Yesterday at 4:30PM, Marriott hosted an event that was broadcast live on Facebook, where they introduced a new unified loyalty program for their brands. Marriott Rewards, The Ritz-Carlton Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) will becomes one starting on August 2018. There’s no official name yet for the new program, but there’s plenty of details.
The new loyalty program will be the biggest we have ever seen. It will combine 3 loyalty programs but furthermore it will include 29 participating global brands comprising 6,500 hotels in 127 countries and territories. Additionally, the Moments experiential platform is expanding, with more than 110,000 experiences in 1,000 destinations.
Starting in August, members will be able to combine their separate Marriott Rewards, The Ritz-Carlton Rewards and SPG accounts into a single account spanning the entire loyalty portfolio. The Marriott Rewards, The Ritz-Carlton Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) names will live a little longer, till a new program name is introduced in 2019. Starting on August 2018, members will have the ability to book stays across the entire portfolio for the first time on Marriott.com, SPG.com and their respective apps.
Now on to the important stuff. Most people want to know how this new program will work. What elites status will mean in the new program, how you can earn points, how you can use them and more.
In August, members will be able to earn and redeem across the entire portfolio of participating hotels and earn elevated benefits and elite status faster with new elite tiers. There will be a total of 6 tiers in the new unified program. Now there’s two issues to look at. How to earn elite status and what happens to those who already have some kind of elite status in one of their 3 brands.
Earning Elite Status
To earn elite status, you will have to rely on the total number of nights. Stays are no longer relevant in the new program. Here’s the chart of how many nights per year you need for each tier and what benefits come with them.
Current Elite Status Holders
Existing Elite members will receive the following status in August:
- Corporate Preferred members and Preferred Guest Plus members receive Silver Elite status.
- Gold Preferred members receive Gold Elite status.
- Platinum Preferred members receive Platinum Elite status.
- Platinum Preferred members with 50 nights receive Platinum Elite status.
- Platinum Preferred members with 75 nights receive Platinum Premier Elite status.
- Platinum Preferred members with 100 nights receive Platinum Premier Elite status with ambassador.
Existing SPG Preferred members with 10-24 nights receive Silver Elite status.
MARRIOTT REWARDS/THE RITZ-CARLTON REWARDS:
- Silver Elite members with <25 nights receive Silver Elite Status
- Silver Elite members with 25 – 49 nights receive Gold Elite Status
- Gold Elite members receive Platinum Elite status.
- Platinum Elite members receive Platinum Premier Elite status.
- Platinum Elite members with 100 nights and $20k in qualifying spend receive Platinum Premier Elite with ambassador
In August, you’ll be notified when your accounts are combined. Your Rewards and SPG Elite Night Credits from this year will be combined and count toward a singular Elite status recognized equally across all hotels. Elite tiers will be achieved through qualifying nights. However, throughout 2018 they will continue to honor Elite achievement via stays at SPG hotels that occur in 2018. Learn more about Elite status qualification and benefits at our Member Benefits page.
Gold Elite members will have the option to receive an Enhanced Room Upgrade (preferred view, higher floor, newly renovated). Platinum Elite and Platinum Premier Elite members will also have the option to receive an Enhanced Room Upgrade, including Select Suites. All upgrades are based on availability at check-in.
There will be three Lifetime Elite tiers, each with its own nights and Elite tenure thresholds. Once you achieve a Lifetime Elite tier, you’ll never go below it, and your points will never expire. If you have previously achieved Lifetime Elite status in Rewards or SPG, we will honor that Lifetime Elite status in the new program (see below). In addition, when you combine Rewards and SPG accounts we will combine your lifetime activity across both toward Lifetime Elite status in the new combined program. Members will have until year-end 2018 to complete stays in order to achieve the Lifetime Elite status thresholds to be grandfathered in at the previous thresholds for Rewards or SPG.
Existing Lifetime Elite members will receive the following status in August:
- Lifetime Gold members receive Lifetime Gold Elite status
- Lifetime Platinum members receive Lifetime Platinum Elite status.
MARRIOTT REWARDS/THE RITZ-CARLTON REWARDS:
- Lifetime Silver Elite members receive Lifetime Silver Elite status.
- Lifetime Gold Elite members receive Lifetime Platinum Elite status.
- Lifetime Platinum Elite members are grandfathered into Lifetime Platinum Premier Elite status.
Guests at most Marriott brands, including Ritz-Carlton, will earn 10 points for every dollar spent on a stay. At Element, Residence Inn, and TownePlace Suites, guests will earn five points per dollar. Bulgari Hotels & Resorts isn’t participating in the new program. Starting in August, guests can earn points for any money spent on property. That includes money spent at a spa, in a restaurant, or on room service.
If you already have a balance of points in any of the programs, they will be combined as well. SPG points will be pooled at a rate of 1 to 3, meaninf that 1,000 SPG points will be converted into 3,000 points in the new program.
As always, one of the best options to earn points will be credit card signup bonuses. There’s already a few cards available but we will see new ones as well. There’s a new Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express Luxury Card coming in August and a Chase Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card coming in May.
All hotels throughout the loyalty portfolio will have no blackout dates for points redemptions. Free Night Award chart with peak, standard, and off-peak pricing will be adopted for all hotels. Thankfully there’s a chart that which will launch with standard pricing in August, and then will add off peak and peak in 2019.
The chart is useful and useless for now at the same time. Marriott hasn’t yet released the exact redemption categories for all 6,500 participating hotels, but they have highlighted a few properties as examples. St. Regis Bali Resort, The Ritz-Carlton Dubai and the Prince de Galles, a Luxury Collection Hotel in Paris will drop in price. Then some hotels would see an increase in redemption cost, including the Algonquin Hotel Times Square, Autograph Collection, and the Renaissance Paris Arc de Triomphe Hotel. That’s a very small sample and we will need to see the full list to really see what this new program will mean for most people. Only the first 7 categories will go into effect in August, Category 8 rates will not be used for reservations booked before 2/1/2019. That means that there might be about 6 months of opportunity to book cheaper hotels at the higher end.
Airline Transfer Partners
There were some rumors that these transfer options would be gone once the programs merged. That is thankfully not true. The unnamed program will retain all the SPG airline partners and add 10 more, including Virgin Australia, Aegean Airlines and Air New Zealand, for a total of 45 transfer partners. Transfer rates will be the same as the current SPG rates. For every three points you transfer you’ll receive one airline mile. You’ll also get a 5,000 mile bonus for every 60,000 points you transfer. The Marriott hotel plus air packages will also continue to be available.
“Marriott Moments” collection will be greatly enhanced. It previously included about 8,000 or so experiences that you can book with points, such as World Series tickets or a cooking class with famous chefs. Under the new unified program you will be able to choose from 110,000 different things to do globally. That’s a massive increase that should offer some interesting options for redemptions and also worry competitors.
I expected terrible news from the Marriott/SPG event, but it doesn’t look bad. It’s actually difficult to say if it’s good or bad as of now because there’s a major piece missing from the puzzle, the redemption part. Earning points seems to get easier, and benefits are still good, especially for Platinum tiers. But without knowing what those points you earn will get you, it’s hard to determine the value of this new program. The fact that Category 8 will be introduced in 2019, could make it cheaper to book some high end properties later this year. But again, there’s now way to know for sure. With the information we have so far I will say that I’m pleasantly surprised. What do you think?