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Starwood has come out with their preliminary list of category changes for 2012. These go into effect on 03/01 local time, so don’t wait until 02/29 to book.
Also going into effect on 03/01 are some elite benefit changes. The main positive change here is that SPG Gold members receive their choice of a 250 point amenity per stay (even on award stays) or free wifi. SPG Gold status is given away for free to American Express Consumer Platinum and American Express Business Platinum cardholders, as well has to anyone who spends $30,000 in a calendar year on the Starwood Consumer or the Starwood Business cards. Platinum members will also have the option of free daily breakfast instead of their 500 point amenity and Platinums that stay in Starwood hotels for way too many nights per year (50+) also get some other benefits like confirmed suite upgrades.
Many people use Starpoints just to transfer into airline miles. Starwood points transfer to most airline miles at a 20,000:25,000 rate. (Some airlines are at 20,000:12,500, others at 20,000:50,000) But obviously you can get an amazing value from your Starpoints in Starwood hotels. You can redeem points with no blackout dates or capacity controls on standard rooms starting at just 2,000 points per night. When you redeem 5 consecutive nights with points the 5th night is free. There are also cash and points options that make the rooms even cheaper and help stretch your Starpoints. There are also nights and flights options that make stays even cheaper when you transfer Starpoints to miles at the same time. And of course you can also use points for upgrades to suites and much more.
Back to the subject at hand, you can book any future stays at hotels that are going up before 03/01 and pay the current lower rates. Most hotel stays are fully refundable, so even if you don’t end up needing the stay you can cancel and get your points back.
If you have a Starwood card you can also borrow Starpoints from American Express and pay them back as you spend money on the card in the future!
If you have Starpoint reservations at a hotel that is going down in category just wait until March 1st and then get it readjusted downward.
The biggest surprise this year is a move they didn’t make. They left the Le Meridian Dead Sea, which has rates ranging from $200-$500, as a category 1 property. Sure it’s nothing to write home about, but for 2,000-3,000 points per night (or even less for Gold/Platinum members) it’s a downright steal. Hopefully it stays at category 1 when the final list comes out.
Here’s what else caught my eye:
–Thailand got slammed from flooding and SPG members reap the benefits of the low rates from last year:
The Le Meridian Chiang Mai Thailand is the steal of the year falling down to category 1. It’s a gorgeous modern property in a fun and affordable city just down the road from the local chabad house that I reviewed in my Chiang Mai trip notes.
The Le Meridian Chiang Rai resort and the Aloft Bangkok also fall to category 1.
The W Retreat Koh Samui falls from its category 7 perch to category 6.
-Le Meridian Bora Bora drops from a category 7 to category 6, a welcome change.
-The Westin Southfield, near the kosher restaurants in Detroit, drops to a category 2. Other Detroit hotels drop as well.
-Sheraton Nassau Bahamas drops to a cateory 3.
–NYC gets expensive:
12 NYC hotels go up in category, most of them to category 6.
-The awful Sheraton Kaiulani Honolulu climbs to category 5. So feel free to blow 12K points there or the same 12K points at the awesome Westin Moana Surfrider that I reviewed in these Oahu trip notes.
-W South Beach, which I negatively reviewed in these trip notes, climbs to the ridiculous category 7 list.
These 3 changes are a real shame though:
-W Hong Kong, which we absolutely loved, goes up to category 6.
-Sheraton Gateway LAX, an excellent airport hotel, makes its way back up to category 3.
-The Westin Venice, which I positively reviewed in these trip notes, will be going up to category 6.
What other category changes will affect you?