Jeff Zidell, VP of Hyatt Gold Passport, announced some coming changes to their program last night, of which some of you are already aware. I made a haphazard attempt two months ago arguing why Hyatt would NOT be devaluing their award chart in the near future. Obviously I was wrong about that. But I did suggest what a devaluation might look like if it happened:
Forgiving these deficiencies, I still see the potential for a 10-20% devaluation of Hyatt Gold Passport. This would mean raising the cost of award nights in Category 6 from 22,000 points to about 25,000. Alternatively, Hyatt might add a Category 7 for 26,000 points and leave the rest of its award chart intact. (I came up with this number because the current gap between Categories 5 and 6 is 4,000 points).
This is actually close to what we can expect, with three major differences. First, Hyatt is implementing both changes. Second, the new Category 7 will cost a bit more. Third, I didn’t explore the possibility that suite upgrades — an area where Hyatt has been particularly generous — might also be affected.
Read on to learn all the details about the new award chart and how these changes may affect your travel plans. I’ll tell you up front that I am still not too concerned. Complete FAQs with all category changes and award changes can be found on Hyatt’s website.
New Category 7
Hyatt has long mixed in some very exclusive hotels, like the Park Hyatt Tokyo and Park Hyatt Maldives, with other properties that are merely good. It created a conflict in my mind, at least, that told me it was foolish to redeem points for a hotel like the Andaz Fifth Avenue or the Andaz Maui when the same number of points could be used for a more expensive hotel.
Rather than raise the cost of all Category 6 properties by a drastic amount, there is a new Category 7 — and it’s pricey. Only six hotels will be in Category 7, at a cost of 30,000 points per night for a standard room or 48,000 points for a suite. These properties are:
- Park Hyatt Beaver Creek
- Park Hyatt Milan
- Park Hyatt Paris Vendome
- Park Hyatt Sydney
- Park Hyatt Tokyo
- Park Hyatt Zurich
It is worth noting that this list represents just over 1% of Hyatt’s 500+ properties, though the price of these award nights has gone up 36% from the old Category 6 rates.
Few Changes to Categories 1-4
In addition to adding another category, Hyatt has increased the number of points required for many of its existing categories — but not always by a large amount. I will leave out of the discussion award levels for Regency Club and Grand Club rooms. Gold Passport Diamond members already receive access to these rooms whether they book a paid or award stay. In most cases I do not consider them a good value.
Looking only at standard room and suite award nights, there will be no changes to Categories 1 and 2. Standard rooms still cost the same for Categories 3 and 4, as well, though suite award nights will increase slightly.
Bigger Increases for Categories 5 and 6
The more significant changes are to Categories 5 and 6. Standard room awards at Category 5 hotels will increase from 18,000 to 20,000 points per night, and suite awards will increase from 27,000 to 32,000 points per night. Standard room awards at Category 6 hotels will increase from 22,000 to 25,000 points per night, and suite awards will increase from 33,000 to 40,000 points per night.
We are looking at modest 11-14% increases for standard award nights at Category 5 and 6 hotels. It is not a big deal unless you were looking at those six hotels that have moved up to Category 7.
I’m more upset about the increases to suite aware nights. The old award chart assigned a 50% premium to suite award rates (27,000 points vs. 18,000 and 33,000 vs. 22,000). The new award chart assigns a 60% premium. This is a double devaluation because the base number of points for a standard room increased as did the multiplier. Since Hyatt is already asking for a huge number of points for standard rooms, I wish they would allow Diamond members to apply confirmed suite upgrades to award stays instead.
Upgrades MUCH More Expensive
One of the sweet spots of Hyatt’s existing award chart is that you can redeem just 3,000 points for an upgrade to a Regency or Grand Club room, or 6,000 points for an upgrade to a suite. And that is the price for any stay of four nights or less. Who wouldn’t want to redeem 1,500 points per night for a suite?! Many bloggers have pointed out that there are few reasons not to stay in a suite when at a Hyatt hotel.
Well, the new award chart keeps those prices in place but changes the rules so that you are charged per night. That means a four-night stay now requires 24,000 points to upgrade to a suite, a price increase of up to 300%.
I am disappointed this generosity has come to an end, but it was expected. Keep in mind that Diamond elite members are not officially entitled to a complimentary suite upgrade, only to the best available non-suite room. But I have often received a suite upgrade anyway. I only redeem points or use one of my Diamond confirmed suite upgrades for stays that really matter — as it should be.
How Will Changes Be Implemented?
The new award chart applies to reservations made on or after January 7, so you have about two months to book travel under the existing award chart.
Some hotels will be going down to a lower award tier. If you will be staying at one of these hotels on or after January 7 and have already booked your award, Hyatt will refund your points so that you pay the lower rate.
Some hotels will be going up to a higher award tier, or the award tier will not change but the number of points for that tier will increase. Hyatt will honor the current award chart. Again, you can check-in on or after January 7 and pay the current award price as long as you make the reservation before January 7.
If you are looking to take advantage of the free award night provided to Hyatt Credit Card holders on each account anniversary, the same rules apply. Your free night can be used at any Category 1-4 hotel. If the hotel will be moving from Category 4 to Category 5, you must book before January 7, but check-in may occur after the category change occurs. This applies to four hotels:
- Andaz West Hollywood
- Hyatt Chicago Magnificent Mile
- Hyatt Place New York/Midtown South
- Park Hyatt Melbourne
Hyatt deserves credit for announcing these changes at the beginning of the week. Most devaluations tend to be on a Friday as the program tries to bury the news over the weekend. If anything, Hyatt’s choice of timing will maximize publicity.
I don’t think these changes are all that bad. Certainly no one likes to see prices go up. But these are changes that largely affect a small number of properties or select opportunities like cheap suite upgrades. It will hurt the most for those who want to stay at the new Category 7 hotels. I have never stayed at these properties and did not have plans to in the near future. Many of the Category 5 and 6 hotels are still quite good. Some of my favorite properties are actually going down. That’s good — they were overpriced under the old award chart.
Unlike Hilton or United, these changes are not radical. But it is annoying to see so many devaluations in recent weeks. I hope we can expect some positive news in the near future.