We’ve all been anxiously awaiting news from Marriott and there have been rumours aplenty swirling around. Now that the press conference has concluded here’s what you need to know.
The SPG Program
As everyone has expected, the SPG program will be fully integrated into the Marriott program and while there are many SPG loyalists that wish this wasn’t true, we all knew it was inevitable in our heart of hearts. From today’s announcement, we know that the SPG website will no longer function as of August 1, 2018, and the SPG Program will cease to exist on December 31, 2018.
Your SPG Points
If you currently have SPG points, you will still be able to transfer them at the standard 1:3 ratio to Marriott points. If you still have SPG points when the program ceases to exist, it is expected that they will automatically be converted to Marriott points at the same 1:3 ratio.
New Status Tiers
As has been widely anticipated, Marriott has revamped their status tiers. The change is intended to completely amalgamate SPG and Marriott status members into a standardized tier program. There will be 5 tiers with the following qualifications:
- Silver status at 10 nights
- Gold status at 25 nights
- Platinum status at 50 nights
- Platinum Premier status at 75 nights
- Ambassador program at 100 nights + $20,000 Annual Spend
While we have heard that there will be spend requirements at every level, this rumour has turned out to be FALSE. Rather, only the Ambassador level will have a spend requirement, which is $20,000 per qualification year, which is a LOT of money.
Your Existing Tier
If you currently hold status with Marriott, here’s what you can expect to have for status come August:
As with all loyalty programs, the more you stay, the more you are rewarded and the new Marriott benefits are no different. Here’s what to expect with each level:
- 10% bonus points
- Priority late check-out, subject to availability
- Dedicated elite reservations line
- A 25% points bonus
- 2PM late check-out, subject to availability
- A welcome gift of points
- A room upgrade subject to availability, excluding suites
- A 50% points bonus
- Guaranteed 4PM late check-out, except at resorts (where it’s subject to availability)
- A welcome gift of points, breakfast, or an amenity
- A room upgrade subject to availability, including suites
- Executive lounge access
- Annual Choice Benefit (5 Suite Night Awards or gift option)
Platinum Premier Elite
- A 75% points bonus
- A further annual Choice Benefit (5 Suite Night Awards or gift option)
Platinum Premier Elite with Ambassador service
- Ambassador service
- Your24 (the ability to check-in and check-out over a 24 hour period, subject to availability)
The most significant change here is the devaluation of the Marriott Gold status stripping away free breakfast and lounge access. Unfortunately, Marriott chose to offer their Gold members the benefits from the less rewarding SPG Gold status which does not offer free breakfast and lounge access.
The Marriott Platinum Suite Night Awards benefit is a welcome carryover from SPG Platinum status. A guaranteed suite is always good, but I hope the issuance of Suite Night Awards does not affect the chances for a suite upgrade when you are not using the award.
There have been many Marriott and SPG Lifetime Status Members that have been concerned about what happens to their benefits. Current Lifetime Members will have a positive result, especially if you are Lifetime Platinum as you will be grandfathered into Lifetime Platinum Elite Status.
If you aren’t Lifetime Status with Marriott by December 31, 2018, you have to earn your lifetime status in a different way. Previously you earned lifetime status by meeting both night and points earned requirements. With the new program, you will now in need a minimum number of nights (less than before) but you will also have to maintain that status for a minimum number of years. Unfortuantely, even at the highest Lifetime Platinum Elite Level, you are still two steps from the top of the pyramid, which is certainly disappointing.
If you are close to acheiving lifetime status with Marriott, you have until the end of the year to meet your qualification.
First of all, there will be re-categorization of hotels based on a new redemption chart starting August 2018. There will be 7 hotel categories with a standard redemption ranging between 7,500 and 60,000. There will also be a Category 8 at 85,000 points being introduced later in 2019.
Award redemptions have been rumoured to move towards dynamic pricing, meaning that the number of points required for a stay will vary depending on demand and seasonality. It turns out that this rumour is TRUE.
In 2019 there will be an introduction of seasonal pricing with off-peak rates priced ~20% lower than standard rates and peak rates priced ~20% higher.
This is very bad news for the consumer as it means that you cannot expect the price for your hotel room to be one flat amount like we see now. Outside of not having rooms available for redemption during busy times, hotels do not have a mechanism to reflect demand. Currently, a Marriott Category 5 property can be redeemed for 25,000 points regardless if it’s low, high or shoulder season for the property. With dynamic pricing, this changes as Marriott and each individual property will have much more fine control of pricing.
Dynamic pricing will come into effect as of January 1, 2019, so if you have any plan to travel, I would encourage you to make those bookings now. Remember, Marriott does not require you to have all the points in your account to make a future booking so there is no harm in making those speculative bookings.
“Enhanced” Credit Cards
During the live event, Canada was announced as one of the countries to receive a co-branded credit card enhancement so we can only hope for the best here. However, I don’t believe it will be better than what we currently have with the Amex SPG card.
I could totally foresee the “enhancement” of the Amex SPG card to offer 2 points (Marriott) per dollar spent which is double the current 1 point (SPG) per dollar earn rate. The reality is the value of 2 Marriott points is (was) equivalent to 2/3 of a SPG point and is not the definition of an enhancement. This was exactly how Marriott announced the refresh of the US Chase Marriott Visa and US Amex SPG today at the live event.
SPG Credit Cards
The American Express SPG Personal and SPG Business cards will no longer be available effective January 1, 2019 (if not earlier). If you currently have these cards, you will be sent new Marriott branded cards. It is unclear what the new Marriott cards will feature as a sign-up bonus, but we would expect that the signup bonus will not be as lucrative as the 20,000 SPG point sign up bonuses that we see with the SPG Personal and SPG Business Cards.
If you were ever on the fence about these cards, we would encourage you to get off the fence and sign up for these cards immediately before you lose the opportunity.
Airline Points Transfers
Some great news coming out of the annoucement today is that Marriott will not only retain but gain additional airline transfer partners. With today’s annoucement, that means that there will be 40 airline transfer partners!
You can transfer between 3,000 and 240,000 points per day to the 40 programs and the 25% bonus that SPG was well known for when you transfer in 20,000 SPG batches remains in place, only this time it is with Marriott points. Transfer 60,000 Marriott points, and Marriott will top up your balance by an additional 15,000 points. This 75,000 Marriott point transfer will result in 25,000 airline points.
To make this more clear, with the current SPG program, with Aeroplan, you can transfer on a 1:1 basis. If you transfer 20,000 SPG to Aeroplan, SPG will throw in another 5,000 SPG points, meaning that you will receive 25,000 Aeroplan points.
With the new program, and in keeping with the current 1 SPG to 3 Marriott points valuation, you can transfer 60,000 Marriott (same value as the 20,000 SPG) to Aeroplan and receive and additional 15,000 Marriott (same value as the previous 5,000 SPG bonus). This transfer will result in 25,000 Aeroplan Miles.
In short, nothing chages, except now as a Marriott member, you can transfer directly from Marriott to airline programs, which is a HUGE positive.
Outside of the major changes to items we discussed above, here are some additional tidbits that might be of interest to you regarding the new Marriott program:
- No blackout dates – this benefit has the potential to be program defining if enforced properly … in general, chain hotels are notorious for purposely blocking award space on key dates even with a no blackout policy
- Easier to qualify for elite status – starting in August 2018, it is confirmed that SPG night credits from January 1, 2018 will combine with Marriott night credits to reach elite status through 2019
- 20% more points per dollar spent at hotel – this seems positive but I’m skeptical whether this is just a net effect of dissolving the more valuable SPG program with Marriott
- Marriott Moments – seats to sporting events, exclusive VIP backstage access, etc … definitely a postive to see a continuation of the SPG Moments program
- 5th Night Free remains – redeem for 4 award nights and get the 5th night free!
- The Marriott Travel Package will remain!
After what has been a highly anticipated announcement from Marriott, we are left to individually decide whether this is a positive or negative change overall. For the most part, this seems to be a fairly positive change but as each individual has their own opinion, I’ll leave it to you to decide.
Tell us in the comments below how you feel about these changes and how they might affect your willingness to stay with the program.