There has been an acknowledgment of sweeping changes coming to SPG program when Marriott bought them. It looked even more on the horizon when SPG and Marriott literally had a same global promotion this summer.

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Well, there is a final announcement that Program is getting merged and would get a new name in 2019. However, till then all programs would retain their name.  We knew the death knell was coming for SPG fans and it was a great run with whatever we had with them. However, the new chapter is upon us.

On August 1, SPG members would merge into Marriott completely and now your night counts would be combined on that day.  There is no telling what changes would be made. However, they definitely don’t want to drive away the loyal customer to make them free agents. 

Remember, SPG program was so great because it was hard to win it. There were only 500 properties on the globe and it required effort to finish those 50 to 100 nights for Platinums. However, that isn’t the case anymore and now you have the world’s largest portfolio to choose from. 

 

A brief explanation of New Tiers

 

 New tiers take into account the current elite tiers from both the programs and equalize 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.

SPG / Marriott Rewards / Ritz Carlton Rewards Parity

A vast majority of members are gaining from the program such as moving a category higher such as under the current program Marriott Gold Elite would gain the Platinum status at 75 nights, now the Platinum Elite tier comes at completing 50 nights and at 75 nights members will achieve Platinum Premier Elite. Members will be able to combine their elite qualifying nights across all three programs to qualify for the new status.

New Elite Benefits

Let’s look at the benefits each tier will now offer:

Silver Elite

  • 10% bonus points
  • Priority late check-out, subject to availability
  • Dedicated elite reservations line

Gold Elite

  • A 25% points bonus
  • 2PM late check-out, subject to availability
  • A welcome gift of points
  • A room upgrade subject to availability, excluding suites

Platinum Elite

  • A 50% points bonus
  • Guaranteed 4PM late check-out, except at resorts (where it’s subject to availability)
  • A welcome gift of points, breakfast, or an amenity
  • A room upgrade subject to availability, including suites
  • Executive lounge access
  • Annual Choice Benefit (5 Suite Night Awards or gift option)

Platinum Premier Elite

  • A 75% points bonus
  • A further annual Choice Benefit (5 Suite Night Awards or gift option)

Platinum Premier Elite with Ambassador service

  • Ambassador service
  • Your24 (the ability to check-in and check-out over a 24 hour period, subject to availability)

To make things easier, here’s a chart comparing the elite benefits by tier:

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 with Marriott

When this new program is launched, all Starpoints will be converted into Marriott Rewards points at a 1:3 ratio. Marriott claims that under the new program, members will be earning an average of 20% more points than before.

Members will earn 10 points per dollar spent with Marriott, so when you include elite bonuses:

  • Base members will earn 10 points per dollar
  • Silver members will earn 11 points per dollar
  • Gold members will earn 12.5 points per dollar
  • Platinum members will earn 15 points per dollar
  • Platinum Premier members will earn 17.5 points per dollar

As a point of comparison, previously with Marriott Rewards:

  • Base members earned 10 points per dollar
  • Silver members earned 12 points per dollar
  • Gold members earned 12.5 points per dollar
  • Platinum members earned points 15 points per dollar

Meanwhile with SPG:

  • Base members earned 2 Starpoints per dollar (6 Marriott Rewards points)
  • Gold & Platinum members earned 3 Starpoints per dollar spent (9 Marriott Rewards points)
  • Platinum 75 night members earned 4 Starpoints per dollar spent (12 Marriott Rewards points)

As you can see, for most Marriott Rewards members points earning is staying similar, while for SPG members we’re seeing a huge increase in points earning. As a 75+ night Platinum member with Starwood I’ll be earning 17.5 points per dollar spent rather than 12 points per dollar spent, which is nearly a 50% increase in points earning.

Here’s a chart comparing the earning rates across programs before and after:

Redeeming points with Marriott

Marriott will on average award 20% more points (most of which are going to SPG members), so what’s the catch? Is there going to be a huge award chart devaluation? Actually, no.

As of August 1, there will be a new award chart used for all hotels, with Categories 1-8. For the remainder of 2018, all hotels will have “standard” pricing, while starting in 2019 we’ll see both “off-peak” and “peak” pricing added, meaning that a given hotel can up to three levels of award pricing.

Here’s the new Marriott Rewards redemption chart (Marriott will continue to offer fifth night free redemptions, as before):

How does this compare to the current charts?

Right now Marriott Rewards charges the following number of points:

  • Category 1: 7,500 points
  • Category 2: 10,000 points
  • Category 3: 15,000 points
  • Category 4: 20,000 points
  • Category 5: 25,000 points
  • Category 6: 30,000 points
  • Category 7: 35,000 points
  • Category 8: 40,000 points
  • Category 9: 45,000 points

Ritz-Carlton Rewards charges the following number of points:

  • Tier 1: 30,000 points
  • Tier 2: 40,000 points
  • Tier 3: 50,000 points
  • Tier 4: 60,000 points
  • Tier 5: 70,000 points

Starwood Preferred Guest charges the following number of points (adjusted for the 1:3 transfer ratio):

  • Category 1: 6,000-9,000 points
  • Category 2: 9,000-12,000 points
  • Category 3: 21,000 points
  • Category 4: 30,000 points
  • Category 5: 36,000-48,000 points
  • Category 6: 60,000-75,000 points
  • Category 7: 90,000-105,000 points

Perception of pricing probably varies depending on which program you’re coming from. From the perspective of an SPG member, the pricing is excellent, especially when you take into account that you’ll be earning lots more points under the new program.

From the perspective of Marriott Rewards and Ritz-Carlton Rewards, we’re potentially seeing some price increases, though in most cases they shouldn’t be too bad.

I think the big question will be which hotels will belong in which categories. Marriott is known for their annual award category changes, where we see more and more hotels get into higher categories. We’ll have to see which hotels go in which categories here. Hopefully all Category 9 Marriott Rewards properties don’t become Category 8 properties in the new program, since that would represent a 100% price increase in some cases. Instead, I hope that category is used primarily for select Ritz-Carlton and St. Regis properties.

Converting hotel points into airline miles

Starwood’s current mileage transfer option is here to stay. Going forward, you can convert Marriott Rewards points into airline miles at a 3:1 ratio, with a 15,000 point bonus for every 60,000 points transferred. This means that for all practical purposes, mileage transfer rates are staying the same (you used to be able to convert 20,000 Starpoints into 25,000 airline miles), which is fantastic news.

Marriott Hotel + Air Packages are also here to stay. However, I’m told that pricing on some of those packages may be changing in the near future, though the details of those changes haven’t yet been revealed.

New lifetime Marriott status rules

Under the new program, the thresholds to reach lifetime elite status will be as follows:

  • Lifetime Silver Elite: 250 lifetime nights plus five years of elite status
  • Lifetime Gold Elite: 400 lifetime nights plus seven years of Gold Elite status or higher
  • Lifetime Platinum Elite: 600 lifetime nights plus 10 years of Platinum Elite status

Going forward there will be no opportunity to earn lifetime Platinum Premier or above, and lifetime Platinum members won’t receive the Choice Benefit, which includes Suite Night Awards. Furthermore, elite qualifying nights and status across all programs will be combined to calculate lifetime status.

How does this work for existing lifetime elite members?

  • Lifetime SPG Gold members will become lifetime Marriott Gold members
  • Lifetime SPG Platinum members will become lifetime Marriott Platinum members
  • Lifetime Marriott Gold members will become lifetime Marriott Platinum members
  • Lifetime Marriott Platinum members will be grandfathered as lifetime Marriott Platinum Premier members (a lifetime status that can’t be earned going forward)

I actually think that last point is extremely fair. Marriott Gold was significantly tougher to qualify for than SPG Gold, and also always included free breakfast and room upgrades. The requirement for the new Platinum tier is equivalent to the old requirement for the Gold tier, so it’s only fair that they’re offering those members lifetime Platinum.

My thoughts on the new Marriott program

I’m breathing a big sigh of relief, and I’m so impressed here. This is pretty close to being the best possible scenario I could have envisioned.

Marriott is now the world’s largest hotel group, and in particular, Marriott Rewards has a ton of super frequent guests, so I knew it would be a challenge to build a combined program. I had low expectations coming in, and this exceeds those expectations by a long shot.

Let’s start with the negatives. I’m disappointed that Marriott still isn’t offering breakfast at EDITION and Ritz-Carlton. C’mon, that’s just ridiculous. On principle, I’ll be doing everything I can to avoid these properties, as they don’t deserve the revenue for their stinginess. Clearly, they don’t value their company’s loyal guests, and I’ll make sure the feeling is mutual. At most Ritz-Carlton which is supposed to be the most luxurious property in the chain, they are losing so much value on the ground that they are stubborn about all the things that most of us Elite members take for granted. For instance, I want my evening lounge which is usually 6 to 8 PM at the most property, isn’t available for elites either. When I am shelling top money to stay at your property, you should spare nothing to make me feel comfortable there. 

Adding $20,000 requirement is pretty steep as most of the mattress run we do is on the minimum size of the spending bracket. That is going to be insane. 

Marriott also had rollover nights which are now removed. Earlier all nights above 75 nights counted towards next year status. Now, they require doing that every year. Some years that might not be possible.

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Cody is a travel consultant and full-time traveler from India. He holds a deep background in Network and Network Security. Something that enabled him to develop the hacker mindset. He uses his hacker mindset to travel Luxuriously and to stay in suites in 5-star hotels and resorts and fly business or first class at very economical prices by applying various travel hacks to enrich his and his client's life. He helps people maximizing their travel portfolio. He believes that your current travel should reward your future travels. Cody initially traveled as a backpacker and stayed in modest locations and over the period has improved his life by using all his travel hacks to stay in top-end luxury locations across the world. Cody has traveled over 60 countries in last 5 years. Cody is a blogger, motivator, storyteller, travel consultant and a life coach. He has been featured in multiple publications such as Times of India, Dainik Bhaskar, magazines such as Men’s Health. He was invited to inspire people on a platform such as TEDx. He has trained over 100s of people achieve their lifestyle goals.

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