Earlier this week, Marriott and SPG Merger was announced, into a yet-to-be-named new program. I was away at the Grand Hyatt Kochi then, but we wrote an early preview of everything that we could expect. Time to dissect the whole program and figure out what’s changing for our road warriors.
First up, the high-level stuff:
- One Starpoint will become 3 of the new currency. One Marriott Rewards point will transfer as one of the new currency.
- 5 Elite Tiers: Silver Elite at ten nights, Gold Elite at 25 Nights, Platinum Elite at 50 nights, Platinum Premier at 75 nights and Ambassador service at 100 nights + $20K spend.
- Platinum members and above will continue to receive complimentary suite upgrades subject to availability. Platinum members will receive five confirmed Suite Night Awards per year, and Platinum Premier members will receive ten confirmed Suite Night Awards.
- Breakfast as an amenity will be expanded to Courtyard hotels and resorts. 24 out of the 29 brands will offer breakfast. EDITION, Gaylord, Ritz-Carlton, Marriott Executive Apartments and Marriott Vacation Club will be excluded.
- Airline transfers will stay at 3 points (1 Starpoint = 1 airline mile) with the bonus every 20,000 Starpoints (60,000 of the new currency).
- New lifetime status program.
New Marriott Elite Tiers
As mentioned earlier, Marriott will now have five elite tiers, as follows:
- Silver Elite: 10-24 nights
- Gold Elite: 25-49 nights
- Platinum Elite: 50-74 nights
- Platinum Premier Elite: 75-99 nights
- Platinum Premier Elite with Ambassador service: 100+ nights plus $20K of qualifying spend
This is a best of both worlds approach, where both programs had five qualifying tiers for various benefits, and they are being maintained. For this year, Marriott will match elite tiers as follows:
- Corporate Preferred members, SPG Preferred members with 10-24 nights and Preferred Guest Plus members receive Silver Elite status.
- Gold Preferred members receive Gold Elite status.
- Platinum Preferred members receive Platinum Elite status.
- Platinum Preferred members with 50 nights receive Platinum Elite status.
- Platinum Preferred members with 75 nights receive Platinum Premier Elite status.
- Platinum Preferred members with 100 nights receive Platinum Premier Elite status with an ambassador.
- Marriott Rewards/The Ritz Carlton Rewards:
- Silver Elite members with <25 nights receive Silver Elite Status
- Silver Elite members with 25 – 49 nights receive Gold Elite Status
- Gold Elite members receive Platinum Elite status.
- Platinum Elite members receive Platinum Premier Elite status.
- Platinum Elite members with 100 nights and $20k in qualifying spend receive Platinum Premier Elite with an ambassador
These tiers will be valid from August 1, 2018, through March 2019 only, and are mostly an upgrade for a period of 6 months for everyone who is expected to rise from a Silver Elite with more than 25 nights this year. Furthermore, the combined elite night count across all three programs will determine your status at the end of this year.
The problem begins with the 20K$ spend in Asia. Most Starwood hotels this side of the world price at 100$ at the most, so the average 200$ spend they ask of per room night is excessive around here. That should mean not many people will become top tier elites and get Ambassador status.
What it hurts is for those who used to earn SPG Platinum exclusively through stays. That goes the away end of this year. Also, SPG used to award elite night credit for up to 3 room nights under the same name. Marriott used to let you earn points for three rooms historically, but not elite credits for three. Their system will prevail.
Through August, the programs will remain separate. SPG Members will earn Starpoints and receive SPG benefits at hotels participating in that program, and Rewards members will earn Rewards points and receive Rewards benefits at hotels participating in that program. You will need two accounts—one for each program.
In August, the programs will be combined into one, and you will be able to seamlessly book, earn points and redeem points across all hotels. You will receive the same earning and Elite status benefits across all 6,500 hotels and 29 hotel brands.
New Marriott Elite benefits
As per Marriott, here are the perks per tier. Breakfast will be added as a Platinum welcome amenity at all brands except EDITION, Gaylord Palms, Ritz-Carlton, Marriott Executive Apartments, and Marriott Vacation Club, including Marriott Resorts. Not a case for the moment. Also condensed in a handy chart below:
- Silver Elite
- 10% bonus points
- Priority late check-out, subject to availability
- Dedicated elite reservations line
- Gold Elite
- 25% points bonus
- 2 PM late check-out, subject to availability
- Welcome gift (points)
- Room upgrade subject to availability, excluding suites
- Platinum Elite
- 50% points bonus
- Guaranteed 4 PM late check-out, except at resorts (subject to availability)
- Welcome gift of points, breakfast, or an amenity
- Room upgrade subject to availability, including suites
- Executive lounge access
- Annual Choice Benefit (5 Suite Night Awards or a gift)
- Platinum Premier Elite
- All the benefits of Platinum Elite
- 75% points bonus
- Another further yearly Choice Benefit (5 Suite Night Awards or a gift)
- Platinum Premier Elite with Ambassador service
- All of the Platinum Premier Elite benefits
- Ambassador service
- Your24 (check-in and check-out over a 24 hour period)
Marriott points earning
When the new program will be launched, Starpoints will convert to the new currency at 1:3 ratio, as is the case at the moment. Members will earn 10 points per dollar spent with any Marriott brands, except Element, Residence Inn and Towne Place hotels which will get 5 points per dollar spent. Here are the elite bonuses and how they stack up:
- Base members: 10 points per dollar
- Silver members: 11 points per dollar (10% bonus)
- Gold members: 12.5 points per dollar (25% bonus)
- Platinum members: 15 points per dollar (50% bonus)
- Platinum Premier members: 17.5 points per dollar (75% bonus)
As you would note, Marriott Rewards members are going to earn roughly similar points as earlier, but Starwood members will see a jump in their points earned. Of course, some Sliver Marriott Rewards members are going to see a small dip in their earnings.
As per Marriott, there will be on an average 20% more points given away to members. On the redemption side, though they claim to have made things better. Although this remains to be fully seen.
As of August 1, you will see a new award chart which will encompass all the 6500+ hotels of the chain, putting them between Category 1 to 8. For the rest of 2018, there will only be standard pricing for all the hotels, but going forward in 2019, there will be off-peak and peak pricing added as well. The peak and off-peak pricing will not be per hotel, but per city as per David Fleuck, the head of loyalty at Marriott International.
Interestingly, Marriott will not introduce the Category 8 till 2019, which means stays booked between August and December 2018, even for next year, would cap out at Category 7. At least that is my interpretation. Also, the peak and off-peak pricing will be next year, which lays out an opportunity to book some fantastic aspirational redemptions at a good price now. Later, however, season pricing will allow Marriott to squeeze out some of the outsized value members received at the higher end of the chart.
Top tier SPG properties will get cheaper for a brief window of time. From what I am reading from their New York event to announce the new proposition, top-tier hotels would cost 60K Marriott Rewards points per night. That means they are going to be cheaper than their current 105K Marriott Rewards or 35K Starpoints required at the moment.
Here is the new Marriott Rewards redemption chart. 5th night free redemptions will continue as earlier.
For Starwood members, this works out better, for multiple reasons. They earn more points, and now their top-tier redemptions are capped off at 33.3K Starpoints instead of 35K Starpoints. On the other hand, Marriott Rewards members would find this slightly or highly expensive on many counts. Of course, how this will work out for members is something we need to explore going forward. Marriott has committed to putting out award rates for most hotels within the next 4-6 weeks, so we need to keep an eye out for that.
How will lifetime status be impacted you ask? Under the new program, the threshold to reach lifetime elite status will be as under:
- Lifetime Silver Elite: 250 lifetime nights + 5 years of elite status
- Lifetime Gold Elite: 400 lifetime nights + 7 years of Gold Elite status or higher
- Lifetime Platinum Elite: 600 lifetime nights + 10 years of Platinum Elite status
For existing members, this is how they will be transitioned,
- Lifetime SPG Gold: lifetime Marriott Gold members
- Lifetime SPG Platinum: lifetime Marriott Platinum members
- Lifetime Marriott Gold: lifetime Marriott Platinum members
- Lifetime Marriott Platinum: grandfathered as lifetime Marriott Platinum Premier members
Moving forward, no one would be able to earn lifetime Platinum Premier status or above. Lifetime members will not get the Choice benefits too, which include Suite Night Awards. Elite qualifying nights and status across programs will be combined to calculate lifetime status. Moreover, if you have achieved Elite status in both Rewards and SPG in a single year, it will count as two years toward Lifetime status.
It is is a mixed bag. Marriott Gold, which needs 50 nights per annum, was much tougher to get to than SPG Gold. Moreover, the new program looks at them as Platinums, so these Marriott Gold members are getting Lifetime Platinum.
Airline transfer partners
In August, program members will have access to more airline partners with more than 40 total airline partners. This includes new options for Marriott Rewards members, who get Virgin Australia, Aegean Airlines, Air New Zealand and others. New opportunities for SPG members will consist of Qantas, JetBlue, Turkish and others. You will still be able to transfer points to frequent-flyer miles, and the new ratio will be 3 points for one mile. For every 60,000 points transferred to miles, the program will add a 15,000 point bonus providing you with a total of 25,000 miles in the airline program of your choice. That makes it equitable to the current existing SPG program.
The combination was sure not going to be an easy exercise, but I am glad they have come out smelling roses for the moment. Almost everyone gets a fair deal, except Lifetime Platinums of Starwood who are wondering why are they not being treated at par with LifeTime Platinum Elites of Marriott. Additionally, we are wondering what comes up when the redemption charts get out. That is still one elephant in the room. However, I think the new program mostly is fair, bringing in more points for everyone along with more places to go as well.
What do you think of the new merged SPG-Marriott Rewards combination? Moreover, what are your questions? Happy to answer.