Marriott Bonvoy: Points Redemption Category Changes 2020

In Summary

  • Category adjustments for over 2,000 hotels takes effect 4th March 2020
  • Of these, 77% are category increases and 23% decreases; 
  • Singapore and Malaysia will benefit with 5 hotels decreasing in category, and no increase
Marriott's hotel categories are set to change again

Overview of Points Redemption

The annual category adjustment exercise for Marriott International has been scheduled this year for Wednesday, 4th March 2020. For those unfamiliar, Marriott classifies its hotels into eight categories - with 1 being the lowest and 8 the highest - which translates to different amounts of points being required for a free night redemption through its loyalty program.

Peak and off-peak factors also determine the amount of points needed (effective September 2019), and redemptions are subject to capacity controls regardless of brand (February 2020 onwards). For instance, redemption for a standard room at a category 3 property during a peak night would cost 20,000 Marriott Bonvoy points, as can be seen from the table below.

Marriott Points Redemption Table by Hotel Category (including standard, peak, and off peak)
Marriott Points Redemption Table by Hotel Category

Changes: Global

This year's adjustment will affect 2,185 out of more than 7,200 hotels worldwide, of which 77% of these are increases in category by one level, and 23% are decreases in category by one level. The trend of considerably more hotels moving up than down is consistent with previous years, and signals a devaluation of Marriott Bonvoy points in general. There is only one hotel which will change by more than one category - the Four Points By Sheraton Bali Ungasan in Indonesia will move downwards from category 4 to 2, which slashes the required points by half; as this hotel has just opened in October 2019, the change appears to suggest a lukewarm demand or an exceedingly ambitious initial classification.

The mid-range Courtyard brand will see the most changes, with 366 hotels being affected, which are mostly category increases. This is followed by longer-stay brands Fairfield Inn and Residence Inn, with 338 and 273 properties making the move respectively, almost all of which are located in the United States, where these brands are primarily available. And on the luxury end, Ritz-Carlton is sending 28 of their hotels upwards, and overwhelmingly many to the pinnacle, and that is the fairly new category 8 (introduced only in 2019). The one and only Ritz-Carlton to become more points-friendly is the one in Perth, Australia, which will transition downwards from category 7 to 6.

While hotels across 98 countries have been shortlisted to benefit or lose from this change, 71% of them or 1,548 hotels are located in the United States. Just five hotels in Singapore and Malaysia combined made it to the list - and the best part is that all five of them are decreases, as discussed below.

Changes: Singapore

In Singapore, the St. Regis and JW Marriott will both shift from category 7 to 6. This might come as good news to some travellers, considering that these are both fine and well-located luxury hotels. The St. Regis Singapore, not far from the city state's main shopping belt Orchard Road, is where the North Korean leader stayed (albeit in the Presidential Suite, which would cost about US$8,000) during the "Singapore Summit" with United States President Donald Trump in June 2018.

As for the JW Marriott Singapore South Beach, this fairly new hotel opened in 2016 and is located a stone's throw away from the Suntec Convention & Exhibition Centre, as well as the nearby shopping malls Suntec City and Marina Square. Interestingly, this 634-room property was "promoted" from category 6 to 7 in March 2019, and thus the upcoming change will effectively reverse its category to the pre-2019 level.  

Changes: Malaysia

In Malaysia, a total of three properties made the list. Firstly, the high-rise St. Regis Kuala Lumpur, located at the heart of the nation's capital, will be re-designated as category 5. Its beautifully appointed 208 rooms oversee either the scenic Lake Gardens or the city skyline, and the hotel's location in KL Sentral offers outstanding connectivity with the airport-express rail network and local train services. 

Secondly, Hotel Stripes Kuala Lumpur, Autograph Collection will switch from category 3 to 2. Having previously reviewed this hotel over here, the change will offer improved points value for guests seeking to experience a more boutique-style hotel; this is especially so considering that average room rates were very much in the category 2 range and similar to the Renaissance Kuala Lumpur (reviewed here), which it now equalises in category. 

Finally, the Putrajaya Marriott Hotel in Malaysia's administrative capital will turn from category 2 to 1. This makes it the cheapest Marriott-branded hotel to redeem in Malaysia, with its fellow counterparts located in Kota Kinabalu, Miri and Mulu ranging from category 2 to 3. With 488 rooms and suites, it caters primarily to business travellers and those on conferences, although it can be of significant points value to all travellers, at just 7,500 points for a standard night at this premium brand.

Final Thoughts

Overall, this adjustment is, on aggregate, bad news for Marriott Bonvoy members worldwide, as the average number points required for a redemption award night is set to (again) increase. Nonetheless, the five hotels in Singapore and Malaysia to experience category drops are definitely welcome, and it is pleasantly surprising that no hotels in both countries are moving upwards.

In any case, members can book their award redemptions before 4th March 2020 to take advantage of the current categories even for stays scheduled beyond that date; it will of course be wise to wait for changes to take effect for guests looking to stay at hotels destined for a category drop.


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