Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest come together with the announcement of one set of benefits

There
have been lots of rumours and some spoilers floating around the
frequent traveller blogs and forums about today’s announcement from
Marriott International. Some of those rumours are true while some others
are not. Invites went out to select people including ourselves for the
multiple events running tonight around the world including the
Ritz-Carlton Toronto which will see FFB and Rewards Canada’s Jeff Fredericks
attending and reporting back later! It all surrounds the combination of Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest.
Marriott is giving us some lead time before it happens this August so
that we can all get ready for the changes, customers and employees alike
for the newly combined program. As is expected there will be some give
and take with the unification of the two loyalty programs but in general
the give side seems to win out!

Now onto to the
good news, the press release that is coming out the same time as this
post lists a lot of the details of the newly unified program but not
all. Last week I had a chance to interview David Flueck, Senior Vice
President of Global Loyalty, Marriott International, about all the
changes and he revealed even more details to us. What follows is a
combination of everything we know from the press release, the media
details provided to us by Marriott and from our interview with David.

Unification of three programs
First
off, David said they are thrilled to one program with one set of
benefits and we have to say that we are thrilled as well! The
combination of the three programs will see one program with 110 million
members who will be able
to seamlessly book, earn and redeem at over 6,500 hotels Worldwide from
29 brands in 127 countries. Even though it is one unified program, the
three separate programs will continue to run under this one set of
unified benefits until the new name for the program is released sometime
in 2019. This means you will continue to use Marriott.com, the Marriott
app, Ritz-Carlton.com, SPG.com, the SPG app and all associated booking
channels until that point but all of the channels will show the entire
portfolio of 6,500+ hotels. Yes that’s right, you can book a J.W.
Marriott on SPG.com if you like.

What happens to my Starpoints?
This
will be just as we have become accustomed to since Marriott bought
Starwood and allowed you to link your SPG and Marriott Rewards accounts
in that you’ll get 3 Marriott Rewards points for every Starpoint you
have. Come August it means whatever Starpoints you have will be tripled
into the unified program.

Earning Points
Members
from all three programs will earn ten points for every dollar spent at
all brands except for Residence Inn, TownePlace Suites and Element which
will be five points per every dollar spent. With bonuses, elite members
will earn even more for stays, see the chart below. In August, all
members will begin earning points for food and beverage and qualifying
incidentals on their folio, rather than just the room rate.  David
stated that on average, members will earn 20% more points per dollar
spent then they currently do. That number most likely comes from the
higher earn rate that will be seen at Starwood Hotels (currently base
level is 2 Starpoints per dollar which equates to 6 points) and for
Marriott Rewards members earning on those non room rate charges. Once
earned you will still be able to transfer points between accounts for
those who live at the same address.

Elite Status
First
off there were some rumours of multiple elite levels having a spend
requirement and David clarified those were
not true. It is only the Platinum Premier 100 night Ambassador level
that includes a spend
requirement. The combined program will have five elite levels over and
above the base level. Stay 10 nights in a year and Silver status is
yours, 25 earns you Gold, 50 for Platinum while 75 gets you Platinum
Premier. Surpass 100 nights and have $20,000 in spend and you’ll have
Platinum Premier Ambassador status. Lifetime status members will
continue to have their status recognized.
The breakfast
offering for Platinum and Platinum Premier members will be expanded to
23 participating brands, including Courtyard, AC Hotels by Marriott,
Protea and Moxy, as well as all resorts. For certain brands, members
will receive free breakfast or an on-property food and beverage credit
for breakfast or other dining options.

Redeeming Points 
There
will be one award chart for all the hotel brands across the three
chains. The new award chart sees eight categories ranging from a low of
7,500 points to a maximum of 85,000 points for a standard one night
redemption. This chart will be in place come this August and all
redemptions will be at the standard level for the remainder of the year.
Then sometime in 2019 they will be adding Peak and Off-Peak awards that
will cost 20% more or 20% less than the standard redemption amount. All
of this can be seen in the chart below (we have also added the old
charts for comparison) There will not be any dynamic pricing that
surfaced in the rumours over the past week however others were correct
with the Peak and Off-Peak rewards. What we don’t know today is what
categories all the 6,500 hotels will fall into as the old Marriott
Rewards chart had 9 categories, Ritz-Carlton had 5 tiers and SPG had 7
categories. They will continue to offer no black out dates for points
redemptions at all their hotels and also continue with the 5th night
free benefit.

UPDATE: April 16 10:41PM MT  
Marriott provided
us initially with an award chart that apparently was modified between
last week and today but they forgot to send us the new one. Thanks to @barrychoi for catching this for us and letting me know! Here is the correct chart:

The current SPG chart which will disappear in August

Outside
of the select Starwood locations that can charge up to 140,000
Starpoints per night we can see that many category 7 hotels should be
cheaper come August as they will only be 60,000 points and potentially
move up to 85,000 when category 8 is released. We don’t know at this
time what those select ‘don’t have to abide by the award chart’ Starwood
locations will be charging – will they be following the chart or will
they be able to continue to charge more?

The current Marriott Rewards chart which will disappear in August

This
is where we may possibly see the worst news. Seeing that the best of
the best Marriott Hotels are only 45,000 points right now there is a
good possibility some of them will jump to 50,000, 60,000 or even 85,000
points for one standard night. Not to mention when Peak pricing kicks
in they’ll be a lot more than that.

The current Ritz-Carlton Rewards chart which will disappear in August

Even
the Ritz-Carlton side could potentially see some increases when that
85,000 point level kicks in. For the remainder of 2018 however you’ll be
able to get those top end Ritz locations for 10,000 points less since
the new chart peaks at 60,000 for this year.

What was
explained to me by David is that more hotels will actually be moving
down in points cost than up. He promises there is lots of good news in
the new chart and what categories hotels will fall into. One could
expect the top end Ritz-Carlton locations to be at that top 60,000 point
level. 

Airline Transfers
Great
news here! Marriott has kept the much coveted SPG airline transfer
ratios and by combining the two programs there will be many more
airlines (over 40) to choose from one account owning to the fact they
did have some different airline partners. The transfer rate to most
airlines will be 3 points to one mile (the same as the old SPG 1:1 since
Starpoints convert 1:3 to the new program) They are also retaining the
bonus for transferring more points. This means if you transfer 60,000
Points to airline miles they will throw in an additional 15,000 points
so that you get 25,000 airline miles. So 60,000 points gets you 25,000
miles which is the same as the old SPG 20,000 points to get 25,000
miles.

Hotel + Air Packages 
There is
no info on Marriott’s very popular Hotel+Air packages in the press
release or media materials but David did tell me that they will
continue. We’ll have to wait to see what the redemption rates will look
like with the new categories and of course the different airline
redemption rates over Marriott Rewards.

Credit Cards
Marriott and its credit card partners JPMorgan Chase and American Express will offer new and refreshed co-branded credit cards in the U.S. later this year that will provide card members with more benefits across the entire loyalty portfolio. On May 3, Chase will launch the new Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Credit Card, and in August, American Express will introduce the new Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express Luxury Card. These new products will offer valuable perks and more ways to earn points when using the cards to pay for stays worldwide.

The new Chase Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Credit Card will give card members six Marriott Rewards points per dollar spent at participating hotels, two points per dollar spent on all other eligible purchases, an anniversary free-night certificate for any property up to 35,000 points, guaranteed elite status and much more.

The new Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express Luxury Card will offer card members six points per dollar spent at participating hotels, three points per dollar spent on airfare and at U.S. restaurants, and two points per dollar spent on all other eligible purchases. Card members will also receive $300 annually in statement credits for on-property purchases, a free night award up to 50,000 points, automatic Gold elite status, a $100 fee credit for Global Entry, Priority Pass Select membership and more.

Members can choose to keep their current cards, or they can apply for, or upgrade to the new cards.  Card members with the existing consumer and small business Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Card, the Chase Marriott Rewards Premier Business Credit Card, and the JPMorgan Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card can continue to enjoy the benefits of their current cards and the exciting changes that will be announced soon. Finally, they will be announcing changes to cobrand cards in Canada, Japan, The United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates at a later date.

I asked David if they were actively pursuing a
new partner in Canada to replace the Chase card that just left that market so that Marriott would have a Visa or Mastercard option to compliment
the Amex portfolio and he said they are but there is no news on that
front yet.

Marriott & SPG Moments
Marriott
will be growing the experiential offers they provide from Marriott
Rewards and SPG Moments. The 110,000 new Moments experiences in 1,000
destinations can be purchased with cash and are in addition to the 8,000
exclusive, member experiences that only can be redeemed with points on
Marriott Rewards Moments and SPG Moments.  In the future, all Moments
experiences will be available to be redeemed with points.

Marriott
is also announcing Moments Live, a collection of premiere musical and
culinary events powered by Marriott’s partnership with Universal Music
Group (UMG) and its newest partnership with LITV Entertainment Group.
The series kicks off with a selection of:

  • VIP access and exclusive performances throughout Keith Urban’s recently announced Graffiti U World Tour.
  • Access to intimate, thoughtfully crafted events with superstar chefs and well-known musicians in picturesque settings.
  • Exclusive, VIP access
    to music and culinary themed events in Napa Valley, such as private
    festivals Live In The Vineyard and Live In The Vineyard Goes Country.

 
In the coming months, Marriott will provide members with information
about how and when in August they can begin combining their loyalty
accounts.

Final thoughts
The
hotel portfolio that you will be able to seamlessly book, stay, earn and
redeem at is pretty extraordinary. You will have over 350 luxury
hotels, 150 beach front hotels and almost 350 over water bungalows not
to mention every other type of option from small town hotels, big city
high rises and more. Can’t complain about that and considering they are
continuing with the black out date rule you may have some good chances
at scoring some amazing stays with this program.

To
sum it all up, you are really get the best of both of the big programs
in the new program. The only unknowns at this time are what categories
the hotels will fall into in the new chart and what the air+hotel
packages will look like. Those could make or break the good news but we
have faith in what David told us that overall the program is getting
richer and more hotels will go down in categories than up. It really
looks like Marriott has done their homework and listened to members of
Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest – and more so to the
latter as it has been the SPG members who have been the most vocal and
most worried about what could happen to one of the best programs out
there.

Now let’s hear from you, tell us what you think about today’s news in the comments below!

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