Starwood Preferred Guest has announced its annual category changes,
This PDF document contains a list of all the changes. Most are straight one category moves and, to be fair to Starwood, there are as many properties going up as are going down.
Don’t underestimate the size of some of the jumps though. A Category 5 to Category 6 move means a jump from 16,000 points to 25,000 points per night! A jump from Category 6 to Category 7 means an extra 10,000 points per night (25,000 to 35,000).
Of the notable jumps, St Regis Abu Dhabi (which is apparently not as bad as the one in Doha I visited) goes to Category 6.
The real news for European residents, however, is in the fallers.
In theory, Starwood bases its redemption categories on the average room rate achieved for the previous year. Starwood is either having some massive problems in Europe leading to lower rates or, more likely, is adjusting for changes in exchange rates. This is the only reason I can think of for the substantial cuts to redemption rates for European hotels.
Left, right and centre, Starwood has made it cheaper to stay in their European properties.
I would guess that around half of the European portfolio has come down.
There are three drops in Vienna, two in Brussels, one in Prague, one in Zagreb, one in Paris (W Paris-Opera), eight in Germany, three in Greece, one in Budapest, six in Italy, one in Malta, one in The Netherlands, two in Poland, two in Portugal, one in Serbia, four in Spain and one in Switzerland.
In the UK:
aloft Liverpool drops from Category 3 to Category 2 (7,000 to 4,000 per night – or 3,000 at weekends)
Sheraton Heathrow drops from Category 3 to Category 2 (7,000 to 4,000 per night – or 3,000 at weekends)
Sheraton Skyline Heathrow drops from Category 4 to Category 3 (10,000 to 7,000 points per night)
Over in Ireland, the Sheraton Athlone drops to Category 1, making it just 2000 points per night at the weekend or 3000 points midweek!
These changes come into effect from March 10th. You should book now for stays at properties which are going up in price. For the fallers, it is OK to wait. Starwood has ‘last room availability’ so if a standard room is available for sale, you can also have it for points.
Remember that you can convert American Express Membership Rewards points into Starwood Preferred Guest points at the rate of 2:1. A weekend night at the Sheraton Heathrow would be just 6,000 Amex points (3,000 SPG points). This may be an interesting transfer option if you are no longer sure that converting to Avios offers the best value after April 28th.
Starwood has its own American Express card. There is a £75 annual fee (refundable pro-rata if you cancel) and a sign-up bonus of 10,000 SPG points. My full review of the Starwood Amex is here. Alternatively, Amex Gold currently has a sign-up bonus of 20,000 Membership Rewards points (see my Amex Gold review here) and is free for the first year.
(Want to earn more hotel points? To see our complete list of promotions from the major chains, click here to visit our ‘Hotel Promos’ page or use the link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)