The Future of Marriott and Starwood!

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Yesterday was the big announcement on what the future holds for Marriott and Starwood. While I was personally a little nervous on what they were going to say, overall it is fine. Some good things, while others not as good – but I think people will generally be happy. I’ll put together some longer posts on specific program changes, but here is a recap on everything. Keep in mind, the programs will stay as is until July 31st and all new changes will take place on August 1, 2018. You can read more about the new program directly on Marriott’s site.

Your Current Marriott and Starwood Point Balance

Marriott points will stay as is and Starwood points will convert at a 1:3 ratio. This is exactly how the program has been running so it should be no surprise to anyone. This is actually extremely favorable for those with a high Starwood balance.

5 Tier Status

Starting August 1st, there will be 5 different status level available. Earning status will solely be based on nights and the option of earning on stays will go away. Earning status will be comparable for those currently in the Marriott program, but will definitely be much harder for Starwood folks. The great thing is that stays from both Marriott and Starwood will count towards the new qualifications.

  • Silver Elite: 10 nights
  • Gold Elite: 25 nights
  • Platinum Elite: 50 nights
  • Platinum Preferred Elite 1: 75 nights
  • Platinum Preferred Elite 2: 100 nights + $20,000 qualifying spend at Marriott hotels:

If you are currently trying to earn status with Starwood or Marriott based on today’s qualifications, you have all of 2018 to do so. But stays from both programs will not count. That means if you are trying to reach Platinum status, for example, you can still earn it by completing 25 stays at ONLY Starwood properties in 2018. If you want to combine stays between Marriott and Starwood, you can do so, but you will need to abide by the new status qualifications – so staying 25 times at BOTH Marriott and Starwood properties will not qualify. 

Status Benefits

Here are the benefits you’ll receive once earning each status level, in addition to the point bonuses you earn:

  • Gold Elite: Points welcome gift, 2pm check-out,
  • Platinum Elite: Welcome gift (points, breakfast, or amenity), 4pm check-out, room upgrades including suites, lounge access, annual choice benefit (5 suite night guaranteed award or gift option) – given upon reaching 50 nights
  • Platinum Preferred Elite 1: Welcome gift (points, breakfast, or amenity), 4pm check-out, room upgrades including suites, lounge access, annual choice benefit (5 suite night guaranteed awards or gift option) – given upon reaching 50 nights, additional choice benefit (another 5 suite night guaranteed awards or gift option) – given upon reaching 75 nights
  • Platinum Preferred Elite 2: Welcome gift (points, breakfast, or amenity), 4pm check-out, room upgrades including suites, lounge access, annual choice benefit (5 suite night guaranteed awards or gift option) – given upon reaching 50 nights, additional choice benefit (another 5 suite night guaranteed awards or gift option) – given upon reaching 75 nights, ambassador service, Your24 (check-in anytime during the day and get a full 24 hours at the hotel)

One of the major positive changes is that Platinums will now receive breakfast at more properties. Currently in the Marriott program, you would not receive breakfast at Courtyard and resort properties, but starting August 1st, those hotels would be included. Ritz-Carlton, Edition, Design Hotels, Gaylord Hotels, Marriott Vacation Club, and Marriott Executive Apartments still will not offer breakfast.

Marriott is also adopting Starwood’s suite upgrade certificates which I like! This is new to Marriott members and is a way to request a suite prior to your stay. I also like that suites are now part of the upgrade perk upon check-in. This is something that Starwood guests would always be eligible for, but now Marriott guests.

One thing to note though is the only way to earn the guaranteed suite upgrades is by actually staying 50 or 75 nights during the year. Those who have lifetime status but did not stay the required number of nights will not receive the certificates.

Lifetime Status

Fortunately, Marriott will honor lifetime status for those who have already earned the status in both the Marriott and Starwood program. And the good thing is that you have until December 31, 2018 to earn lifetime status with the current requirements (if that is easier for you) Come August 1, they will actually combine your Marriott and Starwood lifetime points and nights and give you the corresponding status! So if you have been both a Marriott and Starwood member, earning lifetime status might be easier then you thought!

Marriott Lifetime Status Equivalence:

  • Lifetime Silver Elite = Lifetime Silver Elite
  • Lifetime Gold Elite = Lifetime Platinum Elite
  • Lifetime Platinum Elite = Lifetime Platinum Premier Elite

Starwood Lifetime Status Equivalence:

  • Lifetime Gold Elite = Lifetime Gold Elite
  • Lifetime Platinum Elite = Lifetime Platinum Elite

The only way to earn Lifetime Platinum Premier Elite is to be grandfathered into this elite status. When the new program rolls out, there will be no way of earning Lifetime Platinum Premier Elite status. So if you are close to earning Marriott Lifetime Platinum Elite, try earning that status quickly!

When the new program rolls out, here is how you can earn lifetime status:

I personally think people will be very happy about this!

Earning Points

Starting on August 1st, you’ll earn the following point structure if you are staying at a Marriott or Starwood hotel.

  • Member: 10 points per dollar spent
  • Silver Elite: 11 points per dollar spent (10% bonus)
  • Gold Elite: 12.5 points per dollar spent (25% bonus)
  • Platinum Elite: 15 points per dollar spent (50% bonus)
  • Platinum Preferred Elite: 17.5 points per dollar spent (75% bonus)

This is a big increase for Starwood members and a slight increase for Marriott members. The only decrease is for current Marriott Silver Members where they currently earn 12 points per dollar spent and going forward will only earn 11 points per dollar spent. While earning more points is great, the redemption chart is also changing – good for Starwood members, but a devaluation for Marriott members.

Redeeming Points

A new awards chart will be rolled out on August 1st. For those that have a high point balance, it is actually favorable for Starwood members, but possibly a devaluation for Marriott members. For 2018 there will be 7 categories which will range between 7,500 points and 60,000 points. In 2019, they will introduce an 8th category as well as off-peak and peak awards. I personally hate the concept of off-peak and peak awards, but it is what it is. 

From the look of it, it seems as quite a devaluation from the current Marriott award chart. The one thing we do not know yet is which hotels fall in which hotel categories. Currently, a category 9 hotel (the highest category in the Marriott award chart, not including Ritz-Carlton) is 45,000 points. I assume that those hotels will move to category 7 which means 60,000 points. This is a 15,000 point increase for the same free night. I personally am sitting on a lot of Marriott points so this could be quite a devaluation for me.

On the flip side, those sitting on many Starwood points might be in a good place. Starwood’s most expensive properties (for a standard room) costs 30,000-35,000 points a night. Taking into consideration the 1:3 conversion that equals 90,000-105,000 points. So being able to redeem only 60,000 points for the same room is awesome.

The good news is that they are keeping the 5th night free benefit when using points!

Transferring Points to Airline Partners

While I personally prefer to keep my Marriott and Starwood points for free hotel nights, I know many folks enjoy the flexibility and like using their points for free flights. Both Starwood and Marriott have had relatively generous transfer ratios and fortunately will continue to do so.

The new Marriott program will run similar to Starwood’s current program in regards to transferring to airline partners. As of right now, you earn a 5,000 point bonus for every 20,000 points transferred. So 20,000 SPG points = 25,000 airline miles (for most partners, not all). Going forward, they will ultimately be keeping this bonus and the same ratio. You’ll be able to transfer your points at a 3:1 ratio (which is the same as SPG’s 1:1 ratio since SPG points are being multiplied by 3), and then for every 60,000 points transferred you’ll receive a 15,000 point bonus.

They will also be keeping the Marriott Hotel + Air Packages, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a change at some point.

 

Overall…

As I said above, I’ll be putting together more detailed blog posts comparing today’s program to the future program so you can fully see if you are coming out ahead or not. There are also a few new credit cards that will be introduced this year, so I’ll put together a post with that information. Existing cardmembers will also be safe although their will be some changes and some of the cards will only be around for a little bit longer for new applicants.

From a personal level, I am currently holding onto more Starwood points then Marriott points (when you take in the 1:3 ratio), so I see a net gain on my existing points. I am also very happy that with the new rules I will be grandfathered into the Lifetime Platinum Premier Elite status as I’ll be earning Lifetime Platinum status with Marriott within the next few months.

How do you feel about the changes? Feel free to comment below with your take on the program and any questions you may have. I am happy to find more answers for you from my Marriott contact,

 

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Comments

  1. As a platinum 50 member who qualifies most years by booking my family trips with multiple rooms at a time, I think it’s a colossal fail. There’s really only three good aspects: Maybe suite upgrades at more hotels, breakfast at Courtyards, and that the new program isn’t even worse.
    On the negative side, attaining even my same status next year is much tougher. Only one room at a time counts now, the SPG cards don’t count toward status, no more qualifying through stays, the Marriott cards count 15 nights a single time per year even if you have both, there’s no way to spend your way up to a high tier with a business card, suites are not guaranteed, Ritz-Carlton hotels offer no meaningful benefits, the seasonal point price aspect flat out sucks, and the 10K a month I put on my business SPG card will be substantially devalued.
    There’s more, but those are the high points. IMO, this is a big kiss-off from Marriott. Unless there are some sizeable changes in earning status, earning points, or both, next year will be my last as an elite in the new program. Free agency or Hilton are what I’m currently thinking.

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