Marriott Bonvoy is making a significant adjustment on March 4, 2020 when about 2,200 hotels change hotel reward category. These changes are significant in that 70% of these hotel category changes are located in the USA (1,548 hotels) and 87% (1,291 hotels) of these USA hotels will see a reward night rate increase of one category level. USA hotels take a bigger hit than worldwide, where only 77% (1,701 hotels) of hotels changing category are increasing by one category level. About 23% of hotels (499 hotels) worldwide changing category will drop by one category level, with one hotel worldwide dropping two category levels (4 to 2).
All in all, some of the most consequential changes for my travel is category 1 hotels worldwide drop from around 402 currently to 261 hotels after the changes. This includes half of the category 1 hotels in Spain rising to category 2 next month, several hotels of which I was considering for a trip across northern Spain this year. The standard reward rate for these hotels rises from 7,500 points to 12,500 points. That change means most of these hotels will generally be a better deal simply to pay the cash rate rather than redeem points. The value of Marriott Bonvoy points for stays at these hotels in Spain will be reduced significantly.
Loyalty Traveler – Budget travel at 20 Marriott Category 1 AC Hotels across Spain (Nov 18, 2019).
Loyalty Traveler – Marriott Buy Points deal for 20 category 1 AC hotels in Spain at $35 to $44 per night (Nov 18, 2019).
The way to read this chart using category 3 hotels as an example:
- Current number of hotels worldwide in category 3 = 2,199 hotels
- March 4, 2020 number of hotels worldwide in category 3 = 2,398 hotels.
- On March 4, 2020 there are 140 hotels moving to category 2. Reward night points decrease = 5,000 points from 17,500 to 12,500 points for category 2 standard reward..
- On March 4, 2020 there are 389 hotels moving to category 4. Reward night points increase = 5,000 points from 12,500 to 17,500 points for category 2 standard reward.
As can be seen from my chart above, the number of hotels rising in each category is significantly more than hotels dropping in category.
Do not be concerned by the difference in 20 hotels worldwide discrepancy for 7,567 hotels on March 4 and 7,587 hotels on Feb 6. The vast size of Marriott brand hotels worldwide means hotels open somewhere around the world nearly every day. The 7,587 Marriott hotels number I used was taken last week on Feb 6 by filtering all Marriott brand hotels worldwide by hotel reward category. The number of hotels Marriott Bonvoy shows today has increased in every hotel reward category compared to the numbers used in my chart shown for Feb 6, 2020 only 4 days ago.
The number of hotels changing Marriott Bonvoy reward category on March 4 has not changed.
Two factors determine how I value hotel loyalty points.
- How many points are needed for a hotel reward night.
- How much does it cost me to acquire points (buy points or earn points from hotel stays).
One blog I read this past week stated the changes are mitigated by how easy it is to acquire Marriott Bonvoy points.
I do not agree.
Credit cards are not even close to my primary means for hotel points acquisition. Hotel stay promotions and purchased points are my primary means for earning hotel loyalty points with Marriott Bonvoy.
While I have a Marriott Bonvoy credit card, I seldom use that card for earning points. Quite simply stated, I don’t value Marriott Bonvoy points so highly that earning Marriott points is my primary objective for credit card spend. A move like we see now with 22.5% (1,701 of 7,567 hotels) of Marriott brand hotels worldwide increasing by 5,000 to 10,000 points per night is a big hit to the overall potential value of Marriott Bonvoy points. Only 6.6% of Marriott brand hotels worldwide will see a decrease in reward night points cost.
Eight years of a steady creep upwards in the distribution of Marriott and Starwood hotels across reward categories has far exceeded the room rate increases for most hotels. In my calculations, each year reduces the general value of holding Marriott Bonvoy points for my travel needs. There are certainly good redemption value hotels to be found. I simply find fewer hotels in places I travel where Marriott Bonvoy points offer me competitively good value compared to what I can find with some other hotel loyalty program.
My basic motto is I just need a few hotels with good reward night redemption value to make holding points worthwhile. There will still be several Marriott Bonvoy category 1 hotels in Spain for 2020, the place I had my sights on recently for travel. Closer to home is Four Points Sheraton Bakersfield, California dropping from category 2 to category 1. That is a useful property to me for road trips from Monterey to Las Vegas.
I wonder if there is still an operational oil pumpjack in the Four Points Bakersfield hotel parking lot?
There is a good spreadsheet resource on FlyerTalk showing the number of hotels changing reward category by country and brand. The Marriott Bonvoy page has a great sort feature to check hotels for any country yourself. Since that page will likely disappear next month, Brian Cohen at The Gate wrote The Ultimate List of Category Increases and Decreases 2020 for Marriott Bonvoy Hotel and Resort Properties with a spreadsheet of all the changes color coded to indicate all hotels dropping in category level. This will be a useful resource after Marriott takes down its page.