Goodbye SPG: What Families Should Know About the New Combined Marriott Program

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The big and very much anticipated Starwood and Marriott announcements came this afternoon live from New York City and many of our questions and concerns about what comes next for Starwood and Marriott have now been answered. As we knew would be the case, it isn’t all great news for traveling families, but it isn’t all bad news either. Let’s dig into what traveling families need to know about the coming SPG and Marriott changes, that you can read about in detail here.

Overview of SPG and Marriott Changes

First things first, these guys are now huge with 110 million members and the largest hotel portfolio in the world with over 6,500 hotels and 29 brands in 127 countries and territories. They are opening a new hotel an average of every 14 hours, and one out of four hotels under construction right now is in the Marriott/Starwood/Ritz Carlton family. They are taking all of these members and brands and combining them into one (yet to be named) loyalty program beginning in August, though the current names as we know them will live on until 2019. None of the changes to be discussed will take place before August 1st, so you don’t need to do anything right this second other than breathe and absorb the changes.

Despite their massive size, they heard the concerns and said they were committed to not reducing benefits. A lighthearted moment on the live stream was when it was said that “we read your blogs”. While not all the changes are positive, we were told that on average members will earn 20% more points while in hotels than they do now and that more hotels will go down in price than up when the new award chart is released.

New Combined Award Chart Coming on August 1st

Speaking of the new award chart, from August – December 2018, there will be seven categories that top out at 60,000 points per night as shown on the chart below in white. Beginning in 2019, there will be eight award categories and there will be off-peak, standard, and peak award pricing that goes as high as 100,000 points per night as shown in grey below.

Your SPG points will all be converted to Marriott on August 1, 2018, at the current 1:3 transfer ratio. Going forward, the award chart will use a Marriott style of award pricing. If you look at the bottom tier of the award chart, that means that in 2018 the cheapest hotels will be the equivalent of 2,500 SPG points per night, which is only slightly higher than they start now. I’m very intrigued by the top end of the chart as it seems to imply that the top-notch properties will be capped at the equivalent of 20,000 SPG points per night from August – December 2018. That almost seems too good to be true as currently, standard SPG rooms go as high as 35,000 SPG points per night at places like the St. Regis Punta Mita. Is it possible there will be a window to score a great deal at a top tier hotel?

St. Regis Punta Mita

Going forward, there will still be cash + points options and the ability to pay for four nights and stay five nights on points.

Earn More Points in the Hotels, Less on the Credit Cards

The theme here seems to be that you will on average earn more points while in the Marriott/SPG/Ritz Carlton Hotels, but less on everyday spending put on the SPG Amex cards. Non-elites will earn 10x points per dollar except at three brands – Element, TownePlace Suites, and Residence Inn, where the earning will be 5x points per dollar. Food, beverages, and incidentals charged to the room will count towards points earning totals.

I’ll dive into the co-branded credit cards towards the end, but know that you will be earning less on everyday non-bonused spending on the SPG Amex cards than you are today. Today you earn the equivalent of 3x Marriott points per dollar, and beginning in August that will drop to 2x Marriott points per dollar.

New Elite Status Tiers

As expected, the ability to qualify for elite status on stays is ending, but you will have one last chance to qualify for Platinum status with 25 Starwood stays in 2018, which will be my plan. It sounds like when the combined program arrives, you will only earn elite credit for your room instead of earning on up to three rooms at a time as you can currently with Starwood. This stings for families who like to book multiple rooms and spread out while earning elite status faster. Also as expected, most meaningful elite status benefits such as breakfast and lounge access don’t kick in until the 50 night Platinum level, however that can be reached with just an annual total of 35 nights if you have one of the co-branded credit cards.

Silver 10 – 24 nights

  • Late check-out based on availability
  • 10% points bonus

Gold 25 – 49 nights

  • 2PM late check-out based on availability
  • 25% points bonus
  • Points welcome amenity
  • Upgrade to premium rooms

Platinum 50 – 74 nights

  • 4PM late check-out
  • 50% points bonus
  • Points or breakfast welcome amenity
  • Space-available upgrade to select available suites
  • Lounge access
  • 5 Suite Night Awards or other annual benefit

Platinum Premier 75-99 nights

  • 4PM late check-out
  • 75% points bonus
  • Points or breakfast welcome amenity
  • Space-available upgrade to select available suites
  • Lounge access
  • 10 Suite Night Awards or other annual benefit

Ambassador 100 nights + $20,000 in annual spending

  • 4PM late check-out
  • 75% points bonus
  • Points or breakfast welcome amenity
  • Space-available upgrade to select available suites
  • Lounge access
  • 10 Suite Night Awards or other annual benefit
  • Ambassador service
  • Your24 benefit

As was rumored, the Ambassador level does have an annual spending requirement along with a stay requirement similar to how many airlines operate their elite status requirements, but the other levels only have an annual nights requirement. When you combine Starwood and Marriott accounts in August, you may achieve a higher elite tier based on combined Marriott Rewards and SPG nights stayed at any of the 29 brands, starting from January 1, 2018. However, if you are qualifying a final time based on 25 SPG stays in the year, your Marriott stays will not count towards that total.

The breakfast offering for Platinum members and above will be expanded to 23 participating brands, including Courtyard, AC Hotels by Marriott, Protea, and Moxy, as well as at resorts. However, Ritz-Carlton, Editions, Design Hotels, Gaylord Hotels, Marriott Vacation Club, and Marriott Executive Apartments still don’t have to provide breakfast to elites.

St. Regis Kauai continental breakfast

Airline transfers stay and expand

I don’t actually use my SPG points to transfer to airlines, but I know many of you do use your SPG points in that manner, so don’t worry as it will remain a feature of the combined program. You will be able to transfer your points to more than 40 airlines at a ratio of 3 points = 1 mile, with a 15,000 point bonus for every 60,000 you transfer. This essentially means that the current SPG airline transfer ratio stays.

New credit cards coming

I’ll do a whole separate post on this soon, but know that those who currently hold an SPG, Marriott, or Ritz Carlton credit card can keep those cards. Or, you will be able to apply for or upgrade to the new cards…hello welcome bonuses.

SPG Amex Luxury Credit Card with $450 fee available in August

A new SPG Amex Luxury Card with a $300 statement valid credit at participating Marriott hotels each year for on-property purchases and a $450 annual fee will be available in August. This card will also offer a Global Entry credit, Priority Pass Select membership, automatic Gold status with Platinum available to those who charge at least $75,000 on the card each year, and an annual award night at hotels costing up to 50,000 points at each renewal.

The card will award 6x points at Marriott hotels, 3x at US restaurants and flights booked with airlines, and 2x elsewhere.

New Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card available May 3rd

This new card will offer a 100,000 point new cardmember welcome bonus after spending $5,000 in the first 90 days. I’ll talk more about this new $95 annual fee card soon, but its perks will largely mirror the SPG Amex card perks touched on below.

SPG Amex Cards Get a Makeover

The SPG personal and business Amex card will be getting a makeover so that they convey automatic Silver status (Gold with high annual spending requirements), an annual anniversary award nights at hotels up to 35,000 points, and they will award 15 elite night credits beginning in 2019. Most unfortunately, the SPG Business Amex will cease providing Sheraton Club access on August 1, 2018.

Overall Impressions of SPG and Marriott Changes

My overall impression of the SPG and Marriott changes is that it could have been much worse and we probably couldn’t reasonably expect it to have been better. There are real losses to be sure, but not particularly unexpected ones. I’m a little surprised that non-bonused spending on the co-branded cards will get worse, but perhaps that is offset by the new annual anniversary awards. We all knew that qualifying for Platinum status on 25 annual stays was short for this world, but at least we can use it one more time in 2018. That will lock up status until early 2020, which isn’t terrible.

The potential to snag some top-tier SPG hotels for less in the latter half of this year is very intriguing for those of us with SPG points, but on the flipside, those used to the Marriott chart will likely see things get pricier. Of course, the real devil will be in how the hotels align on the new award chart, which we should hopefully know well in advance of the August 1st launch.

To have truly meaningful Marriott/SPG status after this year, it will be necessary to have 35 annual nights + a co-branded credit card that provides the other 15 nights, or put $75,000 per year on the premium version of the SPG Amex. That is harder to hit than the current threshold of 25 annual Starwood stays (21 if you have both the personal and business SPG Amex cards), but it is more attainable than earning Hyatt Globalist status which conveys somewhat similar benefits.

For now, I’m okay with what they announced. They didn’t wipe out having an award chart, they didn’t nuke elite benefits, they didn’t introduce anything new overnight, they are maintaining many partners and programs, they are giving us a final shot at earning SPG Platinum status the old-fashioned way, and they are continuing to baby-step us towards a new combined program.

You now know my take, but I’d love to hear yours!

Most of this came from the official press releases, live streamed information, and the Marriott website, with some accompanying tidbits coming from The Points Guy and View From the Wing who had the inside scoop.

Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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Comments

  1. Terrible news to me. I usually qualify to SPG Platinum based on 25 stays and don’t stay 50 nights on SPG/Marriott properties. Now I will be downgraded to Gold which won’t have breakfast, lounge access or 4pm checkout. Also, Amex SPG becomes useless as it was my daily credit card for earning 1 Starpoint per $1 and not that was devalued by 33%. Time to look at Hilton?

    • My thoughts EXACTLY!!!

      We’re in the same position. Those of us in the “bottom-tier” SPG Platinum status (using 25 stays to qualify), are being shafted. THIS is what happened to United’s “bottom Elite” customers, when they REALLY became Continental…masking the nightmare by using the United name. Ya know what? Anerican and Delta scooped up a ton of new customers! The smart move for us? HILTON!!!!!

  2. Summer: I believe you have it wrong on Gold. It will only give 2pm check out when available and not 4pm which is really bad.

  3. Does anyone know if they will still allow the free transfer of points between members living in the same household? This has been especially helpful when one of us has had the higher status. Apologies if you addressed it and I missed it.

    • No, it’s a great question and their website has a graphic that makes it look like a yes, but I need to confirm for sure.

  4. I opened the Marriott card a few months back when they offered 100,000 sign up, should I do the same for my hubby before May 3? This way we can both get the new cards when they are available?

  5. One negative for American Express, $30,000 spent on the SPG card gave SPG gold which matched to Marriott gold. Under the new scheme gold is both devalued and easy to achieve. I’ll achieve gold once my Marriott anniversary, so no need to concentrate on the SPG card, especially once it’s earnings are downgraded.

  6. For families that don’t travel often and can’t qualify for any statuses, best option is to grab the sign up bonus and cancel the card. Use points when you can. Do ur everyday spending on 2 % no annual fee cash back card and use that to buy any hotel room OF YOUR choice. No hotel points are worth more than 2 cents a point.

    • It depends of where you stay (low cost vs high cost), and what kind of spend. I can tell you that at the moment 1 SPG (3 Marriott) are worth more than 2 cents for the properties where I want to stay (high end). But in August, when SPG card only give you 2 Marriott per 1$ spend, you will be right. The best cards for non bonus spend will be a 2% cash back card.

      • The best card for unlimited non-bonus spend will be Chase Freedom Unlimited at 1.5 spend on the Sapphire Reserve Travel 1.5 Portal for a total of 2.25.

  7. I think is a bummer. You used to be able to achieve MR Gold for just $10k/yr with the RC card, which got you breakfast and club access. Now you have to spend $75k/yr!

  8. So, the only thing I am concerned about is the lifetime. I’m 12 years Platinum with 401 stays, so no way to get an additional 99 stays before 01 August. Is the ability to earn lifetime status gone moving forward? Feeling like I’m so close but so far!

    Marriott doesn’t seem to have addressed this topic…..

  9. I’ve been wondering if you will still be able to get United Silver status via Marriott status of whatever level. Haven’t seen anything on that other then general stuff about maintaining the relationship.

  10. Nice summation, but I have a couple comments. You state that resorts will get breakfast but Marriott clearly states that resorts will continue to be excluded. Also the SPG airline transfer is not staying the same. Currently 20k SPG points will get you 25k miles but new program will require 30k SPG (60,000/2) to get 25k miles. If my math is wrong please let me know. Thanks

    • Thanks, it is a lot to take in so totally possible I flubbed something somewhere, but I think I am right on those.
      Re breakfast: It says resorts are included in the FAQs.
      “Breakfast offering is new for Courtyard, AC Hotels by Marriott, Moxy Hotels, Protea Hotels and resorts.”
      https://members.marriott.com/faq/#is-complimentary-breakfast-available-for-platinum-elite-members

      Re the transfer, it will be 60,000 Marriot points ( which is 20,000 SPG x 3) and then you get a 15,000 bonus when transferring 60k for a total of 75,000 points which will equal 25,000 airline miles. So, you spend 20,000 current SPG points at the 3x conversion rate and still get 25,000 airline miles. Does that help?

      • Thanks for the resort clarification, I thought I saw on another post it was excluded. As for the airline transfer, I understand you math but that is under the current system where SPG cardholders still earn 3X but this is changing Aug 1. Since, you’re article is discussing the changes it really doesn’t make sense to rely on the 3X when it is going to 2X and thus an increase of 10,000 points to redeem for 25K in airline miles. Still a nice review

        • I think I know what you are saying. I’m talking about straight point transfers and you are talking about how they will be earned on the SPG Amex beginning in August? If so then yes, using the SPG Amex on everyday spend for the purpose of ultimately transferring to airlines will be diminished.

  11. I like some corporate policies at AmEx and would like to remain a customer…but I’m not thrilled with my SPG AmEx for everyday regular spend. I also don’t see a use for my family right now for their MR, but maybe I’m missing something.

    Will probably need to shift my spending to the Chase trifecta. Not sure if AmEx can keep a place in my wallet. Need to evaluate some more.

    • I don’t like the drop in everyday earning on the SPG at all. I do like the annual award night though. I do loooooove Membership Reward points though. Let me know if I can help more with those.

      • My family of 5 (3 kids), our home airport is IND, and we tend to stick with Southwest for our flights. We do not fly often, just 1-2 a year, though. Just domestic so far.

        We tend to stay in Marriott, SPG, Hyatt hotels, or use CUR for a non-chain.

        Given our habits (and need for a large enough room), let me know if you see value in MR for my setup.

        I did contact AmEx with the suggestion that if they somehow reward extra spending on their new SPG cards, such as 50% bonus when you make 30 transactions in a month as they do for the Everyday Preferred, they will keep the spenders around. That would essentially make it like 3 points/dollar.

  12. Hi, do you know whether SPG awards nights still count as a qualifying night towards elite status under the new program?

  13. I’m a Marriott Gold via Status Match, valid until the end of the year. Which means I’ll be the new Platinum. I’m a family traveler, so I wonder about:

    1) Breakfast – “After 50 nights across the portfolio, members will achieve Platinum Elite status. As part of the Platinum Welcome Gift, members will have the option of choosing points, an amenity or a breakfast offering – options vary by brand, and The Ritz-Carlton, EDITION, Marriott Vacation Club, Gaylord Hotels, Marriott Executive Apartments and Design Hotels do not participate in the breakfast offering option. A breakfast offering is new for Courtyard, AC Hotels by Marriott, Moxy Hotels, Protea Hotels and resorts. Brands that are currently offering lounge access will continue to offer complimentary breakfast as part of the lounge offering.”

    So it looks like I won’t get complimentary breakfast if there is a lounge. And I’m wondering about what they actually mean by ‘breakfast’–is this for everyone registered in my room or just me? Continental or the amazing buffet breakfast offered by the hotel?

    2) Suite Night Awards – “Suite Night Awards will be available for Platinum Elite Members who stay 50 nights and Platinum Premier Elite Members who stay 75 nights as an option within their Annual Choice Benefit. A Suite Night Award is a one-night confirmable upgrade to a standard suite or select premium room, depending on the hotel’s availability of those rooms. The number of Suite Night Awards used must match the entire length of stay; it cannot be used for part of a stay (e.g., the first two nights of a five-night stay). Once you request to use your Suite Night Awards for a stay, we’ll check the upgrade availability starting five days prior to arrival and keep checking every day until 2 p.m., hotel local time, on the day before your arrival. We’ll let you know either way if we’re able to confirm the upgrade or not. If it is not available, we’ll return the Suite Night Awards to your account.”

    So as a new Platinum in August 2018, will I be getting Suite Night Upgrades in August 2018? That would be AWESOME for our vacation at the beginning of August. Or is this only after I stay 50 nights (which isn’t going to happen). Would I then need to use these Upgrades between August and when my status drops in January, or do I have a year?

    So many things to figure out…

    • Where did you see that Gold members will become Platinum? If I am SPG Gold, I presume MR would status match me to MR Gold. Does that mean I would become combined program Platinum for the remainder of 2018 even without 25 stays or 50 nights?

  14. Hi MommyPoints… question for you if you don’t mind. If I become Lifetime Gold WHEN the actual SPG/Marriott combo occurs in August (ie my SPG Lifetime Nights and SPG-converted 3:1 Marriott points bring me over 500 Lifetime Nights and over 1.6M points), does that Lifetime Gold status subsequently convert right over to Lifetime Platinum Status??? This will 100% determine my strategy in the upcoming few months (changing SPG stays to Marriott, booking meetings for the 10-night elite bump per meeting, transferring from Chase Ultimate Rewards, etc. to ensure the 1.6M Lifetime Marriott Points & 500+ Elite Lifetime Nights). Thanks so much in advance.

    Also curious why they took away the Gold Status breakfast/lounge access…. and why the maximum amount of elite nights from all the credit cards (SPG & Marriott, person and biz) is now capped at 15/yr. That’s atrocious compared to the stackability we have now for paying for 4 credit cards….

    Appreciate it. Hope to hear from you soon.

    • Likely took away Gold benefits as you know them because there will just be way too many Golds with their massive number of members and all the pathways to Gold. As for the lifetime question I’m not sure I follow…if your combined activity will qualify you for Lifetime Gold then I think Lifetime Gold is what you will get. Those with who already have Marriott Lifetime Gold going into August will convert to Lifetime Platinum, but unless I am misunderstanding I don’t think those who qualify for Gold only once programs are combined will convert. For clarity sake, SPG Lifetime Gold will only convert to Lifetime Gold in the new program.

  15. I think the Lounge Stay with the spg business card was vastly overrated. The few times I used it, the hotel was unaware and I had to contact SPG direct to let the hotel know. I am glad it’s being replaced by the free night. For people that have both SPG cards and the marriot card they will have 3 free nights to use in what is essentially a category 5 hotel. It will be 4 nights if you also have the premier Amex card. That is unprecedented if you can get decent value out of it.

    • The execution of that perk was poor. I would have preferred improved execution rather than elimination, but you are right that the annual award nights may be very valuable…depending on how that categorize hotels.

  16. Will United Gold members still automatically get Marriott Gold status? I don’t stay at Marriott properties enough to earn Marriott status so that has been useful for me.

    Thanks for the terrific summary!

    • I’m not sure if we have seen that exact detail yet. The closest I have seen is Frequent Miler being told that “those with 75 night elite status with Marriott will get United Silver status.”

  17. As you said, changes were expected. Anybody believed that the SPG card would continue to give you 3 Marriott points per 1$??? Anybody believed that, with SPG hotels been 10 times nicer than Marriott hotels, there were not going to be a new category or points increase? For people complaining about the devaluation of Marriott Gold…just get a Hilton Amex and stay at Hilton. For me, I am happy that I will continue be able to get top tier status by spend on CC, something that I cant do with Hyatt.

      • Yes, it is. Specially if you can put 75k early in the year…because you get the status for that year, and next. So, for 75K spending you will get 2 years of Platinum status. I did it with the Ritz card, probably will change it to the SPG premium card next time.

  18. Biggest negative for us is the drop in CC earn rate! But the good news out of it is that if we get the new premium card for basically paying $50 more per year (when we consider the perks that we will use) and putting the same spend as normal (we can do $75K easily) we can get Platinum status. Still not sure if it will be worth it until the award chart is published. Might rather put that $75K spending on another card. We shall see!

  19. What happens if someone qualifies for SPG Platinum on stays before August 2018? Would they be considered Marriott Platinum (under the current match system) and map to the new Platinum premier 75k? Or will they map to the new Platinum Elite? I will be close to getting SPG Platinum on 25 stays by August – was wondering if I should push to get there for sure?

  20. Any word on how they’ll count multiple rooms under the same reservation? My understanding was SPG and Marriott counted them differently? Traveling with a family, that can make a big difference in the yearly night count.

  21. Mommy,

    FYI: I confirmed with two separate Marriott representatives. 60K will be the top reward for August-December 2018. And it is a conversion of SPG to Marriott from 1:3. I have 42K SPG points and no trips at this point planned. As of now, I plan to let my points just transfer over and then book 2 nights this fall or winter at maybe a St Regis or W Hotel somewhere…just need to find a cheap flight to the Maldives…

    In all seriousness though, I asked twice and they confirmed that 60K is the top reward on the chart from August to December 2018. I really hope they don’t go back on their word now.

    The one hiccup is that they have not identified which SPG hotels fall into which Marriott category. It will be interesting to see where properties like the Swan end up in Marriott. My assumption is that they will be category 6 unfortunately, but who knows. Just need to see how late 2018 vs 2019 compares when its all released.

    Also, I literally never use Marriott. Do you have a link to their current reward chart hotels? I have been looking on-line and all I can find is their upcoming chart. I want to find the chart that shows the Marriott properties currently and their categories. Thanks!

  22. A few questions —

    1. Will the Categories change? That is, if a hotel is SPG Category 2 (Four Points) or Category 5 (Swan/Dolphin), will they likely stay the same under the new program, but with the new points requirements?

    2. For the new $450 SPG Amex, can I switch my existing $95 to the $450 or is that only for new customers? Also, can the $300 credit be used to pay for a room? resort fee/parking? just food/drinks?

    3. If I earn say Gold or Platinum before August 1, will I stay in the same status or be downgraded to the new combined program’s equivalent (SPG Platinum = New Gold, SPG Gold = New Silver)?

    4. Can I earn Platinum based on 25 stays through December 31 or only July 31?

    5. Will they keep both the SPG Amex and Marriott Visa post merge? If I get the MR Visa now, will I get 2 free reward nights (1 from SPG Amex, 1 from MR Visa) annually?

    6. If I am reading correctly, as Gold, I would get 12.5 points/dollar (on room rate only) for stays at SPG-Marriott properties as well as an 6 points/dollar (on total) from my SPG Amex for a total of 18.5 points?

    Cat. 2 – 12,500 MR Points ($676) vs. 3,000 Starpoints ($600)
    Cat. 5 – 35,000 MR Points ($1,892) vs. 12,000 Starpoints ($2,400)

    It looks like it will be easier to earn towards higher category hotels, but slightly more difficult for lower category (Four Points), especially earning only 67% of what I used to on everyday spending (2 MR Points vs. 1 Starpoint).

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