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It’s been a long time coming, but Marriott has finally announced the key features of the combined Marriott Rewards, Ritz-Carlton Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest loyalty programs that will launch in August 2018.
Marriott broadcast full details of the combined rewards program on Monday afternoon in an online webcast. The changes, which come into effect sometime after August 1, 2018, include significant changes to elite status levels, benefits, qualification requirements, and details of how the loyalty program merger will affect those folks shooting for, or who already hold, lifetime elite status.
Marriott also unveiled a new award chart that will apply to all hotels across the combined portfolio of hotels. New co-brand credit cards from Chase and Amex, increased points earning opportunities, and Marriott also confirmed SPG’s stellar airline transfer program isn't just here to stay, it's receiving new airline partnerships!
Marriott dropped a ton of information, including all the big updates in its Marriott Members website. We’ll be covering each new aspect of the combined program in more detail over the coming weeks, but we’ve provided an overview of all the changes below.
What We've Covered Here
- New Points Earning Rates – Increased across the board
- Elite Status & Benefits – On the surface, it may not look positive, but it is
- Lifetime Status Levels – About what we expected
- Single Award Chart – Significantly better than we thought with some great short-term potential
- Airline Transfer Bonuses – Here to stay and not devalued
- Credit Card Changes – Some good, some not so good
The details of Marriott’s new, as yet unnamed loyalty program should mollify even the most outspoken critics of the SPG/Marriott merger, as the new program is a top result for members of both programs. Marriott looks to have done an excellent job retaining the best features of both programs, albeit with a few minor devaluations thrown into the mix. Some of the more significant announcements include:
- No changes come into effect until August 1, 2018, at which time your SPG, Ritz-Carlton, and Marriott accounts will merge into a single account on Marriott’s website/platform. At this time, Starpoints will convert automatically to Marriott points at a 1:3 ratio, joining your current balance of Marriott/Ritz-Carlton points in a single integrated loyalty account.
- Members can earn and redeem one rewards currency across the entire SPG, Ritz, and Marriott portfolio of hotels.
- The new program will feature five elite tiers:
- Silver – 10 nights
- Gold – 25 nights
- Platinum – 50 nights
- Platinum Premier – 75 nights
- Platinum Premier w/ Ambassador – 100 nights + $20,000 annual hotel spend
- Platinum status and above receive complimentary suite upgrades when available, plus Platinum 50 members get five confirmed suite upgrades per year. Platinum Premier (75 night) members will earn a further five confirmed suite nights per year.
- Gold Elite members lose breakfast and executive lounge access, but Marriott Gold currently requires 50 nights which will earn Platinum in the new program (Platinum receives breakfast). So the only elite members the change effects are those that achieve Gold status via other means, i.e., as a credit card benefit. Platinum breakfast is also being extended to more brands to cover almost the entire portfolio
- Lifetime status requirements have been updated, and current members will be converted to new elite status tiers reflecting total nights accumulated towards lifetime status.
- A new 8-category award chart featuring off-peak, standard, and peak season award pricing.
- Airline transfers are here to stay at the same rate of exchange but using the new rewards currency points transfer at 3 Marriott points to 1 airline mile. New airline partners will be added, and members still receive bonus miles when transferring, i.e., transfer 60,000 points, receive 15,000 bonus points @ 3:1 = 25,000 miles in the destination airline program.
- New co-brand credit cards to launch this year from Chase and Amex, including premium cards from both providers.
Yes, a considerable number of changes affecting almost every aspect of the loyalty program, but on the whole a positive result for members of both SPG and Marriott.
On August 1, SPG, Marriott, and Ritz-Carlton members can merge accounts into a single account that will apply across the entire combined portfolio of hotels and resorts. Marriott has yet to name the new program, so for now, we’ll refer to the combined rewards currency as Marriott Rewards points. Points from all three accounts will merge into a single account, with SPG points converting at a 3:1 ratio, continuing the generous conversion ratio awarded when the merger was finalized last year.
Non-elite Marriott Rewards members are set to earn 10x points per dollar spent at hotels in the new program, up from 6x points pre-merger for Marriott members and 2x Starpoints for SPG members (equivalent to 6x points at the 1:3 conversion ratio). The exceptions are extended stay properties that include: TownePlace Suites, Residence Inn, and Element properties which will award a base rate of 5x points per dollar. Points will also now be awarded for food, beverage and other ancillary spending across the entire portfolio of brands, rather than only select brands.
- Non-elite members will earn 10x points per $1
- Silver Elite will earn 11x points per $1
- Gold Elite will earn 12.5x points per $1
- Platinum Elite will earn 15x points per $1
- Platinum Premier Elite will earn 17.5x points per $1
- Platinum Premier Elite w/ Ambassador will earn 17.5x points per $1
When the programs merge in August, we’ll see elite members from both programs transitioned into a new 5-tier program featuring Silver, Gold, Platinum, Platinum Elite, and Platinum Elite w/ Ambassador statuses.
The table above breaks down how existing elite tiers will convert to the new levels, in addition to how many bonus points members will earn at each new status level. Note that there are no options to qualify via stays, only nights. The other point missing off this table is that top-tier Platinum Elite w/ Ambassador also requires $20,000 in eligible spend to qualify.
SPG members can still earn elite status under the current program rules for 2018, with the new requirements not kicking in until 2019. Marriott has also confirmed that elite night credits will be combined across both Marriott and SPG chains to determine elite status moving forward.
You can see a summary of the benefits for each new elite tier in the chart below:
The loss of breakfast and executive lounge access for Marriott Rewards Gold members is offset somewhat by the reduced nights required to achieve Gold Elite status. What would have taken 50 nights in a calendar year now takes just 25 nights, and members that stay 50 nights will now earn Platinum Elite status, which does receive breakfast at the vast majority of the combined portfolio. The exceptions are Ritz-Carlton, Marriott Executive Apartments, Marriott Vacation Club, EDITION, and Gaylord Palms; so you’ll receive breakfast at 24 out of 29 brands as Platinum Elite if you choose it as the welcome amenity.
One of the greatest sources of anxiety for longtime members was how Marriott would approach lifetime status. For members close to achieving lifetime status, would existing nights be recognized? How would Marriott convert the different tiers? The good news is, it appears no one has really lost out in this process.
There is no pathway to earning lifetime Platinum Premier outside of being grandfathered from the current Marriott Platinum lifetime status.
Current lifetime status holders will have their elite status converted as follows:
- Lifetime SPG Gold Preferred converts to lifetime Marriott Gold Elite
- Lifetime SPG Platinum Preferred converts to lifetime Marriott Platinum Elite
- Lifetime Marriott Gold Elite converts to lifetime Marriott Platinum Elite
- Lifetime Marriott Platinum Elite converts to lifetime Marriott Platinum Premier Elite – This is a one-time conversion and Lifetime Platinum Premier cannot be earned moving forward
Starting August 1, 2018, Marriott will introduce a single award chart covering all 29 brands previously separated into Ritz-Carlton, Marriott, and Starwood chains. The chart features 8 categories, and although there are no blackout dates for award stays, they have introduced seasonal pricing to the new award chart. Each property will now feature peak, standard, and off-peak seasonal award pricing.
For the time being, Marriott won’t introduce the 8th category or the fluctuating award pricing, focusing instead on categories 1-7 with all awards priced as standard awards until the introduction of category 8 redemptions in 2019. Marriott didn’t reveal a points & cash chart to go with the new free night award chart, but the points & cash option is mentioned on members.marriott.com. Marriott will also retain the much loved 5th night free on award stays.
With such a giant reshuffle of award categories and prices, plus the addition of another category charging 15K more points than the current highest level, it wouldn’t come as a surprise to see a slew of properties recategorized into higher or lower award tiers over the next 12 months.
If you have the points now, our advice is to book as quickly as possible to secure your reservation and if the price drops, rebook! Worst case, book on July 31st, see the changes on August 1st and then decide what to do. Remember to keep the SPG 1:3 transfer number in mind when calculating!
Aside from fantastic redemption rates at SPG properties, the high-value of Starpoints is owed to the 30+ 1:1 airline transfer partners to which members can transfer points. One of the most talked about fears amongst SPG loyalists was that Marriott would do away with, or at the very least, water down the SPG airline transfer program. Instead, Marriott has kept the SPG transfer value identical, including the value of the bonus miles members currently receive when transferring 20K+ SPG points. Mirroring the 1:3 conversion ratio of Starpoints to Marriott Rewards points, members will now receive 15,000 bonus points for every 60,000 points transferred, and 3x points will be equal to 1 mile in the destination frequent flyer program.
- 60,000 + 15,000 = 75,000 @ 3:1 = 25,000 miles
In addition to retaining the same airline transfer value for SPG members (effectively increasing the value of transfers for Marriott due to much more favorable transfer ratios), Marriott will increase the number of airline partners to more than 40, improving what was already the best airline transfer list available to points and miles fans. Marriott has also vowed to keep the coveted 7-night Marriott Hotel + Air packages, although there are whispers in the ranks that Marriott intends to bring the various packages into line, which is vague enough to be of concern.
Marriott made announcements towards the end of last year about the launch of new co-brand credit cards, and the intention to retain agreements with both Chase and Amex. Now, we can confirm that both providers have new co-brand cards coming out in the near future and that existing cards will receive some adjustments.
Marriott & Chase
On May 3, 2018, Chase launched the new Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Credit Card. Sporting a $95 annual fee, the card offers:
- Earn 2 Free Night Awards (each valued up to 35,000 points) after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
- 1 Free Night Award (valued up to 35,000 points) every year after account anniversary.
- Earn 6X points per $1 spent at participating Marriott Rewards & SPG hotels.
Chase will continue to offer the Marriott Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card, and we’ll update the post as more info comes to light regarding the future of the Marriott consumer cards.
SPG & American Express
August will see Amex making a bunch of updates to the existing SPG cards, in addition to launching the new Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express Luxury Card. The new card will sport a premium $450 fee, and include:
- 6x points at SPG and Marriott properties, 3x points for airfare purchased directly with the airline and at U.S. restaurants, and 2x points on all other purchases
- Anniversary Free Night Award valued at up to 50,000 points
- Complimentary Gold status, plus earn Platinum Elite status when you spend $75,000 in a calendar year
- $300 annual statement credit on purchases at SPG and Marriott Rewards hotels
- 15x Elite Night Credits towards elite status annually (can’t be stacked across cards)
- Priority Pass Select membership (up to 2 complimentary guests per visit)
- Global Entry ($100) or TSA Pre✓® ($85) fee credit every four years
- Free unlimited Boingo Wi-Fi and premium in-room internet access
The SPG co-brand cards receive light updates, with both the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express receiving an anniversary free night award, valued at up to 35,000 points, plus complimentary Silver Elite status, and will earn the same 15 elite night credits towards elite status as the Marriott cards. Again, not stackable with elite credits from other cards. Cardholders can upgrade from Silver to Gold Elite status by spending $30K in a calendar year (increasing to $35K from January 1, 2019). Furthermore, the SPG Business Amex loses its Sheraton lounge access, but the card gains extra points via 4x points on purchases at US restaurants, US gas stations, on wireless phone services from US providers and US shipping purchases.
Perhaps the most significant change comes from a drop in the earning power of the two SPG Amex cards. The cards will earn 6x points at Marriott and SPG properties, equal to the 2x Starpoints the cards currently receive, but, just 2x points on all other purchases, an effective 33% reduction in earnings on everyday spend!
Phew!! It’s a massive amount of information to take in, with changes across the entire spectrum of the Marriott Rewards/SPG loyalty eco-system. Despite the devalued earning power of the current SPG cards, we think the changes are positive, much more positive than we assumed in 2016 when the merger was announced. There is a slew of new benefits to digest, and we’ll be digging further into the program as new details come to light over the coming weeks. For now, let us know what you think of the combined program in the comments below.
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