The short answer is “yes, but” … First, here is the link:
Our annual hotel category changes will take effect March 3, 2021. Review the list of changes below and decide how to maximize your points. If your favorite hotel is moving to a higher category, you can save points by booking at the current redemption rate before the changes go into effect. If it’s moving to a lower category, you might want to wait until the changes are made.
I’ve done a lot of digging around Marriott over the years. And I don’t remember a single year when Marriott’s “changes” wouldn’t mean a considerable devaluation. Well, I think there was one year when they rolled back some of the devaluating excesses of the preceding year, but that was it, I think.
The Marriott Category Changes 2021 are a bit different. They don’t totally suck. However, that doesn’t say much in the middle of the pandemic when most hotel rooms are sitting empty anyway. If anything, all redemptions should’ve been drastically slashed, but oh well!
Thank you for not going Delta on us, I guess.
|Hotel Category||Off Peak||Standard||Peak|
It’s not always a good idea to use points, even in a low-category hotel
Keep a few things in mind.
1. Just like with most other hotel programs, you can benefit the most if you use your points at the cheapest or most expensive properties, but it’s not always the case.
2. I value Marriott points at 0.7-0.8 cents each, but your valuation may differ.
3. Always add taxes and resort fees to the cash price to look at the whole picture. You don’t usually pay taxes on an award stay, but you normally pay resort fees.
4. Consider the length of stay. With Marriott points you get the 5th night free!
5. I’ve done very cursory price checks, and some hotels that are going down in a category still don’t seem like a good deal, so I left them out. But things and prices can change on a whim, so do your own research. Hotels like Curaçao Marriott Beach Resort, JW Marriott Muscat, and others can all of a sudden become a great deal if their cash rates go up (and if you’re staying 5 nights).
6. If you have a choice of Marriott brand hotels in the area where you want to stay, the following Marriott brands offer free breakfast to everyone:
- Residence Inn
- Fairfield Inn and Suites
- SpringHill Suites
- TownePlace Suites (have kitchen facilities, too)
- Element by Westin (SPG)
But Neither Courtyard by Marriott nor other SPG and Marriott brands that don’t list breakfast as a standard amenity provide free breakfast to anyone below Platinum elites.
Marriott Categories going up
- 1->2: 7
- 2->3: 12
- 3->4: 12
- 4->5: 10
- 5->6: 6
- 6->7: 3
- 7->8: 1
Marriott Categories going down
- 2->1: 9
- 3->2: 37
- 4->3: 68
- 5->4: 23
- 6->5: 11
- 7->6: 2
So, 75% of the hotels are going down, while 25% are going up. The numbers are good, but we know it’s not just about the numbers, it’s about whether or not you want to go there in the first place.
Note: I’m mostly an international traveler, so I’m not that familiar with U.S. touristy locations. Here are some that stand out to me (in terms of location and relatively high cash rates).
- Southbank Hotel Jacksonville Riverwalk: Cat 4 -> 3 (15,000 to 20,000 points)
- Moxy Minneapolis Downtown: Cat 4 -> 3 (15,000 to 20,000 points)
- TownePlace Suites Miami Kendall West: Cat 4 -> 3 (15,000 to 20,000 points)
Marriott Category Changes 2021
The Sheraton Vancouver is a great place to stay in Vancouver. I read good things about it when I did some research for a trip that never happened. Can’t say much about Fairfield Montreal, but the location seems central to me.
|Fairfield by Marriott Montreal Downtown||Fairfield Inn By Marriott||Canada||5||4|
|Sheraton Vancouver Wall Centre||Sheraton||Canada||6||5|
Marriott Category Changes 2021 — Europe
United Kingdom (perhaps the best value for your points)
York was founded by Romans and it’s one of the most visited cities in the UK. It might also be one of the best uses of your Marriott points (depending on a cash price, of course). 15,000 to 20,000 points.
|Moxy York||MOXY HOTELS||United Kingdom||4||3|
Berlin is my most favorite German city followed closely by Hamburg. OK, maybe that’s because these are the only two German cities I’ve been to, but, seriously, Hamburg is fantastic and totally worth a visit. I remember our Hamburg guide who couldn’t hide his disappointment as to why his city doesn’t have a “touristy” reputation. I totally share that sentiment. 15,000 to 20,000 points.
|AC Hotel Berlin Humboldthain Park||AC Hotels by Marriott||Germany||4||3|
|Courtyard Hamburg City||Courtyard By Marriott||Germany||4||3|
Riga is a gorgeous medieval city with a lovingly-restored pedestrian Old Town (a UNESCO World Heritage site) and numerous Art Nouveau buildings, and churches. I remember Riga from its Soviet past, and it was beautiful then. I’ll bet it’s better now. 10,000 to 15,000 points.
|AC Hotel Riga||AC Hotels by Marriott||Latvia||3||2|
So, it’s Warsaw, not Prague. The artsy Praga neighborhood is located across the Vistula river from the Royal Castle and Copernicus museum. 10,000 to 15,000 points.
|Moxy Warsaw Praga||MOXY HOTELS||Poland||3||2|
Remember In Bruges where that sentimental mob boss sent Colin Farrell for a few days so he could enjoy that stunning city before he’d be offed by Brendan Gleeson? Well, I’ve found that Ghent rivals Bruges in quite a few travelers lists and reviews. 15,000 to 20,000 points.
|Residence Inn Ghent||Residence Inn By Marriott||Belgium||4||3|
A 5-star hotel in a central Istanbul location. 15,000 to 20,000 points.
|Sheraton Istanbul City Center||Sheraton||Turkey||4||3|
Marriott Category Changes 2021 — Asia
I’m totally fascinated with Bali. Not for the beaches, because let’s face it, the beaches on Bali are not the best. But everything else — the culture, the nature, the history — is magnificent. And well, the beaches are there, too.
The new category changes are 100% positive for Bali.
|Fairfield by Marriott Bali Legian||Fairfield Inn By Marriott||Indonesia||2||1|
|Four Points by Sheraton Bali, Ungasan||Four Points||Indonesia||2||1|
|Element by Westin Bali Ubud||Element||Indonesia||3||2|
|Fairfield by Marriott Bali Kuta Sunset Road||Fairfield Inn By Marriott||Indonesia||3||2|
|Aloft Bali Seminyak||Aloft||Indonesia||4||3|
|Sthala, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel, Ubud Bali||Tribute||Indonesia||4||3|
The two hotels in Ubud going down in category is especially nice because Ubud hotels tend to be slightly pricier than in other towns on the island, but Bali, sans some uber-luxurious properties, is quite cheap in general.
China will see over 10% of all Marriott Category Changes on March 3, but I’ve never been to China, and never heard of most of the cities where the changes will take place. Shanghai, however, sounds familiar. 🙂
|Shanghai Marriott Hotel Pudong South||Marriott Hotels & Resorts||China||3||2|
|JW Marriott Marquis Hotel Shanghai Pudong||Marriott Hotels & Resorts||China||6||5|
12 Marriott hotels in Japan will change their categories this year. 11 of them are going down, while only one (you guess it) Mesm Tokyo will go up. I have no idea about most of the cities where the changes will take place, but for Osaka, Kyoto, or Sapporo, 15,000-20,000 points a night is a great value, IMHO.
|Fairfield by Marriott Kyoto Kyotamba||Fairfield Inn By Marriott||Japan||4||3|
|Fairfield by Marriott Kyoto Miyazu||Fairfield Inn By Marriott||Japan||4||3|
|Fairfield by Marriott Osaka Namba||Fairfield Inn By Marriott||Japan||4||3|
|Fairfield by Marriott Sapporo||Fairfield Inn By Marriott||Japan||4||3|
|Moxy Osaka Shin Umeda||MOXY HOTELS||Japan||5||4|
Three Marriott hotels are going down in Malaysia: one in Kuala Lumpur and two in Penang. Both cities offer a lot to see, but hotels in Malaysia are not expensive anyway, so do your math.
|AC Hotel Penang||AC Hotels by Marriott||Malaysia||2||1|
|Courtyard Penang||Courtyard By Marriott||Malaysia||2||1|
|Four Points by Sheraton Kuala Lumpur, Chinatown||Four Points||Malaysia||2||1|
Seoul is normally pricey. And this Moxy is in the heart of Seoul. 15,000 to 20,000 points.
|Moxy Seoul Insadong||MOXY HOTELS||South Korea||4||3|
You rarely stay at a hotel because of the hotel. I mean, there are destination hotels where you go just for the experience, but the most important factor is the location. Most hotels that are going down in a category are Fairfield, Moxy, and Courtyard brands, not the Marriott’s luxury brands, but it doesn’t mean you can’t have a great experience. I value Marriott points at 0.7-0.8 each, but it’s not a religion. In fact, a point is worth what it’s worth to you. Still, when you consider whether to pay points, cash, or points plus cash, always count taxes and check if you would have to pay resort fees on award stays (you normally do, but it doesn’t hurt to double-check). And remember to count that 5th night, which is free on points — that can be a huge game-changer.