Deep Dive: Marriott’s New Loyalty Program

Marriott completed their buyout of SPG back in September 2016, and the company has been working to integrate the different loyalty programs. With 6,500+ hotels across 29 brands in over 120 countries and territories, Marriott is now larger than ever.

As many of you know, Marriott today held an event to announce changes to the loyalty programs of Marriott, SPG, and Ritz-Carlton. The event was streamed live on Facebook, and there is a new website for the program has already gone live, so I figure I will do a highlight of some key changes, and provide answers to a few questions here.

The program changes will kick in August 2018, but the new program name won’t be announced until Early 2019.

Marriott is combining Marriott Rewards, Ritz-Carlton Rewards, and SPG into one big loyalty program in August 2018.

Marriott is combining Marriott Rewards, Ritz-Carlton Rewards, and SPG into one big loyalty program in August 2018.

New, Aligned Elite Status Tiers for Marriott, SPG, and Ritz-Carlton

The new program will have four (or five, depending on how you look at it) tiers. You can only qualify on nights, as outlined below. (Note: you can still qualify on stay through the end of 2018 with SPG, but that will be discontinued come 2019.)

There is a tier above Platinum Premier, which maintains the same name, but requires 100 nights and a $20,000 annual spend. Achieving this will earn you You24 (you can dictate a 24-hour stay, like 9 pm to 9 pm) and Ambassador service.

The breakfast and lounge access benefit will begin at the Platinum level, which requires 50 nights annually. However, the breakfast benefit will not be available at EDITION, Gaylord, Ritz-Carlton, Marriott Executive Apartments, and Marriott Vacation Clubs.

All members will earn 10 points per US$1 spent on hotel charges, with the exception of Element, Residence Inn, and TownPlace Suites, where guests will earn 5 points per US$1 spent.

Tier Silver Gold Platinum Platinum Premier
Qualifications 10 Nights 25 Nights 50 Nights 75 Nights
Bonus Points 10% 25% 50% 75%
Late Check-Out Subject to Availability 2 pm, Subject to Availability 4 pm 4 pm
Welcome Amenity None Points Points, Breakfast, or Amenity Points, Breakfast, or Amenity
Upgrades No Enhanced Room Including Select Suites Including Select Suites
Lounge Access No No Yes Yes
Guaranteed Room Type No No Yes Yes
Other Amenities Annual Choice Benefit

Additional annual Choice Benefit

48-Hour Guarantee

If 100 Nights + $20K Spend:
– Your24
– Ambassador Service

Details of New Lifetime Statuses

There will be three “published,” lifetime statuses for Silver, Gold, and Platinum elite levels, with different requirements:

  • Lifetime Silver: 250 Lifetimes Nights + 5 Years elite status
  • Lifetime Gold: 400 Lifetime Nights + 7 Years elite status (at Gold or above level)
  • Lifetime Platinum: 600 Lifetime Nights + 10 Years elite status (at Platinum level)
The new Marriott Rewards program will have 3 official Lifetime status levels, plus one available only to existing Lifetime Platinum members.

The new Marriott Rewards program will have 3 official Lifetime status levels, plus one available only to existing Lifetime Platinum members.

Now, there will also be a Lifetime Platinum Premier status, but it is only available as a “grandfathered option.” Existing Marriott Lifetime Platinum elite members will be grandfathered into this level, but will not be available to other members moving forward.

For those with existing SPG Lifetime statuses, this is how that translates:

  • SPG Lifetime Gold = Lifetime Gold Elite status
  • SPG Lifetime Platinum = Lifetime Platinum Elite status

There is a detail here that some folks might be able to take advantage of. Marriott will combine lifetime activity across programs into the new combined program in August. However, guests will have until year-end 2018 to complete stays in order to achieve the Lifetime Elite status thresholds, and then be grandfathered in at the previous thresholds for either Marriott Rewards or SPG.

Transitioning from Existing Marriott and SPG Statuses

On August, Marriott will be merging programs, which include points and qualifying activities. This means that to qualify for a 2019 status, your activity in both SPG and Marriott in 2018 will count.

Existing SPG elite members will see the following changes:

  • SPG Corporate Preferred or Preferred Guest Plus = Silver Elite
  • SPG Gold = Gold Elite
  • SPG Platinum with < 75 nights = Platinum Elite
  • SPG Platinum with 75 nights = Platinum Premier Elite
  • SPG Platinum with 100 nights = Platinum Premier Elite with ambassador

Existing Marriott or Ritz-Carlton elite members will see the following changes:

  • Marriott/RC Silver with < 25 nights = Silver Elite
  • Marriott/RC Silver with 25 nights = Gold Elite
  • Marriott/RC Gold = Platinum Elite
  • Marriott/RC Platinum = Platinum Premier Elite
  • Marriott/RC Platinum with 100 nights and $20 spend = Platinum Premier Elite with ambassador

As I mentioned before, you can only earn status under the new, combined programs with qualifying nights. This is a blow to existing SPG customers, who can qualify for status by number of stays. However, in what I think is a very fair compromise, SPG will continue to count number of stays through the end of 2018. This means if you make 25 stays in 2018 (including after August), you still get SPG Platinum, which matches to Platinum Elite under the new program. 

For those who have SPG (and therefore Marriott) status because of the American Express Platinum Card, the New York Times reports that the card will continue to grant Marriott Gold Status. However, the meaning of Gold Status will change in August (to no longer include free breakfast and lounge access).

Those who got SPG Gold—and then matched to current Marriott Gold—will get to have Marriott Platinum under the new program, at least after until 2019 rolls around. This is a relief, even though it’s really just free breakfast and lounge access for a few months. So if you have an American Express Platinum card, I would recommend matching your status before August 1 to ensure you get Platinum Elite through 2018.

Existing Partnership with United, Delta, Emirates, and China Eastern

Marriott is not making any changes to the United RewardsPlus program. This means that a Platinum Premier status will still grant United Silver status.

However, the Crossover Rewards with Delta, as well as other partnerships with China Eastern and Emirates will end July 15, 2018. Marriott has not announced whether this will be end of those programs for good, but they will be making announcements about them before July.

Redeeming Points Under the New Marriott Loyalty Program

In August, SPG points will be automatically converted into Marriott points (1 SPG = 3 Marriott). Of course, you can already do that now, but come August you basically won’t have a choice anymore.

Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, and SPG have different award charts under the current paradigm. Below is how much a free night cost in different programs, adjusted for equivalent Marriott points.

Category/Tier Marriott SPG Ritz-Carlton
1 7,500 9,000 30,000
2 10,000 12,000 40,000
3 15,000 21,000 50,000
4 20,000 30,000 60,000
5 25,000 36,000 – 48,000 70,000
6 30,000 60,000 – 75,000
7 35,000 90,000 – 105,000
8 40,000
9 45,000

Under the new program, there will be one unified award chart. There will be 7 categories to boot, which will be bookable starting in August. However, in 2019, there will also be a new category, as well as different pricing for off-peak and peak seasons.

If all hotels will fall into the 7 categories in late 2018, this may open a new window of opportunity to book high-end SPG hotels under the new award chart. For instance, SPG’s top-category hotels currently cost up to 105,000 Marriott (equivalent) points, so getting them for 60,000 points in the new award chart would be a steal. The 5th night free on award stays will remain unchanged.

Marriott has not outlined what hotel will fall under the new categories, so we will have to wait and see.

A new, unified award chart under the new Marriott loyalty program.

A new, unified award chart under the new Marriott loyalty program.

Customers under the new, combined loyalty program will continue be able to transfer points to airline miles, which is a huge relief to many. The existing paradigm of 20,000 SPG points = 25,000 airline miles will be kept in tact, in the form of 60,000 Marriott points = 25,000 airline miles.

Marriott has a few partners that SPG currently does not have (e.g. Turkish), and vice versa (e.g. SPG has Air New Zealand). This means there will actually be an improvement to the program, since there will be more transfer partners at the existing rate.

Marriott’s Hotel + Air travel packages are also said to remain, though the pricing is likely subject to change. This is because under the existing Hotel + Air packages, you can get 120,000 airline miles and a 7-night stay for just 270,000 Marriott points. If you were to transfer these to SPG and then to an airline partner, at best you’d get only 112,500 miles, and you’d also not get a 7-night stay. So I really can’t see Marriott keeping the current prices for their travel packages for long.

New Co-Branded Credit Cards from Chase and American Express

Chase currently issuing Marriott and Ritz-Carlton co-branded cards, while American Express issues SPG co-branded cards. Moving forward, Chase will be issuing mass-market personal cards, while American Express will be issuing premium personal cards and business cards.

On the personal card front, Chase and AMEX are essentially aligning their products.

Chase is releasing a new, Marriott Premier Plus credit card on May 3, 2018. The card will have a $95 annual fee, with the following details:

  • 6 points/dollar at Marriott and SPG properties
  • 2 points/dollar on all other purchases
  • Free night award (up to 35,000 points) every year after account anniversary
  • Silver Elite status, upgrade to Gold with $35,000 annual spend
  • 15 Elite night credits each year
  • Premium Wi-Fi at SPG and Marriott hotels
  • No foreign transaction fees

Meanwhile, American Express is updating its SPG Card to carry the same benefits and earning structure after August 1, 2018. The only added bonus will be Boingo Wi-Fi with the SPG card. For now though, the legacy card will retain its current earring structure of 1 Starpoint per dollar on all purchases, and 2 Starpoints per dollar at SPG and Marriott properties.

I think this is actually really smart on Marriott’s part, since they will be almost 100% aligning the personal card offerings.

However, American Express will also be introducing a premium, SPG American Express Luxury Card. This card will carry a $450 annual fee, but offer the following:

  • 6 points/dollar at Marriott and SPG properties
  • 3 points/dollar at US restaurants and flights booked directly with airlines
  • 2 points/dollar on all other purchases
  • Free night award (up to 50,000 points) every year after account anniversary
  • $300 statement credits at SPG and Marriott properties (including room rates)
  • Gold Elite stauts, upgrade to Platinum with $75,000 annual spend
  • Priority Pass Membership
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit
  • 15 Elite night credits each year
  • Premium Wi-Fi at SPG and Marriott hotels
  • No foreign transaction fees
American Express will be launching the SPG American Express Luxury Card in August. Source: Marriott

American Express will be launching the SPG American Express Luxury Card in August. Source: Marriott

I personally find this card pretty underwhelming, and it even carries the same, basic earning structure as the other personal cards. But if you would pay $55 extra ($150 – $95) for a better free night award and don’t otherwise have Priority Pass, this card might be worth considering. However, I would argue that Hilton’s Aspire card has a better value proposition.

Now, for those who currently have a Free Night Certificate, you can book under the current terms until August 2018. For example, if you have a certificate with the Chase card, you can book up to a Category 5 hotel. In August 2018, the certificates will be converted to points-based value. This means a Category 1 – 5 free night will be updated, and can be used at properties that cost up to 25,000 points a night. 

Takeaway of Marriott’s New Loyalty Program

I will reiterate what many have said, which is that this is probably the best scenario that could have come out of a combined program.

For SPG members, they get to keep most of their existing elite benefits. SPG Gold members will match into the new Gold Elite status, and get a welcome amenity (points) and an upgrade to enhanced room, though they do lose a 4 pm late checkout. For SPG Platinum members, they will receive upgrades up to standard suites, as they currently do, and have a choice of welcome amenities. They do lose the ability to earn status based on stays, but it looks like the industry is heading in that direction anyway. I can also see SPG Lifetime members being a bit upset, especially since those on track for SPG Lifetime Gold will now have to work harder (150 more nights and 2 more years of status) to achieve Lifetime Gold in the new program.

Meanwhile, for Marriott members, most of the new elite categories fall right into place. Existing Marriott Gold will match into Platinum Elite in the new program and enjoy basically all the existing benefits. I know folks who worked hard to get Lifetime Platinum were worried about their status, Marriott is grandfathering them into a Lifetime Platinum Premier status, which is the right thing to do.

For everyone, the fact that free breakfast is extended to include more brands (e.g. Courtyard), with no brands losing the benefits, is a good thing. Though I have to lament the fact that some brands, like the Ritz-Carlton, remains excluded. Top tier SPG properties will also become cheaper with the new award chart.

On the credit card front, American Express SPG card holders are losing out on earning, which is reduced by 1/3 on everyday spend. However, they do gain a free night certificate, so that’s a good consolation prize.

Overall, I really think this is a great effort in aligning two programs. Marriott did a nice job here, and they deserve some credit.

What do you think of the new, combined program?

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Comments

  1. ‪ Let me get this straight so under the new program SPG member that had 25 stays or 50 nights the past 10 years will receive lifetime platinum. While Marriott members needed 75 nights, and higher brands didn’t matter since points are no longer a factor. They definitely did not take care of loyal Marriott members that have not yet reached lifetime platinum.

    • Hey Dave, just wanted to clarify, SPG Lifetime Platinum currently requires 500 nights total AND 10 years of Platinum status. So SPG lifetime status is one not achievable by # of stays alone.

      Existing Marriott Lifetime Gold will get Lifetime Platinum under the new program, while existing Lifetime Platinum will get Lifetime Platinum Premier. But I agree, for those still working their way there it does stink to lose the ability to qualify by points.

  2. As they say, the devil is in the details. Before making a judgement, we must see which hotels will be level 5, 6, 7, 8. If Marriott keeps the level of their existing properties the same, then I will be very upset. I have a reservation at a level 8 right now for 40K points per night. I know it will be honored, but what will that hotel be when August comes around. If it goes to 85K then that is a huge devaluation of points.

    I do not see a good outcome here. Making a judgement on the success or failure is too early to tell, until we see where Marriott places all the hotels.

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