On Monday night, Marriott hosted an event in New York where we got our first look at the new combined Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest loyalty program.

Future of SPG n MR announced 1.png

And it’s mostly good news. In fact, I’m pretty relieved!


Why you should care

This is undoubtedly one of the biggest loyalty points stories of 2018 and there’s plenty of information to digest.

Even if you’ve never paid much attention to Marriott Rewards/SPG points before, you should do so now.

After their purchase of Starwood Hotels and Resorts, Marriott International is now the biggest hotel chain in the world, encompassing these 29 (!) brands:

Graphic containing all of Marriott International 29 brands

That means you’re never likely to be too far from a Marriott hotel where you can earn and burn loyalty points!

At the very least, make sure to take 60 seconds and read our bite-sized roundup of the key changes below. 


Background

Following their acquisition of Starwood back in 2016, Marriott announced that they had no intention of maintaining all three loyalty programs: Marriott Rewards, Ritz-Carlton Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) and there would eventually be a new combined program.

SPG fans have been living in perpetual fear since the deal closed, with huge question marks over what Marriott wouldn’t get rid of would come up with.

There was genuine concern that the new program would contain all of the worst bits of Marriott Rewards while abandoning many of the features that make the SPG program so well regarded.


While we now know much more about how the future of the programs are shaping up – there are a number of areas that still need clarifying. I will update this article with any extra info as and when I get it. 


A 60-second roundup of the changes

Changes effective from 1st August 2018 unless stated.

  • New program name coming early 2019
  • All members to have just one combined loyalty account
  • All stays across all 29 brands will earn points and nights in the new single account.
  • All Starpoints to be converted at a 1:3 ratio to Marriott Rewards in a one-off transfer
  • All guests to earn a minimum of 10 points per $1 spent at all* brand hotels. Elite members will earn more.
  • Airline mileage transfers staying put
  • Marriott Travel Packages to stay
  • Elite status will be earned via total number of nights, not stays as of January 2019.
  • SPG members who’ve earned Lifetime Elite status will receive an equivalent lifetime status in the new program.
  • New unified Award Chart will offer redemptions at more than 6,500 hotels across all 29 participating brands — with no blackout dates.
  • Peak/off-peak pricing will be introduced in January 2019.
  • Fifth free night on points redemptions remains

* 5 points per eligible US$1 at ElementSM, Residence Inn®and TownePlace Suites® hotels


The big kick-off is this August

Marriott merged program 1.png

So, what’s the name of the new program?

Err it doesn’t have one yet. You would think this crucial bit of info would be the first thing to be decided but no, we can apparently expect this at the beginning of 2019.

Timeline for Marriott Rewards changes


Elite status

The new program will have five tiers:

  • Silver Elite – earned after 10 nights
  • Gold Elite – 25 nights
  • Platinum Elite – 50 nights
  • Platinum Premier Elite – 75 nights
  • Platinum Premier Elite with ambassador – 100 nights and $20,000 of spend

Here are some selected elite status benefits:

Silver Elite

  • 10% bonus points,
  • Priority late checkout
  • Dedicated elite reservation line

Gold Elite

  • 25% bonus points
  • Welcome gift of points (250/500 Points, varies by brand)
  • 2 p.m. late checkout
  • Room upgrade, subject to availability – doesn’t include suites.

Platinum Elite

  • 50% bonus points
  • 4 p.m. late checkout
  • Room upgrade, including select suites, subject to availability
  • Annual Gift Choice (5 Suite Night Awards or Gift Option)
  • Lounge access
  • Welcome gift (Choice of 500/1,000 points, breakfast or amenity, varies by brand).

Platinum Premier Elite

  • 75% bonus points
  • 4 p.m. late checkout
  • Room upgrade, including select suites, subject to availability
  • Annual Gift Choice (5 Suite Night Awards or Gift Option)
  • Lounge access
  • Welcome gift (Choice of 500/1,000 points, breakfast or amenity, varies by brand).
  • Additional annual gift choice (5 Suite Night Awards, a Free Night Award or Gift Option)

Points earning rates:

All guests will earn a minimum of 10 points per $1 spent at all brand hotels (except for ElementSM, Residence Inn®and TownePlace Suites® hotels – 5 points per $1).

  • Silver Elite – 11 points per $1
  • Gold Elite – 12.5 points per $1
  • Platinum Elite – 15 points per $1
  • Platinum Premier Elite – 17.5 points per $1

This is almost the same as Marriott members currently earn, and more generous than the (equivalent) SPG earning rates.


What will my current status be worth in the new program?

If you currently have elite status with either program, this is what you can expect:

(Click to enlarge)

What’s happening to Lifetime Status

And there’s positive news on the lifetime status front too. Many were worried what would happen to their hard-earned Lifetime SPG status, but it’s being carried over:

Lifetime elite changes for SPG members.pngGoing forward, members can qualify for the following three tiers of Lifetime Status:

Marriott LT elite status requirements.png


How many points will I need for a free night?

A new award chart has been released, although we don’t yet know which hotels will be assigned to which categories.

What you can say is that plenty of top-end Starwood hotels and even some Ritz-Carlton hotels just became a lot more affordable for redemptions. New Marriott award chart categories.png

We also know that there will be:

  • No blackout dates
  • Cash + Points
  • A complimentary night when you redeem for a 5 night stay using points.
  • Ability to use points to upgrade to a suite or room with a view.

Heads-up: Amazingly cheap redemptions at high-end hotels coming

There also looks like there will be a very lucrative sweet spot for bookings between August 2018 and January 2019!

Let me explain:

Currently, top-end Category 7 Starwood properties such as the St. Regis New York or Hotel Danieli, Venice can cost up to 35,000 SPG points per night.

However, as you can see on the above chart, from August through until the new peak/off-peak charts come in next year, the most expensive hotels in the Marriott portfolio will cost a maximum of 60,000 points per night which is equivalent to 20,000 SPG points.

When you factor in the fifth-night free benefit, you could pay as little as 48,000 Marriott Rewards points/16,000 SPG points per night at hotels such as the W Verbier and The St. Regis Aspen Resort.

Yes, of course, you still need points availability but that’s insane when you consider that the St. Regis Aspen, for example, can easily cost £1,000 to £2,500 per night in peak season!

Start building your SPG and Marriott Rewards points balances…


What’s happening to the UK credit card options

Currently, one of the best ways to earn SPG points in the UK is via the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card (reviewed here). I for one feared this was doomed, but it looks to have survived, at least for the time being.

This page suggests the card will remain and new benefits will be launched – including, rather intriguingly, an annual anniversary Free Night Award.

I criticised the free night certificate currently available on this card and am very interested to see if they have reformed it.

Future of the SPG UK Amex

We’re also going to see the return of the UK Marriott Rewards Mastercard, issued by Creation:

Relaunch of UK Marriott Mastercard

Although frankly, the earnings rate is a bit rubbish!


Expansion of (SPG) Moments

I have written about SPG Moments in the past and Marriott Rewards Moments offers a similar platform.

This is being expanded enormously and will feature 110,000 new Moments experiences in 1,000 destinations that can be purchased for cash. These are in addition to the 8,000 exclusive, member experiences that only can be redeemed with points on Marriott Rewards Moments and SPG Moments. Going forward, you will also earn points every time you purchase one of the new experiences.  In the future, all Moments experiences will be available to be redeemed with points.


Airline mileage transfers survive

One of the best aspects of the SPG program is staying the same – phew!

You’ll be able to transfer points to more than 40 airlines, including new options, such as Qantas, JetBlue, Turkish and more. The new ratio will be 3 points for one mile.

Plus, starting in August, you’ll get an additional 15,000 points for every 60,000 points you transfer to airline miles, giving a total of 25,000 miles in the airline program of your choice.


Verdict

Make no mistake, this could have been a whole lot worse!

The prevailing feeling here is one of relief that we haven’t seen the complete bloodbath predicted by some, materialise.

Kudos to Marriott for clearly making a real effort to move across many of the key benefits that were treasured by SPG members into the new program.

You can find further details of the new program via this link.

 

 

2 thoughts

  1. I took out a platinum card on your recommendation and it comes with a free SPG gold card. Is this now platinum elite?

    1. Hi Phil – This is an interesting one. Technically speaking Marriott Gold members will become Platinum Elite from August, but it’s not clear at the moment whether members who originally got their SPG Gold via the Amex Platinum card will receive the same bump to Platinum. No-one seems to know definitively and there have been dozens of articles saying that this will/won’t happen. Will update this post once we get some clarity from Marriott.

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