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What I learned at the Marriott press briefing yesterday

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Loyalty press conferences in the UK are a funny old thing, because there aren’t actually that many people to invite.  Thus it was that four usual suspects – plus a mysterious woman who I didn’t even notice until the end, who didn’t speak and I have no idea where she was from – turned up at the Great Northern Hotel yesterday morning to hear more about the Marriott Rewards changes.

Whilst most of the Starwood Preferred Guest management have left the business since Marriott took over, the European loyalty VP is an ex-Starwood man and someone I have known for a few years.  He seemed very happy about what Marriott has created from the combined loyalty schemes and – I have to say – he is right to be so.

Whilst there are clearly minor quibbles here and there, what many people forget is this:

Starwood was a very small hotel group which punched well above its weight by creating a very powerful loyalty programme which meant customers would go out of their way to track the hotels down

Marriott was a very large hotel group which gave the impression that – as it was hard to avoid its hotels, especially in North America – it didn’t need to try too hard, especially if you weren’t willing to give them at least 50 nights per year

The fact that virtually every key aspect of Starwood Preferred Guest has survived is a minor miracle.  Hilton Honors and IHG Rewards Club will need to do some serious thinking now.

Much of what people wanted to know was covered in my article yesterday.  Here are a few other things that came up:

The big one:  What happens to people who have SPG Gold via American Express Platinum? 

Does a Marriott Gold who matched from SPG Gold get:

Platinum in the new scheme (lounge or breakfast, 4pm check-out guaranteed) which is the Marriott Gold match or

Gold (no breakfast and no lounge access, no guaranteed late check-out) which would be the match you will get if you are seen as Starwood Gold?

This is especially important as a lot of people have made bookings for August onwards on the assumption that their Marriott Rewards Gold status would get them lounge access and/or free breakfast.

As it happens, Tom Otley from Business Traveller is, like me, a fellow Amex Platinum cardholder so we made it clear that this was a core issue for both of us ….

The Marriott team did not know, but went away to consult.  When we reconvened at a Rag’n’Bone Man private gig last night (as you do) Marriott’s European VP of loyalty confirmed that any Amex Platinum member who has matched their SPG Gold to Marriott Gold will become ‘Merged Scheme’ Platinum until the end of 2018.  Tom is my witness to this.

The UK credit card situation appears more fluid than was made out

It is currently stated that the UK Starwood Preferred Guest American Express will continue and that the Marriott Rewards Mastercard, issued by Creation, will return after a two year break. 

I got the impression that this is not as clear cut as we think.  As the return of the Creation card seems certain – given that an August date has been announced – perhaps the Amex will be dropped in the New Year?

“No black out dates” also means “last room availability”

We specifically talked about this to ensure that everyone was on the same page.  Occasionally the Marriott team was using both phrases interchangeably as if they were the same thing – and they are not.

Marriott has historically allowed its hotels to have blackout dates for rewards – that is no longer allowed.

However, apparently we will also see (as Starwood already has) “last room availability”.

This means that not only must a hotel make reward nights available, but they must keep making them available as long as standard rooms are available for cash.

There are ways of gaming the system, of course.  A hotel can create a small category of rooms – say the four rooms with a particularly bad view – and create a new category for those four rooms, charging $5 less for them.  They are then allowed to restrict ‘last room availability’ to just those four rooms.  In general, though, this is another major improvement.

Peak and off-peak dates will not be set globally

We will not get the weird Avios situation, where Dubai in August (50 degree heat) is peak pricing but the main tourist season in ‘off peak’.  The plan is that hotels will approximately set 20% of their days as peak, 20% as off-peak and 60% as standard.  There will be some standardisation – I got the impression that they want all hotels in a specific city, if not country, to be showing the same level of pricing.

You will earn points on all spending, not just your room rate

I thought it was only The Ritz-Carlton which had this exception, but I was told EDITION hotels also had the same rule.  At the cheaper end, it also impacted Moxy, AC Hotels, Courtyard, Gaylord, Protea, Springhill Suites, Residence Inn, Towneplace Suites and Fairfield Inn.  From now on you will always earn points on food and beverage spending irrespective of brand.

Marriott Travel Packages will remain ….

…. although the small print will change as the new hotel categories are introduced.

You can’t sign up for the Emirates and China Eastern partnerships ….

…. after 15th July.  I will do a separate article on this.  Those who sign up will continue to receive the benefits.  The Delta partnership closes full on 15th July.

No-one knew what would happen to multiple room credits

As present you can book three rooms at a Starwood hotel and it will count for three nights towards status.  Book three rooms at a Marriott and it will count as one night towards status.  To be honest, this news is mainly useful for people who do ‘mattress runs’ – booking three nights at the Sheraton Heathrow on a Saturday for £50 each is a cheap(ish) and easy(ish) way of getting to Starwood status more quickly via a Platinum Challenge.

It wasn’t clear to anyone what the situation would be going forward.  US reports I have seen say that the Marriott policy will prevail.

They genuinely do not have a name for the new programme ready to announce

The issue, oddly, is down to boring old things like the sheer volume of different items that need to be designed and printed.

And that was it.  Nothing else came up that wasn’t covered in our article yesterday.  In general, for most people most of the time, things are going to be OK – and I say that as someone who will lose the current Gold benefits of 4pm check-out and lounge access in the New Year.

I’m not giving any promises about the situation five years down the line but for now Marriott is clearly keen not to rock the boat with the Starwood regulars – even if it is being less generous to Amex Platinum freeloaders like me …..

How to earn Marriott Bonvoy points and status from UK credit cards

How to earn Marriott Bonvoy points and status from UK credit cards (May 2023)

There are various ways of earning Marriott Bonvoy points from UK credit cards.  Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses.

The official Marriott Bonvoy American Express card comes with 20,000 points for signing up, 2 points for every £1 you spend and 15 elite night credits per year.

You can apply here.

SPECIAL OFFER: Until 30th May, the sign-up bonus on the Marriott Bonvoy American Express card is doubled to 40,000 Bonvoy points – and you get a free night voucher too! Apply here.

Marriott Bonvoy American Express

40,000 bonus points and a free night voucher – only until 30th May! Read our full review

You can also earn Marriott Bonvoy points by converting American Express Membership Rewards points at the rate of 2:3.

Do you know that holders of The Platinum Card from American Express receive FREE Marriott Bonvoy Gold status for as long as they hold the card?  It also comes with Hilton Honors Gold, Radisson Rewards Premium and MeliaRewards Gold status.  We reviewed American Express Platinum in detail here and you can apply here.

SPECIAL OFFER: Until 13th June, the sign-up bonus on The Platinum Card is doubled to 60,000 Membership Rewards points (worth 90,000 Marriott Bonvoy points) – and you get £200 to spend at Amex Travel too! Apply here.

The Platinum Card from American Express

60,000 points AND a £200 Amex Travel voucher until 13th June! Read our full review

You can also earn Marriott Bonvoy points indirectly:

and for small business owners:

The conversion rate from American Express to Marriott Bonvoy points is 2:3.

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which can be used to earn Marriott Bonvoy points

(Want to earn more hotel points?  Click here to see our complete list of promotions from the major hotel chains or use the ‘Hotel Offers’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

Comments (190)

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  • Ziggy says:

    I appreciate this is a very niche question but it’s a question I’m having trouble getting a straight answer to (perhaps you’ll have more luck?):

    Will Lifetime Platinum members (both Plat and Plat Prem) receive the 5/10 suite night awards every year?

    • h2d says:

      The consensus on this is no per the US blogs and FT – you will see in the benefit chart it explicitly calls out that SNAs are “awarded with 50/75 qualifying night”

      • Ziggy says:

        That’s true….but then Marriott’s image showing the new Lifetime Tiers has the words “All Platinum Elite Benefits” written under the new Lifetime Platinum tier and the SNAs are clearly a Platinum benefit (as proven by the fact they’re listed in the benefit chart).

  • A270 says:

    Just catching up with this change. Probably a silly question but can we still transfer from SPG to Marriott at 1:3 as that would make sense if they are all merging or is it too late now.

    • guesswho2000 says:

      You can still txfer manually until they do it for you. One way or another, you’ll end up with your SPG points being 3x Marriott Points.

    • KBuffett says:

      I’m also interested in doing a 2:1:3 from Amex MR to SPG to Marriot. Is this still possible?

    • Rob says:

      You can do it, and soon it will be forcibly done anyway.

  • guesswho2000 says:

    I’ve seen this too, so I’m sceptical that anything different will be realised, but we’ll see.

  • Dan says:

    OT but Marriott… I know an airline transfer bonus just completed on 31/03 but anyone guess when the next one will be?

    • JamesB says:

      There is a 25% one for AA at the moment if that helps, but it will only apply to points, travel packages are excluded unlike the BA version.

      • Dan says:

        Thanks James. I’m after BA or Virgin. Any history of Virgin bonuses (with travel package)?

      • guesswho2000 says:

        That made my blood run cold until I read that travel packages are excluded – I pulled the trigger on one the other day! I had been waiting for a txfer bonus, but given they excluded travel packages last time, figured they would next time too, so decided to jump in.

        Good to know I didn’t miss out. Would have been slightly better off funnelling them via SPG, but they 7-night travel voucher more than offsets that, so I’m still happy with my decision!

    • Rob says:

      BA ones are usually every 9 months.

  • JamesB says:

    However, Rob’s version came later in the day so it is possible something was settled at the highest level. We need to see it in black and white from Marriott. I don’t see that the end of 2018 scenario helps much. If this is simply acknowkedging that there is a real issue with people booking in good faith in the belief they would get the benefits, what then for those who similarly booked through 16 April 2019? Why should they be treated differently?

    • JamesB says:

      Theresa May is the highest gal in the UK but she has done more U-turns than a Bangkok taxi driver. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if you are right because I don’t think they should discriminate betwenn pre- and post- 31/12 bookings. The easiest option is just to stick with SPG gold = gold and let the s**t hit the fan.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Just contact your hotels they can still honour what ever they wish.

    • Rob says:

      I think we will see my view prevail 🙂 Even if Marriott did not plan this the pressure to do it as I wrote it is now too strong.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Except your view essentially means every single SPG gold globally will now be a platinum in the new joint programme for 4 months and surely they can’t sustain that number of plats.

      • Rob says:

        Why? Every SPG Gold is now Marriott Gold and Plat in the new scheme is virtually the same except for breakfast at a few more brands.

    • Crafty says:

      They don’t need to “sustain” it. It’s 4 months.

      Fingers crossed it prevails, and make hay while the sun shines.

    • Genghis says:

      @TGLoyalty would there really be a difference to now given benefits of new Plat = existing Gold? I guess in some brands where get free breakfast under new scheme, yes

    • JamesB says:

      Extending the breakfast benefit to almost all brands may make it even easier to sustain because current gold bookings are likely concentrated on a few brands to get this benefit but might now be spread more broadly across brands.

  • Tilly says:

    I’d hope the info given to Rob yesterday is accurate. It would be a relief to know I have lounge and breakfast until end if the year.

  • Mike says:

    So can we assume that after 2018 Amex Platinum members get downgraded then?

  • Nigel says:

    What about AmEx Centurion cardholders who do get a level above AmEx Platinum cardholders on some loyalty schemes? Will Centurion “free loaders” continue as Platinum in the new Marriott scheme after 1/1/19? Starwood actually had a sizable portfolio of properties under several “luxury” guises, so what will the St Regis brand be known as now, to match the JW Marriott? Perhaps FU Marriott?!!

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Those free loaders pay a significant fee and sure Amex pays SPG a significant fee for it.

      David Flueck said the Amex status deals will continue as they are for now but as per Accor that could change at any time.

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