Marriott Rewards announced a big shift in hotel reward category assignment for free nights using points.
1,083 hotels rise one category on March 6, 2018, while only 248 hotels drop by one category. These include 7 Ritz-Carlton hotels (2 up, 5 down) shifting Tier level.
878 of 1,083 hotels (81%) rising in reward category are located in USA. 178 of 248 hotels (72%) dropping in points are in USA.
These changes see 21.26% of 5,095 hotels worldwide increase in reward price and 4.87% drop in points price for a free night.
I placed 5,095 hotels with reward category placement on a table showing the number of hotels in each category and tier February 2018 with the number of hotels in each category as of March 6, 2018.
These 2018 changes are primarily a global shift up in reward category for hotels. This is intuitively obvious with 1,083 hotels going up and only 248 hotels going down. One of the major shifts are hotels from category 3 to category 4. This is a 33% increase in points cost from 15,000 to 20,000.
Categories 7-9 increase by 6.7% in 2018
In a macro view of Marriott category changes, the number of hotels in category 7, 8, 9 increase from 761 hotels to 812 hotels, an increase of 6.7%.
Categories 1-3 decrease by 10.3% in 2018
The number of hotels in the lowest three categories decreases from 2,142 hotels to 1,921 hotels in categories 1, 2 and 3, a decrease of 10.3%.
Categories 4-6 increase by 8.1% in 2018
Hotels in the middle categories 4, 5 and 6 change from 2,092 hotels currently to 2,262 hotels on March 6, 2018, an increase of 8.1%.
Marriott Rewards Hotel Category Distribution 2018
Marriott shows 5,095 hotels in their worldwide list of hotels with a current category placement. The discrepancy between 5,237 hotels and 5,095 hotels currently categorized for reward nights is probably due to hotels not yet open.
Marriott Rewards Category 5 changes
My table above shows there will be an additional 58 hotels in category 5 as of March 6, 2018. However, important for Marriott Rewards members who earn free night certificates valid at hotels up to category 5 is awareness that the increase in category 5 hotels is due to 184 hotels rising from category 4 to category 5.
There are only 45 hotels dropping from category 6 to category 5 for new hotel choices at the category 5 level. This is completely offset by 124 hotels leaving category 5 for category 6. These are the hotels most important to Marriott Rewards members who want to book a hotel at category 5 now for stays past March 6.
I highlighted a few hotels that stuck out to me.
Big Picture View of Marriott Rewards Hotel Category Shifts
The sheer number of hotels going up and down on March 6 makes a full list of 1,300+ hotels impractical here. My interest is more on the big picture view. I have documented Marriott Rewards category shifts for a decade and watched the shift upwards year after year.
I used to praise Marriott for its high proportion of hotels in the lower category levels, but that has changed over the past few years.
Hotel reward category distribution 2010 compared to 2018
One argument could be Marriott Rewards hotel category distribution shifted upwards between 2010 and 2018 due to the number of higher quality hotels added over the past decade.
Or Marriott could be systematically devaluing points by shifting hotels that were low categories to higher categories.
Aside from big credit card spenders, I don’t think it is any easier to earn Marriott Rewards points than it was ten years ago from hotel stays.
I will examine specific hotel reward category changes in a separate post. The only hotel that really caught my attention is Courtyard Pilsen Czech Republic rising from category 1 to category 2.
Loyalty Traveler – Marriott Courtyard Pilsen CZ category 1 reward stay (July 22, 2017).