New Marriott and SPG Rewards Program: 5 Reasons to Hate It

New Marriott and SPG Rewards Program-Pros-Cons

 

The New Marriott and SPG Rewards Program has been announced, and it will combine Marriott Rewards, Ritz-Carlton Rewards and SPG starting August 1, 2018. While many are writing that it's much better than they were fearing, that doesn't sound like a ringing endorsement to me. On the industry side, I've already seen negative changes from Marriott, vs. Starwood, so it's not surprising to also see negative changes in the consumer rewards program.

As an aside, and this is not part of the new program, I was doing a quick paid night search for a client today, and noticed that there is a $30 “service charge” per award night booked. I rarely book Marriott hotels for clients, so I've no idea how many Marriott properties this applies to, but it's about what I'd expect from Marriott. If you're not getting charged a resort fee (even in non-resort locations), you may still be paying to redeem your points for award nights.

Marriott Rewards Service Charge 30 Per Award Night

 

Keep in mind that there are still unknowns. For example, below are the new free night award charts, but we still don't know which hotels will be in which category, or which dates will be peak (but I suspect at popular hotels, many of the dates will be peak).

New Marriott and SPG Free Night Award Chart

 

Everyone will have their own take on the new program, but for mid-tier elites, there are at least 5 reasons to hate it:

1. Elite Status Based on Nights Only, Not Stays

Marriott Rewards has long had onerous stay requirements for higher elite tiers. In the SPG program, it was possible to earn elite status either through nights or number of stays (SPG Gold: 10 stays or 25 nights; SPG Platinum: 25 stays or 50 nights). The new Marriott Rewards program takes the Marriott approach, and there is no option to earn elite status through stays, only through the number of nights:

Silver: 10 Nights

  • Earn 10% bonus points on stays
  • Priority late check-out, subject to avail.
  • Dedicated reservations line

Gold: 25 Nights

  • Earn 25% bonus points on stays
  • Room upgrade subject to availability, excludes suites
  • 2pm late check-out, subject to avail.
  • Bonus points welcome amenity

Platinum: 50 Nights

  • Earn 50% bonus points on stays
  • Room upgrade subject to availability, including suites
  • Guaranteed 4pm late check-out (except at resorts, where subject to availability)
  • Welcome amenity: choice of bonus points, breakfast for member and guest (excludes Ritz-Carlton, EDITION, Marriott Vacation Club, Gaylord Hotels, Marriott Executive Apartments, Design Hotels) or other amenity
  • Executive lounge access (excludes Ritz-Carlton Club Lounges)
  • Annual choice of 5 suite night awards or a gift

Platinum Premier: 75 Nights

  • Earn 75% bonus points on stays
  • Room upgrade subject to availability, including suites
  • Guaranteed 4pm late check-out (except at resorts, where subject to availability)
  • Welcome amenity: choice of bonus points, breakfast for member and guest (excludes Ritz-Carlton, EDITION, Marriott Vacation Club, Gaylord Hotels, Marriott Executive Apartments, Design Hotels) or other amenity
  • Executive lounge access (excludes Ritz-Carlton Club Lounges)
  • Annual choice of 5 suite night awards or a gift
  • Additional choice of 5 suite night awards or a gift upon reaching 75 eligible nights
  • 48-hour guarantee

Platinum Premier with Ambassador Service: 100 Nights + $20,000 in Qualifying Spend

  • All of the Platinum Premier Benefits plus:
  • Ambassador Service
  • Your24 (flexible check-in/check-out, e.g. first night check-in at 10am if final day check-out also at 10am)

 

2. New Marriott Gold Elite Status Will NOT Provide Breakfast or Lounge Access or 4pm Late Check-Out

Credit cards such as the AMEX Platinum (indirectly, through SPG Gold status matching to Marriott Gold) and the new AMEX Starwood Preferred Guest Luxury Card provide Marriott Gold Elite status, but that status has been devalued in the new program: it won't include breakfast or lounge access.

If you want lounge access and breakfast, you'll have to earn Platinum status the hard way, with 75 qualifying nights, or spending $75,000 on the SPG AMEX Luxury Card. I don't know about you, but I can think of many more lucrative points earnings opportunities given $75,000 in spend.

Yet another devaluation, for those who have SPG Gold Status, which will convert to Marriott Rewards Gold Elite Status (see conversions below) is that they will lose guaranteed 4pm late check-out. They'll need to attain Platinum status if they want that benefit.

SPG Elite Level Status in New Marriott Rewards Program

  • Corporate Preferred and Preferred Guest Plus = Silver Elite
  • SPG Gold = Gold Elite
  • SPG Platinum = Platinum Elite
  • SPG Platinum 50 = Platinum Elite
  • SPG Platinum 75 = Platinum Premier Elite
  • SPG Platinum 100 = Platinum Premier Elite with Ambassador

Marriott Rewards/Ritz-Carlton Rewards Status in New Marriott Rewards Program

  • Silver Elite with <25 Nights = Silver Elite
  • Silver Elite with 25-49 Nights = Gold Elite
  • Current Gold Elite = Platinum Elite
  • Current Platinum Elite = Platinum Premier Elite
  • Current Platinum Elite with 100 Nights and $20K in spend = Platinum Premier Elite with Ambassador

 

3. SPG Lifetime Gold and Platinum Elites Lose Out

Existing SPG Golds will receive Lifetime Gold Elite status, but that's a significant devaluation, given that Gold Elite will no longer enjoy guaranteed 4pm late check-out or the welcome amenity or the 50% bonus in SPG points per dollar (total of 3 Starpoints per dollar) on eligible stays. Marriott Lifetime Golds, by contrast, will convert to Lifetime Platinum Elite status.

And SPG Lifetime Platinum members will also lose out, since they will only match to Lifetime Platinum Elite, whereas existing Marriott Lifetime Platinums are grandfathered into Lifetime Platinum Premier Elite status, which no SPG elite, no matter how many nights s/he stayed, is able to obtain, and the Lifetime Platinum Premier Elite status will not be attainable going forward.

 

4. Elites Will Earn Elite Stay Credit for Only 1 Room, Not 3 Rooms

For the clients I have who are SPG elites and often travel with employees/colleagues or extended family or friends, a huge benefit of the program has been that when they reserve and pay for 3 rooms for a given night, where they occupy one of the rooms, they earn points, including elite stay credit, for all 3 rooms.

With Marriott, in the same scenario, they'd earn points for all 3 rooms, but elite credit for only 1 room. Marriott's policy is the one that will be in effect with the new Marriott Rewards programs, so this is a loss for SPG elites who previously were able to get elite status faster via these stays.

 

5. Devaluation of SPG Credit Cards' Earning Power

Recall that each SPG Starpoint converts to 3 Marriott Rewards points. Currently, the SPG AMEX cards earn 1 point per dollar on unbonused spend, which will equate to 3 Marriott Rewards points. In the future, however, the personal SPG AMEX (which will be closed to new signups) will only earn 6 Marriott points (e.g. 2 Starpoints) per dollar at participating hotels, and 2 points per dollar on all other spend. That's as if you were only earning 2/3 of an SPG point for each dollar of spend, reducing earning power by a third.

The SPG Business AMEX will be similar, except also earn 4 Marriott points per dollar spent at U.S. restaurants, U.S. gas stations, cellphone services and U.S. shipping purchases. But consider that this is equivalent to just 1.33 SPG points per dollar on these categories, whereas you could instead be earning 3X-5X Ultimate Rewards points on restaurants with the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Freedom, when the 5X category is restaurants, 5X on gas when the Chase Freedom category is gas or if you have the AMEX Business Gold and chose gas as your 5X category, 5X on cellphone services if you have the old Ink Plus card, and 5X on shipping if you have the AMEX Business Gold and chose shipping as your 5X category.

In short, this change basically eliminates the case for putting unbonused spend on the SPG AMEX cards. And depending on your redemption patterns, you might still prefer to put Starwood and Marriott hotel spend on your Chase Sapphire Reserve so as to earn 3X Ultimate Rewards points, in addition to Marriott points for elite status, so as to enjoy trip interruption and trip cancellation protection, particularly on prepaid, non-refundable stays.

 

The Verdict

Overall, the new program isn't horrible if you're a top tier elite, but it's a significant devaluation for mid-tier elite members. If they currently have SPG Gold status, they'll only be matched to Marriott Gold. If they have Marriott Gold Status via the AMEX Platinum or AMEX Business Platinum, they'll only receive Gold Elite status in the new program. And as mentioned, the new Marriott Gold Elite status is worth pretty much nothing.

Personally, I see no reason to keep my SPG Business AMEX and will be dropping it at the next renewal date. I'm just glad that for now, transfers to airline programs are still intact, with the 5000 mile bonus on transfers of 60,000 Marriott points (same as the prior 20,000 SPG points). That is the only reason I've focused on earning Starpoints, as I've never had a memorable (in a good way) Marriott or St. Regis hotel stay, and just a handful of good Ritz-Carlton and SPG Luxury Collection stays.

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4 Comments on "New Marriott and SPG Rewards Program: 5 Reasons to Hate It"

avatar
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Mikr
Guest

Your point two is incorrect. You’ll only need a total of 35 nights in beds (-15 credit with cc) for a total of 50 for Marriott Plt for breakfast and lounge access.

bill
Guest

I have been Loyal to Marriott for years. I am a last year was the first year I achieved Platinum status. Now all the points I have accumulated are worth about 1/3 less because of the new redemption rate for using your points for rooms. I will be using my points for something else and now looking to Hyatt or Hilton for a new Business and Personal Credit Card.