Eight Features of the Combined Starwood and Marriott Program You May Have Missed

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A couple of days ago we got to open a huge trove of information about what comes next as the Marriott and Starwood programs become one. It was such a trove of information that it is impossible to digest every single nuance and situation in one sitting. You can view my take on many of the details in the Marriott and Starwood announcement here, but today I want to zero in one a few details that may have been missed in the first review of the information. Some of these details are pieces of good news while others aren’t going to be quite as well received.

The Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card from American Express

Elite status won’t get you into the lounges at all resorts

While Platinum elite status and above will get you into many lounges and will get you breakfast or a food credit at 23 or the 29 combined brands, it will not get you into lounges at every single resort property. The rules as written on this are pretty confusing, but I’ve reached out to Marriott to try and help clarify the situation.

As you can see above for Platinum members and above lounge access is listed as a perk, but then at the end of that bullet point it says “Excludes Resorts”. That would really stink to lose the ability to visit the lounge at the resort properties that have lounges, but that isn’t actually what that means according to my contact at Marriott.

He says that at the SPG branded resort hotels with lounges, including some Le Meridien, Sheraton and Westin properties, those with Platinum status and above will continue to enjoy the lounge as they do today. However, at Marriott branded resort properties, including Marriott, JW, Renaissance, JW, Autograph Collection, Ritz Carlson and Delta, lounge access will not be provided based on elite status just as it has not been in the past.

I’m honestly still a little confused as lounge access will depend not only on elite status, but on resort vs. non-resort, and then will be based on brand, but at least “Excludes Resorts” doesn’t mean that all resorts are excluded.

Sheraton Kona Club Lounge

You will only earn elite credit for one room at a time

I mentioned in my overview post that in the combined program you will only earn elite credit for one room at a time, but it was an easy detail to lose in the shuffle and it is a pretty big deal for families who may book more than one room at a time. Currently, you can earn elite credit for up to three rooms at a time with Starwood. This is a big part of how I qualified for SPG Platinum status last year, but in the near future, you will only earn elite credit for one room at a time, though you can earn points for more than one.

Top Category 7 SPG properties really will only cost 20,000 points

It seems almost too good to be true, but for a period of time, you really will be able to book amazing Category 7 SPG properties for just the equivalent of 20,000 SPG points per night, or an average of 16,000 points per night if you book a five-night award stay.

Grand Hyatt Kauai or St. Regis Princeville

Some Category 7 Starwood properties that I have either stayed at and loved, or really want to try that normally cost 30,000 – 35,000 points per night are the St. Regis Princeville in Kauai, St. Regis Punta Mita in Mexico, St. Regis New York in Manhattan, the St. Regis Aspen, St. Regis Deer Valley in Utah,

The completely insane villa we were upgraded to in Punta Mita

Beginning on August 1, 2018, the combined award chart will be capped for a little while at Category 7 that will cost 60,000 Marriott points per night. Since SPG points transfer to Marriott at a 1:3 ratio, this will significantly drop the price of those top-tier properties. Once they add in a Category 8 and variable peak and off-peak pricing in early 2019, many of those top-tier hotels will get pricier again in points, but I’m very excited for the limited time opportunity to book them for less. This will not include the all-suites and ‘special’ properties like the St. Regis Maldives that are off-the-chart expensive.

This should time especially well with grabbing some welcome bonus points from some of the Marriott and Starwood co-branded credit cards to beef up your account balance.

Your status perks may be changing in August

The way that the elite status tiers will match is interesting, and some of your benefits may be shifting in August. Notably, beginning August 1, 2018, your Marriott Gold status will match to Marriott Platinum Elite status through the end of the year. This means you will retain breakfast and lounge benefits, and pick up the ability to score space available suites. However, not all current Marriott Golds will bump to the new Marriott Platinum.

If everything works the way they say it will (and watch The Points Guy’s Facebook Live with the SVP of Global Loyalty for Marriott for great details on this and more), it sounds like those matched to Marriott Gold via SPG Gold or similar will not get that bump up to Platinum, and will remain at the (new) Gold level. This includes those who got their SPG Gold via the Amex Platinum Card. It will continue to give Gold status, not match to the new Platinum.

You can continue to transfer points to family members for free

Also in the Facebook Live between The Points Guy and David Flueck from Marriott, it was shared that you will continue to be able to transfer your points to family members for no cost. Hurray!

Lifetime status is based on your combined Marriott and Starwood stays

Lifetime status is a big deal to those who have invested many years, dollars, and nights with these programs. If you already have Lifetime Elite status in Rewards or SPG, you will have that Lifetime Elite status in the new program.

If you are close to achieving Lifetime status, you have until the end of 2018 to qualify for lifetime status via the existing criteria as it stands today. Beginning in August, you will also be able to qualify for Lifetime status based on your combined Marriott Rewards and SPG nights and elite years.

  • Lifetime Silver status requires a combined 250 Lifetime Nights + 5 Years Elite Status.
  • Lifetime Gold status requires a combined 400 Lifetime Nights + 7 Years Gold Elite Status or Higher.
  • Lifetime Platinum status requires a combined 600 Lifetime Nights + 10 Years Platinum Elite Status.

If you achieved elite status in both SPG and Marriott Rewards in one year, you’ll receive credit for two elite years, which is pretty cool. On the flip side, some lifetime status levels will get harder to earn as lifetime SPG Platinum currently requires 10 years at Platinum + 500 eligible nights, and that nights requirement will be going to 600 nights under the combined program.

Fifth award night free is staying

The ability to pay for four award nights but stay five will be staying in the combined program. My family is starting to use this benefit more and more to slow down our travel and stretch our points, so this is great news for families who like to do the same.

Take time to enjoy the view at the Westin Grand Cayman

The credit cards are changing very soon

The line-up of Starwood and Marriott cards is changing both in terms of benefits that will be offered on the existing cards and the products that will be available for new sign-ups. Beginning very soon on May 3, 2018, a new Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card with a $95 annual fee and a 100,000 point new cardmember welcome bonus after spending $5,000 in the first 90 days will be available.

The new $450 per year premium SPG Amex card with a $300 statement valid credit at participating Marriott hotels each year for on-property purchases won’t be available until 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.

Update: It was just announced that American Express will continue to issue the consumer and small business SPG Amex cards even after the program combines, which is contrary to what had been shared regarding the SPG Amex Consumer card’s future, but is good news for those who want lots of different card options and bonuses!

Existing cardholders of the SPG Amex small business and personal cards will be able to keep their cards, but will see a drop in everyday earnings from the current equivalent of 3x Marriott points per dollar to 2x Marriott points per dollar beginning in August. The SPG Business Amex will also cease providing Sheraton Club access in August. However, since most cardholders spend under $35,000 per year on their SPG Amex cards, it may be somewhat of a wash as the cards will begin to provide an annual anniversary night at properties costing up to 35,000 points per year.

Now that you have had a few days to absorb the information, what are your lingering thoughts and questions about the combined program?

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  1. you say:
    , “However, since most cardholders spend under $35,000 per year on their SPG Amex cards, it may be somewhat of a wash as the cards will begin to provide an annual anniversary night at properties costing up to 35,000 points per year.”

    From what I have read– if you renew card b4 Aug1 as I do — I will NOT get the free night until 1renew in june 2019 — -stinks and very unfair-why should anyone pay the fee on my SPG biz card for one whole year – and you will not get sheraton lounge on top of this


  2. United Gold and above have enjoyed a match to Marriott Gold in the past. I believe it has been mentioned that these folks would match to Marriott Gold (not Platinum) starting in 2019. Is this your understanding?

  3. I currently have LIfetime Gold with SPG and am about 30 nights away from Lifetime Platinum (I have the 10 years already). Will an SPG Lifetime Platinum get Lifetime Platinum Premier in the new program? Or is that just for existing Marriott Lifetime Platinum members?

    I’m wondering if it’s worth getting Lifetime Platinum with SPG first as that will be the only way to get Lifetime Platinum Premier. I have enough Marriott nights to qualify for Lifetime Platinum under the combined program.

    • Steven –
      My understanding is that SPG Lifetime Plats convert to Lifetime Plat in the new program, not Plat Premier. Only MR Lifetime Plats that are current or qualify by December 31, 2018 via Marriott criteria will be grandfathered into LT Plat Premier.
      To your 2nd point, you would need to qualify for LT Plat via the Marriott Rewards criteria solely via Marriott activity by the end of 2018 to get grandfathered. The combined activity will not allow a path to LT Plat Premier, I don’t believe.

      • Thanks Ben, that is the way I read it as well but want to clarify. If that holds, there is no benefit to me trying to get SPG Lifetime Plat this year as I will qualify for the combined program Lifetime Plat based on combined nights and years. That will at least save me some money and mattress runs.

        • Yes, if you will qualify for LT Plat when everything combines in August, I don’t believe there is a benefit to trying to get SPG LT Plat prior to. Wish I had better news for you. I am short of LT Plat with MR currently as well, and I am trying to figure out how all of this works as well so I know how best to proceed.

  4. Overall, I’m sorely disappointed with the new program. The negatives are numerous while there are few bright spots. When the best thing you can say is free breakfast at a Courtyard, you know you’re in trouble.

  5. I might have missed this but will award nights still count towards status? Currently they do in the Marriott program.

  6. My main concern/question with the new Marriott card is will there be a spend benefit to earn nights? Right now, we earn a night credit for every 3k spent. That’s the only way we will reach 75 nights within one chain. Any word on whether this will continue with the new card, or something similar? I don’t want to upgrade our card unless we can get help attaining status

    Thanks so much for your reporting. Currently on vacation at Marriott singer island (totally recommend for families!)

  7. I think I will burn most of my points in Europe this year. Was never a Marriott fan, and what I loved most about SPG (4pm late check out) will be gone for us Lifetime Golds. Hotels can deny every request for “available” late checkout which means it will never happen. At least Hyatt will really let you have until 2PM which means a lot when on vacation!
    I’ve been Plat for several years but not a member of the program long enough to hit lifetime. Will get the Marriott card so I will be Plat for 2019, then going to Hyatt.
    Not sure I will keep the SPG consumer Amex that I have. Will probably switch my spend over to Hyatt and CSP as I will need points in 2019 🙂
    PS- I am guessing my beloved SPG Broadway Audience Rewards is also biting the dust. I think I was probably the only one that used it, but it came in handy to take the family to shows!

  8. One other thing that I’m really hopeful is true is that credit card night credits should still stack for 2018 for 2019 status, even though it won’t going forward in the “new world.” According to Milestalk this is the case:
    “The Sweet Spot: In my opinion you need Platinum in the new program to be happy. The sweet spot here is a one year sweet spot, but in 2018, all of your earned nights will count. You could have 4 credit cards right now – SPG Personal and Business and Chase Personal and Business. While all four have annual fees, they also confer nights. Each SPG confers 5 and each Marriott confers 15. With all four cards, you’ll have earned 40 nights, which means you need just 10 more nights from either program now to have Platinum for the August – Dec, 2018 and all of 2019. Stay 25 nights on top and you’re Platinum Elite.”
    Source: http://milestalk.com/highlights-and-sweet-spots-spg-marriott-program-merge/?utm_source=milesfeed.com&utm_medium=link&utm_campaign=MilesFeed.com

    Since I have the personal and biz Marriott Cards as well as the SPG personal and biz cards I should have 15+15+5+5 = 40 nights which would mean I’d only need 10 to retain Platinum for 2019. I’ve already got 25 nights credited across my accounts, just a bit worried about my Marriott Personal, which the AF doesn’t post til August so I don’t think I’ll get those 15 nights til then, and they’ll be pushing/incenting me to upgrade to the new card before then, not sure I’ll get those other 15.

  9. I registered for the Platinum challenge today and I have till July 31, 2018 to complete it. Once I complete in June 2018, will I have Platinum Status from August 2018 through February 2020?

  10. The surprising gift of Gold from Marriott when they swallowed SPG introduced me to their brand. I’ve since stayed at a number of very nice Marriotts here and in Europe — paid stays. That’s over — real soon if I don’t even get the Aug 1 to Dec 31 Marriott Platinum parting gift.

    Without the Gold benefits at Marriott, it’s not competitive with the better Hyatt, Hilton or IHG brands that I can find in the same locations. MarriottSPitGold is now worse than before the merger (when it barely helped at SPG). I’ll try to salvage something from my personal and business SPG Amex cards which in 2019 will offer nothing of value. Are my feelings about the announcements clear?

  11. Well it is time to say goodbye to the Amex SPG cards. My personal Amex SPG has been my everyday use card for years and now it is not worth anymore. I will cancel both my personal and business one and keep the Amex Platinum for Delta lounge access. Between Costco and Marriott Amex got screwed pretty bad.

    Also, not sure what status I will have next year. I am currently SPG Platinum and have 20 stays so far but will only reach 25 stays after August. Thus, will I still be Marriott Platinum in 2019 based on reaching 25 stays after August?

    • You can achieve Platinum status in 2018 (even for stays after 1 AUG) for 2019 if all 25 stays are with SPG properties.

  12. Question on Lifetime Status: Currently Marriott has a nights + points requirement for lifetime status. From the graphic presented, it appears they will no longer have a lifetime points requirement. Can you confirm that lifetime status will only be nights and years? I think I’ll qualify for lifetime Gold (not that it’s worth much) this year in that case.

        • I don’t think so (maybe unless you call and ask). I actually have the same question you do…trying to determine if I have 10 years combined or not as I easily hit the number of 600+ nights for Platinum.

  13. I am cautiously optimistic, but I am waiting for the category shuffle when SPG hotels are slotted in to Marriott. Marriott seems to engage in category inflation in a way that SPG (and Hyatt) have not. We can guess that nicer SPG cat 6 and 7’s will be cat 7’s but more likely 8’s in the new scheme – but what about SPG’s decent value places like the Sheraton Kona, an SPG 4? When you consider that Marriott wants 35k for standard rooms at the _Courtyard_ King Kamehameha a couple of miles down Ali’i Drive, as a cat 7, I am concerned.

    • And it’s not only that market. Take a look at San Diego. Marriotts in the downtown area are going to 2-4x what a Starwood property is. It’s like that across the USA and Canada. The devaluation in points to be earned from Amex SPG in addition to what’s going to happen when they slot these properties is insane!

      They have been incredible smart about this by opening a small window of opportunity so people/bloggers are talking about the “positive”. But the reality of this merger on a go forward basis is going to be horrible for those of us that want to maximize our point earnings!

      • The fact that they didn’t announce which hotels were going to which category has me very worried also. For Marriott people, the one thing to really watch is what they do with the properties that are currently priced at 30,000 and at 40,000/45,000. Because this price point is going away, i expect the majority of these to get bumped to the higher price. They are just waiting for all the “positive” reports to be made before dropping the real negative on us, I suspect.

  14. Do you know when the annual night awards will roll out for SPG cards? I have one card renewing in July and one in December. Probably will cancel the July renewal card but hoping the December card will get a free night. Thinking maybe a quick weekend night sometime at the Gaylord Texan – that’s 35K points right, definitely worth $95 renewal.

  15. For the “Top Category 7 SPG properties really will only cost 20,000 points” segment of the blog post, will we be able to book during this short window for dates into 2019 or is the 20,000 only good for the short window before the define what is a category 8?

  16. It’s time to consider alternatives. SPG was a very desirable card for the benefits that came with the various cards. None of the announced changes are helpful for most travelers. Raising the minimums for useful hotels, devaluing the spend by one third and removing club access with the SPG business card minimize the value of brand loyalty. It’s time to consider alternative brands and cards.

  17. “f everything works the way they say it will (and watch The Points Guy’s Facebook Live with the SVP of Global Loyalty for Marriott for great details on this and more), it sounds like those matched to Marriott Gold via SPG Gold or similar will not get that bump up to Platinum, and will remain at the (new) Gold level. This includes those who got their SPG Gold via the Amex Platinum Card. It will continue to give Gold status, not match to the new Platinum.”

    That stinks. I fall into that status match category. Can I still get Platinum if I reach 25 stays after August 1, but before the end of 2018 or would I have to reach 25 before August 1?

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