Yesterday I shared the full details of Marriott’s new loyalty program, which is coming in August. As you could tell based on the post, the new program greatly exceeded my expectations, and was pretty close to being the best case scenario, as far as I’m concerned.
Some people disagree, which I totally respect, because obviously no program will be great for everyone. That’s simply not possible. I’m so impressed because we’re seeing the introduction of suite upgrades subject to availability, we’re seeing the introduction of confirmed suite upgrades for select members, we’re seeing breakfast added at Courtyard hotels and resorts, we’re seeing a strong points earning rate, and much more.
In this post I wanted to look at the negatives of the program. Specifically, who isn’t coming out ahead with Marriott’s new loyalty program? I’m going to put this into two categories — groups of people who definitely aren’t coming out ahead, and groups of people who may not be coming out ahead, depending on their circumstances. Even within these groups, there are of course going to be subsets of people who feel differently about things.
Who definitely doesn’t come out ahead with the new Marriott program
United RewardsPlus members
Currently United MileagePlus Gold members and above receive complimentary Marriott Gold status through RewardsPlus. That perk will be sticking around, though going forward Gold status won’t be worth as much as it currently is. Right now Gold status comes with guaranteed late check-out, and executive lounge access and/or breakfast at most brands, though that will no longer be the case.
Instead Marriott Platinum status will have the same night requirements that Gold status currently has, though United elite members won’t be comped that.
This is of course frustrating for anyone who benefited from this, but if we’re behind honest, we can’t really blame Marriott. They’ve improved the perks you get at 50+ nights per year, and it’s unrealistic to give that to all United MileagePlus Gold members and above.
Amex Platinum cardmembers
This is a similar story to the above. For years Starwood and American Express have had a partnership, and as part of this, Amex Platinum cardmembers have received SPG Gold status. When Marriott took over Starwood they offered status matching, including matching all SPG Gold members to Marriott Gold.
It was never intended that Marriott Gold would be a benefit of the Amex Platinum, but that’s indirectly what happened.
The good news is that at least for now they’re keeping this around. The bad news is that Marriott Gold status in the new program isn’t as valuable as it used to be.
Delta Crossover Rewards members
Just as Marriott and United have historically had a partnership, the same is true of Starwood and Delta. Through the Crossover Rewards partnership, members of both programs could earn points and receive select reciprocal benefits.
As of now Marriott has announced that they will continue to honor Delta Crossover Rewards through July 15, 2018. They say that they value their long-standing relationship with Delta, and expect to have more to share with members before July 15. At a minimum it sounds like the partnership won’t stick around in its current form.
Those who get club lounge access with the SPG Business Amex
The SPG Business Amex offers lounge access at Sheraton properties as a benefit. Unfortunately this is being cut as of August 2018, which is disappointing, and eliminates a huge benefit of the business card over the personal card.
SPG Platinum members who earn status exclusively through stays
Currently SPG Platinum members can earn status either by making 25 stays, or staying 50 nights. Going forward, they can only qualify based on nights and not stays. I suspect it’s only a small minority of SPG Platinum members who almost always stay just one night, but for those members it will be significantly harder to earn status.
Who might not come out ahead with the new Marriott program
SPG Platinum members with Ambassador service
I suspect SPG Platinum members with Ambassador service will have mixed feelings. Right now that requires 100 nights per year to earn, though going forward it will require 100 nights plus a $20,000 spend requirement.
The good news is that you’ll be able to take advantage of Ambassador service at a much bigger global portfolio of hotels, so you’re not limited to Starwood’s smaller footprint anymore. The bad news is that there’s now a $20,000 spend requirement, which is really steep.
As an SPG Platinum member with Ambassador service I’m not thrilled, though I completely understand why Marriott did this. Marriott has an insane number of elites, a huge global footprint, and many limited service properties, so they probably have tons of 100+ night elites who don’t contribute that greatly to their bottom line. It takes effort to spend 100+ nights with Starwood, but that’s not true to the same degree with Marriott.
I’d rather that they make it truly exclusive and put effort into the program, rather than just making it like “My Hyatt Concierge.” And I say this as someone who may lose Ambassador service because of the revenue requirement.
Those who earn Starpoints through credit card spend
Marriott is introducing a suite of new credit cards. Historically Marriott’s best credit card offered one point per dollar on everyday, non-bonused spend. I value Marriott Rewards points at ~0.8 cents each, so that was a pretty lousy return on spend.
Meanwhile Starwood’s credit cards have offered one Starpoint per dollar spent. Starpoints convert into Marriott Rewards points at a 1:3 ratio, so that’s a significantly more lucrative credit card for everyday spend, since it’s like earning three Marriott Rewards points per dollar spent.
Going forward, all co-branded credit cards will offer at most two Marriott points per dollar spent, which is equivalent to two-thirds of a Starpoint. That means those who have been using the SPG Amex for everyday spend are going from a card that’s industry leading, to one that’s potentially just average.
The slight benefit is that those with the SPG Luxury Card will be able to spend their way to Platinum status. Spending $75,000 in a calendar year will offer Platinum status. So for those who are big spenders this might balance out, which is why I don’t think this is necessarily a negative.
For the most part I think Marriott is handling lifetime status fairly here. Here’s how they’re honoring lifetime status for existing members:
- Lifetime SPG Gold members will become lifetime Marriott Gold members
- Lifetime SPG Platinum members will become lifetime Marriott Platinum members
- Lifetime Marriott Gold members will become lifetime Marriott Platinum members
- Lifetime Marriott Platinum members will be grandfathered as lifetime Marriott Platinum Premier members (a lifetime status that can’t be earned going forward)
However, some members are frustrated for a couple of reasons, which are at least worth acknowledging:
- Marriott lifetime Platinum members are being grandfathered into Marriott lifetime Platinum Premier members, while SPG lifetime Platinum members have no way of earning that, even if they’ve way overqualified
- Some Marriott members who are super frequent guests are on the verge of earning lifetime status based on a combination of nights and points, but now a new 10 year status requirement is being put in place, which will delay when they earn status
- Going forward you can really only earn second (or third, depending on how you look at it) tier lifetime Platinum status, which is less lucrative than before
As I said above, I really think the new Marriott program is pretty close to being as good as it could have been. Marriott had so many interests to balance here, and my hats are off to them for the program they’ve come up with. Not everyone is coming out ahead, though, and hopefully the above is an accurate summary of that.
I’d say the most negatively impacted here are those who received comped status either with Marriott or Starwood. Does this change suck? Yep. At the same time, can we really blame Marriott? They wanted to introduce richer benefits, and you can’t do that while also massively increasing your elite pool.
Are there any other circumstances under which you feel the new program isn’t positive?