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Big Change to Bonvoy: Marriott Announces Category Changes

Feb. 8, 2019
Loyalty Programs, Travel
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The name of Marriott’s rewards program won’t be the only thing changing this spring.

The hotel chain announced more than 300 rewards category changes will take place on March 5, 2019, including the launch of the new top reward tier, Category 8.

The category changes affect around 5% of all properties in the Marriott chain and could have major repercussions for your planned vacation. If you have not yet booked your hotel on points but are planning a trip to one of the affected properties, it’s important to book before March 5 to get the best nightly rate on rooms.

How many hotels are changing Marriott Bonvoy rewards categories?

In total, 323 hotels will change categories under the annual shift. The majority will move up one category, while a few will move down one category.

According to the company, the changes are the smallest in company history. In the past five years, between 10% and 15% of hotels change categories every year. Depending on the category jump, the hotels changing category will increase in price between 5,000 and 15,000 points per night. The entire list of hotels changing categories can be found in this PDF on the Marriott website.

The changes will also launch the new Category 8, the highest tier in the Marriott rewards program. The new Category 8 properties will cost 85,000 points for a standard award night. Seven hotels will join the highest tier available, including:

  • Scrub Island Resort, Spa & Marina, Autograph Collection, British Virgin Islands
  • The London EDITION
  • Las Alcobas, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Napa Valley
  • The Ritz-Carlton Ras Al Khaimah, Al Hamra Beach, United Arab Emirates

At least one property will be dropping from the highest tier. After March 5, The St. Regis Osaka in Japan will be in Category 7, a price drop of 15,000 points per night. Other properties that will be dropping in categories include:

  • Le Méridien Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina, Dubai
  • Bankside Hotel, Autograph Collection, U.K.
  • Sheraton Zurich Neues Schloss Hotel, Switzerland
  • W Hollywood & W Los Angeles – West Beverly Hills

Finally, the famous Marriott Travel Packages will expand to include Category 8 properties. The new packages will be redeemable for a hotel stay along with airline miles at a ratio of 1.5 points for every 1 airline mile. At Category 8, a Travel Package for seven hotel nights and 50,000 points will cost 675,000 points. Through RewardsPlus, members who book at Travel Package with miles in United’s MileagePlus program earn 10% more miles.

How can I lock in my price in Marriott points now?

If you are planning a stay at one of the hotels changing categories after March 5, the easiest way to get the best rate is to book as soon as possible. All of the current rates will be honored at each hotel up until the change date. And hotels can be booked up to 50 weeks in advance, giving you plenty of opportunities to book award nights at the current rates.

If you don’t have enough points to book any given hotel, there are ways you can still book your awards now. First, members can book awards using a points advance, on the condition they earn or purchase the required points at least 14 days before check-in. If you have a Marriott credit card, including the Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Credit Card, this can be an easy way to book your award now and earn the points later.

Another option includes booking a cash and points award for your hotel stay. If you can book before March 5, you would be paying the lower cash and points rate for your hotel stay, which could save you money.

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 2019, including those best for:

Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice:
Marriott launches a new loyalty program called Marriott Bonvoy
NerdWallet’s top travel credit cards
Bonjour, Bonvoy: Marriott, SPG cards getting new names, perks

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