Big Marriott and Starwood Announcements to Come on Monday

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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 CardStarwood 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.

SPG Platinum Continental Breakfast at St. Regis Princeville Kauai

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?

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Comments

  1. Ending qualification by stays will be terrible for me. I usually stay around 25-30 nights at Starwood properties but almost always on 1 night each so I qualify to Platinum based on stays. I stay a lot more nights but in Europe where Starwood/Marriott footprint is very small compared to the US so I end up staying in local chains that do not reward anything. I feel my days of having high status with a hotel chain are numbered. 🙁

    • And for me. I have abandoned SPG Plat as of this year. Prices in popular cities have also gone up substantially, I am now using AirBnB more in in those cases. Still have gold status through other means. Back to being a free agent.

  2. I think I am going to miss my free breakfasts. BTW, that is a gorgeous breakfast photo from Kauai – what a backdrop!

  3. After avoiding Marriott for many years as a loyal spg plat I am not expecting anything good from this. They will screw us and flush the best programme down the drain. Exactly why I had never liked them. Seeing the overtanned greedy smile or A.S. in the video announcing changes and a joint programme for the second half of 2018 makes me vomit.

  4. We know we’re terrible trouble if Arne’s first words tomorrow are “Welcome to Our New, Improved Program: ‘WORLD OF MARRIOTT’!!!”

  5. Am very concerned about the SPG Fifth Night Free – I have a specific five-night redemption in mind and I’m hoping I can sneak it in at the Cat 4 SPG hotel before, I’m sure, it becomes at least a Cat 6 or 7 in the new program.

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