Hyatt made several changes to its Gold Passport program last year, most of which kick in on January 7. These include the usual category shifts as some hotels move higher or lower but also more dramatic changes like a new Category 7 award rate and new Points + Cash awards.
I advise that you consider your travel plans for the next year and book now using the old award chart. If you change your mind, you can still move some dates around through February 15 or outright cancel the award.
New Category 7 Properties
This has the potential to be the most expensive change. Six hotels, plus the new Park Hyatt New York (which has yet to open) will be part of the new Category 7 and will cost 30,000 points per night instead of the current 22,000 points. I don’t personally consider this a great loss since I haven’t stayed at any and don’t plan to in the near future, but those who do should act soon. The affected properties are:
- Park Hyatt Beaver Creek
- Park Hyatt Milan
- Park Hyatt Paris Vendome
- Park Hyatt Sydney
- Park Hyatt Tokyo
- Park Hyatt Zurich
Changes to Category 4
Beyond the new Category 7, several hotels are moving up or down. The changes don’t matter too much except for those that are moving in and out of Category 4. Everyone who holds the Hyatt Visa credit card receives a free night each year that can be used at a Category 4 or lesser hotel. I like to use mine for New Year’s Eve. If you plan to use your free night at any of these hotels moving to Category 5, book it now. Two other hotels are moving down to Category 4, but they aren’t likely to be on most people’s radar.
Leaving Category 4
- Andaz West Hollywood
- Hyatt Chicago Magnificent Mile
- Hyatt Place New York/Midtown South
- Park Hyatt Melbourne
Moving to Category 4
- Hyatt Capital Gate, Abu Dhabi
- Hyatt Regency Changbaishan
A much larger list of properties remaining in Category 4 (including, for the moment, the ones leaving Category 4) can be found on Hyatt’s website. You can also find a list of all other hotels changing in and out of other categories.
Smaller Increases for Most Other Categories
If you plan to book a room in one of the hotels remaining in Categories 1-6, then I don’t think you have much to worry about. The increases are smaller than what you find for hotels moving to Category 7, and for Categories 1-4 there is no increase at all for standard free night awards. But Category 5 will move from 18,000 to 20,000 points per night, and Category 6 will move from 22,000 to 25,000 points per night. Other changes will increase the number of points required for free night awards on club floors or in suites.
The people who should worry about this change are those who know they have upcoming travel plans. Book now and save a few thousand points rather than waiting and paying more. For example, I have plans to take my family to the Andaz Maui for a week. Duh! I should book this Category 6 hotel now and save 3,000 points per night. I know the exact week, and if I need to shuffle dates after pinning down flights I can still do that through February 15.
Points + Cash Awards
Hyatt is introducing some other changes, but these are program enhancements and won’t be available to you right now. I bring them up so you can incorporate them into your greater plans.
New Points + Cash awards will save you money by letting you pay half in points and half with cash. Unlike traditional free night awards, these will be treated for most intents and purposes as traditional revenue rates. This means you can:
- Earn credit toward elite status
- Earn credit toward promotions
- Redeem Diamond suite upgrades
But we don’t really know how much availability there is going to be or how that will be affected by other award bookings.
The best value for Points + Cash awards depends on which you value more: elite status or points? In the example of a Category 7 award for 15,000 points and $300, you could view it as a cost of 2 cents per point not redeemed. If you value your points at 1.5 cents each, this is a bad deal because you “pay” more than they’re worth. But if I redeem a free night award, I don’t earn status, which is very important to me, and I can’t redeem one of my suite upgrades, which is particularly valuable at such an exclusive property.
The “cost per point” ranges from 1.2 to 2 cents depending on the award level. Given points are worth somewhere around the 1.5 cents range, it would seem to be a bad deal to book Points + Cash awards at for Categories 1 and 7. But I prefer to look at this as a way to pay only $300 a night for a suite at a very nice hotel and use some of the points and suite upgrades that tend to accumulate in my account. Value is in the eye of the beholder.
My Elite Rates
Not nearly as exciting, but still worth noting, is a new 20% discount provided with My Elite rates to Platinum and Diamond members. These will also be capacity controlled, and my guess is that they will be non-refundable. You may decide that it is more worthwhile to use other discounts, such as corporate discounts or AAA and Costco rates, to book refundable rates even if it means smaller savings.