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On Monday, Marriott Rewards hosted a Facebook Live to roll out their new unified loyalty program which combines benefits across Marriott Rewards, Ritz-Carlton Rewards & Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG).
The new loyalty program which Marriott has yet to name will go into effect on August 1st of 2018. The program will have one unified loyalty account earning Marriott style points. It will no longer be necessary to manually transfer your SPG points into Marriott at a 1:3 ratio which has been the case since the end of 2016.
In this post, I will walk through a brief overview of the biggest announcements today and what I consider to be the things you should care most about.
Airline Transfer Partners Remain In Tact
Currently, SPG points are some of the most valuable points & miles out there. Through the program, you have the ability to transfer SPG points to more than 30 different airline partners at a 1:1 ratio. For every 20,000 SPG points you transfer, you will receive a 5,000 point bonus in the airline mileage currency you are transferring into. For example, if you transfer 20,000 SPG points into Delta, you will receive 25,000 Delta SkyMiles.
My biggest fear with Marriott acquiring Starwood back in 2016 was that they were going to gut the airline transfer program currently available with Starwood. In my opinion, this is the most lucrative benefit of the SPG program, and what makes SPG points so valuable.
Marriott laid those concerns to rest today as the new program will be keeping airline transfers intact and will be keeping all of the SPG airline transfer partners. Additionally, they’re adding 10 partners as a part of the new program. The 1:1 transfer ratio from SPG into the airline remain intact as you will need to transfer 3 points of the new Marriott currency to receive 1 airline mile. Since all SPG points convert to the new program at a 1:3 ratio, the transfers effectively remain the same. This is awesome news.
The transfer bonus will also remain intact. If you transfer 60,000 points of the new currency into an airline, you will receive a 15,000 point bonus. These are the same ratios that currently exist after you factor in the 1:3 ratio (currently 5,000 bonus points for every 20,000 points transferred with SPG).
New Co-branded Chase Credit Card
Chase will be adding a new co-branded credit card which they are branding The Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card. The card will launch on May 3rd and have an annual fee of $95. It will earn 6 points per dollar on purchases at Marriott hotels and 2 points on all other purchases. It will also have a 15-night credit and a free anniversary night certificate (for properties up to 35,000 points). The credit card will also come with a 100,000 point sign-up bonus. No word yet on whether the card will be subjected to the 5/24 rule, but my guess is that it will be.
On top of the new Chase Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card, Chase will continue to offer both the Marriott Rewards Premier Busines Credit Card and the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card. However, the current Marriott Premier Card will not be available after the new Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card launches on May 3rd.
Current cardholders will have the option to upgrade to the new Premier Plus card or keep their existing card product. My guess is you won’t be able to have both and will need to choose one or the other. We have seen Chase do this with their Sapphire Cards, and most recently with the Southwest Airlines credit cards.
New Co-branded American Express Credit Card
American Express will introduce the Starwood Preferred Guest Luxury Credit Card in August of this year. The card will come with a $450 annual fee, a $300 credit to be used at Marriott hotels, an annual free night award after card renewal (for properties up to 50,000 points), Priority Pass membership along with many other premium card benefits. There was no word on what kind of welcome bonus this new card will offer.
Changes will also be coming to both the business and personal versions of the current Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Cards issued from American Express. The cards will now receive an annual free night award after card renewal for properties up to 35,000 points. You will also receive automatic Silver Elite status for holding the cards.
The current Starwood cards offer credit for 2 stays and 5 nights each year towards elite status. It was possible to stack this benefit if you held both the personal and business version of the SPG cards (4 stays and 10 nights). Moving forward, the cards will offer a flat 15 night per year elite credit. This will also not be stackable if you hold both versions of the card.
A New Hotel Award Chart
From the announcement today, we also learned that Marriott has created a new award chart that will apply to all Marriott, SPG & Ritz-Carlton properties. The new award chart has 8 categories and won’t have blackout dates for point redemptions. However, Marriott will introduce seasonal pricing, with off-peak, standard and peak reward rates.
Categories 1-7 will start in August of this year, and category 8 rates will not be used for reservations booked before 2/1/2019. The peak and off-peak pricing shown below will not be implemented until February 1, 2019. Until that time, everything will be priced at the standard rate effective August 1st, 2018.
New Elite Status & Benefits
The new unified loyalty program will offer five elite tiers: Silver, Gold, Platinum, Platinum Premier and Platinum Premier with Ambassador. They will be earned at the following rates:
- Silver – Stay 10 nights
- Gold – Stay 25 nights
- Platinum – Stay 50 nights
- Platinum Premier – Stay 75 nights
- Platinum Premier with Ambassador Service – Stay 100 nights plus $20,000 of spend at Marriott hotels.
Also, according to Marriott, the breakfast offering for Platinum and Platinum Premier members will be available at 23 of the 29 participating brands, including resorts.
One of the things that many people were concerned about with the news of the Marriott/Starwood merger was their lifetime elite status. This is staying intact, and stays from all brands will count towards lifetime status. Under the new program, the thresholds for lifetime elite status are as follows:
- Lifetime Silver Elite – 250 lifetime nights plus five years of elite status
- Lifetime Gold Elite – 400 lifetime nights plus seven years of Gold Elite status or higher
- Lifetime Platinum Elite – 600 lifetime nights plus 10 years of Platinum Elite status
Mergers are rarely good for the consumer, but the news on Monday bodes well for consumers on all fronts. I was pleasantly surprised that everything appears to be positive and it appears Marriott has really listened to what people are looking for when the programs merged. It will be interesting to see how this unfolds later this year.