We have spent a lot of time this week discussing the new (and still nameless) merged Marriott Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest and The Ritz-Carlton Rewards loyalty scheme.
If you missed it, this article here is a good place to start.
There is one positive aspect of all this which you may want to start thinking about. Here is the high end of the new redemption chart, listed in thousand of points per night:
Category 6 – 50 standard / 40 off-peak / 60 peak
Category 7 – 60 standard / 50 off-peak / 70 peak
Category 8 (2019 only) – 85 standard / 70 off-peak / 100 peak
This chart will kick in during August. However:
Category 8 will not be launched until 2019 – these hotels will be Category 7 from August to December
Only standard pricing will be available from August to December
Let’s be clear about what this means:
From 1st January 2019 the highest possible reward night will cost 100,000 points per night (Cat 8 peak)
BUT …. between August and 31st December 2018 the highest possible reward night will cost 60,000 points per night (Cat 7 standard)
At present, the highest category Starwood hotels – if we convert to ‘new scheme’ points – cost 90,000 to 105,000 points per night.
So …. for a five month period you can book ‘top category’ Starwood hotels for 43% off their current peak price (105,000 points down to 60,000 points) and for 40% less than they will be on 1st January (100,000 points from 60,000 points).
What hotels are we talking about?
This page of the Starwood website (link does not work on mobile unless you use desktop view) lists their current ‘Category 7’ hotels. These cost 30,000 to 35,000 SPG points per night at present, equivalent to 90,000 to 105,000 points in the new scheme.
Highlights include (click to visit the hotel website):
The St. Regis Aspen
The St. Regis Florence
The Gritti Palace, Venice (pictured above)
The St. Regis Bali Resort
The St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort (pictured below)
You can find a full list of ‘top category’ Starwood hotels here. The link does not work on a mobile unless you switch to desktop view.
IMPORTANT: Some hotels in Category 7 are classified as ‘all suite’ and cannot currently be redeemed without paying double points. We do not know if this will continue under the new merged programme. These are: St. Regis Resort Bora Bora, and Le Méridien Bora Bora; W Maldives; Sunset Key Guest Cottages, Key West; Mystique, Santorini; Pine Cliff Residences, Portugal; and Cala Di Volpe, Hotel Pitrizza, and Hotel Romazzino, Porto Cervo, Italy.
There are some astounding – and astoundingly expensive, in peak season – hotels on this list. Mallorca is £700 per night in the Summer for example – and that is for a non-refundable pre-paid room. The ability to book them for 60,000 Marriott Rewards points or 20,000 Starwood Preferred Guest points (both of which will convert to 60,000 ‘new scheme’ points) is a very rare opportunity.
And availability will not be an issue. The new scheme will have ‘last room availability’. If a standard room is bookable for cash, it will be bookable for rewards.
They could be even cheaper. I am assuming – although I don’t think it is confirmed – that the current ‘book five nights, only pay for four’ redemption pricing deal will continue.
You have until August to pick up some Marriott or Starwood points ….
If any of the properties above are on your bucket list then you should be thinking of ways of picking up some points between now and the August to December period. As you can book a year ahead you will be able to lock in the whole of 2019 for 60,000 points per night. If ‘book five, pay for four’ continues, as we think it will, your average cost will be just 48,000 points per night on a five night stay!
The obvious way of picking some points is via credit and charge card sign-up bonuses:
American Express Preferred Rewards Gold (free in Year 1) has a bonus of 20,000 Membership Rewards points (£2000 spend in 90 days required) which converts into 10,000 Starwood points which converts into 30,000 Marriott points
American Express Platinum has a bonus of 30,000 Membership Rewards points (£3000 spend in 90 days required) which converts into 15,000 Starwood points which converts into 45,000 Marriott points
Starwood Preferred Guest American Express credit card has a bonus of 10,000 Starwood points (£1000 spend in 90 days required) which converts into 30,000 Marriott points
Remember that you can transfer Starwood and Marriott points for free if you share an address. If you and your partner took out an Amex Gold and a Starwood Amex and pooled the points, you would have over 120,000 points. That is enough for a two night break at any of the hotels above, probably £1000 to £1500 of value at peak season, as long as you book between August and December when the hotels will be reduced to 60,000 points.
This is also a potentially valuable use of your existing American Express Membership Rewards points. 40,000 Amex points would get you 20,000 Starwood points which gets you 60,000 Marriott points which gets you a free night at any of the hotels above – plus many more. You could get close to 2p of value per Amex point on a peak night.
And a good ‘buy points’ bonus …..
You can also currently buy Starwood Preferred Guest points at 35% off in a new offer launched yesterday – the link is here. This is slightly insane if you work it properly. 30,000 SPG points will cost you $682.50 (£480). That would convert into 90,000 Marriott points which gets you 1.5 nights at any of the hotels on the list above, which is the equivalent of £320 per night.
Of course, you can’t book at 60,000 points per night until August so you won’t be able to go now, but your mind will hopefully be whirring with ideas ….
The good thing about the ‘60,000 points per night’ redemption rate is that you have three months notice to think about it before it starts, and when it does open the window will last for five months. That means plenty of time to get a strategy in place if you are keen.
If you want to buy SPG points at 35% off, however, you need to do that via this page by 31st May.
How to earn Marriott Bonvoy points from UK credit cards (January 2021)
There are various ways of earning Marriott Bonvoy points from UK credit cards. Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!
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 Elite status for as long as they hold the card? It also comes with Hilton Honors Gold, Radisson Rewards Gold, Shangri-La Golden Circle Jade and MeliaRewards Gold status. We reviewed American Express Platinum in detail here and you can apply here.
You can also earn American Express Membership Rewards points with American Express Gold (20,000 bonus points), the American Express Rewards Credit Card (5,000 bonus points) and – for small business owners – American Express Business Gold (20,000 bonus points) and Business Platinum (40,000 bonus 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.)