My Pet Peeve: Hotels Changing Categories Without Notice

I’ve mentioned a few times that I’m a big fan of Marriott brand. Not enough to actually spend cash on stays, but I’ve always thought their properties are consistently nice and non-utilitarian (cough, Hyatt, cough). When I think  Marriott, I think reliability. Even though their decent hotels are quite expensive on points,  you can rest assured that this brand can be trusted. Or can it? Well, Marriott, today I’m calling you out!

I had about 7K Marriott points left sitting in my account. As you may know, their lowest category goes for 7.5K  points per night (see hotel listings sorted by category). So, I started looking for ways I can use this tiny leftover stash. The problem is, I couldn’t really find  anything appealing, but I did see a place that would provide a nice getaway for my brother-in-law and his wife. Introducing Towne Place Suites Tampa

Of course, I still needed 500 points, so I ordered a magazine subscription I knew I would enjoy reading anyway. I told my brother-in-law about my plans to treat them to a getaway, and he got really excited. Well…

When I got my  500 points and went online to book the place, I’ve noticed that it was now a Category 2 property, which would require 10K points. Say what? This happened after Marriott’s annual category adjustment, and no prior notice was given. It’s like it was never there to begin with. Poof! Obviously, I was annoyed, but  there was a hotel in another city that was also  a Category 1. Incidentally, my brother-in-law said he may need a hotel stay there next year, but didn’t have the exact dates yet. A few months went by. Well…

When I checked on it yesterday, that hotel has also become a Category 2. What’s up, Marriott? How can you just raise prices without any prior notice? Is that fair to those who put a lot of effort to collect your currency? I’m actually planning to tweet this to them. I think… I don’t really like to be confrontational. Don’t laugh, it’s true! Deep down inside, I’m a lover not a fighter, despite my Russian origins.

Back to topic. As terrible as Club Carlson massacre was earlier this year (and it was), at least they gave two months to book hotels at old rates and take advantage of BOGO benefit. Of course, I’m not saying that Marriott is the only offender in this area, I just expected more from this program.

But the main reason for my rant is to once again encourage you to think twice before collecting hotel points via everyday spending. This stuff probably happens more than you think. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s much harder to track every property and its cost in points. If you do have an eye on specific hotel, take a screenshot of a page where it states clearly what category it’s assigned to. I didn’t do that. There is no guarantee that they will honor it, but at least, you’ll have a shot.

The same logic applies to hotel sign-up bonuses. Only apply if you have an immediate redemption in mind. Hotel points can devalue significantly within  a year or two. I definitely think those type of bonuses are worth considering, but be aware of potential risks and caveats (blackout dates, no award availability, change in your plans etc.)

Readers, has this happened to you before? Should I call Marriott out via Twitter?

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4 thoughts on “My Pet Peeve: Hotels Changing Categories Without Notice

    • Julie, that’s a bit of a generalization on my part! There are many Hyatts that look unique and have character. For the most part, though, they appear kind of spartan (to me). Not to say they aren’t nice, but there is a basic feel to them, at least judging from photos. Common theme is beige, grey and white. To me, Marriott properties have a bit more color to them.
      Of course, this is totally personal opinion. I would not hesitate to stay in a Hyatt, and in fact, look forward to using my certs in Clearwater Regency. Maybe I’m off on this one. Most people love Hyatts, and this brand has a huge following among points hobbyists. My cousin-in-law just stayed in a Hyatt and loved it. She said she only wants to stick to this brand from now on.

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  1. And another lesson from this story is to book your stay as soon as possible. Most (all?) hotel reward points let you cancel without penalty so you have not got anything to lose, but you have a lot to gain if the hotel is shifted up. This just happened to me – I booked a Hilton property for May that has just been moved up a category from mid October! Needless to say many hotels have only limited rooms on points so this also helps with that.

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    • @Uri That’s a good point! I always try to book rooms as soon as I know my travel dates. Like you said, you have absolutely nothing to lose. It’s especially important with Hilton because that program shifts categories a few times per year, and unlike Hyatt, only sets aside a certain number of rooms available on points.

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