Hyatt is Increasing Prices for Award Nights and Upgrades – But It’s Only Really Bad for 6 Hotels

I choked a little at firstHyatt is changing their award chart, too? They’re the program that has resisted award chart inflation while all of the other programs substantially devalued over the past year.

I’ve long said that the best values never stay quite as valuable over time, so enjoy them while they’re around. It doesn’t surprise me that Hyatt is making changes. And for most people the changes aren’t all that bad — they seemed a whole lot less bad than I thought at first once I was able to stick the changes into spreadsheets and dig into them.

But here are the top-line key changes:

  • 27 hotels go up in category, 17 hotels go down in category
  • The price of category 5 hotel standard rooms go up 11%, the price of category 6 hotel standard rooms go up 14%
  • Six hotels go into a new category 7 which is 36% more expensive than their previous category 6… only three and a half years after category 6 was introduced as the new highest tier.
  • Upgraded rooms — club rooms and suites on award nights, and also on paid stays — get more expensive almost across the board (everything except category 1 club and suite award redemptions).

Here are the Changes to the Free Night Award Charts

Here’s the current award chart — for standard room award nights, club rooms, and for suites:

Here’s the new award chart for reservations made January 7 and beyond:

Here’s how the new award chart compares to the old one:

The price of a standard room in categories 1-4 doesn’t go up at all. Category 5 goes up 11%. Category 6 goes up 14%. The big increase is in the creation of a new category 7, it currently affects only six hotels but those hotels are going to be 36% more expensive than before.

Using points for free nights in club rooms goes up the most. In each category those have the biggest percentage increase.

Suites are more expensive as well. They do, however, continue to compare favorably to other chains — Starwood is second-best for securing free nights in suites with points, and they charge double the cost of a standard room. Hyatt has gone from charging in most cases 50% more to charging in most cases 60% more than a standard room for a suite. That’s a bump, but one that still leaves Hyatt as the best program for free nights in suites.

Which Hotel Awards Are Getting More Expensive, And Which Will Be Cheaper?

Here are the 17 hotels that are going down in category.

Here are the 21 hotels that are going up within the current 6 redemption categories.

And here are the six hotels most affected by these changes, the ones that will be going up into the new category 7:

I’m told that the Park Hyatt New York will be category 7 when it opens next year.

I’m a little bit surprised to see the Park Hyatt Tokyo going up, rates are often lower than in Zurich and Paris and I would have thought comparable to the Maldives which remains in category 6.

Most hotels in the Hyatt Gold Passport redemption portfolio will not get more expensive. I can live with the modest increases in categories 5 and 6. It’s the six properties — literally just six — that are going into category 7 that bother me the most.

  • It’s only six properties now, but eventually more will likely creep into the new category 7.
  • The strongest value proposition for Hyatt Gold Passport has been that no hotel cost more than 22,000 points a night to redeem for — the Park Hyatts in Paris, Sydney, and Zurich didn’t cost more points than the Grand Hyatt New York. That’s no longer true.
  • Suite awards become tougher to swallow now for me in this category 7. At 33,000 points per night I could afford to redeem a suite at the Park Hyatt Paris if one was available. At 48,000 points a night (remember, 3 night minimum) I can afford that a whole lot less — that’s an extra 45,000 points on a 3 night stay.

Upgrades on Paid Stays Are Getting More Expensive, Too

My favorite use of points is for upgrades on paid stays. Booking a Hyatt Daily Rate is enough to be able to use 6000 points to confirm a suite. That hasn’t been 6000 points per night. It’s been 6000 points for a whole stay up to 4 nights. (Resorts require a slightly higher rate, such as for a partial ocean view.)

But that offered such disproportionate value, that the next-best progam for suite upgrades on paid stays — Starwood– charged orders of magnitude more points. Upgrading a four night stay at the Park Hyatt Tokyo could be done at booking from the daily rate for 6000 points total. Upgrading a four night stay at the Westin Tokyo could be done five days in advance of check-in from a similar rate for 80,000 Starpoints.

That was too good to be sustainable, and indeed it turned out not to be.

Hyatt is increasing the cost of upgrades by charging the same price for a single night that used to be good for a stay of one to four nights.

  • Upgrades to a club room go up from 3000 points for 1-4 nights to 3000 points per night
  • Upgrades to a suite go up from 6000 points for 1-4 nights to 6000 points per night

It’s not really a quadrupling, most upgrades are confirmed for 2 nights or 3 nights. So it’s a double or a tripling for those stays.

Upgrades to a suite are still a great value in the program, and cheaper than offered by competitors. They aren’t “almost free” under the new rules the way I used to internalize them, where I would do confirmed suites without thinking. Now I’ll have to consider how badly I want the suite on a given eligible stay.

How to Take Advantage of the Current Award Prices for Your Future Stays

You can book future stays up through January 6th at the ‘old’ (current) rates. And it’s not even like you’re going to be locked in, most award nights are cancellable with fairly generous terms.

What’s more, Hyatt is going to even let you make a booking by January 6 for a future stay and make changes to that booking through February 15 without requiring a reprice. They will even let you add or remove nights from your reservation, so if you book a 2 night stay on January 6 you can make it a 3 night stay on February 10 at the old rates.

That’s actually super-generous. We’ve got two months’ notice, can get in a speculative booking, and as plans firm over the following month can still adjust without paying more points per night. I have to give Hyatt credit for this.

The only exception to the ability to modify an award between January 7 and February 15 without a reprise is awards booked using the annual free night from the Hyatt Visa. That’s valid on category 1-4 properties, and if you booked one of the (4) hotels going up from category 4 to category 5 (Andaz West Hollywood, Hyatt Chicago Magnificent Mile, Hyatt Place Hyatt Place New York/Midtown South, or Park Hyatt Melbourne) you won’t be able to change the dates on the stay after the new chart goes into effect.

Hyatt is also going to — on its own — give back points for stays booked prior to January 7 where the hotel is going down in category. Folks won’t have to do anything to get their points back.

Most Gold Passport Members Will Barely Notice the Difference But I Hate These Changes

I save up my points for the Park Hyatt Paris and similar hotels. I certainly have envisioned redeeming for the Park Hyatt Sydney on my next visit there. And the Park Hyatt Tokyo is just such a special hotel. I see points as a way of accessing the sorts of travel that I couldn’t otherwise afford, and hitting the pricing of those properties in particular means it hurts me more than the median member.

Ultimately 27 properties go up in category, 17 go down, award chart prices stay the same for four categories and bump up for two existing categories relatively modestly. This isn’t anything like the Hilton bloodbath. It’s a blip for the median member. But they hit me where it hurts.

I don’t redeem for the Park Hyatt Paris every day of course, in fact I’ve only spent my points there once. I’ve redeemed for the Park Hyatt Hadahaa in the Maldives more than once, and surprisingly that one doesn’t get more expensive.

But what I do on a regular basis — in fact pretty much whenever I’m booking a Hyatt Daily Rate rather than a discounted rate — is use points to upgrade to a suite because that was so darned cheap, it was such a fantastic value. That will get pricier for me.

Still — and even though there aren’t as lucrative promotions from Hyatt as there used to be (there’s no more ‘Faster Free Nights’ but no one has promotions that are obviously better than Hyatt’s) and they don’t throw points at us with property-specific promotions the way that they used to (the economy is much better, after all) — even after these changes Hyatt offers the best access to suites of any major program (both through points redemption and confirmed upgrades for Diamonds), they offer the best breakfast benefit for elites of any major program, and they offer solid earning for hotel spend (better than Starwood, which is my only realistic alternative for top end hotels and reasonable access to suites on a consistent basis).

So while I don’t like to see award chart increases, this won’t change my loyalty plans. But it doesn’t mean I have to like it.

There’s Good News Coming

I’ve spent a good bit of time chasing this down, sorry for posting so late at night. What I’ve got is that this isn’t the end of the changes, but that the bad news comes first and that we can expect some improvements to follow in short order; that the award chart changes stand on their own and the genuine thing to do is not try to hide them behind token good news. So we’ll have to wait a short bit so that the positives can stand on their own too. All I can say is they’d better be good!


About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I think the reason the PH Maldives is staying at Cat 6 is because there aren’t as many award redemptions there than at Tokyo, Sydney, Milan, etc. It’s pretty much located in the middle of nowhere and hard to get to, compared to the other PHs.

  2. There is a hidden improvement built in here that should actually benefit Diamond members — by eliminating the bargain-basement 6k price for a multi-day suite upgrade, fewer guests without status will be likely to upgrade themselves into a suite with points. That should increase the available suite pool, which should then make it easier for Diamonds to be upgraded into suites as available.

  3. @bill That may be the long-term effect, but short-term, won’t even more people be locking in suites while they can still be acquired so cheaply?

    I imagine one of the goals of this is to get people to redeem a lot of points in the near future to get a chunk of that potential liability off of Hyatt’s books for the time being. But for what reason?

  4. The new category 7 is a surprise to me, but the increase in suite upgrades most definitely isn’t. In fact, I’m surprised it took so long. It’s been “stupidly” generous these past years.

  5. I believe most stories for 2014 will be about devaluing with hotels and airlines throughout. I guess this does change the value of Chase points which is always touted of having such great value and flexibility. While the main Hyatt devaluing is the top end properites, these were the ones that were such a great value making Hyatt an excellent program. Recently big devalue in Hilton, United, Delta, in the last few weeks. There iwll be more to come IMHO. My #1 hotel program is Starwood. They have makde some award changes the past few years and that may continue as well. Overall I still think they have best valuation per points and many different brands worldwide. And on the redemption of points SPG is much more flexible and transparent than Hyatt on obtaining a room. I did not find it so easy to get a room in Paris at the very small Vendome hotel. Even if I could get the Vendome it would have been a small standard room. I spent some more points but got the W Paris and used an upgrade crt to a nice suite.

  6. Ouch. and on Veteran’s Day. Nice timing Hyatt.

    More surprise and delight. Funny how this comes just after United deval. I wonder if Chase is in bed with them.

    I am glad PH Maldives stays category 6 since I find that the very best redemption.

  7. No status with Hyatt. Would like to use points to stay at either Grand Hyatt in Sydney, Paris or Tokyo. Which is the best for location area and room . Like to book at old price before it goes to Cat 7

  8. @Sil – all are fantastic hotels. Sydney and Tokyo are more ‘modern’. Tokyo is technically in Shinjuku but in a fairly sterile area that’s a hike (or complimentary ride) from where most folks want to be.

  9. How far out can you book award stays with Hyatt? In other words, how far into the future am I able to book a stay at the old rates? I have saved exactly 154,000 points and planned to use them for a 7-day stay at one of the Park Hyatts. Under the new plans I’d need 210,000 points for that same stay… yikes!

  10. UGH – this means there are no category 4 hotels in Manhattan to use the Hyatt Card anniversary award.

    Still, rest of the increases seemed modest, other than the jump from Cat 6 to 7.

  11. Guess why these 6 properties are going up? Tks bloggers for bragging about how cheap those hotels were using awards. Hyatt also reads your posts.

  12. How many people would actually pay $220 / night out of pocket for the PH Tokyo or the PH Paris? Not a lot, and certainly not a lot of FTers I suspect. Even though I can afford it, I would never, given that one can often find better located apartments with more character for half the price. Yet people are redeeming 22k UR, with an opportunity cost of $220, for these PHs. To each their own, I suppose, but I wonder how many of the newbies to the game, who seem to live vicariously off the blogs, have enough sense to do the math…

  13. @abcx – if you’re redeeming 22k Chase points the opportunity cost is $275, not $220. And I definitely consider the Park Hyatts in Tokyo, Paris, and Sydney to be well worth $275. I would not pay $700+ for the Park Hyatt Paris (when I was there it was sold out and Gold Passport’s internal reimbursement rate to the hotel was ~ $1000!). But $275, easy.

  14. You might be willing to pay $275 but I really question how many of your readers would actually pay that rate in cash. And I used 1 cpm because that’s what UR can be cashed out at. But yeah, the true value is likely higher than that when one considers the opportunity cost of redeeming for airline travel.

  15. @abcx, you wouldn’t pay $275 or even $220 for PH Tokyo or PH Paris? What kind of hotels do you normally stay at?

    If you know of better located apartments with character in Tokyo or Paris at half that price, please share.

    I would happily pay $220 for a good hotel room in Tokyo.

  16. Would be nice if the good news coming is the Regency Club/Suite upgrades can be used on any published rate vice the Hyatt Daily rate.

  17. When do you all typically see the PH Tokyo in the $200s? I’ve never come across anything lower than the $400s.

  18. All the devaluations can be directly attributed to the now dozens of bloggers killing the golden goose of cheap travel with their endless seminars,TV interviews and magazine quotes, in search of credit card referral rich’s.

  19. Thanks for your numbers crunching here. The frustrating thing is the time to book is only after the Sapphire Preferred Dividend bonus goes into effect. Boo.

  20. @John777 – you don’t, his point was that people wouldn’t pay $275 for the hotel let alone $450. I disagree, and say I would gladly pay $275 cash for it. Clearly people pay more than that, every day!

  21. And suddenly the pricing for the Ziva Cabo and Zilara Cancun makes sense. Someone probably should have guessed that the odd pricing presaged an award chart tweak.

    As for the upcoming “good news”, my own, bald, prediction is that they will make the 5th night free to align with Starwood and Marriott.

  22. If you are not willing to pay $275 per night for the PH Paris or Tokyo, then I am sure Hyatt doesn’t want you at the property. In a city like Paris, $275 even during the off-season is usually not doable at the Park Hyatt. Most of the time, rooms are North of $700.

    I would gladly pay a $275 room rate, but that room rate is pure fantasy.

  23. If I could get the Park Hyatt in Paris for $275 I would gladly pay that rate and I also would not use points for it at that price. We are not super upscale travelers, but find it hard to imagine that in world class cities like Paris, London, Tokyo, New York and Sydney that we would find hotels we like for less than $300.

  24. @Mark – This came out last night, the day before Veterans Day.

    @Gary – What gives you the sense that Chase is pissed at UA? Has anyone from Chase/UA told you that, or are you reading between the lines? If the latter could you share your reasoning?

  25. Why does everyone blame the bloggers? It would be a poor business decision if any company was basing their business strategy on what bloggers have to say.
    I don’t blame the bloggers, I’d trace it back to those who redeem at these aspirational properties. They seem to whinge and whine and try to milk the properties for every freebie they can get their hands on. Got a free stay well surely I am entitled to the best room in the hotel and let me whine if I don’t get an opera view at PH Sydney. What about free breakfast even if I don’t have the appropriate status? The increase in redemption rates should shake some of these whiners out of the redemption pool for the higher rated properties.
    If I have a free stay I try and give something back to the properties. Either have some drinks in the bar or dine there.

  26. Man… Everybody owes a lot to hilton. When you’ve got a first mover that more or less relegated their loyalty program ineffective, anything less than that pales in comparison.

    These changes fall into the category of “sucks, but won’t change my behavior”. Yes, this does slightly decrease the value of UR points, probably by about another 0.2c or so. Hyatt’s new cat 7 is almost as painful as spg’s cat 7.

    But the big difference is ease of access to points. Chase has flooded the market with points. I think I’ve picked up 225,000 UR points in signup bonuses alone. SPG, OTOH, lets you get 60,000 points annually, max. And they’re getting stricter and stricter on how to qualify for those renewals. And with all of the 2x and 5x bonuses floating around on chase cards, no wonder UA and Hyatt had to take it down a notch.

    I guess one reason I’m such a push over is that undo extremely little revenue travel or revenue stays with any program. All of the wonderful stuff I’ve been able to do is courtesy of credit card churning alone. When it is really that free, or extremely extremely low cost, well, beggars can’t be choosers.

    I can’t “blame” bloggers, because that is where I get my info. So thanks guys.

  27. @Dan, credit card churning is over!!!You need a new strategy, game is over for most free loaders , I am glad this is happening because I get my miles and points from flying and big spend for business on my cards and I am surely glad game is over for the ones who do not belong.

  28. @Lucy

    For real? A couple of relatively minor devaluations changes nothing. The HHonors deval was a game changer, for sure, and I don’t play with them so much anymore. But United? I’m not a die-hard F flyer. The massive partner deval bothers me not in the least. As far as J resumptions go, they aren’t that bad. Hyatt? Again, these aren’t that, considering how many points are really out there.

    TBH, devals hurt BIS/HIB (butt in seat/head in bed) customers the worst. So you should be less than thrilled.

    I actually did so well with this game that I have more points than I know what to do with.

  29. @abcx and @Gary when I first got into the game about a year ago, at some point I analyzed the numbers given the opportunity cost associated with earning UR points and redeeming them for travel instead of cash at 1%. Then it dawned on me that really the opportunity cost for UR points (or any for that matter) is really 2% on a Fidelity card or Arrival card.

    When you look at it like that, it really puts the brakes on using travel cards over 2% cards. So simplistically, one can think that 22K UR points are worth $220 cashed out, so you’re spending $220/night to stay at those category 6 Hyatts. Most people playing the game can afford that. My thinking was that $220/night for a luxury hotel in a city like London, Paris, New York, Tokyo, or at a resort destination is well worth it. If you were to travel and pay cash, you could never get a hotel like the PH Maldives or Andaz Maui or PH Vendome for $220/night. Not only that but to get any decently clean hotel (think Courtyard type hotel) in a good location in those cities you’d be looking at a minimum of $125 year round and more like $250 in peak season.

    However when considering a 2% opportunity cost the economics of this changes considerably. However this applies to points/miles acquired from everyday spend and NOT from signup bonuses or min spends.

    So for example consider earning enough UR points/Hyatt points from a CSP/Hyatt card for a night at the PHV. Let’s say all earned at 1X. To get the necessary 22K points (in past) one would need to spend $22,000 on either card. If you were to spend that same amount on Fidelity Amex you’d have $440 cashback. So now the question is would you pay $440 to stay at PHV. Huge difference and I’m guessing far fewer of the miles/points chasers would say yes to that.
    However considering the ample opportunities to earn greater than 1X, this $440 figure is more likely to be significantly less for most users, but probably still greater than the $220.
    For those doing MS, the cost shouldn’t just be your direct MS cost. For example back in the $500 VGCs at OD days, one could acquire 22K points by buying $4,400 worth of giftcards for a direct cost of $44.55. I rounded up to $4,500 and ignored the points earned on the fees. However you could have spent the $4,400 on a Fidelity card and earned $88, so the total “cost” to stay a night at PHV would be ~$133. Now one might say they probably wouldn’t bother doing all of that if they weren’t chasing the travel, but the opp cost can’t be ignored.
    After building up a massive balance of miles and points (massive to me at least) coupled with all of these devaluations, I’m going to focus more on using my Fidelity card for both regular purchases and MS going forward. However when good signup bonuses come along I’ll certainly partake and in general I prefer 2X to 2% given that X is usually worth more than 1 cent. However due to all of the devaluations going forward, that may not be the case for much longer.

  30. @Lucy You’re kidding me right? Your business spend makes you a freeloader to those of us who actually stay at hotels using our own money.

  31. Man, this combined with the (even worse) United devaluation is really making me rethink my devotion to UR points.

  32. So properties like Sydney’s Park Hyatt went from $330.00 to $450.00 if we use this calculation method ( or less if you don’t value UR points like they do). That is a $64.00 per night difference provided you do the math right.

    A Honeymoon that includes 4 nights in Sydney will be increased by $256.00. Kind of sucks but again this is a trip that will be remembered forever. Not that bad and you still get a lot of bang for your points.

    As far as Park Hyatt Milan and Zurich….
    Zurich is an overpriced city, so 30k points is a damn good value
    Milan is an ugly city and you can get much better value somewhere/place else.

  33. Jeremy,

    That’s a pretty reasonable, thoughtful analysis, thanks for sharing.

    Other things, admittedly less quantifiable, to take into account are TIME and CONVENIENCE.

    With a 2%-cash-back card, you get money. No time spent, no inconvenience suffered.

    With points, though — especially with airline points — there are often huge costs in time and inconvenience:
    – Fiddling with point-availability issues (and ruing the often “no saver award level” availability situation)
    – Trying to fuss around with suboptimal routings or accommodations due to which airlines/hotels you have enough points with
    – Remembering to take action so points don’t expire
    and so on

    In contrast, let’s look at earning and spending cash:
    – You can stay in the best hotel (for you and your budget) in a given city, without worrying about what hotel is in which chain, and what the redemption levels and availabilities are for the hotels.
    – You don’t have to play 350 days ahead for booking summer air travel to a popular destination.

    As for me, I’m probably going to hedge my bets: continue getting credit cards on occasion when large bonuses are offered, and using my Sapphire Preferred and Ink cards on >1x purchases. I also gotta top off my Amex points for just one more expensive-but-awesome Singapore Airlines flight in a premier cabin 🙂 🙂 🙂

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