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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.
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.
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.
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,
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.
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?