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More than two years after Marriott International, Inc. and Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. finalized their merger, the company consolidated its myriad rewards programs into one offering in August 2018. The new program was officially branded as Marriott Bonvoy in January 2019.
Travelers are now covered by a unified rewards program that allows them to book from the entire portfolio of 7,000 hotels and 30 brands under the Marriott banner. Members of the old Marriott Rewards and the Starwood Preferred Guest programs were transitioned into the new single program in August 2018.
The overall changes were 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 and the unified program is better than the sum of its parts. It was confusing, and sometimes frustrating, to jump between the two programs with their different rules.
|Marriott Rewards®||Starwood Preferred Guest®||Marriott Bonvoy|
|Number of Hotels||4,700+||1,500+||7,000|
|Number of Brands||30||11||30|
|Elite Status Tiers||4||4||6|
|Lifetime Status Tiers||3||2||3|
Under Bonvoy, there’s now a single points currency. As a result, SPG members saw their Starpoints® balance triple. Program members earn a straight 10 points per $1 spent at all brands except for Residence Inn, TownePlace Suites and Element. Those brands earn 5 points per $1 spent. A big change is that on top of earning points for hotel stays, members also earn them for things such as food and beverage and qualifying incidentals.
There are no blackout dates for points redemptions in any of the more than 6,700 hotels around the world with the new Bonvoy program. There’s now a single free night award chart with peak and off-peak pricing in eight categories covering all hotels in Marriott’s portfolio, although the changes in categories hasn’t been revealed yet. Points range from 5,000 to 70,000 for off-peak to 10,000 to 100,000 for peak.
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 for vacations, cruises, airlines, car rentals, gift cards, travel gear, technology and other retail items.
Transferring points to airline miles
Unfortunately, Bonvoy didn’t adopt the more generous SPG 1:1 transfer rate or the cushy bonus points for each points-to-miles transfer. The transfer ratio is now 3 points for 1 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. The program adds 5,000 points back into your account for every 60,000 points you transfer to airline miles, up to 25,000 miles, in the airline program of your choice.
The Bonvoy program now has eight hotel categories from which to book at points ranging from 5,000-70,000 per night for off-peak and 10,000-100,000 points for peak. It’s hard to make a judgment on this change until Marriott reveals which hotels will belong in each of the eight categories, which is expected in February 2019.
Read our review of The Best Marriott Category 5 Hotels For Your Free Night Certificate.
As of January 2019, six status tiers are available, based the number of hotel nights booked a year with Bonvoy. But the two new platinum premier tiers introduced in April 2018 have been renamed.
Marriott Bonvoy Titanium Elite replaces platinum premier elite for members who surpass 75 nights. Marriott Bonvoy Ambassador Elite replaces platinum premier elite with Ambassador service, a tier that recognizes members who surpass 100 nights and more than $20,000 in spend annually.
The good news is you will need fewer nights per year to earn status and the two top 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 get bonus points when booking hotel stays based on their status. Silver members get a 10% bonus, gold is 25% and platinum is 50%. Titanium elite and titanium elite 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.
Titanium and Ambassador members get hotel lounge access where available, guaranteed room type (including suites) and an annual benefit of five suite night awards or a gift option after 50 qualifying nights. Titanium elite members get an annual benefit of five suite night awards or a gift option after 75 qualifying nights. Titanium elite members who reach 100 nights and spend $20,000 in a year will also have access to the popular Your24TM 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.
Bonvoy 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.
The new Marriott Bonvoy Moments has been expanded to offer more than 120,000 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 the Oscars®, the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, the Dubai Jazz Festival and World Golf Championship – Mexico Championship.
You can also take advantage of Moments Live, where Marriott has partnered with LITV Entertainment Group for musical and culinary events like VIP access and exclusive performances with artists such as Sean Mendes and Florence + The Machine or intimate events with superstar chefs including Daniel Boulud and Eric Ripert.
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 also be paid for with points.
Our final take on the new Marriott Bonvoy program:
Despite a lot of trepidation on what changes were coming, in the end, there was a lot to like under the new Marriott Bonvoy 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 7,000 hotels around the world under Marriott’s 30 brands around the world. 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.
We’re still waiting to see where Marriott’s hotel brands will fall under the eight new Bonvoy categories for redeeming free hotel nights. But having a unified rewards program revealed more than two years after the Marriott-Starwood merger is a win for the brands’ customers.