting certain brands or types of hotels into certain categories, moreso than just straight ADR like the old SPG program. Pulling the Sheraton NY up to 50K points while the Westins come down while other more premium NY brands stay at higher prices, for example.

    I’m a little surprised to see so many SPG Cat 6 hotels stay so expensive. A lot of those were overpriced on points before and look set to stay that way.

  8. IF this approach applies for the portfolio, then it would be reasonable. Let’s see when they make the changes in August and beginning of 2019.

    Did some quick analysis and this is the current breakdown of the combined portfolio by points required buckets, with SPG converted MR at 3:1. The weighted average cost of a room is 25K MR as of today, after the various devals at Marriott in the last few years.

    6810 hotels
    Up to 10K MR: 944
    >10-20K MR: 2249
    >20-30K MR: 2198
    >30-40K MR: 756
    >40-50K MR: 426
    >50-60K MR: 22
    >60-70K MR: 161
    >70-80K MR: 0
    >80-90K MR: 0
    >90-100K MR: 36
    >100K MR: 18

    The smaller SPG member base gets 39-83% increases (depending on elite levels) in points earned per base $ spent at hotels, and the large Marriott member base gets anywhere from a 8% drop to a 20% increase in pts per base $. It seems likely that the average room point cost and bucket distribution is going to move up quite a lot to offset the earning increases.

    I would be surprised if Marriott doesn’t take the opportunity to MORE than offset the earning changes, such that the large Marriott member base takes a 30% hit (increase in number of $ spent to earn an average room night) while the small SPG base gets a 20% improvement (reduction in number of $ spent to earn an average room night). Given the relative sizes of the portfolios, it is likely to be an overall 15% devaluation in the earn/burn relationship, with Marriott members below 50 nights taking the worst hit.

  9. The more I think about this, I also feel like it’s possible they chose a bad selection of cities. NY and Paris skew expensive, and it was already kind of odd and marginal to have SPG Cat 5 opportunities there at all, with the Sheraton NY having been a Cat 6 on and off in the past for example.

    So I’m curious about hotels in other less expensive cities, places like the Nines in Portland — are hotels like that generally going to be going up to the 50K points level or will more of them stay at the 35K level? If they’re going up, that makes for a pretty sizeable devaluation IMO.

    The 60K points level is also kind of hard to digest, if you think of Marriott points as worth around 0.9 cents each — I don’t know if any of the hotels flagged to sit permanently in that category go for $540 very often, if ever.

    SPG always had an issue with its highest-end properties being a bad value on points, and it looks like the new Marriott program may end up with a similar problem for its upper-middle end properties.

  10. This is all focused on the 2018 redemptions, right? Factoring in the 2019 Peak prices, it’s across the board major devaluation of 10-25k/night.

  11. If I have a reservation at the current point for a stay in mid-August, will it be adjusted for the lower amount of point required by then? And then I get the difference back?

  12. QUICK QUANTITATIVE ANALYSIS OF THE MR AWARD COST CHANGES

    How does a top MR elite come out with these changes?

    After August 1,
    — A Platinum Premier members will earn 17.5 points per dollar
    — The top standard award rate through 2018 will be 85K/night

    That translates into a top award cost of [85,000points/free night]/[17.5points/$]

    = $4,857 per free night

    That calculation of the spend necessary to afford a free award night is, LITERALLY, the cost of an award night in hard currency.

    Before the change on August 1,
    — Platinum Premier members earn 15 points per dollar
    — The top standard award rate was 70K points/free night at Ritz Carlton.

    Cost of awards before August 1: 70,000/15

    = $4,667 for a free night

    MR ward costs pre vs. post merger: $4,667-$4,857 = -$190

    *** There will be a modest increase of -$190 in MR award costs for PPs after August 1.

    In 2019:
    The top award rate (peak) will be 100K/night
    Assuming same earning of 17.5/$ for PP

    The top award cost for a MR PP will be: 100,000/17.5 = $5,714 for a free night.
    — there will be a substantive increase of $1,047 in the award cost compared to current highest award cost.

    How would all of the above compare with award costs for a WoH Globalist and HH Diamond…and SPG Plat?

    — Spend per Free night for a WoH G’list at top Hyatt hotel: 30,000/6.25 = $4,800
    — Spend per Free night for a HH Diamond at top Hilton hotel: 95,000/20 = $4,750
    — Spend per Free night for a SPG Plat-50 at top Starwood hotel: 35,000/3= $11,667

    Tales of the Tape
    __________________

    Top Award Costs for Top Elites BEFORE MR/SPG Merger:
    WoH: $4,800
    HH: $4,750
    MR: $4,667
    SPG: $11,667

    Top Award Costs for Top Elites AFTER MR/SPG Merger:
    WoH: $4,800
    HH: $4,750
    MR: $5,714

    BOTTOM LINE:
    _______________

    Before the merger: MR, HH, WoH awards costs were about the same. SPG’s award costs were out of this world.

    After the merger: SPG is gone, weeded out, and MR awards are now the most expensive in the business, though they remain much more affordable than were SPG’s. Also, with a PEAK award cost of 100K, MR will now shield HH from the mindless inference that because it has the highest standard award rate (95K), it was either the most expensive program or it had the most inflated currency, both of which were bogus claims.

    That is my quick quantitative analysis of the landscape of the hotel loyalty program award costs before and following the MR/SPG merger. Note that points earned on co-brand CCs were not included in the analysis above, which would have ranked the costs of HH awards lower than those of the other programs.

  13. I assume in August we are all mildly to positively happy so as to build loyalty between the brands and 24-36 months later much of that will have been erased by annual category changes. It’s like shopping for auto insurance every three years and I’m putting my premiums on my spg amex till August…….

  14. Definitely more information is needed although NYC price increases are weird. Sheraton going up in price?!?!

  15. I guess my reaction is an affirmation of why I’ve generally considered hotel points to be worthless — I’d never actually stay at any of these hotels when the cash price is so high as to make these point prices a good deal. Look at NYC — the best “deal” is for the St Regis, but who in their right mind would ever pay $800/night? For the extra $600/night I’ll take the aloft LIC and make my own coffee (it’s missing from the chart).

  16. Hi,
    Planning to book 5 nights redemption for October at St.regis NYC.
    would you suggest to book now and put it on hold to save the space for that specific dates, and then cancel and rebook at the new rate?

    THANKS!
    Edo.

  17. @ Burg @ Edo — I doubt they’ll be automatically adjusted, but in theory you should be able to request a points refund. The only thing I’m not sure about is if they’d have to cancel and then refund, in which case you’d need to have room availability too. But it doesn’t hurt to book now regardless.

  18. Um, not something I think regularly, but DCS’ analysis is correct, although it is limited to top award category and top elites. I would suggest the top several award categories are of interest to regular points users along with the cheapest ones occasionally. And many folks would be mid-level elites, whether through stays or cards. So a bit more comprehensive look is required than just top awards and top elites, and I think the points buckets will give a better sense once the full lists are available.

    However, on the whole, my expectation as mentioned in my prior comment would be a 15% overall earn/burn devaluation, not too far off the DCS metrics which work out to 22% devaluation ($5714 spend per night vs $4667 before the changes). But who gets hurt or benefits is relevant, and low Marriott elites are likely worst off while low SPG elites MAYBE better off than before (although I am not convinced of that last one given that SPG was more generous with points promotions and late checkout benefits).

  19. @Tiffany

    Hi, the charts do not show that SPG hotels that were 12,000 points (36K MR points) can also rise to 16000 points (48K MR points) in high season since SPG already has off peak and peak award rates for the higher categories.

    Although this would mostly work in Marriott’s favour coz they have used the cheapest pricing to show the “old” pricing.

    I’m also surprised (shocked :P) that you say you wouldn’t pay anywhere near 16,667 SPG Points or 50K MR points for Le Royal Meridien Dubai. The cash value of that many points is 400 USD but that is net, in ++ rates that’s 319++ USD without Dubai’s now astronomical 25.5% in taxes.

    That is a very fair rate to pay at this hotel in high season and it is definitely worth that much considering the market.

    It is straight up objectively better than the Ritz Carlton next door in any hard metric (A Meridien better than a Ritz, a problem in itself when they are adjacent) and it is also superior to the 6 other Marriott family hotels in immediate vicinity.

    – It has a private beach (and a huge one at that) whereas the Ritz does not
    – It has one of the best lounges in the SPG system (globally!) and elites have access (they might lose this post new program)
    – It has a good suite ratio and are generous with upgrades subject to availability (they experience very high occupancy)
    – They provide late check out flexibly when they can, and they can be veery flexible when they possible.
    – Their suites are some of the best in the SPG system in Dubai
    – They have a second lounge, yeah! SPG Platinums have access to both! (Until August 1st at least)
    – It has a Roman themed jacuzzi/hot tub complex with over 7 hot tub/jacuzzis of varying temperatures across the property (5 in the Roman complex; cold, cool, neutral, warm and hot)
    – Pools, pools, so many pools
    – Enough lawn chairs and sun loungers.

    I’m not sure if you’re confusing this for some other SPG Dubai beach resort (there are several in a line) but since there are only 2 Meridien resorts, I’m guessing not.

    Not only is this a fair price its actually one of the best redemptions at this price. Also it was infact more expensive at start of year than it will be post merger. It used be a 20K SPG/60K MR points redemption.

    Disclosure: Do not work for SPG or LRM Dubai in case this reads like a paid review :P. Had the worst stay in Dubai with them infact (service recovery was adequate).

  20. 1) There’s a lot of hotels missing. No London properties. No Rome properties. No Singapore or Hong Kong properties. Almost no Caribbean properties. That’s significant.
    2) Most of the GOOD hotels will be category 6-8. But there’s absolutely no correlation between brand and category. 50,000 points per night for a regular, vanilla hotel in New York City is absurd. Then there are the resort and destination fees. So, that breakfast you’re getting at the resort isn’t really free because they’re just include its cost in the resort fee.
    3) And even the GOOD hotels that are category 5-6 on the new chart will almost certainly increase to category 7-8 because everyone will redeem points at category 5-6 properties thereby driving the points upward.

  21. @Jig

    Loved the quantitative slant in your earlier comment above.

    Something that Tiffany missed is this Marriott chart doesn’t account for SPG’s current seasonal pricing of Cat5 and above, they have used the cheapest prices here to reflect old prices. Which means they’re doing us a favour and making themselves look bad. The actual new prices (when higher) would not be as high (or perhaps even lower) than SPG’s high season prices, of course this will be mitigated again next year when Marriott implements its own high season pricing (but then we also get low season with it….)

    Also it isn’t fair to do a pure numbers analysis without qyantifying the qualitative factors.

    There are at best 50 aspirational Hiltons and Hyatts (counting properties in all brands above the mainline basic 5 stars such as Hilton, Hyatt Regency, Sheraton and Marriott). So everything in their luxury, upper upscale and boutqiue and high end portfolios.

    For Hilton, this means Waldorf, Conrad, Curio which is roughly 50-75
    For Hyatt, this is Park Hyatt, Unbound, some Grands and Andaz, again roughly 50-75

    For Marriott, this is
    Edition + Ritz + JW Marriott + some Renaissance + W +St Regis + Luxury Collection + some Autograph collection + Some Westin/Royal Meridien/Sheraton Grand/Design Hotels (jk, no…though we’ve added hotels of this calibre for the other 2). The combined total for this is well over 750. This is being generous with Hyatt and Hilton and including all Conrads, Curios and some Grand Hyatts while withholding the Conrad and GH equivalent brands from Marriott such as Sheraton Grand, Royal Meridien (the Sheraton+ and Meridien+ and the best Westins). Also haven’t added any Design hotels (no data) despite several of them being very aspirational.

    The point I’m making is, even if 50 of these are in a Category 8 that’s more expensive than competitors, 200 of these would be in Cat 7 which is market equivalent and another 400 in Cat 6 which is below competition.

    It only pays to do a city by city in depth detailed analysis of directly competing hotels (by rate) and their redemptions rates, when I did this for some of the top markets, I found that comparing like to like, Marriott/SPG were very very competitive. Infact SPG would frequently beat everyone uptil Cat 4!

    To give you an example, the Conrad Dubai is one of the best Hilton hotels in Dubai, its a great Hilton and is included in our “aspirational” list above despite being a boring city hotel (With a great pool). The Sheraton Grand next door not included in our list beats it in hard product (rooms especially, though loses out spectacularly in pool). Someone who has stayed in both can easily see that for many people (most?) Sheraton Grand > Conrad. But on a redemption chart it would never show. Sheraton Grand is a measely 10K Cat 4 property, it punches above its weight much like many Marriott/SPG properties due to their very large luxury/upscale portfolio.

  22. @Tiffany

    I hope you mean the service recovery part 😛
    My first review of this hotel was one of my worst stays over (freak occurance), I’ve been there dozens and dozens of times subsequently and they’ve been consistently exceptional.

  23. @Jig sez: “Um, not something I think regularly, but DCS’ analysis is correct, although it is limited to top award category and top elites. ”

    LOL. You do not know what you’ve been missing, since you would’ve come up short trying to prove any of my analyses incorrect, as others have 🙂

    The analysis is indeed limited to the top award categories and top elites, but it scales down pretty nicely. All looking more broadly would show is that it pays to achieve elite status because award costs go down the higher one’s elite status.

    G’day!

  24. Westin Grand Cayman increasing from 36,000 to 60,000!

    If book now for next year at 36,000 will it be honored?

  25. This list appears to be pretty selective.
    A quick look shows that they have listed 13/16 SPG hotels and 6/48 Marriott hotels in New York and 13/14 SPG and 7/18 Marriott in Paris. We all knew that the overpriced SPG hotels were going to come down in price. It should have been relatively easy to fit Marriotts into the new chart because they were already mapped in their systems, but they chose not to show us most of those.
    I think the full reality is very likely to be much worse than this preview.

  26. Based on the information provided to date, and this limited data set, seems that:
    – most mid-higher SPG properties will likely get more expensive
    – some tweaking to MR costs, but unlikely anything significant
    – highest end SPG properties will become less costly, but they were at ludicrous point levels to begin with and won’t necessarily become hugely attractive (TBD – this reduction will still present greatest opportunity to take advantage of the changes)

    Seems the best option will be to wait until August, and then look to book a St. Regis Property; added benefit to an existing MR Gold member who will be converted to new MR Platinum and will be able to benefit from free breakfast, lounge access, etc

  27. @Jig – as usual, DCS intentionally under represents how much a SPG Plat 50 would be earning, so take his “analysis” with a grain of salt. No SPG 50 would ever just be earning 3 cents a point on a typical stay.

  28. @UA-NYC not sure whether you misunderstood on purpose or by accident. DCS said that, per the terms of the SPG program, SPG 50 would receive 3 points per dollar of spend, which is correct. Not sure what you meant by earning 3 cents a point on a typical stay.

  29. @Vineet

    Glad you found the numbers interesting, its my way of trying to get an objective sense of the changed value of points, which matters when deciding on stays or cards or other points opportunities.

    I agree with your sense that comparable properties are usually a lot cheaper in stated points at Marriott and SPG vs Hilton (or IHG), BUT that is largely because of the easier Hilton earning for stays. For example:
    40 night status earns 18 pts per $ at Hilton or 15 pts per $ at IHG,
    50 night status earns 12.5 pts per $ at Marriott and 3 pts per $ at SPG,
    30 night status earns 6 pts per $ at Hyatt.

    Looking at these earning ratios, one would expect a comparable city hotel to cost 12K SPG, 24K Hyatt, 50K Marriott, 60K IHG and 72K Hilton. Those prices are actually equal if you earn your points from stays! And my impression is that Hyatts and Marriotts are usually a bit cheaper than ‘expected’ by these earning ratios, and the others are in line. Which is why the coming Marriott devaluation I expect sucks!

    Of course, the analysis is quite different if you get your points from sign up bonuses or card usage…

  30. Curious to see what they rate the Aloft Brooklyn at. They seem to have skipped that one in their NYC listing. Not one Aloft listed in any city, actually

  31. @DCS, farnorthtrader and UA-NYC

    I think UA-NYC might be referencing things like the Platinum gift, green points, bonus promotions, etc when indicating 50 night SPG members would earn more than 3 pts per $? They do add up. Although Hilton, IHG and Hyatt are pretty good about generous promotions as well, which effectively increases their earning rates too. Marriott has been relatively stingy there.

    Anyway, I wasn’t indicating disagreement with DCS’ past analyses necessarily (I’m mixed on them), just definite agreement with his current one. We have the same sense of what’s likely coming on the new Marriott award levels, a good sized devaluation of legacy Marriott properties with a negligible bit of honey as a small number of previously crazy overpriced SPG properties come down.

  32. @farnorthtrader – It’s a knee-jerk reaction that gets that poster (and another) to make such nonsensical comments almost nonstop, when there is nothing disputable.

  33. @farnorthtrader – yes, 3 dollars per point.

    Here’s a hint…if DCS is showing “math”, he will take every possible step to put SPG in the worst possible light and Hilton in the best possible light, and it will not reflect anything approaching reality. FYI from what I can tell DCS has been banned from commenting on Gary’s site, so this is his last stop for posting lies, obfuscation, and harassment with anyone pro-SPG/anti-HH.

    @Jig – correct, though I wasn’t even adding in promotions as those are variable and tend to even out.

  34. @Jig

    All devaluations suck. This is undoubtedly a devaluation. However, I feel it is going to be very mild , at least initially. 2 years down the line they can just keep moving properties up the categories like Hilton has. I doubt they would do that now, its not good for them or us.

    https:// travelupdate.boardingarea .com/hotel-loyalty-programs-comparison-earning/ (delete spaces)

    That is kind of old (but the only thing I have publicly available) that eliminated a lot of the points value fudge factor. I also had detailed city by city individual hotel redemption analysis of their points cost vs rate (a better metric to judge a hotel than brand or redemption category).
    Overall findings were:

    SPG was extreme at both ends: Cat 4 and below it usually was best redemption. Cat 6 and above it was usually worst by a huge margin

    Marriott was amazing at high end.

    Hyatt was irrelevant due to footprint but otherwise competitive at top end. Its rates were also inflated relative to others due to limited options in a given city (though its aspirational properties are almost equal to Hilton).

    Hilton was actually a poorer value than expected. It does have outstanding redemptions (Conrad Maldives) but on the whole it represented no sort of value. This got worse with the stealth devaluations with dynamic pricing. The highest prices *did* increase. It had particular sweet spots in 5000 point properties but never could find any that I actually would stay at.

    That is key, all these analyses cannot be disconnected from footprint. Hilton and Hyatt are extremely US and low end heavy and have surprising gaps in the portfolio geographically (people think Hyatt is high end heavy but the numbers don’t bear that. People assume Hilton is well spread out but again that is not the case. There are major markets where Hiltons deficiencies are shocking. All outside USA. There are ~75 great properties at best whereas half the Hyatt portfolio is HH and HP in USA). It doesn’t matter if Hilton has 500 category 1 properties if none are ever to be found in major cities in tier 1 markets when SPG *does* have more expensive properties that are actually present and suffice.

    There was an objective winner in value per spend for every city in every major market in the world and the winner was almost always an SPG or Marriott hotel in several categories per market. Almost never Hyatt, almost never Hilton.
    Just like a point is not the same across programs. A low end property isn’t the same, a Cat 1 isn’t the same. The more I drilled into the numbers, the worse Hilton looked, the better SPG looked (except high end, that’s just ridiculous). Marriott remained in the middle, Hyatt remained irrelevant.

    Disclaimer: All the analysis was for non-US markets (no credit cards accounted for) but almost every major non American and non China market was included. Not all the data is available online on the linked blog (because I lost interest in doing intensive original research with poor Return on Investment :P) but I can send it to you if you like.

  35. LOL:
    @UA-NYC sez, cluelessly, of course: “FYI from what I can tell DCS has been banned from commenting on Gary’s site, so this is his last stop for posting lies, obfuscation, and harassment with anyone pro-SPG/anti-HH.”

    Do you have evidence for that claim? FYI: I no longer post over there because Leff and I had an email exchange expressing our disagreements and decided to part ways. Unless you have evidence to the contrary, it would be stupid to repeat that canard because all I can do is post the email exchange here and you’ll end up with yet another pie in the face. If Leff has not claimed that he banned me, I will have no reason to publicly post a private exchange, because unlike you, privacy means something to me.

    Hiding behind a digression will not make the level of ignorance that you just displayed here any less embarrassing.

    G’day.

  36. DCS, VFTW is a better, more fact-based place without you, whether you self-withdrew or received an ipso facto ban if you had continued with your drivel. So good riddance.

  37. @Vineet: “Hilton was actually a poorer value than expected.”

    That claim is demonstrably bogus, and the post mixed in so many factors that have nothing to do with award costs that is a mishmash.

    Many bloggers have done the analysis quantitatively and reached the same conclusion:

    Hyatt, Hilton, Marriott awards currently cost about the same at the end high-end as I showed above, but also up and down the award charts (keeping in mind Hilton’s pre-revenue rates that delimit award rates in their current chartless system). SPG awards were exorbitantly priced at the high end, but were somewhat more reasonable at the lower end. IHG and Club Carlson had the lowest priced awards, although that is no longer true for IHG following their recent devaluation.

    Do not take my word for it. Here are links [deleted after // in URLs]:

    [modeling was done up and down the award charts at the following two links]

    “How Much Does It Cost to Earn a Free Hotel Award Night?”
    https:// goo.gl/w7oLfL

    and here

    “Will Hyatt Gold Passport Be Devalued?”
    https: //goo.gl/FU9uLN

    and my own modeling at the high-end only for top elites, with glossy charts, here:

    “Exploring SPG Point Values by Hotel Category”
    https:// goo.gl/uYo1T9

    The math is trivial, so there is no room for errors if everyone proceeds from the same set of very limited assumptions, which was the case for nearly all the modeling I have seen.

  38. Glad you expressed you preference for VFTW.

    Now, just avoid getting into things you know nothing about.

  39. @Tiffany, do you suggest booking come August, or book now and then have them adjust reservation to reflect new redemption cost basis? thanks!

  40. The problem with Hilton’s is that after the so called stealth “dynamic pricing” deval, in the name giving choice, there is no meat on the bone of Hilton.
    MR had clearly published the peak rates, whereas Hilton can charge 265K/night at peak in a Airport location and Hilton Venice suite 3Million points!
    Hilton points = Zimbabwean currency.

  41. @ff_lover – Were you not still confused about the difference between a ‘standard’ award and ‘a premium’ award, you’d know that where Hilton charges “265K/night at peak in a Airport location and Hilton Venice suite 3Million points” Marriott would simply show no awards available. Just pick which situation you think is more or less annoying…

  42. @DCS: “Before the merger: MR, HH, WoH awards costs were about the same. SPG’s award costs were out of this world.

    After the merger: SPG is gone, weeded out, and MR awards are now the most expensive in the business, though they remain much more affordable than were SPG’s.”

    And yet again, DCS’s so-called “quantitative analysis” is nothing more than cherry-picking a small sample of hotels to make a sweeping generalization of the relative costs of an award. The top tier hotels he chooses as his sample not only make up a significantly small amount of the portfolios of each chain (Hilton and Marriott’s top tiers, for example, each make up less than 0.3 percent of their respective portfolios), they aren’t even consistent among the chains (Hyatt’s top tier is at just under 2 percent of the portfolio, while SPG’s is closer to 3 percent).

    A truly quantitative analysis comparing the cost of the average award night would look at each chain’s individual category and redemption cost by hotel as an average – not just a single comparison of one tier to another, and not at just one level. Until there is a comprehensive award chart for the combined Marriott/SPG program, such an analysis for that new program is impossible, but it can definitely be done for the four major programs in their current incarnation.

    I came to the conclusion long ago, though, that DCS cares more about saying that he’s right than he is about his “analysis,” so we’re not going to see that level of detail from him anytime soon (or ever).

  43. Knee-jerk reaction just because DCS wrote the post, when the math is so trivial it is indisputable. I will respond ONLY to show why the above, which I only skimmed over and got the gist of since it was UTTERLY PREDICTABLE, is a baseless knee-jerk reaction with no merit, like that of his “con padre” or “partner in crime” earlier.

    Why does modelling only at the top is NO SIN and actually MAKES SENSE? Because (a) that is where most people prefer to redeem their points for award stays; (b) at the low end it often does not make sense to use points when the rates in cash are low; use cash at the low end and collect points for future high-end award stays; and (c) IMPORTANTLY, the results do SCALE up and down the award charts and with elite status, i.e., the relative earn rates and award costs change nearly in concert (I’d provided links to where the modeling was done for up and down the award charts and by elite status. The picture does not change much and at low end there is much less differentiation among programs).

    I hope others saw the following, went to the links, and satisfied themselves:

    _________________________________________________________

    “Do not take my word for it. Here are links [delete the blank space after // in URLs]:

    — *** [modeling was done UP AND DOWN the award charts at the following two links] ***

    “How Much Does It Cost to Earn a Free Hotel Award Night?”
    https:// goo.gl/w7oLfL

    and here

    “Will Hyatt Gold Passport Be Devalued?”
    https: //goo.gl/FU9uLN

    and my own modeling at the high-end only for top elites, with glossy charts, here:

    “Exploring SPG Point Values by Hotel Category”
    https:// goo.gl/uYo1T9

    The math is trivial, so there is no room for errors if everyone proceeds from the same set of very limited assumptions, which was the case for nearly all the modeling I have seen.”
    ________________________________

    This poster will ignore the evidence and just come back with a long, mind-numbing post that will prove nothing at all. The evidence is self-contained here for anyone who wishes to examine and conclude what everyone else concluded years ago and is indisputable. Therefore, I am pulling the plug on this thread to let advance into cyber-past and oblivion without visiting it again.

    G’day.

  44. DCS, your so-called evidence is a combination of incomplete analysis and cherry-picked results that you extend to all awards using unsupported assumptions and pure speculation. The only evidence that you cite that is not your own is a comparison of SPG and Hyatt, which only proves that Hyatt awards are comparatively cheaper than SPG awards. It does nothing to support Marriott or Hilton awards.

    And your other links, in citing yourself and your cherry-picked evidence, is again you saying that you’re right because everyone else is wrong.

    In other words, your supposed “facts” are what they always are – nothing but wild-ass guesses that you are unwilling to back up with anything other than “I’m right because I said so.” And your response to my post only reinforced what I said – you have no interest in actually saying things that are accurate, only in asserting that you are right.

    Frankly, for someone who purports to be an academic researcher, that sort of attitude is pretty pathetic.

  45. And because I forgot to mention it before:

    @DCS: “Why does modelling only at the top is NO SIN and actually MAKES SENSE? Because (a) that is where most people prefer to redeem their points for award stays; (b) at the low end it often does not make sense to use points when the rates in cash are low; use cash at the low end and collect points for future high-end award stays…”

    Your confirmation bias is showing, and it’s pretty unflattering.

  46. DCS doesn’t feel like he has to do any real analysis to back up his claims. As is his usual claim, he’s right because he says so.

    I could speculate all day and night as to why this is the case, but that doesn’t get anyone anywhere. Rather, instead, I decided to do the analysis myself – that is, for the four major chains (WoH, SPG, Marriott, and Hilton), where they stack up in terms of average award cost – how much a top-tier member must spend to earn the average free night.

    To be completely up-front with the analysis, here are the assumptions and methodologies used:

    1) The hotel populations are as close to the full population as I could realistically get, using available information. This was done not only to reduce, if not eliminate, bias in the results, but it is also based on the assumption that aggregate demand for award redemption is not limited to any particular class or category of hotels. (Translated – I have no evidence whatsoever that top-tier members only redeem at a certain class of hotels.)

    Since individual preference ultimately dictates how or where any particular member will spend his or her points, the actual spend on any particular hotel may be higher or lower than these amounts – but again, this is attempting to calculate an average among all hotels.

    2) For this analysis, the category mix matters, since we are talking about the average redemption for the program based on the largest population possible. It is, however, a limited analysis, as it does not take into account the actual number of rooms made available at each property on any given day.

    (I would venture that accounting for individual rooms at each property would result in a downward shift of the results, given the potential for greater award availability at lower category properties, but this is pure speculation that I cannot prove in either direction absent information that is frankly not available to me.)

    3) For each category among the categories, the maximum standard redemption amount for each hotel is used. Again, this is done to eliminate bias – using Hilton’s maximum redemption amount and SPG’s minimum, for example, only would cause bias in the results.

    This ultimately means that the averages are potentially too high, since not all awards are necessarily priced at the maximum. Hilton and SPG awards, since they are priced based on ranges, may be cheaper on average than stated. Similarly, Marriott may be priced cheaper on average due to Point Saver awards, which are not included in the analysis.

    4) Since the original methodology used only points earned by top-tier members, with no accounting for credit card spend or other special bonuses, this analysis does the same thing to eliminate bias. The actual results for average spend will reduce among all of the programs when other ways to earn points are included, but because there is no way to realistically equate these, they are omitted.

    5) The analysis only takes into account the programs in their current incarnation. As I indicated previously, such analysis is impossible on the new combined SPG/Marriott program until a complete category list is available. Thus, any predictions I would make on how this program will fare compare to the old programs are purely baseless speculation.

    6) The points per dollar earned by Hilton Diamonds and Marriott Platinums are weighted to take into account the reduced earnings at certain properties within those chains. (Specifically, Hilton Diamonds earn only 10 points per dollar at Tru and Home2 Suites properties, and Marriott Platinums earn only 7.5 points per dollar at Residence Inn and TownePlace Suites properties.)

    Now, to the results:

    For SPG, their website currently indicates a total of 1,648 properties, broken down as follows (with the maximum reward cost included):

    Category 1 (3,000 points) – 120
    Category 2 (4,000 points) – 220
    Category 3 (7,000 points) – 359
    Category 4 (10,000 points) – 437
    Category 5 (16,000 points) – 311
    Category 6 (25,000 points) – 150
    Category 7 (35,000 points) – 51

    When all of these properties are taken into account, the average points needed to redeem a room is 11,307, which is not surprising, given that close to 90 percent of the SPG properties are at Category 5 or below.

    Assuming this average, an SPG Platinum earning 3 points per dollar must spend an average of $3,769.01 in order to redeem for a free standard night.

    For Hilton, the LoyaltyLobby list of properties (with maximum award redemption cost) that was published on that website on March 20, 2018, was used, which indicates a total 5,221 Honors properties. The list indicates that these properties are divided as follows, based on maximum award cost:

    5,000 points – 47
    10,000 points – 154
    15,000 points – 6
    20,000 points – 413
    25,000 points – 21
    30,000 points – 2,142
    35,000 points – 30
    40,000 points – 1,248
    45,000 points – 16
    50,000 points – 604
    60,000 points – 315
    70,000 points – 145
    80,000 points – 65
    95,000 points – 15

    When all of these properties are taken into account, the average points needed to redeem a room is 36,866 – again, not a surprising result, given that 3,420 hotels (or 65.5 percent) require between 30,000 and 40,000 points for a standard award redemption.

    Hilton Diamonds, when taking into account the reduced earnings at 12 Tru and 211 Home2 Suites properties, earn a weighted average of 19.57 points per dollar. This average earn, combined with the average redemption value above, results in an average spend of $1,883.50 to earn a free standard night. (If the weighted average is not used, a Hilton Diamond earning 20 points per dollar must spend an average of $1,843.28 in order to redeem for a free standard night.)

    For Hyatt, their website indicates a total of 774 properties, broken down as follows:

    Category 1 (5,000 points) – 184
    Category 2 (8,000 points) – 226
    Category 3 (12,000 points) – 164
    Category 4 (15,000 points) – 87
    Category 5 (20,000 points) – 64
    Category 6 (25,000 points) – 35
    Category 7 (30,000 points) – 14

    The average number of points, based on these property amounts and the category levels, is 11,080 – which again is not surprising, given that almost 75 percent of the Hyatt properties are at Category 3 or lower.

    For a Hyatt Globalist earning 6.25 points per dollar, this average redemption cost results in an average spend of $1,772.82 in order to redeem for a free standard night.

    Lastly, for Marriott, their website (although listing over 5,300 properties) itemizes a total of 5,178 properties by category or tier, as follows:

    Category 1 (7,500 points) – 205
    Category 2 (10,000 points) – 622
    Category 3 (15,000 points) – 1,104
    Category 4 (20,000 points) – 927
    Category 5 (25,000 points) – 812
    Category 6 (30,000 points) – 578
    Category 7 (35,000 points) – 407
    Category 8 (40,000 points) – 332
    Category 9 (45,000 points) – 92
    Tier 1 (30,000 points) – 21
    Tier 2 (40,000 points) – 19
    Tier 3 (50,000 points) – 23
    Tier 4 (60,000 points) – 22
    Tier 5 (70,000 points) – 14

    For all of these properties, the average redemption amount is 22,596, which yet again is not surprising, with just over half of the rewards at Category 4 or lower.

    As a result, for a Marriott Platinum earning a weighted average of 13.29 points per dollar (keeping in mind the reduced earnings at TownePlace Suites and Residence Inn, which have 1,183 properties out of 5,178), the average spend comes out to $1,700.68. If the earning is not weighted, then a Platinum earning the full 15 points per dollar would need to spend only $1,506.41 in order to earn enough points for the average free room.

    The end result of this analysis shows what was already known based on the previous analysis done by TravelCodex – that is, given the low earning purely on room rate for SPG, those awards are significantly more expensive than any of the others.

    The analysis also shows that, in spite of DCS’s claims, the other three aren’t as close together as he would lead you to believe. In fact, Hilton – regardless of whether or not you weight the earning for Tru and Home2 Suites locations – is the second most expensive of the chains in terms of award earning, with Hyatt about 4 percent cheaper than Hilton and Marriott close to 10 percent cheaper than Hilton.

    Again, with the changes upcoming for Marriott and SPG, along with new properties being added by all of the chains on a continual basis, these averages can and will change. Until the full extent of the changes can be seen, though, how each of the properties will fare later in 2018 and into 2019 is nothing more than a wild-ass guess.

  47. @Mike, I think your analysis is reasonably close to reality, however, I would also argue that it is not materially different from that of @DCS, with three close together and SPG a wild outlier. I would suggest that the “off the charts” SPG properties that charge much more than category 7 rates would increase the difference and I would argue that the midpoint for those that have ranges would be a better indicator than the maximum, however, I don’t think that would materially change the result. SPG properties have been wildly overpriced and bringing them into Marriott without drastically reducing their rates will leave Marriott somewhat overpriced compared to the other two.

  48. To the extent that SPG is an outlier compared to the other three, you are correct – the analysis is similar, and I have already acknowledged that. The issue I raise, though, is how close those other three are to each other, as well as the order by which they are ranked. DCS’s assertion was that the current spread between Marriott and Hilton, for example, is fairly negligible (about 1.7 percent), where the difference is actually 9.3 percent, or just over $180 in spend, when you take into account the complete portfolio and the weighted spending based on brands.

    As to the effect of bringing SPG properties into the Marriott fold without any changes to the redemption, you are correct that this may potentially increase the cost of a Marriott award, absent other changes to the cost. This will be mitigated, however, by the increase in the Marriott Platinum bonus from 50 percent to 75 percent, as well as the wholesale increase in earning that SPG Platinums would get as Marriott Platinums (with the current exchange rate of 1:3), SPG Platinums now earning what is effectively 9 MR per dollar now will nearly double that, going to 17.5 points per dollar.

    Again, though, what the net effect is to the Marriott award cost is going to require an aggregate chart analysis of both the SPG and Marriott properties, which isn’t going to happen until the entire chart is known.

  49. This post has not yet moved out into cyber-oblivion so I just stumbled in here again, doing the usual rounds, to find what I’d predicted: a mind-numbingly long comment that says nothing at all because it is confused. I just skimmed over and it was immediately clear that the assumptions were flawed:

    1. It makes no sense to look at the AVERAGE over categories because that’s like saying that when one’s feet are in an over and one’s head is in a freezer, on AVERAGE, one is comfortable. It is such nonsense that is offered here. Nobody is ever presented with a category-averaged award rate when one goes to book an award. There are charts with fixed or minimum and maximum award rates.Therefore, one only needs to model for the extrema to get the full and accurate picture of award costs across programs. That is what was done CORRECTLY at Travel Codex, and that is what I did CORRECTLY at the high end for the reasons I gave. My modeling was based on what I thought was MORE INTERESTING and wanted to show, which was the relative award costs at the high ‘aspirational’ end for top elites. There is NOTHING wrong with that modeling for that VERY SPECIFIC purpose, so that the only reason we are having this “debate” is the result of a psychopathology that’s now evident in the constant knee-jerk contrarianism when nothing is in dispute. HH, MR and WoH award costs are NOT different at the high ‘aspirtional’ end where it really matters. PERIOD. The number are known and the math is trivial. There is nothing cherry-picked. Anyone who wants to do the modeling for a given purpose can do it.

    2. The number of properties per category is completely irrelevant to the modeling because the costs of awards are fixed or delimited in each category. Searching for awards in a category will yield costs within the extrema, independent of the number of properties. Again, modeling the extrema is the correct approach.

    3. Award costs at low-end properties do not differentiate properties very much, because they are generally affordable, even for SPG. For a visual proof, look at the CORRECT charts at Travel Codex

    I am glad that at least an argument, though flawed, was offered this time.

    Goodbye.

  50. @Mike

    Amazing post!

    Everyone knows SPG was an expensive program and that its top end was ridiculously expensive. There never has been a conspiracy to cover that up, that was the status quo. What I’m now about to say is actually the truly controversial bit in blogosphere though: What if, for *several* *international* *cities*, SPG is in effect the most frequent sweet redemption?

    Of course I’m going to need to qualify something like this. You clearly already have a good grasp of how the categories and costs are meaningless without accounting for footprint and distribution.

    As such, the results of a market by market analysis (of 33 major Non-US, Non-China markets) showed me that Marriott and SPG were the two most frequent winners (overwhelmingly) with Hilton and Hyatt nowhere close.

    The methodology was to evaluate every hotel in each of those cities from the perspective of a cross platform elite who has redemption options with Marriott, Hilton, SPG and Hyatt and wants to redeem points in a situation where it makes sense i.e the cash rates are elevated to the point that points should be used in the first place (IHG, Accor, Carlson etc were ignored because they’re not in same ballpark overall).

    The surprising (or not) thing is that Hilton’s portfolio is very very US heavy and their geographic distribution has huge gaps (you’ll often find 1 or 2 Hiltons in major urban international markets vs 10-12 SPG of Marriotts). Hilton’s total size indicates it is a giant (Marriott scale) but it is very heavily skewed towards the low end and largely confined to US/UK. Internationally, Hilton had a decades head start with international expansion since the days it was 2 distinct entities and the UK HQ-ed entity led the US chains by several decades in international expansion. Consequently, a lot of their flags are much older and they expanded into tier-2 and 3 markets, markets that are still light on the other chains. Their strength in numbers is from their US/UK portfolio combined with a sub-optimal international urban portfolio.

    SPG is very international and very skewed towards upscale and upper upscale (where the sweet spots of redemption were) as opposed to luxury (where SPG falls flat) and skewed heavily towards urban centres, giving them strength in cities. Marriott is US centric but leans more towards the mid end. Hyatt is surprisingly US centric (straight up half its portfolio is HH and HP in USA) *and* skewed towards mid (not high). Both of the latter are also quite highly urbanised.

    When you go across international tier 1 markets, major cities in major countries, economic/industrial/transport hubs (Dubai, Bangkok, Sydney, Mumbai, Paris) etc and evaluate all the hotels from the above 4 chains, invariably the best redemption (point value normalised against ADR) tends to be an SPG (cat 4 or lower) or Marriott property.

    Part of the reason is SPG cat 1 is full of SPG’s lowest brands (Four points and Aloft) which would constitute the mid range of any other chain. These hotels are runaway winners since SPG’s low end is extremely cheap and is actually located in convenient cities in convenient areas. To match these hotels, other chains have to escalate things to their middle categories beacause their lowest categories are never located in good locations in major markets.

    At the top end, SPG cat 4s and 5s are typically on par with the best hotels of other chains in major cities. So the atrocious redemption values of Cat 6/7 really never come into play unless you target exclusive resorts or niche properties. There are always enough SPG Cat 1-5 to save their bacon vs other chains in the cities. This is not true of the distribution (geographic and brand/price) of the other chains.

    A typical high end full service hotel in major cities and their respective points (and points values):

    SPG
    Cat 4 10K = 220 USD
    Cat 5 (12-16K) = 264 to 352 USD (SPG points valued at 2.2c)
    Cat 6 starts at 440 USD and goes upto 550 USD

    Marriott
    40-45000 points = 320 to 360 USD (MR points 0.8c)

    Hyatt
    Cat 4 or 6 (15000 to 25000) = 240 to 400 USD (Hyatt points 1.6c)

    Hilton

    60-80K = 300 USD to 400 USD

    So while at the “low” end, SPG runs away with it, it remains competitive at the high end since there is enough diversity and spread in the footprint to never require you to make their ridiculous redemptions (with the assumption about major international urban locations). People pretend as if SPG members *have* to redeem at Cat 6 or Cat 7 levels and that is never usually the case unless you deliberately seek them out. I don’t think assuming equal distribution of redemptions is a reasonable assumption (especially not with SPG since their low end offers such fantastic value and their high end such poor value).

    Eventually, the comparison would show that all metrics about ‘how much to redeem at which category’ goes out the window since you ultimately need hotels on the ground to redeem points at. It’s going to come down to specific footprint and distribution in the places you want to redeem at, since we select the location before the property (generally). The best comparison of hotels across chains isn’t redemption category or the value (of points in USD) required to redeem at them. It is the hotel’s ADR (we can’t use ratings or rankings since those aren’t normalised by brands and you’ll have situations like Holiday Inns being rated higher than St Regis).

    Ultimately, SPG will prove itself to be very very competitive simply by having the *right* cat 1-4s in the right places in the right numbers.

    Where they really pull ahead is when the occupancy starts to rise to levels that standard rooms are being sold out. The limited Hilton footprint leads to the standard rooms at all desirable Hiltons selling out, followed by dynamic pricing and ridiculous 6 digit point redemptions. Marriott has weak implementation of redemptions for premium rooms (it is upto hotels to release them and many do not, choosing to cap redemptions instead, which conceptually at least, is worse than Hilton). Hyatt and Starwood have good premium room redemption values with SPG having by far the lowest premium of any chain (typically 10-15% over standard redemption rates). Infact, that premium is so good, base members might even consider premium room redemptions even when standard rooms are available (for club access for instance).

    The more granular you get with the analysis and the quirks of the programs (SPG premium room redemptions), the more surprising the results become.

    Apoligies for the verbosity, this would be much easier to infer using charts but since I can’t really upload those here, you have this word puke instead 😛

  51. Either DCS didn’t bother reading the Travel Codex article he cites very carefully, because a significant portion of it is dedicated to calculating the weighted average of the awards between SPG and Hyatt – using the EXACT SAME methodology I used – or he is simply saying that I’m wrong because I’m the one making the argument.

    Knowing DCS, I suspect that it is the latter, because of who he is and how he operates.

  52. @Vineet – amazing analysis! You are quickly running circles around DCS. Keep it up.

    We all knew Hilton was weak internationally (but hey, there are thousands of budget options in the US…a Hampton Inn on every corner!) I had to laugh when I checked Madrid out of curiosity, and saw a sad solo option (DoubleTree) in the city center, as well as an airport Hilton. Meanwhile SPG has a Design and a Westin, and Marriott has 20 (not all ACs). Sure there are many more examples of cities like this globally.

  53. Anyone know if the 60k rate will be available for the St Regis Vommuli in the Maldives? Seems like a ridiculous rate if so as rooms regularly go for $2k there! Plus the 5th night free (if it will still be available) is just the icing on the cake!

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