Last night Marriott held a major event in New York to outline the first steps of the integration of Marriott Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest and The Ritz-Carlton Rewards.
This is what was announced, along with some other information supplied to me in advance. It covers almost everything I wanted to know.
You will be able to find the official version of the news on the Marriott website here.
When do the changes start?
August 2018. From that date you will be able to permanently combine your existing Marriott Rewards, The Ritz Carlton Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest accounts into one account.
You will be able to book and redeem at ALL 29 combined Marriott and Starwood brands on both the Marriott and Starwood websites.
The individual programme names will continue until the end of 2018, but from August all earning and spending benefits will be unified between the legacy schemes.
What will the new programme be called?
I don’t know. We won’t find out until 2019.
What is the point earning structure?
The current Marriott Rewards points structure will be the basis of the new programme. Starwood Preferred Guest will also adopt this earning structure from August to December, before the new scheme launches in 2019.
You will earn ten base points for every dollar spent at all brands except for Residence Inn, TownePlace Suites and Element which will be five points per every dollar spent. There will also be elite status bonuses. In August, all members will begin earning points for food and beverage and qualifying incidentals on their folio, rather than just the room rate.
Here are the status bonuses (based on the new tiers, not your current tier):
- Silver members will earn 11 points per $1
- Gold members will earn 12.5 points per $1
- Platinum members will earn 15 points per $1
- Platinum Premier members will earn 17.5 points per $1
Marriott says “members will earn more points faster than under the prior programs — on average 20% more points for every dollar spent”. This primarily reflects the improvement in ‘points per $’ earning at the Starwood brands.
What is happening to elite tiers?
From August, there will be FIVE elite tiers going forward. These will be based on your COMBINED SPG and Marriott nights in 2018.
You can no longer earn status based on stays, as SPG members can now. All qualification will be based on nights.
Silver – will require 10 nights
Gold – will require 25 nights
Platinum – will require 50 nights
Platinum Premier – will require 75 nights
Platinum Premier (elite) – will require 100 nights and $20,000 of spend, in return for a personal ambassador
Existing lifetime status benefits will continue to be honoured.
Your existing Marriott tier will be ported to the new programme on this basis in August:
Silver (10-24 nights) = Silver
Silver (25-49 nights) = Gold
Gold = Platinum
Platinum = Platinum Premier
Platinum with 100+ nights and $20k spend = Platinum Premier with Ambassador
Your existing Starwood tier will be ported to the new programme on this basis in August:
Preferred Guest = Silver
Gold = Gold
Platinum = Platinum
Platinum with 75+ nights = Platinum Premier
This is a problem. This potentially means that if you have Starwood Gold via American Express Platinum, even if you have matched it to Marriott Gold, you will only receive Gold status in the new programme as your status is ‘officially’ driven by your Starwood level. This will mean that people like myself, who currently receive lounge access and 4pm check-out with a Marriott Gold comped from an SPG Gold, are going to suffer a loss of benefits in August. We will even see our elite status bonus cut from 50% to 25%. I await firm confirmation of this though.
What are the status benefits apart from extra base points?
Silver – nothing except points bonus
Gold – 2pm check-out, welcome gift, preferred room
Platinum – 4pm check-out, lounge access, welcome gift, suite upgrade certificates for 50 nights
Platinum Premier – additional suite upgrades for 75 nights
Breakfast benefits are being expanded
Platinum members (current Gold members) will receive free breakfast or lounge access at most of the 29 brands. For the first time, free breakfast will be offered at resort properties. Courtyard, AC Hotels, Moxy and Protea will offer free breakfast for the first time. Some brands will offer a breakfast credit instead of ‘all you can eat’.
You will not get free breakfast at EDITION, Gaylord, The Ritz-Carlton, Marriott Executive Apartments, and Marriott Vacation Club.
However, current Marriott Gold members who were matched from Starwood Gold will LOSE their breakfast / lounge benefit as they will remain Gold in the new programme.
What is happening to points redemptions?
The new reward chart will have peak, standard and off-peak pricing for all hotels.
There will be no blackout dates.
From August to December, all hotels will be available at standard pricing for all dates. Peak and off-peak pricing will be added in 2019.
Marriott Travel Packages will continue but we do not know the exact details.
Here is the reward chart
Read this as standard / off-peak / peak:
Category 1 – 7.5 / 5 / 10
Category 2 – 12.5 / 10 / 15
Category 3 – 17.5 / 15 / 20
Category 4 – 25 / 20 / 30
Category 5 – 35 / 30 / 40
Category 6 – 50 / 40 / 60
Category 7 – 60 / 50 / 70
Category 8 (2019 only) – 85 / 70 / 100
This is a very good result, in general. Some of the top SPG hotels will become cheaper, noticeably so off peak, as will some The Ritz-Carlton Hotels.
We do not know at present which hotels will be in which list. However, unless a ludicrously huge number of hotels went into Category 9 I would imagine that the majority of high profile redemption hotels, especially off peak, will be cheaper.
What will happen to airline transfer rates?
Marriott is keeping the generous SPG system. 3 points = 1 mile with a bonus of 5,000 miles if you transfer 60,000 points. This is IDENTICAL to the current SPG structure. It seems that most (all?) partners from all three schemes will remain on board.
You really couldn’t ask for more than this.
What happens with the SPG airline ‘in flight’ partners?
Crossover Rewards with Delta will end as of 15th July.
The partnerships with Emirates and China Eastern will continue for now as long as you are registered. I am guessing that registration may cease at some point even if the benefits continue.
The Marriott partnership with United will continue.
What happens to the UK credit cards?
The free Marriott UK credit card, issued by Creation, will re-open for new applications in August. Don’t all rush at once at the opportunity to earn 1 point per £1 spent. Although, ironically, it will be a better Avios card on that basis than the Lloyds Avios Rewards Mastercard!
The bonus of 10,000 Marriott Rewards for signing up is a tasty 3,333 free Avios though.
The Starwood American Express card will continue.
What happens in 2019 remains to be seen. Will we really have an American Express card from one issuer and a Mastercard (for the same scheme) from a different issuer?
It appears, at least in the US, that American Express Platinum will continue to give Gold status.
Moments is being expanded
The Moments experiences platform is expanding. One part of this is commercial – you will be able to buy, for cash, 110,000 (!) experiences. Special events will continue to be exclusively available for members using points. There will be a new bespoke Moments Live event series with Keith Urban as one of the first artists to appear.
If Marriott didn’t have such a bad reputation for legging over its loyalty scheme members over the years, we shouldn’t have been surprised by anything here. The two programmes have been slotted together neatly. No major feature have gone, no major features have been added – and everyone benefits from having a wider footprint to earn and redeem.
The reality is that most people will be pleasantly surprised by this, as am I. This is despite the fact that it seems I will lose lounge access and 4pm check-out in August as my Marriott Gold was not earned but comped from my Starwood status.
I am meeting Marriott this morning and if anything else interesting turns up I will write it up later.
For now, though, you can stop worrying and go back to something more productive!
More information is available on this special section of the Marriott website.
(Want to earn more hotel points? Click here to see our complete list of promotions from the major hotel chains or use the ‘Hotel Promos’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)