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After Aug. 18, 2018, Marriott Rewards will scrap its current award chart of nine reward categories and five hotel tiers, and move to a unified loyalty program. Instead of Marriott Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest and Ritz-Carlton Rewards on separate charts, all hotels will be available in one program.
When the transfer is complete, all hotels across over 30 brands will be sorted in one of eight categories, with the highest operational by 2019. But how does Marriott Rewards Category 8 affect travelers now? More importantly, how can everyone get the most value out of the highest category available?
» MORE: Check out our Marriott/SPG merger transition checklist
What you need to know about Marriott Rewards Category 8
Marriott Rewards Category 8 consists of 61 different hotels, primarily associated with the Starwood brand. These hotels are the most luxurious locations, representing destinations around the world, including hotels in the U.S., Europe, Brazil, Dubai, Japan and Thailand.
When the new category comes into effect in early 2019, Marriott Rewards members should expect to pay 70,000-100,000 points per night for room awards, depending on seasonal traffic.
» Learn more: Find the best hotel credit card for you
The good news for Marriott Rewards and Ritz-Carlton Rewards members is that only 10 Ritz-Carlton hotels are moving up to the highest redemption category. The bad news comes for most Starwood Preferred Guest members, who will end up paying more for Design Hotels, The Luxury Collection and St. Regis Hotels.
What types of hotels are in Marriott Category 8?
The hotels in this new category reflect the best Marriott has to offer. Some of the properties in the new Marriott Category 8 include:
Cristallo, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa, Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy
Kenoa Exclusive Beach Spa & Resort, Barra de Sao Miguel, Brazil, a member of Design Hotels
Phoenician Residences, a Luxury Collection Residence Club, Scottsdale, Arizona
The Ritz-Carlton New York, Central Park, New York
W South Beach, Miami
Check out the list of Category 8 Marriott hotels for more information about your options.
How can I get the most value out of Marriott Rewards Category 8?
For luxury travelers who are concerned about paying from 70,000 to 100,000 points for these top-tier hotels, there is some good news. Because Category 8 won’t be fully implemented until early 2019, properties in the highest-end category will inherit Category 7 rates. That means all 61 hotels in this category will cost 60,000 per night until Category 8 is established in early 2019.
In addition, Marriott will carry over the fifth-night free benefit on award nights. To get the maximum benefit out of future Category 8 hotels, travelers who have the points should book their awards as soon as possible. By booking now, a five-night getaway at one of these luxury hotels can only cost 240,000 points, instead of 340,000 points. That’s literally a savings of an additional peak award night in Category 8.
» MORE: Do Visa Signature credit cards deliver more luxury benefits?
After Marriott fully implements Category 8 in 2019, there will still be some alternatives for luxury travelers. The remaining Ritz-Carlton properties will be spread out between reward Categories 4-7, ranging in price from 25,000 to 60,000 points per night. At an even better value, JW Marriott hotels will range from Category 2-7, depending on the location. Award nights will range in price from 12,500 per night in China, Indonesia and Turkey, to 60,000 points in New York and Nashville.
On the Starwood side, Westin Hotels will offer a wide variety of price points. As the largest luxury imprint in the Starwood brand, prices will range from 12,500 to 60,000 points per night depending on location. Alternatively, not all St. Regis hotels will move to the highest category. International locations in China, Egypt, Qatar and Thailand are shifting to Category 5 for 35,000 points per night. The majority of St. Regis locations will be available for 25,000 to 60,000 points per night.
How to Maximize Your Rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2020, including those best for:
Airline miles and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
Flat-rate rewards with no annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Premium travel rewards: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card