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It looks like April 2018 is a popular time for loyalty programme restructuring announcements, with the (semi) demise of Avios.com, perhaps soon to be joined by confirmation of big changes to Starwood Preferred Guest/Marriott Rewards /Ritz Carlton Rewards.
What we definitely know…
Last week, Marriott’s CEO Arne Sorensen stated that,
“We’re bringing the loyalty programs together, Marriott Rewards and SPG. That will happen the second part of this year (currently believed to be August). We’ll hope to have a new name to launch those programmes very early next year”.
What we probably know…
It’s important to stress that the following is still rumour at this stage, but it sounds pretty credible to me.
There will be five elite tiers in the new programme:
- Silver after 10 nights
- Gold after 25 nights
- Platinum after 50 nights
- Platinum Premier after 75 nights
- Ambassador after 100 nights + $20,000 of spend
The base points earning rate will continue to be 10 points per $1 USD.
Free breakfast for elites will be expanded to include 25 of Marriott and SPG’s combined 30 brands. What level of elite status you will require though is unknown.
These rumours are highly specific, come from multiple sources, and seem like sensible/plausible moves. Official confirmation is expected within the next week or two.
On the more speculative side of the rumour mill, what we’re really left with is a lot of questions and guesswork.
What’s the exact timeline here? Sorensen indicates that the merger will be happening this year but that there won’t be a name for the new programme until next year, which doesn’t seem terrifically logical. Perhaps “merger” in this context could mean something relatively minor, like elite stay credits at Marriott applying to SPG and vice versa; or perhaps it means something huge like the end of SPG, with all accounts transferred to Marriott Rewards temporarily in advance of the new programme being launched.
Will free breakfast and Club access still be available to Marriott members with Gold status? Given that Marriott Gold currently requires 50 nights, but 50 nights gets you Platinum in the rumoured new system, it doesn’t look likely. That’s clearly bad news for people like me who currently enjoy Marriott Gold status thanks to holding SPG Gold courtesy of the Amex Platinum card.
Will the new programme offer anything like the same value that SPG does when it comes to transferring Points to frequent flyer programmes? I suspect we will lose some flexibility here, but the existing Marriott transfer rate to United MileagePlus is quite good (that is an outlier though), so perhaps it won’t be too terrible.
Will Marriott’s superb value Travel Packages survive? I honestly have no idea, but I very much hope so!
The current Marriott/SPG situation is a bit of a Goldilocks zone for ‘travel hackers’, providing the opportunity to enjoy the best of both worlds when it comes to status and redemption sweet spots. We knew it wouldn’t last forever, but things are progressing more quickly than I anticipated (hats off to the IT team working on this to be honest – they could certainly teach some other travel companies a thing or two!).
As always – cross your fingers, hope for the best and plan for the worst.
Hat-tip: Flyertalk, et al