Marriott completed the merger of Starwood Hotels about two years ago, and once the transaction completed, they chose to stay with the same brands of hotels at least till the time they could figure out a way forward. On day one though, the programs were interoperable regarding the use of Marriott Rewards and Starpoints. Also, members of both programs could get status matched to the other one. At that point in time, the official line was that Marriott does not expect to combine the programs at least through 2018.
Earlier this week, we heard about the upcoming merger of all the programs into one and we laid out our expectations.
This morning, at 2 a.m. India time, Marriott unveiled the details of this merger, that will come into effect from August 2018. To put it in one sentence, Marriott Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest and Ritz-Carlton Rewards will merge into one program this August. Members will be able to earn and use rewards points across all 29 Marriott International hotel brands, without having to transfer points.
Beginning August 2018, there will also be consolidated set of benefits for Marriott elites. For example, up until now while Marriott Rewards Gold members received complimentary breakfast for 2, the same benefit was not available to SPG Gold members.
Individual program names will stay through 2019 as Marriott figures out the name for the combined program, however, all reservation will be made through marriott.com. Here is a quick overview of everything that is changing or remaining the same.
New program to have 5 elite tiers
The yet-to-be-named program will have 5 elite tiers, just as we expected. New tiers take into account the current elite tiers from both the programs and equalise the benefits, which was so far not the case. Starwood’s ability to help qualify for status on the back of stays has been taken away. Here on, it is all nights.
- Silver Elite status 10 nights onwards
- Gold Elite status 25 nights onwards
- Platinum Elite status 50 nights onwards
- Platinum Premier Elite status 75 nights onwards
- Platinum Premier Elite with Ambassador service after 100 nights plus USD 20,000 qualifying spend.
New Elite Benefits
Let’s look at the benefits each tier will now offer:
- Silver Elite: The lowest level in the new program, can be earned after completing 10 qualifying nights. Silver Elite status also comes automatically with certain credit cards in the US.
- 10% bonus points earnings
- Priority late checkout available
- Dedicated reservations line
- Gold Elite: Aligned with the current SPG Gold and not Marriott Rewards Gold Elite. To earn Gold Elite status, members will need 25 nights in a calendar year, similar to SPG Gold members. Here are the Gold benefits:
- 25% points bonus earning
- 2 p.m. late check-out, subject to availability
- A welcome gift of rewards points
- Room upgrades subject to availability. This does not include an upgrade to suites
- Platinum Elite: Aligned to current SPG Platinum & Marriott Gold Elite statuses. Complete 50 qualifying nights in a calendar year to achieve this status. Existing Marriott Gold Elite members will be upgraded to Platinum Elite in August. SPG Platinum members will now become Platinum Elite members.
- 50% points bonus earning
- Guaranteed 4 p.m. late check-out, except at resort properties where it will be subject to availability
- Choice of welcome gift between points, breakfast, or an amenity
- Guaranteed room type
- Room upgrades subject to availability, including an upgrade to suites
- Access to Executive Club lounges
- Choice Benefit where members can choose between 5 suite night awards or a gift.
- Platinum Premier Elite: Platinum Premier Elite can be earned after 75 qualifying nights. This is aligned to the current Marriott Platinum and current SPG 75-night Platinum status. Apart from all the Platinum Elite benefits listed above, members will receive 2 additional benefits at this level.
- 75% points bonus earning
- Additional annual Choice Benefit where members can choose between 5 suite night awards or a gift.
- Platinum Premier Elite with Ambassador Service: The highest tier in the new program that members can reach after completing 100 qualifying nights and newly instituted $20,000 spend in a calendar year. This tier is similar to what SPG currently offers to their 100-night Platinums right now. Here are the additional benefits:
- Ambassador service
- Your24 which allows members the ability to check-in and check-out at any time. Of course, subject to availability.
Members will now be able to select breakfast as the Platinum welcome amenity at 24 Marriott brands except EDITION, Gaylord Palms, Ritz-Carlton, Marriott Executive Apartments, and Marriott Vacation Club. Furthermore, Courtyard by Marriott hotels will now offer Platinum members free breakfast. Complimentary breakfast benefit has also been extended to resort properties which Marriott had until now excluded.
Earning points in the new program
Currently, members have the ability to transfer points between SPG and Marriott Rewards in the ratio of 1:3. When the new program will come into effect in August all Starpoints will be converted into Marriott Rewards points in the current transfer ratio of 1:3. Marriott says that members will earn 20% more points under the new program on an average.
All members will earn 10 points per USD spent with Marriott, so when you include elite bonuses:
- Base members earn 10 points per USD
- Silver members earn 11 points per USD (10% bonus points)
- Gold members earn 12.5 points per USD (25% bonus points)
- Platinum members earn 15 points per USD (50% bonus points)
- Platinum Premier members earn 17.5 points per USD (75% bonus points)
If we compare this to the previous bonus earning that Marriott Rewards offers then the maximum Platinum members earned was 15 points per USD. Meanwhile under the SPG program base members earned 2 Starpoints per USD, Gold and Platinum 3 Starpoints and Platinum with 75 nights earned 4 Starpoints. So if you convert to Marriott Rewards the maximum earning was 12 MR points for SPG members. This has shot up by almost 50%. Also, SPG members will now earn a higher number of points at all the levels than in the current program.
Redeeming points under the new program
Now that we’ve seen above the new earning numbers where SPG members will gain massively, let’s see how award night redemptions will work.
Effective August, all Marriott hotels will be segregated among categories 1 to 8 and there will be a new award chart in place, which is expected to be notified within weeks now. There will also be an “off-peak” and “peak” pricing added. Though this will only be applicable on redemptions 2019 onwards. So essentially, each hotel will have 3 redemption pricings: a standard rate, an off-peak rate and a peak rate. However, for the remainder of this year, all hotels will have to offer the standard redemption rate.
Marriott will continue to offer the fifth night free reward night and this is what the new Marriott Rewards redemption chart will look like.
I think we’ll have to wait and watch to see how hotels will be divided into new categories. The annual award category changes trend shows that hotels have become more expensive over the years. If the current category 9 hotels are moved into category 8 that would make them far more expensive. But we’ll just have to hold our horses until August and wait to see the segregation.
Transferring Marriott points to Airmiles under the new program
Effective August, members can convert Marriott Rewards points to airline miles in the ratio of 3:1. There will be a 15,000 point bonus for every 60,000 points transferred. This essentially means that airmile transfer rates will continue to stay the same as per the earlier SPG program. Indeed there will be an addition of 10 partners to the SPG list from Marriott Rewards’ arsenal of reward partners.
Lifetime status under the new program
Under the new loyalty program, in order to achieve lifetime elite status members will have to do the following:
- Lifetime Silver Elite: Complete 250 lifetime nights plus retain five years of elite status
- Lifetime Gold Elite: Complete 400 lifetime nights plus retain seven years of minimum Gold Elite status
- Lifetime Platinum Elite: Complete 600 lifetime nights plus retain 10 years of Platinum Elite status
Nothing will change for members who already have a lifetime status in either program, and they will be grandfathered in. When the two programs merge in August 2018, the members’ lifetime activity will also combine. If you are elite in both programs in a year, you get double counted, hence increasing chances of achieving a lifetime status faster.
Overall, the newly combined loyalty program has taken the best of both programs and ensured no one stands to lose. The new program is recognizing the loyalty of both Marriott Rewards elites and SPG elites and a large number of members will enjoy either the same or better benefits such as higher point earning rates for SPG members, access to perks like Suite Night Awards; this was not available to Marriott elites and breakfast benefit at a larger number of hotels including resorts.
There is no massive devaluation, although we still have to wait and see the new categories unfold. Having said that stays will no longer count and that could be a bit of a problem for members who have managed to gain their status on short stays. Though SPG members will have the opportunity to qualify on stays this year only. We will further analyse the program over the coming days and write more about it as we go along.
How is Marriott’s new loyalty program affecting you?