Home Industry News Marriott and SPG Award Programs to Finally Unite: What You Need To...

Marriott and SPG Award Programs to Finally Unite: What You Need To Do Now

Change is in the air as the two loyalty programs finally merge.

Blue Palace, a Luxury Collection Resort and Spa, Crete
Properties like Blue Palace, a Luxury Collection Resort and Spa, Crete will soon change from 60,000 points per night to 85,000 under Marriott's new loyalty program. Bottom line: Book now!
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Though Marriott and Starwood have already officially merged, their loyalty rewards programs have thus far remained separate. Marriott promised the programs would unify in August 2018, and that date is about to arrive.

On August 18, 2018, two become one. The *new*program will take on a points structure similar to Marriott’s current program. Marriott points will retain their current value, and Starwood points will be converted at a ratio of 1:3. With the new program launch comes several other changes, namely new pricing for award stays. (If you recall, both programs already implemented several category changes and pricing changes back in March 2018, most for the worse.)

Here’s what you need to know about the upcoming program and some advice on what to do before August 18 arrives.

What will the new Marriott loyalty program look like?

The new program will look quite similar to Marriott’s current one. However, pricing and category structures are about to change.

On August 18, 2018, a seven-category program will go into effect with standard redemption rates as follows:

Category 1      7,500 points
Category 2     12,500 points
Category 3     17,500 points
Category 4     25,000 points
Category 5     35,000 points
Category 6     50,000 points
Category 7     60,000 points

In addition, most hotels and resorts will be shifting categories from their current equivalents. On a positive note, over 50% of properties will shift to a lower redemption rate. On the flip side, around 30% move to a higher redemption rate, and less than 20% will remain the same.

Thankfully, Marriott has made the math of this change easy for us. In fact, here’s  a complete, easy-to-use search engine provided by Marriott to show pricing by property before and after the merger.

How can I use this information about the new pricing to my advantage now?

Since these changes don’t go into effect until August 18, 2018, consumers can book until then and 350 days into the future at the current points rate. If you’ve been eyeing a particular property and that property’s category is slated to increase, book now!

If you’ve been eyeing a particular property and that property’s category is slated to decrease, we suggest waiting until August 19, 2018, to book. (But please note that availability can change at any time, so there’s a chance your desired dates may disappear between now and August 19.)

If you have already booked your award for a property that will decrease in category after August 18, we suggest calling the loyalty program directly after the change and kindly asking for a refund of the point difference. A refund is not automatic and must be requested.

Are there other things I need to do before the loyalty program merger?

Currently, SPG allows family members at the same address to combine points. This benefit will disappear under the new Marriott program. Hence, we suggest combining all SPG points into a single account if called for and then transferring them in one lump sum to a central-linked Marriott account.

Will my elite status also change on August 18?

Yes. With the new program, there are five elite tiers:

Silver Elite                              10–24 nights/year
Gold Elite                                25–49 nights/year
Platinum Elite                        50–74 nights/year
Platinum Premier Elite         75–99 nights/ year
Platinum Premier Elite         100+ nights/year plus $20K Qualified Spend
(with Ambassador)

Details of these tiers can be found here. It should be noted that, as covered in a previous post on CreditCardPro, Gold Elite Status will be devalued with the new program (bye-bye lounge access). This is a major loss for holders of The Platinum Card® by American Express, which grants automatic Gold Elite Status.

What about transferring points from Marriott to airline loyalty programs?

Marriott points will be transferrable to more than 40 airlines at a ratio of three points for one mile. Several new airlines will be added with this new program including Virgin Australia, Aegean Airlines, and Air New Zealand.

In addition, much like the old SPG program, there will be bonuses for transferring points to miles. A bonus 15,000 points will be transferred for every 60,000 points converted to airline miles, equaling a total of 25,000 miles in the airline program.

Are there more changes on the horizon?
Indeed there are. And many of these changes are not for the better.

In 2019 Marriott will add an eighth category with a standard redemption rate of 85,000 points. Off-peak and peak pricing will also be introduced with point redemption rates varying by season and times of the year (though remaining in a specified range). We’ll report more on that as details become available.

On the up side, Marriott has already indicated which properties will be category 8 properties come 2019. Between August 19, 2018, and early 2019 (date yet to be specified), members can book category 8 properties at category 7 pricing and save up to 25,000 points per night. (With peak and off-peak pricing, category 8 hotels will go as high as 85,000 points per night.)

How can I accumulate points in the new Marriott program with my premium credit card?

There are several ways to earn points in the new Marriott program. The primary method is to bank points through paid stays.

In terms of premium credit cards, the new program will be a transfer partner of both American Express’ Membership Rewards program and Chase’s Ultimate Rewards program, meaning holders of American Express Gold Cards, The Platinum Card® by American Express, Chase Sapphire Preferred®, and Chase Sapphire Reserve® Cards can transfer points to the program at a ratio of one Membership Reward/Ultimate Reward to one Marriott point. (Pro Tip: Note that point bookings do not earn points.)

Premium credit card holders also have the option of booking hotel stays at Marriott as unrestricted travel awards through the credit cards’ booking engines, accessible through their websites or travel concierges.

With this strategy of unrestricted award travel, holders of any of the three Luxury Cards—Mastercard® Gold Card™, Mastercard® Black Card™, and Mastercard® Titanium Card™—can redeem hotel stays at a rate of 2% of their points value. As an example, a $500 hotel can be booked by redeeming 25,000 points. (Pro Tip: This rate is the best in the premium credit card industry.)

Chase Sapphire ReserveCard and U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite® Card can redeem for hotel stays at a value of 1.75%; Chase Sapphire Preferred Card at 1.25%; and American Express cards and Citi Prestige Card at 1%. (Pro Tip: Note that unrestricted award travel bookings do earn points.)

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Award-winning travel writer and economist Paul Rubio is a credit card enthusiast, whose sophisticated use of points and rewards has helped him travel to 132 countries for free. Paul is a Harvard graduate with a master’s degree in public administration and a master’s degree in economics. He also holds a bachelor’s degree from Boston University with a double major in economics and environmental policy and a minor in conservation biology. He attended both undergraduate and graduate schools on full scholarships. Paul worked in the field of wildlife conservation before embracing his writing talents full-time in 2008. Since then, he has won more than two dozen national awards for his exemplary work in travel journalism. The prolific writer contributes to a number of top-tier international, national, and regional publications including Condé Nast Traveler, Florida Design, Fodors.com, Palm Beach Illustrated, and Robb Report.