Big Changes to Hyatt Awards!

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Big Changes to Hyatt Awards!
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We don’t typically dive into every little change in awards programs here at PointsAway, preferring to roll with the punches and explain new information when reader trips require. However, we’ve spent so many posts singing the praises of Hyatt’s Gold Passport program that it’s important to take a few minutes to share some of the big changes that have been recently announced for the program!

A New Category

We spoke about our fabulous time at the Park Hyatt Vendôme in Paris recently, and it’s one of the locations undergoing some rules changes as part of Hyatt’s reshuffled award chart.

The Vendôme is among six Hyatt locations moving to a new Category 7. Rooms in this new category will cost 30,000 points per night instead of 22,000 as they did before. The six Hyatt locations moving to this new category are:

While there’s no doubt that this change stings, compared to other hotel programs Hyatt’s top redemptions remain a bargain, even at this increased rate. Consider the Vendôme, for example, where rooms can go for over $700 per night. Even at 30,000 points per night, that’s still around 2.33¢ per point in value, which exceeds our target of 2¢ per point, indicating it’s a good deal.

It’s also encouraging to see how few properties made the leap up to this new category. It’s unlikely Hyatt will move more properties up to this new level before next year, and they may well stop at just some of these most expensive and most exclusive locations. Meanwhile, locations including the Park Hyatt in the Maldives and the Hyatt Regency London – Churchill, which we reviewed recently, remain at the Category 6 level.

Category Points Increases

Even though many outstanding Hyatt locations remain at their previous Category 5 or Category 6 levels, they’re still subject to some modest increases in the nightly rates. Category 5 rooms are going from 18,000 points per night to 20,000 while Category 6 rooms are going from 22,000 points per night to 25,000. Categories 1-4 remain untouched. Overall, the new chart looks like this:

Award Category Standard Room Regency/Club Room Suite
Category 1 5,000 7,000 8,000
Category 2 8,000 12,000 13,000
Category 3 12,000 17,000 20,000
Category 4 15,000 21,000 24,000
Category 5 20,000 27,000 32,000
Category 6 25,000 33,000 40,000
Category 7 30,000 39,000 48,000

21 Hyatt properties are jumping up a category as part of the changes as well. Four Hyatt Place locations in the US are moving from Category 1 to 2. Six properties interspersed globally are moving from Category 2 to 3. Four are moving from 3 to 4, four are moving from 4 to 5 and three are moving from 5 to 6. However, 17 hotels are moving down a category, so it’s not all glum news!

Four Hyatts are moving from Category 6 to 5, including the Hyatt Regency locations at Maui, Lake Tahoe, Huntington Beach and the Park Hyatt Changbaishan. Two properties are moving from Category 5 to 4: the Hyatt Capital Gate in Abu Dhabi and the Hyatt Regency Changbaishan. Two Park Hyatt locations – Chennai and Hyderabad are moving from Category 4 to 3. Two properties are shuffling down from Category 3 to 2, and seven US locations are shifting from Category 2 to 1.

Rather than appearing to be a pure devaluation scheme, the significant number of decreasing properties indicates this is more a reevaluation by Hyatt, adjusting for supply and demand while making concessions on some of their less-trafficked and older properties.

Farewell to the Sweet Suite Deal

From time to time, we’d mentioned how ridiculous Hyatt’s award suite upgrade policy was, in the best of ways. For travelers paying the Hyatt Daily Rate – which is admittedly often about 10% higher than their “advance” discount rate – suite upgrades were available for a flat rate of 6,000 points for up to four nights! Club upgrades followed the same pattern for just 3,000 points for up to four nights.

Unfortunately, Hyatt’s done away with this exceptional opportunity, now charging the same number of points per night rather than per stay of up to four nights. This still compares very favorably to the upgrade options at competing chains, shifting from absurdly valuable down to pretty valuable.

The Good News

All of the above changes are coming, but aren’t here yet! They all take effect on January 7th, 2014, so if you book your stay prior to that, you’ll still be eligible for the old rates. That includes changes in points, categories and the changes to suite/club upgrade policy. So, hop to it!

Thankfully, the good news doesn’t end there. Hyatt has added two new benefits that really help to add value where some was taken away by the changes to their award chart.

Pay with Points and Cash

Long offered from Hilton and SPG, the option to pay with points and cash is new to Hyatt’s program. The new chart is very easy to understand, and offers good value opportunity from top to bottom.

Award Category Free Night Points Points + Cash (Points) Points + Cash (Cash)
Category 1 5,000 2,500 $50.00
Category 2 8,000 4,000 $50.00
Category 3 12,000 6,000 $75.00
Category 4 15,000 7,500 $100.00
Category 5 20,000 10,000 $125.00
Category 6 25,000 12,500 $150.00
Category 7 30,000 15,000 $300.00

As you can see, a Points + Cash redemption requires half the typical number of points along with a cash copay. While these copays are pretty steep for Category 7 rooms in particular, there’s otherwise some fascinating value up and down the chart. Even if you’re staying at a basic Category 1 Hyatt that averages around $100 per night’s stay, you’d be right at 2¢ per point, just as you would be if you’d paid entirely with points.

Because the cash copay doesn’t increase for Category 2 locations, the opportunities start to open up. For example, a sample week in February averages $154 per night at the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville. As a Category 2 property, Points + Cash would require 4,000 points and $50 per night, as opposed to 8,000 points otherwise. Points + cash gives you an effective redemption rate of 2.6¢ per point as opposed to 1.92¢ per point for a free night redemption. This spread is sure to typically be even wider in other markets, either at nicer Hyatts off the beaten path or similar properties in more expensive locations.

Whereas booking award nights is possible online, it’s necessary to call 800.228.3360 to book points + cash nights. They’re also subject to different availability rules than free nights, so it’s possible full award nights may be available in certain cases where points + cash nights are unavailable. Points + Cash redemptions will be available beginning January 7th, 2014.

For elite status chasers, it’s important to note that points + cash stays earn stay credits. That’s especially important thanks to the other good news from Hyatt.

20% Off for Platinum and Diamond Status

Hyatt has also added a new perk for Platinum and Diamond status holders, offering 20% off the Hyatt Daily Rate. Again, this is a “subject to availability” perk that might not always be an option, but when it is, it should often result in lower rates than the Advance Purchase rate. Even better, these discounted rates don’t require upfront payment like Advance Purchase rooms do, and can be cancelled, unlike Advance Purchase rooms.

The biggest winners from this new perk are Hyatt Visa cardholders, who have automatic Platinum status. Saving more on most reservations is certainly a nice added benefit!

Extension of Points Expiration

Oftentimes, people worry about their miles or points expiring and losing all they’ve gained in a program to that date. So long as you have any activity on your points and miles accounts, this should hardly ever be a real problem. Using points or earning them form anything from flights or stays to credit card spending, dining, shopping through ePortals or filling out surveys all count as activity, and push any given expiration window forward far into the future with one fell swoop.

However, it’s still nice to have a bit more peace of mind, especially for programs you may not take advantage of often. So, it’s welcome news that Hyatt’s extending points expirations from 12 months to 24 months. As long as you have any activity on your account every 2 years now, your points won’t expire.

Wrapping Up

While any devaluation is always unwelcome news, Hyatt goes a long way toward making up for the still conservative changes to the top of their award chart by introducing new options that add versatility to the program. Points + Cash can be an excellent option in nearly any situation, and being able to save more money on cash stays as an elite member is sure to please business travelers in particular.

Overall, it’s hard to complain too much about these changes, though the bar is definitely higher now for a few of the Hyatt locations I’ve most wanted to visit in the future. Looks like we’ll have to redouble our points-earning efforts in order to stay ahead of the game!

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Casey Ayers is a consultant and entrepreneur with a passion for travel. After amassing enough miles and points to travel anywhere in the world for almost free in less than six months, he developed PointsAway as a way to help others make travel dreams big and small come true.
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