Strong Rumours That Big SPG/Marriott Changes May Be Happening Sooner Than Anticipated…

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It looks like April 2018 is a popular time for loyalty programme restructuring announcements, with the (semi) demise of, 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!

Bottom line

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


  1. Craig Sowerby says

    There is also a rumour flying around that SPG direct airline transfers will no longer be possible starting mid-April, with no advance warning. (to avoid a mad rush for the exits presumably)

    I know I’ve got way too many Starpoints for the risk involved, but I am hoping to get some advance notice at least

    • Joe Deeney says

      Genuinely the stuff of nightmares! I’m not at all convinced, but could end up looking rather foolish…

  2. Roger says

    Same here.
    Have enough points for Marriott Travel Package, not sure should I go ahead with package booking (AS miles) or wait as the plan was to use it for AA miles when the bonus runs next time ( may be in May like last year).

    Decisions…. Decisions.

    I suppose Marriott thinks there is no point giving advance notice as they are unlikely to be any major damage to program. But who knows could be completely rumours.

    Someone mentioned Marriott on Facebook posted message stating program changes next week.

    Not sure what to make any of this at this stage.

    • Craig Sowerby says

      I was thinking about doing a post on AS vs. AA. The problem is that the list of things that AA is better than AS for is short…

      Etihad J or F to/from Middle East.

      So I wouldn’t wait for the transfer bonus, unless you care to enlighten me about something about AA that I’ve missed.

      I probably should get on the phone to Marriott myself. After all, I’d have a full year, probably two, to figure out a use for the hotel certificate.

      • Roger says

        For me AA has sweet spot even to certain places in Asia (not south East Asia) even with Y at 20K miles. And J is not too bad.

        AS on the other hand is restricted to HKG only.
        So for me AA wins over AS, but tempted to go one time with AS and fly DEL-TYO-SOUTH EAST ASIA route as per one of the recent post here!

        Everyone seems to think this is just a rumour (OMAAT, Rob @ HFP). Hope that is true but it’s still a risk not redeeming now for travel package.

  3. David says

    Another reason to quickly bank the SPG UK credit card if you don’t already have it.
    Happy to provide a refer a friend link for bonus.

  4. Pangolin says

    I honestly cannot see how they could change the qualifying requirements for 2019 mid-year – that would do massive damage to goodwill.

    I’m currently set for qualifying for SPG Plat via the 25 stays rule – I’ll need 5 more stays after returning from HKG in May.

    However, if they announce that Plat now needs 50 nights (and this might be a basic Platinum offering much less than what SPG currently offers) I will be furious and likely switch to Hilton. My travel pattern is heavily focused on short stays – as a freelancer I prefer taking frequent mini-breaks (including remote working) at opportune times, rather than having extended holidays.

    I always expected the stays option would disappear next year in the combined program but taking it away from me during the middle of the current qualifying year would be totally beyond the pale. You can’t move the goalposts like that.

    • Joe Deeney says

      I agree – my expectation is that they wouldn’t be that stupid. So far, they seem to have taken the idea of keeping SPG members onboard quite seriously, so it would be extremely odd to now start upsetting people in situations like yours, at exactly the time when they should be making the most effort to make you love the new programme.

      I can see 5 tiers, basically with 75 and 100 nights mirroring the SPG Plat situation, but the obvious move would be to at least ‘upgrade’ members a tier, so that normal SPG Plats would become ‘New Programme’ Plat Pluses (75 nights) to begin with, etc.

      I’m also unconvinced by the idea that 50 nights won’t entail significant benefits – that already gets breakfast and lounge access with Marriott, so why change that and annoy existing Marriott loyalists as well as upsetting the former SPG members?

      Longer term, the lack of ability to qualify via stays is certainly an issue for people who travel like you (and I) do, with lots of short breaks. I’m also intrigued (and concerned) to see what happens with the SPG card and the Amex Plat status.

      • Craig Sowerby says

        There’s an argument to be made that we are re-qualifying based on presumed status benefits to be received in 2019, so any changes to benefits should only apply to 2020. Wishful thinking most likely…

        But unquestionably if SPG throw a double elite status promo at people to get some paid stays before crushing the elite status side of things, that would be a pretty substantial betrayal. I’d be joining Pangolin in ditching SPG/Marriott for good once my points are spent.

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