Marriott Bonvoy launches tomorrow – and memories of the Starwood brand

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Marriott Bonvoy is the new name for the combined Marriott Rewards, The Ritz-Carlton Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest programme.

The programme will launch tomorrow, 13th February, although it will take a while to update all of the marketing material, credit cards and the like.  I updated Head for Points last week and you may already have seen the Bonvoy name used on some of our reference pages.

Here is the new logo which Marriott calls “simple, bold and modern”.  After an initial burst of ‘what?!’, I think most people have got used to it.  Luckily Marriott didn’t go the Hyatt route of giving ludicrous names to its status levels ….

Marriott Bonvoy logo

Marriott Bonvoy will launch with over 120 million members.  This is a huge number (Avios has 8 million members for comparison), equivalent to the population of Japan or Mexico.

Of course, in practical terms, little will change.  The ‘big bang’ was in August 2018, when Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest were aligned in terms of features and benefits and the new terms and conditions launched.  The launch of Marriott Bonvoy is just slipping a new skin over the existing Marriott website.

The one change that has been announced is the renaming of two membership tiers.

  • Marriott Bonvoy Titanium Elite will replace Platinum Premier Elite for members who exceed 75 nights
  • Marriott Bonvoy Ambassador Elite will replace Platinum Premier Elite with Ambassador.  This is for members who spend over 100 nights per year and spend over $20,000, who receive a dedicated ambassador to oversee their bookings.

We also know that the two UK credit cards will retain the Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest branding in the short term.

There WILL be a number of hotels going up in (points) price on 5th March as part of Marriott’s annual changes but we will look at that tomorrow.  The good news is that the introduction of peak and off-peak pricing has been pushed back to ‘late 2019’.  The bad news is that ‘Points Advance’ is being tweaked, and locking in a reward now – even if you don’t have the points – no longer guarantees you the price. More tomorrow though.

Goodbye Starwood

Goodbye to the Starwood brand – I’ll miss you

Apart from on the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express credit card, today is the day that the Starwood brand finally disappears.

You will still see the broader Starwood name around – Starwood Capital Group, the investment group run by the Starwood Hotels founder, still exists and is still developing hotel projects.  It recently sold Principal Hotels in the UK to IHG and owns a 30% stake in Yotel.

I’ve had some good times with Starwood.  A long time ago, well before HFP and when I was still a graduate trainee, I had some great stays using Starwood ‘free nights’ promotions.

The chain loved to do offers such as ‘do three stays and get a free night anywhere’.  I remember running up three cheap stays during one of these offers (Sheraton Lisbon was in there at some point) and then redeeming a free night at the Gritti Palace in Venice, one of the jewels in the SPG portfolio.

I was almost certainly the only guest at the Gritti Palace who had flown in via Treviso on Ryanair.  At that time Starwood also had the Excelsior on the Lido, and there was a free Riva boat you could take which linked the Gritti, Danieli and Excelsior.  I remember zipping around the lagoon in that.  The boat still had the Ciga branding which was the chain bought by Starwood to gain control of all these luxury hotels.

Other favourite Starwood hotels included The Kamp in Helsinki (now independent), St Regis Istanbul (which channels the feeling of what I think St Regis should be better than any other hotel in the chain, St Regis Istanbul review here), Westin Kyoto and Westin Dublin, which is both lovely and in the perfect location.  There were a few dumps as well, of course 🙂

In the early days of HFP, I had a better relationship with Starwood than with any other hotel group.  I even appeared as an extra in one of the videos that Starwood hotels had playing on the TV when you entered your room (see YouTube here at 2:49, I am sat behind Quinn talking to Kelly from aroundtheworldin80pairsofshoes)

It was a far smaller company than IHG, Hilton and Marriott and really understood the benefits of engaging with members and the value of loyalty.  After all, staying at one of the few Starwood hotels usually meant driving past a Hilton, Marriott and IHG hotel on the way.  One of the benefits of the takeover for me is that SPG’s talented team has been dispersed across other airline and hotel groups and the relationships have carried over.

Starwood wasn’t perfect, of course.  Purely from a loyalty point of view, pricing top hotels at 35,000 SPG points – which otherwise converted into 40,000 Avios – meant that redeeming at their luxury hotels made little sense.  Paying guests did value top tier elite benefits such as virtually guaranteed suite upgrades.

When Marriott bought Starwood – the equivalent of Asda buying Waitrose – few people thought they would get it right.  To be honest, so far they have done a good job.  Not everything has gone right, of course, but it is far away from some of the dire predictions when the takeover was announced.

Unless you were a top tier elite member doing 75 nights a year, at which point you were well treated, Marriott Rewards was generally seen as very dull loyalty scheme.

Marriott Bonvoy is, genuinely, most of the best bits of Starwood Preferred Guest and Marriott Rewards put together.  Some things have had to give, such as the generous Travel Packages, but so far so good.  I can currently redeem at top hotels such as St Regis New York for 60,000 points whereas it was 105,000 points equivalent in Starwood days.

I was a bit worried when my wife and I ended up with 1 million Marriott Bonvoy points between us, once our SPG and Marriott Rewards balances were merged, but at the moment I have no worries about being able to spend them well.

We are already facing a devaluation when the new Category 8 launch in March and again when peak pricing launches later in the year (which will put St Regis New York up to 100,000 points on some nights, nearly back to 105,000 in the SPG days) – but today all is good.

Over to you, Bonvoy.  You’re on.

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Comments

  1. Any news on whether Amex Platinum will include it as a benefit or just remove SPG?

  2. Ah well some of us remember when SPG was formed out of Sheraton Club International and Westin’s scheme.. then Le Meridien got absorbed.. all swings and roundabouts, more changes to come no doubt as properties hit contract renewal dates with Marriott.

  3. I’ve just opened an SPG account and also waiting for the Amex to land as I’m hoping to earn enough points for a couple of nights to tack onto my condo stay in GCM next year. The 3 SPG hotels there, Ritz Carlton, Westin & Marriott, all seem to be moving up a category 😩. This is despite the Marriott getting terrible reviews recently as it’s still being advertised (with old pictures) as a beach resort when in fact the beach was washed away in a storm some time ago! Do we know how many points the new category 8 will require?

    • It will require 100k peak, 70k off peak and 85k standard (this applies until on/offpeak pricing kicks in).

  4. Dont forget the sweeptakes they held after the merger. Was so fun and everyone won points

  5. Agree they started well with the merger but I was supremely unimpressed with how they communicated re travel packages and the total lack of customer service trying to resolve the issue, even up to CEO office level. I ultimately got a good deal out of it but had to push hard and it’s left me pretty unimpressed with them as a group. Still have 200k points to use and I like the airline miles transfer option but definitely feel less warmly about them now than I did previously for SPG.

    • Alan, who did you contact? I have sent in 2 complaints and had no response for months. Marriott really have screwed over those that held TPs, with no info in the holding period and then no upgrades etc now.

  6. Combatjohnny says:

    I need to book a marriot hotel for my honeymoon. Should i do it today or wait until tomorrow?

  7. Any chance of a Marriott Bonvoy promotion for the (seemingly majority) people whom didn’t get a targeted promotion? The lack of promotion makes it very difficult to convince myself to give three nights a week to the brand.

  8. Stil considering to cancel the SPG card, not using it enough even if they offered 2x points more as I use the platinum.. any recommendations?

    • TGLoyalty says:

      If you actually want to collect Marriott points then using the platinum is only 1.5 per £ where the actual SPG card is 3 per £

      Personally when I have an SPG card that’s where all my spend goes. One of the far more convertible points. Might even send some of my 200k MR there when I close my Plat

    • If you value the points at 1.5p (3p if you’re getting double) then you won’t find anything better. The transferability to airlines also means that SPG Amex is better than most free airline cards. Once you’ve done £10k on a BAPP to trigger a 241 the SPG is a logical next step.

      • Rob, I bought on of the Marriott travel packages just before the merger after reading your article about them and even though they transferred as a 1-4 cat hotel I got an upgrade to a cat 5 after a lovely chat with Marriott’s Irish call center bloke. I got 7 nights in the Springhill Suites in New York plus 100,000 avios for 390K Marriott points (130K SPG)!

        For me it looks pretty good – a big family room and free breakfast for the 4 of us – all down to this site so thank you!

        Now that I’ve buttered you up 😉 how would I value my Springhill stay per point? What would you value an avios against a Marriott point? 1:2? If so my Sprinhill stay is >1p per Marriott point which is great value.

      • RussellH says:

        The SPG Amex is fine, I guess, if you can spend huge sums of money on it, but remember that the points you get for the first £416.67 of spend each month are being bought at 0.5p per point, as you pay £6.25 / month for the card. Only after that are the points free.
        If you spend less than £416 / mth then you are just giving Amex money.

  9. Happy memories of lunch with Bill Marriott down in the Keys, Key West. In those days, top tiers had a special Black card from Marriott which opened up numerous doors. I still have all my old cards but rarely stay at major brands nowadays, we prefer more independent properties like the Agriturismo stays in Italy, or decent B&B’s and smaller family run properties many of which can be pretty expensive . We’ve just had a flying visit to stay at a Spanish Parador in Cadiz, fabulous, but again expensive. I guess it’s horses for courses.

    • You can book Spanish Paradors quite affordable with Avios. You can get a 5 nights voucher (inc Breakfast) for 120k Avios. The only problem is you can not exchange it at the Parador in Granada 🙁

      • Shoestring says:

        bit of a shame that el Talonario Bancotel disappeared – I used those for many a cheap stay, they were also valid at the lesser paradores

  10. Anyway of earning small number of marriott points (i need about 3000) when I dont have MR or SPG card? Need them to complete a booking for May before my next churn.

    • Scottydogg says:

      You can buy points , obviously not the best option , but if your stuck then thats an option
      I need 8000 and im thinking i might need to just buy them , especially if the hotel im looking at comes up on the list for the points increase

  11. Marriott points bookings.
    I was about to book a Marriott points redemption yesterday for one night but held back. When I returned to the site last night there was no availability for points redemptions. Did I read somewhere that SPG or Marriott had no blackout nights ??

    • No blackout for ‘standard’ rooms I think. Check the rooms available for cash as that will show if standard not available. Happened to me too for a Tuscany hotel. Availability will come and go so keep checking.

    • There is a difference between no blackout dates and last room availability.
      The first just means that a minimum of one room is made available every day of the year on points, the latter means that if a standard room is available for cash it is available for points.

  12. ‘I was a bit worried when my wife and I ended up with 1 million Marriott Bonvoy points between us’ – lol! I can’t imagine many things less worrying than ending up with a million points. 🙂

  13. Pangolin says:

    Well this changeover hasn’t been all roses for me. I had 25 stays at SPG legacy brands but I didn’t get Platinum in the recent sweep. When I queried it they said I only had 22 stays! Fortunately I kept screenshots of the old SPG platform so I have some ammo to fight this with.

    I don’t know how long it’s going to take to get it sorted though. If I don’t get them to finally give me Platinum then I’m done with Binvoy and will stick to Hilton.

  14. Hi,

    Does anyone know when Marriot statuses change over? I’m still showing as platinum when I only did 10 stays in 2018 and I thought it would have changed over by now. Just wondering if it’s worth getting a stay in whilst I still have the perks.

    Thanks

  15. Well, Marriott made status qualification twice as difficult – and out of reach for most people. All the rest aside, this is a tremendous devaluation of the program (as compared to SPG).

  16. Just checked my Marriott account and notice I’m showing as ‘Lifetime Gold’ despite only having 395 lifetime nights. Is it normal for them to upgrade early, or is this likely to be an error ?

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