Starwood Preferred Guest Announces Category Changes For 2016

Starwood Preferred Guest has announced the properties that are changing award categories, effective March 1, 2016.  It’s not terribly painful, with about 12% of properties going up a category and 8% going down.  But, there are some pretty good properties getting more expensive soon.

The announcement was posted on InsideFlyer Thursday night but due to some travel delays yesterday I didn’t get a chance to analyze the list until this morning.  The key here is that these changes go into effect on March 1, 2016.  We have 9 days to book awards at those properties where the rates are going up.  As a quick refresher, here are the redemption amounts for the different categories:

  • Category 1: 3,000 points
  • Category 2: 4,000 points
  • Category 3: 7,000 points
  • Category 4: 10,000 points
  • Category 5: 12,000-16,000 points
  • Category 6: 20,000-25,000 points
  • Category 7: 30,000-35,000 points

Some of the highlighted properties that are moving categories:

Properties Going Up in Category

  • The Westin San Francisco and Le Meridien San Francisco both go from Category 5 to 6
  • The Sheraton Universal goes from Category 4 to 5 (ouch for families visiting Universal Studios)
  • The Westin Beaver Creek goes from Category 5 to 6.  Skiers and Mommy Points will be sad.
  • The W Washington, DC goes from Category 5 to 6.
  • The Walt Disney World Swan goes from Category 4 to 5.  It’s sister property the Dolphin appears to be staying a 4 and is just fine for families as well.
  • The Sheraton and Westin Maui both go from 5 to 6.
  • The W New Orleans and Westin Copley Place, Boston both seem like unreasonable jumps from 5 to 6.
  • The Westin New York Grand Central goes from 5 to 6.  Well located, that’s a shame.
  • Westin Austin Downtown moves from 5 to 6.
  • The Equinox, a property we thoroughly enjoyed, goes from 5 to 6.  Probably worth it given their normal rates.
  • Le Meridien Munich goes from 4 to 5.  We’re planning a stay there later this year, so I need to get that wrapped up!
  • Le Meridien Barcelona goes from 5 to 6.  We loved that hotel many years ago, but 20-25K points a night seems like a bit of a stretch.
  • The Park Lane Hotel in London goes from 5 to 6.
  • Westin Grand Cayman goes from 5 to 6.

Properties Going Down in Category

  • Le Meridien Bora Bora drops from Category 7 to 6.
  • St. Regis Bangkok drops from Category 6 to 5.
  • Westin Athens Astir Palace drops from Category 6 to 5.  We stayed at the sister property Arion last year.  Both are nice, within short walking distance and I would absolutely choose the cheaper points option.

Starwood Preferred Guest

  • Sheraton Palace Hotel in Moscow drops from Category 5 to 4.
  • Most of the Istanbul hotels are dropping a category.

You can see the full list on SPG’s website.

All in all, there are notable properties in the US and Europe going up but not much of interest in the US that’s getting cheaper to redeem points at.

Your obvious strategy is to book any properties going up a category before the end of February.  If you already have awards booked for a property that’s dropping down, call SPG on or after March 1st to have the reservation adjusted and the difference in points refunded to your account.

I guess this could have been worse given that hotel occupancy has stayed high over the past year.  No new categories or increases in the points per category.  Other chains have had more painful changes as of late.  You should still be cautious hoarding Starpoints given the upcoming Marriott merger and uncertainty surrounding the program that causes.


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