Marriott’s takeover of Starwood was finalized in September 2016, so it has been just over 14 months since the deal closed. At the time I was impressed by the fact that Marriott Rewards, Ritz-Carlton Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest were offering points transfers and elite status matches as of day one, which we haven’t seen before from any other merger of this size.
From the beginning Marriott shared their vision of forming a single loyalty program from the current Marriott Rewards, Ritz-Carlton Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest programs, though they said it would be at least a year until they do so. I appreciate the fact that they’re taking their time and trying to make sure they get it right. Besides, selfishly I’m happy if they keep Starwood Preferred Guest independent for as long as possible.
Well, today Marriott has an update on the future of their loyalty programs… sort of. For now Marriott has announced that Marriott Rewards, Ritz-Carlton Rewards, and SPG will remain separate as they continue working towards building a combined loyalty program, with members continuing to have the ability to link accounts and transfer points.
Here are the planned changes for 2018:
- SPG and Hertz are introducing a new partnership, and Marriott’s partnership with Hertz is also being expanded in early 2018. Through this partnership, SPG members can earn Starpoints for Hertz rentals. Furthermore, both Marriott Rewards and SPG Platinum members will be eligible for Hertz Gold Plus Rewards Five Star status, which includes car upgrades and more. SPG Platinum members with Ambassador service and Marriott Rewards Platinum Premier members will receive Hertz Gold Plus Rewards President’s Circle status and benefits.
- For SPG members with lifetime status, Starpoints will never expire. This aligns with Marriott’s policy of never having points expire for lifetime members.
- 2017 will be the last year for Rollover Nights and Status Buy Back for Marriott Rewards members. This means that only 2017 nights earned in excess of elite requirements will roll over toward 2018 status, but excess nights earned in 2018 will not roll over toward 2019 status.
When it comes to Marriott combining their three loyalty programs, I generally tend to think that no news is good news, so I’m happy about this development.
The new partnership with Hertz is good, though so many other programs have partnerships with Hertz as well, so it’s hardly unique.
It’s also nice that Starpoints won’t expire for lifetime members, though that’s not exactly a game changer.
Rollover nights was always a unique feature of Marriott Rewards. It meant that if you overqualified for status in one year, those excess nights would roll over to the following year. My guess is that when Marriott creates a single new loyalty program, the thresholds for status may very well be changed, and as a result, the concept of rollover nights won’t work well in the short term. This also hints at it being likely that the programs will be merged in 2019. Who knows, maybe rollover nights will be reintroduced at some point.
Many will also be sad to see Marriott’s Buy Back promotion discontinued.
While many loyalty programs let you “buy up” if you don’t requalify for status, Marriott Rewards was one of the only programs that did so in a lucrative way. You could redeem 7,500 Marriott Rewards points to buy back Silver status, 25,000 Marriott Rewards points to buy back Gold status, and 40,000 Marriott Rewards points to buy back Platinum status. I value Marriott Rewards points at 0.8 cents each, so to me 40,000 points are worth $320. Essentially being able to requalify for Marriott’s top tier status for $320 per year is pretty good, if you ask me.
While I’m ultimately anxious to see what the future of Marriott’s combined loyalty program looks like, I continue to tend to think that “no news is good news” when it comes to this, since I’m happy for SPG to remain independent for as long as possible. At this point I think it’s safe to assume that Marriott won’t have a single loyalty program until sometime in 2019 at the earliest, and maybe even in 2020.
I’m sure some Marriott Rewards members won’t be happy about the changes being made to requalifying for status, while the Hertz partnership changes are positive for both Marriott Rewards and SPG members, and the points expiration policy changes are positive for SPG members as well.