Starwood Preferred Guest and Marriott Rewards Are Merging
Marriott Rewards, The Ritz-Carlton Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) are set to merge into one unified loyalty program in August 2018. The announcement made today isn’t a huge surprise, since Marriott International bought Starwood Hotels a few years back, but now we’re finally seeing the various rewards programs come together as one.
This news is huge for members of the programs since you’ll now be able to book stays and earn or redeem points at all of the 29 participating Marriott global brands—consisting of 6,500 hotels in 127 countries and territories—without having to transfer points from one rewards program to the next. SPG points will be tripled in August, members will earn on average 20% more points for every dollar spent, and more status tiers will be offered as well.
Changes to the program are mostly positive, and I’ve confirmed with Amex how exactly this affects your points, status, and use of the Starwood Preferred Guest credit card.
Changes to Redeeming Points
When the new, yet-to-be-named program launches, all hotels will be recategorized on a scale from 1-8 (as of now they are scaled from 1-7). A free night at a Category 1 hotel will cost 7,500 points while Category 8 hotels will cost 85,000 points. That may seem high, but keep in mind that the top SPG hotels currently cost an equivalent of 105,000 Marriott Rewards points for a free night, so it appears that there may be some good value still when making an award redemption.
Although there will be no blackout dates, Marriott is introducing a free night award chart with peak, standard and off-peak pricing at all hotels. Generally speaking, peak rates will cost you roughly 20% more points while off-peak will be 20% less. Hotels can adjust to peak and off-peak pricing within 14 days but it must be in the pricing of their category. Remember, with Marriott, you can book your stay without even having the points in your bank, so it’s in your best interest to make reservations early.
For the time being, all free nights will be set at standard pricing. The peak, standard and off-peak pricing for a free night comes into play in 2019, with their redemption levels displayed in the below table:
|HOTEL CATEGORY||STANDARD (effective August 2018)||OFF-PEAK (coming in 2019)||PEAK (coming in 2019)|
|8 (coming in 2019)||85,000||70,000||100,000|
New Status Tiers
What’s great about the merger is that all your stays across the various brands will now count toward the new status tiers, which are as follows:
- Silver elite status after 10 nights stayed
- Gold elite status after 25 nights stayed
- Platinum elite status after 50 nights stayed
- Platinum Premier elite status after 75 nights stayed
- Ambassador after 100 nights stayed and $20,000 of spend
- Members who have achieved Lifetime status will still be recognized
I’ll give an example of how this will work: let’s say you currently have 17 stays accumulated with Marriott hotels and 10 with SPG properties, come August, you will have 27 stays total which will qualify you for Gold elite status. Once you reach these status tiers, you’ll also earn additional points per dollar spent at properties at a rate of 10, 25, 50, and 75% extra for Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Platinum Premier tiers respectively.
One downside to note is that free breakfast, lounge access, and the welcome gift upon arrival to a property will now only be available for members with Platinum elite status or higher.
New Airline Transfer Partners
Members will be excited to hear that airline transfer partners are being increased to a total of 40. The list of additional airlines isn’t yet available, but having more partners is never a bad thing.
Marriott hasn’t revealed the exact transfer ratio for airlines, but they stated that there would be no devaluation. They also confirmed that the 25% bonus when transferring 20,000 points (or the to-be-announced equivalent) would remain intact.
How Does This Affect the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card?
There are two major changes to note when it comes to Marriott’s official credit card partner, the Starwood Preferred Guest credit card from American Express.
The SPG card formerly offered a highly lucrative signup bonus of 20,000 Starpoints for those that charged $1500 to the card in the first 3 months of card membership. This is now being replaced with the following:
- $100 statement credit for charging $1500 to the card in the first 3 months
- Another $150 statement credit for spending $200 at Marriott or SPG hotels in the first 6 months
This is a significant downgrade, as the value of 20,000 Starpoints was worth about $446.
The referral bonus of 5,000 SPG points is being replaced with a $25 statement credit. That’s also a fairly significant downgrade, as 5,000 SPG points are worth about $111.
Although this is disappointing, I’ve confirmed with American Express and Marriott that this is strictly temporary as they prepare for the program changes. I’ve also been told that new ways to earn and burn points will be announced soon.
If you’re still on the fence when it comes to applying for the Starwood Preferred Guest credit card from American Express, it’s still one of the best hotel rewards cards in the Canadian market. For full details, please visit our Amercian Express SPG page.
Those looking for ultra-premium cards might consider the American Express Platinum credit card, which gives you 50,000 Amex Membership Rewards points after you spend $3,000 in the first three months. Those points can be transferred to SPG at a 2:1 ratio, so you would end up with 25,000 SPG points. But be warned that the card comes with a hefty annual fee of $699!
Although some people will be disappointed with the changes, especially when it comes to redeeming for hotel nights, members should generally be excited by the idea of the best features of the Marriott Rewards and SPG programs being combined. Once finalized, the new Marriott Rewards program will easily be the best hotel loyalty program for Canadians.