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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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  • Chris D says:

    I’m concerned about two aspects.

    The first is the strong rumour (as posted on other blogs) that they will not award multiple elite credit nights for multiple rooms. This is a huge step backwards from the SPG program.

    The second, is the question of whether the UK Marriott credit cards will earn yearly elite nights, like the US ones do. This is especially important, considering the above limitation!

    • Rob says:

      UK Marriott card always gave enough nights for Silver, which was 10.

  • TravelBloggerBuzz says:

    What? No private concert by Keith Urban for you guys like in NYC? Must be Brexit related!

    • Rob says:

      We got Rag’n’Bone Man. I am fairly sure Keith Urban will be doing a London gig though.

  • LawrenceB says:

    Re Michael’s comments above about Marriott Vacation Clubs in Palm Desert. Thanks for your comment. Our preference would be to stay at Westin Mission Hills as our friends leave a short walk across the golf course from the hotel. The good news is that we now get free breakfast etc at the hotel. Still not certain whether this applies if we book through Expedia with payment to be made at the hotel on arrival. There is substantial discount on offer by Expedia at the moment.

  • Cate ⛱️ says:

    Regards the properties which will now have breakfasts, do we know what those breakfasts will be i.e. enforced continental type or upgrade to full buffet for points/cash? At a recent Marriott I saw an advert for ‘Garden Breakfast’ which looked mostly carbs plus coffee for £12 pp.

  • Sakib Chaudhry says:

    Re The big one: What happens to people who have SPG Gold via American Express….
    I was happy to read that any Amex Platinum member who has matched their SPG Gold to Marriott Gold will become ‘Merged Scheme’ Platinum until the end of 2018, (which I’ve done!!) , however I’ve spoken to 2 different Marriott agents this morning and BOTH said that from August the new status match would be based on nights spent on the account so that would mean gold not platinum as suggested above for me. My work pays for my rooms so my stays aren’t eligible to count towards elite status. For me the gold status match from spg to Marriott was ideal as it provided me lounge access and breakfast privileges at Marriott properties where I try to stay at so I’m a bit disheartened now. Will I be gold or platinum for the remainder of the year from August?? If gold I will look at doing a platinum challenge to ensure I receive platinum status in the new tier as lounge/breakfast is important to me as I spend at least 15 nights a month in a hotel room.

    • Clive says:

      Well… Rob said above that his info is from Marriott European VP of Loyalty… why would you think the agents you have spoken to know better?

      • Sakib Chaudhry says:

        I dont. I’m just saying if the head of VP is saying one thing but then your Frontline staff are saying another it doesn’t really instill confidence , in terms of customer service or who’s right/ wrong or confused over all this does it??!! I’d much rather go with what the VP says like Rob mentioned. I was merely stating my experience this morning. I even stated that the head of VP for Marriott is saying as above and both agents said that regardless of your gold status with Marriott you have matched from SPG and there is no gold activity on your account so you will be gold not platinum come August unless you gain platinum with Marriott and stay 50 nights from now till the new tier come into effect!!!

      • Cate ⛱️ says:

        Unfortunately it doesn’t matter what was said but what’s enforceable. I’m happy to go with Rob’s version of events for the time being. But I wouldn’t start up a new contract based on a man’s word whom I’ve never met, who met a chap at the bar (whom I have also never met) who said it was ok. Few would.

        Of course any one here who is happy to commit to a legally binding contract with a company who won’t clearly commit their T&C’s in writing then please contact me directly as I have some magic beans just in….

        • Rob says:

          Marriott has a website up showing Marriott Gold becoming New Scheme Platinum. I really don’t think that Marriott wants a pile of phone calls from non-blog reading Amex Plat cardholders in August asking why they are not Platinum.

        • Rob says:

          As Marriott’s APAC VP has come out to agree with what I was told, that makes is 2:1 🙂

          The probable truth? They didn’t think it through, they are surprised by the strength of feeling and whatever the original plan they WILL now give Plat Aug-Dec in the face of pressure from people like me.

          When Marriott launched 4pm check-out last year it was NOT guaranteed. Within 24 hours – in the face of howls of laughter from the blogger community – they had changed their mind and decided to make it guaranteed.

        • Philco says:

          Yeah you are probably right. Honestly it seems like the most reasonable thing to do since some folks probably made plans based on the expectation they’d get certain benefits.

        • Cate ⛱️ says:

          I think your probably right Rob.

          Suppose it’s also prudent for Marriott to remember that a lot of that amex gold cohort are potentially moneyed so pulling the rug from beneath them for the sake of waiting til Jan 2019 may not be too bright.

    • RK says:

      Whatever the answer or result, I would say that frontline agents of pretty much any loyalty program often tend to be amongst the least reliable sources for credible information. Often they have been misinformed by their managers or just don’t know the answer but decide to guess and speak authoritatively as if they do.

  • Doreen says:

    There will no doubt be misunderstandings/blips along the way till everyone is up to speed, including IT staff.

    I had an interesting experience this morning: I have 2 rooms booked in NYC in a Marriott this May, so looked to find a Starwood hotel to gain 8 nights credit instead of just 4. Twice on I was met with the message – there is no availability in Starwood hotels for your dates, please try Marriott !! Not happening now, I am glad to say.

  • Jackh says:

    O/T -Amex question which I’m sure has been answered a thousand times but can’t find the answer/

    I downgraded from the BA PP to the free version over 6 months ago. My wife has the PP BA card. If she refers me and I apply for a PP card again will she get the referral bonus and will i still be eligible from the 25k sign up bonus even though I currently have the Free version of the card ? cheeers

    • Mark says:

      No as they’re in the same award currency. You’ll need to cancel you free card and wait 6 months.

    • Steve says:

      From my experience of doing the same with Amex Gold and Plat (assuming this mirrors the rules on BA cards) I would say your wife will get a referral bonus but you wont get a sign up bonus

  • RussellH says:

    Two (smaller) points that I have not seen mentioned here, but perhaps I just missed them…

    1) We had drinks on the rooftop bar at Le Meriden in Nice and no, we are not staying thee, but at the HI 400m away on a points break deal). There were signs in the lift reminding us that had we had our SPG cards with us, we would have been entitled to 20% off food. Not really a problem, as we had not planned to eat anyway.
    But Is there any info on whether this benefit is remaining or going? It is useful. And, at present, SPG is the only scheme where you can get points on just eating in the restaurant, as well as 20% off.

    2. If we book a weekend stay at he Aloft in Liverpool now (costs just 3000 SPG!), will that be honoured a) after 1 Aug 2018 b) after 1 Jan 2019??

    • Intentionally Blank says:

      Same here at Sheraton La Calete: Plats get 15% discount at two of the three restaurants

      Rather confusing breakfast thing too… Oh, you booked with points, no breakfast, but you’re plat, so you get breakfast…

      And the internet in the rooms sucks donkey balls. In the business area / club lounge, it’s fine

    • Rob says:

      All existing bookings will be honoured.

      • RussellH says:

        I both thought that that ought to be, and hoped that it would be, the case?

        I suspect/fear that the SPG restaurant discount will disappear, but have not seen any mention either way. If so, hopefully they would reduce restaurant prices.

        And points from restaurant purchases by non-residents?

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