Marriott’s Puzzling Mid-Year Program Transition

There are so many things that I find interesting about the way in which Marriott is designing their new loyalty program. One of the things I find most surprising is the timing of the transition, and how Marriott is creating this new program as of August 2018. This only gives us a bit over three months notice of the new program being introduced. In general I’d prefer more notice for such major program changes, though at the same time I’m personally quite pleased with the new program, and will benefit from it being introduced sooner rather than later.

However, I can’t totally wrap my head around Marriott’s timing with these changes, and why they didn’t instead just announce a new program starting in 2019. The way I see it, consumers both win and lose because of this decision. While I think the new program is mostly very well thought out, I’m not sure I get Marriott’s motive here.

Why I’m excited about the mid-year transition

There are some great potential benefits to this mid-year transition. Personally I’m most excited about the hugely reduced rates for award redemptions as of August, which will allow me to save more than 40% off the cost of some redemptions. This is huge for many of us, as it means we’ll be able to book many of SPG’s best hotels for just 16,000 Starpoints per night over the course of a five night stay. It almost seems too good to be true, especially as they’ll only introduce peak pricing and Category 8 in 2019.

I’m not the only one winning with the mid-year changes. Those Marriott Gold members who will be transitioned to Marriott Platinum will start to see suite upgrades as a benefit. Members will be able to combine elite qualifying nights this year to earn status.

But it’s not all good news, and some are claiming there’s some level of bait-and-switch here.


Redemption rates at the W Verbier are going way down

Some members are having benefits taken away mid-year

While Marriott’s new status levels largely reflect the benefits that members had before, that’s not the case across the board. For example, take an SPG Platinum member with 75 nights who is entitled to Your24, which lets you check-in and check-out at any point over a 24 hour period, subject to availability (this is great in the Middle East, when you have a flight arriving and departing at 3AM, for example). As of August, that benefit will only be available to 100 night elite members. So in other words, in 2016 a member specifically may have stayed 75 nights for that benefit, but is only receiving it for the first seven months of the year.

As another example, an SPG Platinum member who earns 50 elite qualifying nights by July would receive 10 Suite Night Awards, while a member who earns that many elite nights as of August would only receive five Suite Night Awards.

As far as general program perks go, Starwood lets you earn elite qualifying nights for up to three rooms, so imagine if someone has a pre-paid rate for multiple rooms in August through December, and did so specifically so they could earn credits for all those rooms. That’s no longer the case as of August.

Those are just a few examples…


Some members will see a mid-year reduction in the number of Suite Night Awards they earn

Bottom line

Personally I’ll probably benefit from this mid-year transition, given the incredible award redemption opportunities that will be available for SPG members starting in August. I know many others are in the same boat.

However, it’s still worth acknowledging that these mid-year program changes are odd, and certainly leave some people getting things that are different than what they were expecting. I think for the most part Marriott has tried to make sure people keep similar benefits to before, though there are some things that are lost in that process.

Some will benefit from the mid-year transition, while others will lose. I still don’t really understand Marriott’s motive in merging programs mid-year, rather than waiting until the new year…

Comments

  1. You really think you’re going to get reduced rates? Having peak, off peak and standard award rates is code for dynamic pricing. This is not going to be a positive change for us.

  2. What is your thoughts on those who are in the middle of Marriott Platinum challenge? I have Gold which will become Platinum in August. If I finish the challenge, I will be platinum for another year? Thanks you for your thoughts.

  3. Lucky, repeat after me…
    “there is no category 9”
    “there is no category 9”
    “there is no category 9”

    🙂

  4. Also, where have you seen that already-earned 2018 SPG benefits (like Y24 and SNAs) are being taken away 8/1? My Ambassador already confirmed I can use the service through Feb.

  5. Hopefully Marriott will do the right thing and match all Marriott Golds to Plat in August regardless of how a Gold member had obtained the Gold status.
    It will be rudiculous to have the lounge access and breakfast benefit taken away mid-year.

  6. I’m not excited by the prospect of cheaper SPG top-end places from August; mostly properties I don’t care for ( St Regis) or in places of no interest ( Maldives).
    On the other hand, one of the ( very, very few) good things out of this farce is the opportunity to redeem points for Marriott properties at a significant discount to real value and have them count in the nights tally. Many of good hotels in London, NYC and elsewhere are effectively 12,000 SPG points ( 36,000 Marriott) on the 5th night free plan. Looks good value to me.
    It’s not going to last, of course but ok for now.

  7. It’s been pretty widely disclosed to other bloggers that the all-suite properties (like Al Maha) will still have a premium award price above the new award chart (as with the old one).

    Do you have confirmation that this is NOT the case for the August-December period?

  8. @LACJeff – This article is specifically about 2018. For 2018, there are no peak rates, and Category 7 is the highest. Thus, anyone making a points stay at a property that would have cost over 20k SPG per night before August is guaranteed to save points on reservations made from August to the end of the year.

  9. I second Kris’s question.

    Also, do we have confirmation that present MR GOLD members, who are gold having matched via SPG Gold/Amex Platinum, will remain as Platinum through Dec. 31, 2018? There are so many conflicting reports about this. Thanks!

  10. those who have gold with Marriott via Amex credit card— starting in Aug— will they become platinum???

  11. I third Kris’s question – haven’t been able to find out the answer anywhere and the Marriott rep who I asked was very confused and hung up on me. I am also in the middle of a Marriott platinum challenge (expecting to finish it up in the middle of June). Not sure what happens to my status for 2018-2020.

  12. @ BRAD — We don’t know for sure, and I have a question out to Marriott about this. Hope to have to have an official answer soon.

  13. @ Evan — I don’t, and I’m not claiming that all-suite properties will be priced at the “normal” prices.

  14. @ UA-NYC — Whoops about the Cat. 9, fixed! The new elite benefits apply as of August 1. So if you have an Ambassador you’d continue to get Your24, and you can keep using SNAs. So it doesn’t seem like you’d be impacted by that?

  15. @ LAXJeff — In 2018 there’s no peak and off-peak pricing, which is the extent of the point I’m making here.

  16. A bit confused about suite night awards, if you are currently platinum and you requalify after August can the temporary upgrade to platinum premier give you an additional 5 to make 10?
    Otherwise I’ll need to try and get to 50 much sooner.

  17. Have they defined yet what “qualifying revenue” means for purposes of ambassador level? I found an faq on their site that states we’ll start seeing our YTD total on our accounts in August, but no definition of what’s included. Is it just room rate, room rate plus incidentals, etc? The fact incidentals will start earning points across all brands leads me to hope the broader definition will apply, but I don’t want to make assumptions.

  18. There seems to be a lot of confusion on the blogosphere about whether which Gold Members will get the upgrade to Platinum for a few months starting August 1. Some say only those who earned Gold through Marriott, others say all Gold (both Marriott-earned and SPG-earned). Very confusing, particularly since the status match gave SPG increased lounge/breakfast access, only to have that taken away mid-year is bizarre.

  19. For People who earned Marriott Gold from SPG match( AKA credit card match) will not receive platinum from August. This is confirmed by David Flueck.

    Starting from August, there will also be a different award pricing for all suites resort. For example, st. regis maldives and alike will a premium award pricing like now. This is also confirmed by David Flueck.

  20. @ RonPaul — There are conflicting, active reports on both of those, so personally I wouldn’t take either as fact as of now. Hopefully we have some clarity soon.

  21. @ A Different Kris — They haven’t officially clarified (I’m working on getting confirmation), though my assumption would be room rate plus incidentals. Basically any qualifying spend, and I’d guess this will actually be calculated based on the base points earned for stays.

  22. I viewed confirmation on the TPG YouTube site yesterday that SPG gold members that were status matched to Marriott gold will be converted to the “new” Marriott Gold in August. Only Marriott gold memberships that were earned via stays or Credit Card charges (e.g., Chase Marriott or Ritz Carlton ) will be converted to platinum.
    https://youtu.be/dWfgPgiWlqU

  23. Is there any clarification receive on achieving status on the Ritz Carlton card? Does it make sense to put $75,000 on it before August 1st to lock in status for 2 years?

    Thanks

  24. @ EdO — While that’s true, several other Marriott executives have confirmed as recently as last night that matched members would get Platinum status. For example, Head for Points confirmed this last night:
    “Marriott’s European VP of loyalty confirmed that any Amex Platinum member who has matched their SPG Gold to Marriott Gold will become ‘Merged Scheme’ Platinum until the end of 2018.”

    I get the sense that Marriott is still trying to figure out what exactly the policy is. I wouldn’t take one side or the other as fact as of now.

  25. @Lucky

    Might want to correct the previous post “Incredible Marriott Points Redemption Opportunities Coming Soon.”
    You wrote: “Marriott won’t introduce Category 7 hotels until 2019, meaning that stays booked between August and December of 2018 (even if stays are on subsequent dates) will cap at Category 8”

    Thats exactly backwards.

  26. As a 50 night Platinum with SPG, I think the new program is awful. There’s a ton of bad news and only three good things that aren’t transitory: Breakfast at Courtyards, suite upgrades if the hotel feels like it, and that the new program isn’t even worse. Compare those with the many negatives and you have a really bad program.

  27. My assumption is it’s about the transition and massive amount of behind the scenes work (mostly on the IT side) that has to occur. it’s just more prudent to roll out the huge coding changes in stages than have everything hit at the same time.

  28. @Edo — I also watched the video and Flueck was so fluent about the new changes that there is little doubt that he was smack in the middle of the development of the new program.

    He was clear about the fact that that MR Gold elites would be converted to Platinum elites. However, he also did say “EARNED Gold elites”, which suggests that folks who got the MR Gold elite status through CC or through the UA-MR RewardPlus JV won’t be converted to Platinum elite, but that remains murky.

    On the other, what is crystal clear is that SPG Golds who were matched to MR Gold elite through status reciprocity won’t be converted to Platinum elite.

  29. @ Lucky, Do we have any info yet on what happens to the SPG free night (Cat 1-5) that one has chosen as SPG Plat 50 benefit at end of 2017 and is valid till 31 Dec 18? Where would that slot in now with the proposed change of award categories ?

  30. Will Marriott change their website at all? Right now, it’s terrible. Impossible to compare rates between cash, SET, and free nights, like you can do on the SPG site. This makes booking hotels a big pain.

  31. With the new program starting in August do you think Platinum Premium members will get all 10 Suite Award Nights to use between then and December or a reduced amount?

  32. @Lucky, what is your interpretation of the Annual Choice Benefit, would it be awarded in August and again in 2019 (assuming 50 and 75 nights have been reached)? I’m too excited that I can potentially earn 10 SNA’s and 2 free night awards, or up to 20 SNA’s between Aug and next year.

  33. Can you make award bookings now at hotels that will be discounted starting in August and then get a refund of the points reduction when August hits so that you can guarantee a room?

  34. I don’t think Marriott ultimately would deprive any of its current gold elite members the benefits they currently enjoy in midyear because
    1) These members may have booked reservations (some of them may have prepaid) with the assumption they’ll enjoy the current gold elite benefits.
    2) It’s way too complicated for Marriott IT to sort out the issue (figuring out the origin of the current gold status AND whether combined nights in the two programs wouldn’t qualify the member to the new platinum level) without potential costly errors.
    3) The current wording in the Marriott announcement is too vague and Marriott could face lots of complaints and even legal challenges.

  35. I’m really confused about the 10 SNAs. According to TPG, SPG Platinum members will receive 10 SNAs if they achieve Platinum prior to August 1st, 2018. I am currently SPG Platinum, so will I receive 10 SNAs come August 1st? Or, do I have to re-qualify for Platinum prior to August 1st (planning to do this with 25 stays at SPG, hence, my Platinum is valid until 2020), in order to get that 10 SNAs?

  36. Lucky

    If i have 20 nights from SPG and 25 nights from marriott. Does my account combine them to show 45 nights in Aug when they merge the program? does that means I only need 5 more nights from marriott to get to 50 night platinum or do I have to do another 25 nights with marriott?
    Also If I have 10 nights of SPG from amex card and 15 nights from marriott credt card. in Aug will it shows up as combined 25 nights or 15 nights?

    Thanks

  37. I think the reason why Marriott is doing this is because they HOPE the incredible values for award-redemption at top-level, aspirational properties between August and February 1, 2019, will be enough to make people forget about the MASSIVE devaluations that will occur beginning February 1, 2019. You can be damn sure that every decent hotel in the Caribbean, Hawaii, the South Pacific, the Gulf of Mexico, Paris, London, Rome, Miami, San Francisco, New York, the Pacific coast of Mexico, and the Indian Ocean will be 100,000 points per night for most of the year.

  38. Lucky: you are being so naive. Do you really think you will be able to book as many St Regis properties you want at 16,000 SPG points per night? Even if Marriott missed that loophole they read your blog and since you said that so many times they will ensure this never happens.

  39. @Alex, you will receive the 10 SNAs only if you become Plat50 before August. If you reach Plat through 25 stays you will not receive SNAs per the current regulation. You will probably receive 5 after Aug 1 due to the programme merger and from 2019 only 5 once you reach 50 nights.

  40. @Lucky, I perfectly understand you have thousands of questions to answer, yet I would be extremely happy if you were able to get clarification on the upgrade policy question. Will it be a guarantee like spg nie (best available room incl. suites) or a gamble at the hotel’s discretion? For me, together with only being able to earn nights from one room, this really is or would be a game changer…

    thanks!

  41. Lucky – you’ve been so helpful and responsive to questions and nuance with the new Marriott program, but I don’t think I ever saw a single response to all the folks who wanted Chase to explain why a segment of IHG card holders will never receive an unlimited anniversary night certificate while folks before, and apparently after, did/will. Are hard questions to credit card companies off limits? I’m one of the folks who signed up based, in part, on excitement generated by OMAAT for an aspirational IHG anniversary certificate use…

  42. I’m definitely not a fan of eliminating stays from the elite status levels. My work travel heavily favors one night stays and even with the addition of Marriott properties, I don’t see myself hitting 50 nights given how poor both brands are with properties outside of urban/touristy areas. Thankfully, if you stay only at SPG properties through 2018, you can still achieve SPG Plat with 25 stays and seemingly be Platinum Elite under the new program for 2019.

  43. Any ideas on the following:
    Booked 5 nights using 180,000 Marriott points for mid February 2019 at category 8 hotel. The new point rates state that will be in the 85,000 – 100,000 point range, depending on if it’s standard, off-peak, or peak time. Will they honor my original reservation or change it potentially 400,000 points? Can’t find anything about that situation. Thinking they might not honor, since tons of people will book, using points, before the changes. Maybe I’m not thinking this through clearly.

  44. How do you find out how many years you’ve been Marriott Platinum? The current site has your lifetime stays to include Nights and points, but no way to find out years of Platinum.

    Aloha

  45. Lucky – You mentioned in one of your replies above that Marriott have not yet confirmed which incidentals will be included as eligible spend for the purpose of reaching the new USD 20,000 spending required for continued Ambassador status. Could you please keep onto them to make this public as soon as possible ? I understand that Spa services will be included which is great as they were never previously included as eligible spend by SPG. A list of either inclusions or exclusions would be very useful.

  46. I read that multiple room SPG bookings made before the changes will still get night credits for up to 3 rooms.
    Can someone confirm?

  47. Most people who can afford 75 nights a year are not playing a points game, did it ever occur to you?
    In fact, most of the people who can afford to pay for 75 nights in a hotel in a year are not interested in the points accrued.
    Its actually pretty surprising that you, flying first class several times a year, are bothered about points.
    I am unashamedly ‘rich’, I have attained Platinum on SPG this year, and I’ve received 2 free nights, which I used at Prince Kioicho Tokyo, and I would have paid for them anyway if they were not free.
    The fact that I’ve spent circa £20,000 at St. Regis and Luxury Collection hotels over the last 12 months and they gave me $600 USD of 2 free nights is pretty inconsequential.
    The risk vs. reward of being loyal is loosing it, I would have rather have stayed at the Pen. or MO. in Tokyo than have a measly $600 comped.

  48. Does this mean I can book and stay at Marriott & SPG properties before August and still get the sum to qualify for elite status?

  49. @K4

    Did it ever occur to you that many people who stay 75+ nights a year are doing so for business travel? The upper tiers of any hotel rewards or frequent flier program are filled with people with jobs that require them to spend that much time away from home, and most of them aren’t getting rich by doing so. Acquiring points for personal travel is just a small benefit for spending so much time away from home. The hotels and airlines don’t really care where the money is coming from, they just want the person who controls the spending to choose their product, so a good loyalty program can go a long way here.

  50. My guess is that they are doing this mid year to see how many people scream and moan and how much backlash they can anticipate and make changes accordingly before 2019.

    All I can say is everyone should b*tch at their most mega best to get a better deal in place. This is our one opportunity. I’m hoping lots of people call to cancel their spg card. Maybe then they will reinstate 3 marriott points per purchase.

  51. How do you know about incredible award redemptions when they haven’t yet announced what category each hotel is in? Sounds like wishful thinking.

    Joe: I did tell AmEx I was going to cancel 2 cards, asked what my last day was to get my annual fees credited because they are all coming up. But so far they don’t seem to care and wouldn’t even waive one annual fee. I put a LOT of spend on the card too. Maybe things will change as more people cancel, but maybe they are going to hang on as long as possible in case things change. Catch 22..

  52. According to the chart Marriott posted titled “Here’s How Members Tiers Will Change In August” it shows that current Platinum Elite members will be upgraded to the Platinum Premier, valid until the end of the year.

    This means come August 1st, SPG Platinum members (who earned status with 25 EQS or 50 EQN) will automatically be Platinum Premier as well, since we are, through the current status match between the two programs, are Marriott Platinum Elite as well. Is that correct?

    SPG Plat -> Status Match = MR Plat -> Program Change = MR Plat Prem

    By that logic then, all SPG Platinums are entitled to that 10 Suite Night Awards, come August 1st. Right?

    Confusing. I know…

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