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The New Marriott Rewards Program: What You Need to Know

The New Marriott Rewards Program: What You Need to Know

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Two years after Marriott International, Inc. and Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. finalized their merger, the company is consolidating its myriad rewards programs into one offering starting in August 2018. The hybrid program doesn’t yet have an official name, but it will combine the Marriott Rewards® and Starwood Preferred Guest® programs. The main benefit for travelers is that there will finally be one program, with a single login and access to the entire portfolio of 6,500+ hotels under the Marriott banner.

Also beginning in August, travelers will have the ability to book stays across the entire portfolio for the first time on Marriott.com, SPG.com and the Marriott and SPG apps. Members of both programs will be transitioned to the new program — to be named in early 2019 — by August 2018.

The overall changes appear to be positive for both Marriott Rewards® and SPG® members, but there are areas — like lower points bonuses for silver elite members and higher points needed to book free nights — that members might not like.

In the end, this change was long overdue. It was confusing, and sometimes frustrating, to jump between the two programs with their different rules. Overall, the unified program is better than the sum of its parts. But there are still details — like which hotel brands will go into which categories — that the company has yet to reveal.

Marriott Rewards® Starwood Preferred Guest® New Combined Program
Number of Hotels 4,700+ 1,500+ 6,500+
Number of Brands 30 11 29
Elite Status Tiers 4 4 6
Hotel Categories 9 7 8
Airline Partners 39 34 40+
Lifetime Status Tiers 3 2 3

Earning points

Marriott Rewards®. Earn 10 points per $1 spent on hotels and qualifying charges at six brands — JW Marriott®, Autograph Collection, Renaissance®, Marriott, Marriott Vacation Club® and Delta Hotels. Earn 10 points per $1 spent on hotel stays at nine brands — Edition, Gaylord, AC Hotels, Courtyard®, Springhill Suites®, Fairfield Inn & Suites®, Protea Hotels, Moxy and Ritz-Carlton. Earn 5 points per $1 spent at Residence Inn® and Towneplace Suites®.

Starwood Preferred Guest®. While the Starpoints® earned are equal across all brands, the number of points you can earn depends on your elite status. Preferred guests get 2 points per $1 spent, gold status get 3 points per $1 spent and platinum status earns 3 or 4 points per $1 spent, depending on the number of nights booked.

New Combined Program. Under the program’s unified benefits, there will only be a single points currency. As a result, SPG members will see their Starpoints® balance triple. Program members will all earn a straight 10 points per $1 spent at all brands except for Residence Inn®, TownePlace Suites® and Element. Those brands will be 5 points per $1 spent. A big change is that on top of points for hotel stays, members will now earn them for things like food and beverage and qualifying incidentals.

Marriott had three different point totals to earn across its brands — and some brands offered points just for hotel stays, while some included qualifying charges. SPG was simpler, but you didn’t earn as many Starpoints® as Marriott Rewards®. Under the new program, it’s a simple 10 points per $1 spent on all but three brands, plus earning points for most of your hotel spending. What’s not to like?

Redeeming points

Marriott Rewards®. You can redeem your points for free hotel nights in nine categories ranging from 7,500 to 45,000 points. If you book four award nights, you get a fifth night for free, with no blackout dates. You can book stays and room upgrades using a mix of points and cash, and book a redemption stay even if you don’t have enough points.

You can use your points to book flights, rental cars, vacation packages and cruises, get inside a Priority Pass airport lounge, pay your TSA Precheck enrollment fee, go shopping or donate them to charities. You also get members-only access to unique sports, culinary, lifestyle and entertainment experiences worldwide under the Marriott Moments program.

Starwood Preferred Guest®. This program has seven hotel categories where you can use your Starpoints® for free room stays, split between weekdays and weekends. Weekday redemptions range from 3,000 to 35,000 points, while weekend redemptions range from 2,000 to 35,000, with no blackout dates. Starpoints® redemptions are higher at the more luxury Starwood brands like the St. Regis Bali Resort or The Phoenician in Scottsdale, Ariz.

SPG allows you to use cash and Starpoints®  for a room or an upgrade. You can cash in 1,000 Starpoints® and get 50% off the full price of a room for a one- to five-night stay or book a flight on more than 150 airlines with no blackout dates. At SPG Moments, use your points to pay for experiences like intimate concerts with the biggest musical acts or VIP access to major sporting and entertainment events. You can also go shopping or donate your Starpoints®.

New Combined Program. There will be no blackout dates for points redemptions in any of the 6,500 hotels around the world. There will be a single free night award chart with peak and off-peak pricing (added in 2019) for all hotels, with points ranging from 7,500 to 85,000 points in eight categories. The eighth category will be unveiled in 2019.

Like the previous programs, you can use cash and points for hotel stays, and get a free night when you book four nights, upgrade to a suite or room with a view, and use points for airport lounge access and to cover the TSA Precheck enrollment fee. In addition, you can use points to book vacations, cruises, airlines, car rentals, gift cards, travel gear, technology and other retail items.

The new program simplifies and unifies everything with a single way to redeem point and a single hotel award chart.  Plus it retains popular perks like booking travel with points, room upgrades and the ability to pay with points and cash.

Transferring points to airline miles

Marriott Rewards®. You can transfer your points into airline miles at 40+ partners. If you transfer your miles to United Airlines MileagePlus® loyalty plan, you get a 20% discount. The ratio of points-to-miles transfers depends on airline you choose. Because the conversion rate isn’t as good as other programs, you’re better off doing this only if you need to top off your airline loyalty program account.

Starwood Preferred Guest®. This program by far is one of the best when it comes to transferring Starpoints®  into airline miles. It’s a straight 1:1 transfer to 34 airline partners. Plus SPG gives you 5,000 bonus points for every 20,000 you transfer at a time.

New Program. Unfortunately, the new program doesn’t adopt the SPG 1:1 transfer rate or the cushy bonus points for each points-to-miles transfer. The transfer ratio is 3 points for one mile, which can be done through more than 40 airlines, including new partners Qantas, JetBlue, Turkish Airlines, Virgin Australia, Aegean Airlines and Air New Zealand. You can transfer as few as 3,000 points and up to 240,000 points a day. Under new new bonus, the program will add 15,000 points for every 60,000 points you transfer to airline miles, for a total of 25,000 miles, in the airline program of your choice.

Hotel categories

Marriott Rewards®. The program has nine hotel categories to book free nights with points. It starts at 7,500 for a Category 1 hotel like the Fairfield Inn & Suites® Macon in Georgia. For 45,000 points, you can book a Category 9 hotel like California’s Napa Valley Marriott Hotel & Spa.

Starwood Preferred Guest®. SPG members have access to seven hotel categories for free nights. A Category 1 hotel, at 3,000 Starpoints®, would be the Four Points by Sheraton Kansas City Airport. A Category 7 hotel,  at 30,000 or 35,000 Starpoints®, would be Mexico’s St. Regis Punta Mita Resort.

New Program. Marriott has revealed that there will be eight hotel categories at points ranging from 5,000-70,000 per night for off-peak and 10,000-100,000 points for peak starting in 2019. In August, the program will offer seven categories for between 7,500 and 60,000 points during the transition.

It’s hard to make a judgement on this change until Marriott reveals which hotels will belong in each of the eight categories.

Check out our top Marriott category 5 hotels for your free night certificate.

Elite tiers

Marriott Rewards®. This program has four categories — member, silver, gold and platinum elite — based on hotel night stays per year. There are no blackout dates, free Wi-Fi when you book directly through Marriott and you earn points for meetings and events in all categories.

The perks get better for those with elite status. That starts with bonus points of 20%, 25% and 50% for silver, gold and platinum elite status, respectively. Gold and platinum members get free high-speed Wi-Fi, a guaranteed room type, free room upgrade, late checkout and lounge access and breakfast. Platinum members get 48-hour guaranteed room availability, an arrival gift of bonus points, food & beverage amenity or air miles.

Starwood Preferred Guest®. SPG has four tiers — preferred, gold, platinum and SPG Benefits with Design Hotels, a special collection of hotels around the world. All tiers, based on hotel nights per year, offer no blackout dates, free Wi-Fi when booking through Starwood and free bottled water. Gold members get an enhanced room when checking in.

Platinum members get best available room upgrades at check-in, including standard suites, a welcome gift of 500 bonus Starpoints (250 at Aloft, Element, Four Points), a local gift or continental breakfast, upgraded Internet and club- and executive-level lounge privileges when available.

New Combined Program. As of August 2018, the program will consist of six status tiers, based the number of hotel nights booked a year. The good news is you will need fewer nights per year to earn status and the two new platinum elite tiers really show the love to those staying for more than 74 nights a year.

You earn silver elite status after just 10 nights a year, gold after 25 nights, platinum after 50 nights and the new platinum premier kicks in after 75 nights. Those who stay more than 100 nights and spend $20,000 a year will get access to Ambassador Service, which assigns an ambassador who ensures a customized, seamless travel experience. This program was started by Starwood and moved over to Marriott.

All members will get bonus points when booking hotel stays based on their status. Silver members get a 10% bonus, gold is 25%, platinum is 50% and platinum premier and premier 100 nights/$20,000 spend are both 75%.

All tiers get free in-room Wi-Fi, member rates and access to mobile check-in and services. Silver and above also get reservation guarantees, priority late checkout and a dedicated reservation line. Gold and above also get a welcome gift and room upgrades based on availability.

Platinum elite members get lounge access, guaranteed room type (including suites) and an annual benefit of five suite night awards or a gift option after 50 qualifying nights. Platinum premier elite members get an annual benefit of five suite night awards or a gift option after 75 qualifying nights. Platinum premier elite members who reach 100 nights and spend $20,000 in a year will also have access to the popular Starwood Your24 program, which allows you to request any check-in time for an upcoming stay, along with late checkout 24 hours after you checked in, subject to availability.

Lifetime status

Marriott Rewards®. Members earn lifetime silver elite at 250 nights and 1.2 million points. Lifetime gold is 500 nights and 1.6 million points and platinum is 750 nights and 2 million points.

Starwood Preferred Guest®. You get lifetime gold at 250 nights and 5 years of gold elite status. Get lifetime platinum for 500 nights and 10 years of platinum elite status.

New Combined Program. Status is based on lifetime nights and years of status in three categories. Silver is 250 lifetime nights plus 5 years of elite status. Gold is 400 lifetime nights and 7 years of gold elite status and platinum is 600 lifetime nights plus 10 years of platinum elite status. You also get all the perks that members of each tier receive. But in the fine print, Marriott notes that years of elite tenure is based on achievement at that level, plus any years at a higher-tier level. That means that elite tenure at the new lifetime gold status would count years for Marriott Rewards® and SPG gold and platinum statuses, but not with silver status.

The real winners are those who currently have lifetime elite status, because your current status will be recognized under the new program.

Experience program

Marriott Rewards®. The Moments program allows you to redeem or bid your points on a rotating series of experiences, including: a private dinner cooked by acclaimed chef Alex Guarnaschelli in Aspen for 75,000 points; bid on access to G.H. Mumm Champagne Room at the 2018 Belmont Stakes starting at 45,000 points; or tickets for two to see Billy Joel at New York’s Madison Square Garden in a custom luxury suite at Madison Square Garden stocked with free food and beverages.

Starwood Preferred Guest®. SPG Moments is similar to Marriott Moments, with a chance to bid and redeem points on curated experiences. Bids to attend the Billboard Music Awards May 20 in Las Vegas start at 15,000 points. Prime orchestra seats to see “Wicked” on Broadway along with a backstage pass to meet the cast starts at 22,000 points.

New Combined Program. Marriott Moments will continue under the new program, but it will be expanded to offer more than 110,000 experiences in 1,000 destinations from must-see attraction tickets and tours available for all guests to buy, along with special events for members only purchased with points. Experiences include shark cage diving in Gansbaai, South Africa, VIP access to sports events like the Super Bowl and music festivals like Coachella.

There’s also the new Moments Live, where Marriott has partnered with LITV Entertainment Group for musical and culinary events like VIP access and exclusive performances throughout Keith Urban’s recently announced Graffiti U World Tour and intimate events with superstar chefs.

The new program wins based on the sheer number of experiences available. You have the chance to pay cash or points for the vast majority of events, but there are still unique experiences just for members that can be paid for with points.

Our final take on the new Marriott Rewards® program:

Everyone can agree that this change is long overdue. The separate programs made it difficult for customers to use their points freely across both brands. And despite a lot of trepidation on what changes were coming, in the end, there’s a lot to like under the new combined program.

The most important change is customers now have access to a single program that will allow them earn and redeem points at more than 6,500 hotels around the world under Marriott’s 29 brands. The 10 points per $1 spent — which now includes hotel stays and incidentals — is consistent across all brands except for Residence Inn®, TownePlace Suites® and Element. This is a big win for SPG customers, who were getting between 2 and 4 points per $1 spent.

There are still many questions that need to be answered about the new combined program, especially where hotel brands will be placed under the eight new categories for redeeming free hotel nights. But having a unified rewards program revealed two years after the Marriott-Starwood merger is a win for the brands’ customers.

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September 29, 2017