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It’s typically around this time each year when Marriott makes their annual category “adjustments” and we all scramble to book our favorite hotels before their award price increases. But with the Starwood merger, they made lots of category changes back in August 2018 with more to come this year.
Sometime in March 2019, Marriott will be adding a Category 8 to their award chart and roughly 60 hotels will be moving into it. Category 8 hotels will cost 25,000 more points (85,000 instead of 60,000) than Category 7 locations. And they represent some of the nicest Marriott hotels, so it’s worth booking them now at cheaper prices.
On top of that, Marriott is also introducing peak and off-peak awards prices at some points later this year. That makes it a good move to book just about any Marriott stay you have planned before that happens. Even if you don’t currently have enough Marriott points, you can borrow the points you need to book award nights. And earning the points you need should be easier with the new Marriott card offers coming soon.
If you subscribe to our newsletter, we’ll let you know when the changes take place.
How to Book Marriott Hotels Now If You Don’t Have the Points
One of the nice things about Marriott’s rewards program is they allow you to borrow points for award reservations. If you do this, you’ll just have to earn the points you borrowed at least 14 days before you check-in.
If you aren’t able to earn the points by then, the hotel has the right (per the terms) to cancel the award booking and convert it into a cash stay at the best available rate. Although I’m not sure if in practice they would do that or not.
When you book be sure to check the hotel’s cancellation policy because they won’t all be the same. Sometimes you can cancel without penalty 1 day before check-in and at other hotels, you might need to do it 30 days in advance.
Earning the Marriott points you need to cover your points advance could be easy if you can qualify for one of the new Marriott credit cards. Three Marriott cards are getting new names and intro bonus offers starting February 13, 2019:
- Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express Luxury Card will become the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card
- Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express will become the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card
- Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Credit Card will become the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card
Another option is to apply for the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express, which is being discontinued on February 13, 2019. This card comes with a welcome bonus of 75,000 Marriott points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of opening your account. You can read our review of the AMEX Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card.
But before you are counting on qualifying for a big bonus on one of those cards, read this article that covers the new Marriott credit card application rules. They are confusing (to say the least), so you’ll want to plan your strategy carefully.
You can also transfer Marriott points between accounts. Each account is allowed to transfer 100,000 points per year, and you are allowed to receive up to 500,000 points per year. To transfer points call Marriott customer service at 801-468-4000.
Also, both AMEX Membership Rewards points and Chase Ultimate Rewards points transfer to Marriott at a 1:1 ratio. So you’ve got plenty of options for collecting Marriott points. If you need more ideas, check out this guide to all the ways to earn Marriott points.
You can browse all of the Marriott hotels that are jumping up to Category 8 here.
Marriott Is Introducing Peak & Off-Peak Award Prices
In March, Marriott should be rolling out peak and off-peak prices for awards. Take a look at how much more hotels will cost during peak season:
If you book a hotel that is moving into Category 8 you could save 40,000 points by booking now if it would have been a peak season booking! We don’t know what dates will be peak or off-peak, it will most likely vary by hotel, but you can take a good guess. If you’re booking an Austin location during South by Southwest or New Orleans during Mardi Gras, expect peak season prices. Ditto for Europe or Hawaii in the summer.
Booking an award stay now is a good way to hedge against potential peak season increases. And there is very little downside to booking a stay in advance since you’ll be able to cancel and rebook at the lower price if your reservation happens to fall on off-peak dates.
Just make sure you pay attention to the hotels cancelation policy. You can find it under “Rate Details” when you’re booking.
Right now, you can book Marriott hotels through January 2020.
Have you made any Marriott award bookings to lock in savings now?
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