2 Quick Ways To Cash in on the New Marriott Starwood Program
The travel blogosphere is flooded with in-depth explanations of the massive combined Marriott Starwood loyalty program. Thanks to Marriott’s acquisition of Starwood Preferred Guest in 2016, there’s a ton to digest in this new unified program and we’ve done our best to boil it down. However, it’s easy to get lost in the weeds of changes to award chart changes, elite status earning, credit card offerings and so on. With that in mind, here are two quick ways you can capitalize on the new program.
High-Class Hotels for Less
This merger creates the world’s largest hotel portfolio, with brands ranging from Residence Inn to Marriott, Sheraton, W Hotels Aloft and more. It also includes top-tier luxury properties like St. Regis, Ritz-Carlton & JW Marriotts.
The new loyalty program kicks off Aug. 18, 2018, and with that comes a whole new award chart that sets the rates for redeeming points for hotel nights. These range from 7,500 points per night for lower-end properties all the way up to 85,000 for top-of-the-line hotels. Eventually, Marriott will institute peak and off-peak season rates as well on their 8-level award chart. However, from August until sometime in the New Year, there will be only 7 tiers of awards. And the highest will charge just 60,000 points per night.
Now, we don’t yet know how the 5,500+ hotels will fit in this award chart, but it’s certain that the world’s best St. Regis and Ritz-Carlton properties (and other high-end hotels) will be in the seventh tier. That means for several months, you can book some seriously swanky hotels for just 60,000 points a night. Think the St. Regis on Nusa Dua Beach in Bali, W Hotel in Koh Samui or Ritz-Carlton properties in Dubai and Tokyo.
The condensed award chart gets you a hefty discount on points per stay. The W Koh Samui, for example, currently runs at 35,000 Starpoints per night. Due to the 1:3 point transfer between SPG and Marriott, that’s the equivalent of 105,000 Marriott points. Starting in August, you can book that room for 60,000 points. That’s a discount of more than 40 percent. Remember these lower rates won’t last forever, as the new program’s full award chart will kick in in early 2019. But until then, you can cash in even if your reservation falls well into 2019.
Chase and American Express are rolling out a suite of new, co-branded credit card offerings that will help build up your Marriott points balance. That includes the Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card by Chase, which offers a 100,000 point sign-up bonus. That card launches May 3.
Easy Platinum Status
Free suite upgrades and breakfast, lounge access, and extra points for every dollar you spend at a Marriott hotel. Sounds good, right? This combined loyalty program makes it easier than ever to get those benefits through Platinum status, at least for a limited time. Beginning August 1st, holders of Gold status with either Marriott or SPG will be bumped up to Platinum under the new program.
We already explained this in an earlier post, but it bears repeating. There’s a simple way to attain Gold Status with SPG ahead of time: It’s automatic if you hold the American Express Platinum Card. At $550 a year, the card comes with a large annual fee. But Platinum status just adds to an already unbeatable set of cardholder benefits that also includes the broadest lounge access of any credit card, $400 in travel credits split between airlines and Uber, free Global Entry or TSA Precheck and more.
Alternatively, you can earn Platinum status in August by spending $30,000 on either the business or personal versions of the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express. United MileagePlus Premier Gold status (or higher) also gets you Platinum with Marriott. You can also earn Platinum status with 50 elite qualifying stays at Marriott or Starwood properties.
Of course, this Platinum status bump will only last through January 2019. And given how easy it is to attain, it might get much harder to get that complimentary suite upgrade. Come 2019, re-earning Platinum status will get much harder. But the American Express Platinum Card will keep you at Gold status for as long as you have the card open.
There’s a lot to learn and master with this new, combined hotel program. But it’s easy to squeeze a lot of extra value fast out of the combined Marriott rewards program with these two strategies. Just remember: These opportunities won’t last forever. It starts in August and your window will close sometime in early 2019.
Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews, or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.