Marriott’s takeover of Starwood closed in late 2016. I was impressed by the pace at which they added reciprocal benefits for members, including the ability to status match and also transfer points between programs at a fair rate. The next big looming question is when Marriott will form a single loyalty program. At the moment they have Marriott Rewards, Ritz-Carlton Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest, all with different benefits. We’ve known they have the intention of eventually forming a single loyalty program, though the timeline hasn’t been known.
Marriott and Starwood are forming a single loyalty program this year
It looks like we now have a better idea, and it’s sooner than I was expecting. This is confirmed directly by Marriott’s CEO in a Hotel News Now video that was posted on YouTube. In it he reveals that Marriott and Starwood will be forming a single loyalty program in the second half of the year, and will adopt a new name early next year.
More specifically, here are a few quotes from Arne in the interview:
- “We’re bringing the loyalty programs together, Marriott Rewards and SPG. That will happen the second part of this year. We’ll have a new name to launch those programs very early next year.”
- When asked if he can share any details about what the new program may look like, he said “stay tuned, we’ll be saying more about this in the near term.”
- “What we think we can do is deliver even more value to our guests, at more cost effective terms to our hotel owners, and drive a loyalty program which is second to none.”
- “It’s been very interesting, from the moment we announced the acquisition of Starwood the SPG community has been very audible in saying we care about this program, we love this program, don’t do this program harm.”
What stood out to me most was this statement (bolding mine):
“What we think we can do is deliver even more value to our guests, at more cost effective terms to our hotel owners, and drive a loyalty program which is second to none.”
Let that sink in for a moment. They’re going to deliver more value and create a loyalty program that is second to none while cutting costs related to the program (which is what they’re saying with “more cost effective terms for our hotel owners”). I’d like to see that in action.
We now have even more details about what the new program may look like. FlyerTalk member coltonatx shares information from a “good source,” which matches a lot of other rumored information that has been posted online. Here’s what this suggests (and again, I can’t speak to the accuracy of any of this):
The new program will launch in August
Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest will be launching a single program in August, which would match what Marriott’s CEO said, when he indicated that it would happen in the second half of the year. That’s right at the beginning of the second half of the year.
The new program will have five elite tiers
The new elite tiers for the combined program would be as follows:
- Silver status after 10 nights
- Gold status after 25 nights
- Platinum status after 50 nights
- Platinum Premier status after 75 nights
- Ambassador status after 100 nights and $20,000 of spend
So basically they’re maintaining all elite tiers presently available in the two programs. Currently SPG Ambassador requires 100 nights, but they’re adding a $20,000 spend requirement. It also seems like they’re eliminating the option to qualify on stays rather than nights, which has been a unique feature of the SPG program.
What remains to be seen is what the elite benefits will be at each tier. Will any status level come with unlimited complimentary upgrades? What will the difference between Platinum and Platinum Premier be? What will the opportunities to earn status with credit cards be like? How will lifetime status match up in the new program?
Members will earn 10 points per dollar spent
Currently SPG members earn two Starpoints per dollar spent, and Marriott Rewards members earn 10 points per dollar spent for most brands. Marriott is more generous with the points they award for stays, since Starpoints can be converted into Marriott Rewards points at a 1:3 ratio. Going forward, apparently the program will offer 10 points per dollar, suggesting that the new program will be similar to Marriott Rewards in that way. We’ll have to see what elite bonuses are like.
Free breakfast expanded to 25 brands and resorts
Presently Marriott doesn’t offer complimentary breakfast to elite members at many of their brands, or at resorts. Going forward, Marriott’s free breakfast elite benefit will be “expanded to 25 brands and resorts.” Currently SPG Platinum members can choose free breakfast as their welcome amenity at all brands. The SPG program is simple, the Marriott Rewards program is complicated.
The good news is that it looks like Marriott will no longer exclude resorts from the free breakfast benefit. However, since the combined program will have 30 brands, this means that five brands won’t offer complimentary breakfast.
Could we still not see free breakfast at Courtyard and Ritz-Carlton? That would be indescribably lame and uncompetitive on their part. Could we even see them eliminate free breakfast from some Starwood brands?
Let me once again emphasize that these are all rumors that have been posted online, and I can’t personally vouch for them. If there’s just one isolated rumor, I don’t typically post about it, but the rumors here are strong. The one thing we know for sure (based on the public comments of Marriott’s CEO) is that a single program will be formed this year, and it will get a new name early next year.
Everything else is speculation at this point. If the above rumors are true, we’ll see a single loyalty program in August that will have five elite tiers, offer 10 points per dollar at most brands, and an expanded breakfast benefit that still doesn’t cover five brands.
Assuming the above is true, there are still tons of questions. What will the combined credit card benefits look like? How will lifetime status work? What will the elite benefits be? Is it possible that they still won’t offer free breakfast at Courtyard and Ritz-Carlton? Will direct airline mileage transfers at a generous rate, and Marriott’s Hotel + Air packages, still be possible?
What’s unfortunately telling here is Marriott’s CEO indicating that the new program will be at “more cost effective terms for hotels.” Is it really possible to do that while creating a program that’s “second to none?”
What are your initial thoughts on this rumored new program?