10 Questions I Have About The Future Of Marriott Rewards

Earlier today we learned that Marriott’s takeover of Starwood is expected to close in the next couple of days, following the Chinese Ministry of Commerce delaying their approval of the deal.

Merger

As we’ve witnessed in a countless number of mergers in the airline & hotel industry so far, nothing typically changes overnight after a merger, at least from our standpoint. The deal closing has significance for investors, but unfortunately for the rest of us it’s a very drawn out process.

My hope is that Marriott will shortly gives us a timeline of what we can expect. I understand that they won’t likely reveal everything about the future of Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest in the next couple of weeks, probably because there’s a lot they’re still figuring out themselves. However, I do hope that they’ll provide a timeline of what we can expect in terms of reciprocal benefits for members, program integration, etc.

As I look at the future of Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest, I realize that I have a lot of questions but very few answers.

With that in mind, I figured I’d compile a list of the 10(ish) questions that I’m most curious about in terms of the future of SPG & Marriott Rewards. In no particular order:

  • When will there be reciprocal benefits and points earning/redemption opportunities between Marriott and Starwood?
  • What will happen to Starwood & Marriott lifetime status? Will Starwood lifetime Platinum convert into Marriott lifetime Gold or Platinum? Will Starwood lifetime Gold convert into Marriott lifetime Silver or Gold?
  • At what ratio will Starpoints be converted into Marriott Rewards points? 1:2? 1:3?
  • Will Starwood Preferred Guest and Marriott Rewards even merge, or will they run parallel programs, just as Marriott Rewards and Ritz-Carlton Rewards are separate programs, even though the benefits overlap?
  • What will the qualification tiers be like with the combined program?
  • Will American Express or Chase be taking over the credit card contract for the combined program, or will we perhaps see both issuers have co-branded cards, just as we’re seeing with American (which has a relationship with both Barclaycard and Citi)?
  • If Starwood Preferred Guest is merged into Marriott Rewards, will there be any official suite upgrade perk for top tier members?
  • Will the combined program continue to offer Ambassador service as a published benefit, similar to what Starwood does now for those with 100+ elite qualifying nights per year?
  • Will Marriott Rewards introduce any lucrative opportunity to directly convert their points into airline miles, other than through their Hotel + Air packages?
  • Will Ritz-Carlton Rewards continue to be run independently? If so, going forward it could make sense to just earn status through the Ritz-Carlton credit card, given that you can earn Gold or Platinum status quite easily through the card.

W-Taipei
Will suite upgrades be a thing of the past after Marriott Rewards takes over SPG?

What are you most curious about?

Comments

  1. Will Starwood household point transfers still be possible? (I actually don’t know the Marriott program well enough to know if they are currently possible or not.) If not, could make sense for some people to combine balances before the merger — for example, if one spouse travels a lot and has hotel status while the other spouse has some points but no status.

    I suppose it is even possible they might offer a different Starpoint to Marriott point conversion ratio depending on your status level, which would make household point transfer strategy even more important, though given the amount of activity that might generate in transfers, they probably have an incentive not to vary the conversion ratio. (And, since SPG offers larger elite bonuses than Marriott does, arguably the point conversion ratio should actually be worse the higher your SPG status level, which gets messy and confusing quickly.)

  2. The biggest question is whether Marriott will keep Starwood’s airline miles transfer option.
    If they take this away, many people will move to other chains.

  3. The biggest hopes I have as an SPG Plat100 loyalist:

    (1) Ambassador level is retained as guaranteed benefit as with SPG
    (2) SPG points transfer 3:1 to Marriott Rewards points.
    (3) “Platinum” or other high elite status gets guaranteed “standard suite upgrades” as with SPG
    (4) “Uber Platinum” elite status gets something like SNAs as with SPG…perhaps even more with Ambassador status
    (5) All 30 brands are incorporated into the same loyalty program…so that earning points at low level properties over a long time can earn a free night at a top level property.

  4. As someone who uses the Marriott Hotel+Air Package in order to earn the Southwest Airlines Companion Pass, I am most anxious to know whether that program will be continued in its current form,

  5. What they really should do is convert Marriott points 2:1 to Starwood, and then essentially keep the Starwood Preferred Guest program and benefits.

  6. To all the SPG elite, don’t expect all your perks to stick around. They won’t. Marriott is very successful/profitable with their current model. If you think they will drive up costs to keep a relative few (SPG elites) happy, think again. Sure, some of the aspects will be nice, but I would bet my bottom dollar you will not see any guaranteed suites EVER. That simply isn’t the Marriott way, and it doesn’t need to be so therefore it won’t be. To all those SPG whiners out there claiming they are going to jump ship, good luck with that. Where are you going to go? Hilton? You probably already hate Hilton for the same reasons you don’t like Marriott. Thinking of going to Hyatt? Ha good luck, their footprint is a pinky toe compared to Marriott. IHG? Yeah you could go with them but several of their brands are subpar IMO. Just stop running around screaming the sky is falling when you don’t know what the final results will be. Also, you had it very good for a very long time. Don’t forget that.

  7. Or run two quasi-independent programs by combining SPG with Ritz Carlton (let’s call it Tier 1)and moving all low-tier properties into Marriott or whatever they will call it (Tier 2).

  8. As a Marriott Platinum and Starwood nothing, I welcome you. I hope Marriott reduces the nights needed for Platinum because I always cut it close getting to 75.

    Just remember to avoid Courtyard by Marriott, the brand for elites that don’t want any benefits.

    I look forward to many Fairfield Inn and Townplace Suites reviews from you in the future, perhaps in conjunction with your flight reviews of Allegiant and Spirit 🙂

  9. i am most curious about what will Amex do with its spg CC’s.
    unless Amex offers up some nice replacement to its current SPG portfolio, i probably will cancel both personal and business cards in due time.
    is it worth their annual fee to hang on to them for now?

  10. Miniscule but will Marriott actually figure out how to email a folio upon check out. As a business traveler, it is incredibly frustrating to have to wait days.

  11. My Predictions:

    Marriott will merge the SPG Program into Marriott Rewards as soon as they can.
    St. Regis will get rebranded into Ritz Carlton and the RC Rewards option will continue.
    I agree with Captain Kirk, the SPG Elite suite upgrades and other Elite Perks are toast.
    Chase will pay whatever it takes to be the sole credit card company and also pay Amex ala what Citi did with Costco to convert all the SPG Amex’s into Marriott Visa accounts.
    Marriott will enhance the Miles and Points awards somehow as a window dressing offset to losing all the SPG airline transfer partners.
    SPG points will either convert at 2-1 and the Marriott program redemption rates will remain the same or the points will convert at 3-1 and Marriott will devalue the redemption options to equal 2-1 anyway.
    Looking forward to all the new reviews from Lucky.

  12. What Tom said: “The biggest question is whether Marriott will keep Starwood’s airline miles transfer option.”

    There better be some advance warning if they’re going to kill this…

  13. Is there even a guarantee Marriott will provide ANY notice before massively devaluing SPG points and stopping transfers?

  14. Will Marriott keep Starwood’s airline miles transfer option? The answer is yes, but they will stop publishing an airline miles transfer option chart and move to a revenue based miles transfer option. Customers will be able to transfer all the business away that they want, just like they are doing now with Delta.

  15. If SPG were to merge with MR, will the new MR allow Elite qualification by stays (a feature of SPG but not MR)?

  16. I am Starwood Gold. Not lifetime. Just currently. I don’t necessarily travel a lot on business, and when I do, we generally stay at the hotel where the conference is held. Were it up to me, that would be a Starwood, but it isn’t, so it’s not. When I travel for pleasure, Starwood is my “go to,” but not my only hotel chain — it all depends upon location and availability.

    I suspect that whatever Marriott will do will end up screwing Starwood loyalists . . . it is the way of the world. Even in my wildest dreams, I am not optimistic — and haven’t been since the merger was announced.

  17. I’m Marriott Lifetime Platinum, so I will post along anything I hear from them. So far, not a word, though they seem to be continually sweetening the offer for the Chase Marriott Rewards VIsa Card.

    A few years ago, they offered a free night for every two nights stayed but I’m sure that won’t be repeated…

  18. I’m curious about the timeshare programs. They’re required to keep certain things because of how timeshares work, but there are a lot of ancillary benefits towards using points, earning points, how the credit cards interact, etc that make a huge difference overall

  19. What about all the Starwood timeshare owners that currently get to convert timeshare ownership into SPG points?

  20. Nurse, that’s odd because I get my Marriott folio almost immediately, or within just a few hours of checking out. I check in/check out using the Marriott app, and I travel mainly in Europe. Maybe that’s why.

  21. RobPHX,
    good point, and conversely, will Marriott timeshare owners be able to book at Sheraton properties without having to go through a third party agency?

  22. My guess is Starpoints convert 1:2 to Marriott and SPG rewards and AmEx go away. Ritz Carlton is really part of Marriott for earning and redemption already.

  23. PS- 80000 Marriott points sound like a lot until you realize that’s 1 night at a good one. Marriott so chintzy compared to SPG rewards.

  24. I’m concerned about the rewards program, but even more concerned on how the Starwood properties will handle reservations for a convention I attend every year. I’ve been a Starwood loyalist for the past 5 years and the two companies reservation process for the event is vastly different. The Marriott method is a nightmare.

  25. Think about all of the things we love about Starwood that draw us to it–the personal touches, especially for elites, the cool vibe at many properties, and THE LUCRATIVE REWARDS PROGRAM. It appears many of these things will be “enhanced” away by the merger. Why buy the golden goose at enormous cost only to kill it? Whatever the case may be, the moment they suspend or enhance away the convert to miles benefit as it currently exists I’m gone. Every time I get to 20,000 spg points I convert to miles immediately. While notice is expected, I’m not taking any chances.

    I’ll probably switch loyalty to Hyatt but I’m not sure. It’s interesting and helpful to hear the thoughts of others on this topic. But the day 20,000 spg points no longer converts to 25,000 airline miles I will close shop, close the spg Amex, and take my business elsewhere.

  26. Marriott Rewards already has a Suite upgrade benefit at Marriott hotels in Asia and South Pacific (Australia), based on availability at check in. Just it is rarely available, as Marriott hotels only have a few suites.

    In you check in in the afternoon and are only staying one night – you have a better chance for a suite upgrade. Recently at the Marriott Melbourne, Australia I was given the top suite in the hotel for one night. I have also gotten suite upgrades at the Marriott in Sydney when I pushed the issue.

  27. @Randy: thanks for letting readers know about the suite upgrade benefit … should have asked for it when we stayed at marriott circular quay last month. i’ve usually got suite upgrades at random times/without asking for it, like at the monterey marriott and renaissance north shore. good to know that we can request an upgrade.
    i’m delighted to hear all the bitching on this and other blogs about the marriott program — hopefully all the SPGs will jump ship and we loyal marriott plats will have less competition for the already-crowded concierge lounges.

  28. To me this is the elephant in the hotel room, as someone who is about to qualify for Marriott Lifetime Gold:

    Right now the qualification for Marriott Lifetime Gold is 500 nights (and 1.6 million points) and the qualification for SPG Lifetime Platinum are 500 nights (and 10 years Platinum). Pretty much equal, as I’ve been Marriott Gold for 10 years.

    If SPG Lifetime Platinums are granted Marriott Lifetime Platinum (rather than Gold) I would be VERY upset since I have met the exact same qualifications, but wouldn’t receive the same benefits.

    Therefore, an SPG Lifetime Gold should be Marriott Lifetime Silver, as the qualifications are the same (250 nights).

  29. @Bgriff “Will Starwood household point transfers still be possible? (I actually don’t know the Marriott program well enough to know if they are currently possible or not.)”

    My father transferred his points to me this year and we are not in the same household. I believe the perk as a Plat is that you do not have to pay a transfer fee. There is a limit on how many points you can transfer. Here’s the wording from the Marriott site:

    “Feeling generous? Now you can share your points with any Rewards member you choose.

    You can transfer 1,000 points or more—up to a maximum of 50,000 points per year—for a transaction fee of just $10 USD. Gold and Platinum Elite members transfer for free.”

  30. Marriotts are very good airport hotels and aside from the Ritz Carlton, the rest of their portfolio is as routine as the lower end SPG product. They were smart to keep Ritz as a separate entity so I am hoping that the genius behind that decision will consider the need to keep St. Regis, W, Westin and a few Sheratons separate. There are many loyal Marriott and SPG fans who have both Ritz or Marriott cards as well as the SPG Amex. If they end up pushing toward Chase and not keeping the SPG Amex option, then the party truly is over.

  31. I don’t care about the currently available co-branded credit cards. But what I am curious about is if holders of the Amex Platinum card will still hold some elite status, like today (SPG Gold by simply having the card).

  32. For me, the big issue is Marriott provided platinum and gold guests with benefits at all brands. SPG and Hyatt do a much better job at providing a benefit to its best customers even if they’re at a “resort” or at a lower-level hotel. Marriott could offer breakfast portfolio-wide (minus Ritz-Carlton).

    I also think Marriott will have to consider spinning off or combining some of the brands. I don’t see what a Sheraton has to offer.

  33. My 0.2 cents advise to anyone – Do NOT hoard any SPG points, either
    – transfer them to Alaska (where you get 5k bonus for every 20k transfered + have a larger option of airlines to use)
    – Book reward rooms for locations that you know you may intend visiting , as one can always cancel later till the day of arrival

    I’m trying to be optimistic that the the SPG program will remain untouched for 2017, but who knows !!
    However if it does change without notice – if you do the above one can maximize your returns and minimize your losses if Marriott decides to devalue the SPG program

  34. Me and my spouse are sitting on 100K SPG points each. I guess they’re now looking for a new home. Suggestions? ( know, probably not Air New Zealand…)

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