Please note this site has financial relationships with American Express and this post may contain affiliate links. Read my Advertiser Disclosure policy here to learn more about my partners.
Two more days. In two more days, many of our loyalty fears that have been mounting for close to three years will be realized or alleviated when Marriott and Starwood make some pretty major announcements live from New York City. They aren’t specifying what exactly they are announcing in the invitations to the event, but there are very good odds on this being the announcement related to the combined loyalty program to complete the three-year merger of the programs.
Thankfully, you don’t need to be in New York City to get this information as it happens since it will be streamed to their respective Facebook pages.
The long march to full integration
From Day One, they said they would run parallel programs for a period of time, likely until 2018. They have been pretty thoughtful about the integration and the changes made thus far have largely been in our favor. Now 2018 is here and there’s really no doubt that the programs will become one. This means more changes are coming, and probably pretty quickly. Many rumors point to the combined program launching in August 2018, which would make sense given the timing of a big announcement in April. That gives some lead time for training and preparations before the changes are implemented, but not an excessive amount of time.
What will SPG and Marriott announce on Monday
There are plenty of rumors floating around about what Monday’s announcement will look like, some of which are likely grounded in truth. I’ve heard about five potential status tiers with the highest tied to a spending requirement in addition to a stay requirement. The unfortunate reality is that it is very likely that qualifying for top-tier status via 25 stays the way you currently can for SPG Platinum will become a distant memory. I would place my money on the new SPG/Marriott program with their massive footprint requiring at least as many nights per year for the really meaningful elite benefits as the much smaller World of Hyatt. I expect to have to spend at least 50 – 60 nights per year in Marriott/Starwood properties to qualify for anything more than very elite modest benefits that can probably be obtained with a co-branded credit card.
There has been an isolated rumor that airline transfers from Starwood will be ending effective on Monday, which I find to be very unlikely. I do expect changes to come in that arena, but doing a hard stop overnight would be a 180-degree departure from the methodical changes they have made to this point. Plus, remember that Marriott allows for airline transfers in a way too, via their Hotel + Air packages, so I don’t expect them to shift away from that capability entirely.
My least favorite Marriott and Starwood rumor
The rumor I like the very least is the one about award pricing becoming dynamic. This is a fancy way to say that award pricing is going revenue based. While it is true that this can mean properties cost fewer points when cash rates are low, it also takes away the ability to get outsized value from your points when rates are high due to peak travel dates (ie school breaks), or simply because you want to stay at a high-end property with a big cash price. My hope is that if they do go this route, that they will take a Hilton Honors approach that uses a hybrid model with dynamic pricing kicking in when rates are lower, but set caps still in effect and tied to (an unpublished) award chart on the backend.
Credit cards will also be changing
We already know that the line-up of Marriott and Starwood credit cards will be changing in 2018, with some of the cards going away. They haven’t officially said what all is going away, so that is left to educated guessing. We know for sure there will be a new Marriott consumer premium card issued by American Express, we also know there will be an enhanced small business card issued by American Express.
If you want to be certain to get your hands on one of the existing cards such as the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card, Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card, or one of the Chase-issued Marriott cards, then know that there is a risk in continuing to wait. At least some of those cards will close to new applicants at some point, and there may or may not be advance notice given.
Answers to come on Monday
I really have no idea exactly what we will hear from Marriott and Starwood on Monday, but the things that are too good to stay probably won’t. For example, the ability to book a top-tier Category 9 Marriott property for the equivalent of just 15,000 SPG points will likely end, as will the ability to earn meaningful status that gets you free breakfasts and suite upgrades for just 25 stays per year. I do trust that we should have a few months to get used to the announcements before they take effect, so I’m not doing anything speculatively over the weekend.
I can’t make it to NYC for the announcement, but will be glued to the live stream on Monday afternoon to hash out the changes with you as soon as they are made. What do you expect to hear from Marriott and Starwood on Monday?
Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.