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
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…