The Skinny on The New and (mostly, but still not yet) Combined Marriott Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest, and Ritz-Carlton Rewards

As promised in yesterday’s post, we’ve done our analysis of the new Marriott Rewards program here at You Too Can Travel.  Overall, its relieving to know that so many of our point addiction fears evaporated.  Most of us stand to realize extra benefits and expanded rewards, with only a few minor benefit reductions.  Without a doubt, the new program’s pluses far outweigh the minuses.  Let’s take a look at the good, the not so good, and the unknown.

The Good

  1.  Point earnings increase, especially for elite members, and even more so for co-branded credit card users that use it for payment at hotels.  Let’s use a $200.00 hotel bill at a traditional Sheraton, then convert the SPG points earned at the 1:3 ratio to Marriott Rewards points, using a current and after August 2018 comparison.  For this comparison we’ll use the new Platinum Premier status:

    Current                                                                                                     After August 2018
    Base Points = 400                                                                                   Base Points = 2000
    Elite Platinum Premier Bonus = 400                                                    Elite Platinum Premier Bonus = 1500
    SPG Amex Bonus = 400                                                                          SPG Amex Bonus = 1200
    Total 1200 x 1:3 conversion = 3600 points                                         Total New Points = 4700 points

    That’s a 23% increase in points for the $200 stay.  Not too shabby!

  2. Airline point exchanges we’re the hallmark of SPG because of the straight 1:1 exchange rate, plus the 5,000 mile bonus for every 20,000 points converted to miles.  To the relief of many, this stays relatively the same when the new point values are converted!  The new shining star is the expansion of the airline partner list, and to the delight of many current SPG members in predominantly United Airlines markets, the dreaded United Airlines conversion rate is back to par with other airlines.
  3. Frequent travelers staying at a mix of Marriott and Starwood branded properties have a unique opportunity to obtain a higher status this year, and will hold that status through the end of 2019.  Last year, if you had 60 nights with SPG properties, and 40 nights with Marriott properties you’d have Platinum Status with both programs because of the status match.  But this year Marriott Rewards COMBINES the total of both programs (August 2018).  That means you’d get Platinum Ambassador, the highest status recognition through the remainder of this year and 2019!
  4. Lifetime statuses remain intact.  This was the biggest concern voiced by SPG Elite members, and it has been resolved!

The Not So Good

  1. Beginning in 2019, Platinum Ambassador qualification requires a $20,000.00 minimum annual spend (waived in 2018 – see point 4 above).    That’s an average rate of $200.00 per night.  For many that travel medium-sized markets, this one might be kind of difficult to achieve.  The reality check though provides a silver lining.  Many Ambassadors never use the Ambassador service, as the perk of a personal assistant isn’t really that much of an incentive, and those that do have found varying quality of their personal ambassador.  But it sure looks pretty!
  2. Current credit card holders of the SPG American Express Card will see a reduction on the everyday purchase rewards of the benefit.  Current cardholders get the 1 Starpoint per dollar spent anywhere (converted to 3 Marriott Rewards points).  The new card perk for everyday spend is only 2 Marriott Rewards points.  That’s a 33% reduction in points earned.  Check back here for an enrollment link for the new Premium American Express when it rolls out in August.

The Unknown

  1. Right now the new hotel night rewards charts break down into 9 categories with a 20% reduction in points required for off-peak reservations, but also a 20% premium for peak night reservations.  Until the individual hotels reward rates get published, we won’t know if this is a positive or a negative.  Will the “peaks” be based on known history (i.e. holidays, conventions, seasons) or will it be a dynamic rate based on historic occupancy or trend?  Here’s to hoping we get to see set dates!
  2. Will we begin to see devaluations, which was the greatest concern of SPG loyalists?  So far we don’t have reason to believe that will happen, but we’ve seen it enough with nearly every other travel loyalty program that we’ll be on the lookout.

The bottom line……some good wins, a few concerns, but the hammer didn’t drop.  Good job Marriott Rewards!