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The merger between Marriott International and Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide is set to be one of the biggest changes to the rewards program industry of the past few years. The deal for the acquisition of Starwood by Marriott was closed in September 2016. Since then, the companies have been moving towards complete integration. What does this mean for consumers? We’ll break it down.
Marriott and SPG Program Changes Expansion
This merger sets the stage for the construction of the world’s largest hotel conglomerate of over 5,500 hotel properties in over 100 different nations. The merger of the two loyalty programs will also create the largest loyalty program of its kind. The expansion was designed to make sure that the shared commitment to customer satisfaction and comfort continues to be held to a high standard.
Timeline of the Marriott and SPG Program Changes
So, what’s the timeline for the loyalty program merger, and what does it mean for loyalty members? Right now, nothing has really changed. While the final version of the new loyalty program has been announced, it will not go into effect until August 2018. At the moment, members are still able to use their respective loyalty programs by booking Marriott hotels with Marriott Rewards Points and Starwood hotels with SPG Starpoints.
Members have the opportunity to connect both accounts in order to take advantage of elite status among both programs and exchange currency between them. In a pleasant turn of events for Starwood rewards members, one SPG Starpoint has been valued at three Marriott Rewards Points. This upheld the value of SPG Starpoints and ensured that the merger would be a positive change for members of both programs. It’s been possible to transfer rewards in both directions for some time now, which has lead to a number of sweet spots.
In August, the comprehensive loyalty program will merge rewards between Marriott Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest, and Ritz-Carlton Rewards under one system with one currency. The current conversion factor of three Marriott Rewards Points for every one SPG Starpoint will still apply, preserving the value of SPG Starpoints. The yet-unnamed program will likely remain unnamed until next year. But still expect the first steps towards total implementation in August.
Points During the Marriott and SPG Program Changes
Under the new system, non-elite members will enjoy a slight upgrade from the old Starwood system. They will earn 10 points per dollar spent at each brand except for Residence Inn, TownePlace Suites, and Element. Those properties will earn 5 points per dollar spent. Elite members can expect a new elite program rather than retaining elite status with just one component of the merger.
With this, five new elite tiers will be introduced: Silver, Gold, Platinum, Platinum Premier, and Platinum Premier with Ambassador.
After one hundred booked nights, the highest level is achieved. Members can earn 17.5 points per dollar spent. Note that Platinum Premier with Ambassador is the only elite tier that comes with a minimum spending requirement of $20,000 per year. The new elite benefit structure strongly favors Platinum status. It unlocks some of the benefits shared with higher tiers without a spending requirement to worry about.
With the new points redemption structure there are no blackout dates for loyalty members. However, the new program will introduce a new way for brands to adjust prices based on the season. For example, if a newly-assigned Category 5 property is worth 35,000 points per night during the standard season, it would be worth 30,000 points per night during the quiet season. It would be worth 40,000 points per night during peak season.
While this change will not take effect until February 1st of 2019, this will be important for determining when and where to redeem points. Note that the category status of hotel brands is currently incomplete. However, Marriott plans to announce the run-down of brands and categories in the coming months.
Airline Transfer Points
Many Starwood rewards members were initially nervous about whether the SPG airline transfer points program would be retained. It will be. With the 3:1 conversion factor, there will be no affects to transfer SPG Starpoints to airline programs. In fact, ten more airlines are planning to join the partnership. Processing time for points transfers is due to decrease.
Being able to maximize airline transfers without holding one of the best airline credit cards is a big positive.
Additional Items to Expect Due to the Marriott and SPG Program Changes
For some members, the most important part of a loyalty program is the suite of loyalty credit cards. With the new merger, new cards will be available from both Chase and American Express. American Express will offer an all-new Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Luxury Credit Card. It will come with a $450 annual fee but a $300 credit at Marriott properties. Additionally, it will offer an annual free night worth up to 50,000 points.
Chase has already launched the Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card which currently comes with an attractive 75,000 point sign-up bonus. Note that Marriott business and Ritz-Carlton Rewards cards will remain. But there are better business credit cards available, especially for business advertising.
The bottom line regarding the Marriott and SPG program changes: look for great benefits and positive changes from this merger. Expect more new announcements to come in the near future.
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Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.