What Will Elite Status Be Like in the New Marriott Rewards?

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Now that the terms of the merger of Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest have been announced, we can start to speculate about how the new combined programme will treat its members with elite status. For details about the immediate implications for 2018, you can read this post by clicking here. Beyond 2018, here’s what we know for sure…

Qualifying for Elite Status

Members can qualify for elite status by staying a certain number of nights. Stay-based qualification will no longer be possible.

  • Silver Elite: 10-24 nights
  • Gold Elite: 25-49 nights
  • Platinum Elite: 50-74 nights
  • Platinum Premier Elite: 75-99 nights
  • Platinum Premier Elite with Ambassador service: 100+ nights plus $20,000 of qualifying spend

Award nights will continue to count as eligible nights. Certain credit cards – mostly in the United States but possibly those available in the UK – offer bonus nights for elite status purposes.

Elite Status Benefits

This chart outlines the benefits for each level of elite status. If the screenshot is too hard to read, you can find it by clicking here.

Digging into the details, and organised by status level:

Gold Elite Status

  • 2PM late check-out, subject to availability
  • Welcome amenity of 250/500 points (depending on brand)
  • Enhanced room upgrade (i.e. not a suite, but potentially higher-floor, better view, etc.)

Platinum Elite Status

  • Guaranteed 4PM late check-out, subject to availability at resorts
  • Welcome amenity of 500/1000 points (depending on brand) OR breakfast OR a local amenity
    • The ability to select breakfast as the Platinum welcome amenity will be available at all brands except Design Hotels, EDITION, Gaylord, Ritz-Carlton, Marriott Executive Apartments, and Marriott Vacation Club
  • Room upgrades – subject to availability but including suites
  • Executive lounge access, except at resorts
  • Annual Gift Choice (5 Suite Night Awards or gift options to-be-determined)

Platinum Premier Elite Status

  • As Platinum Elite, with the following added benefits:
    • 5 additional Suite Night Awards, a Free Award Night or a gift option

Platinum Premier Elite with Ambassador Status

  • As Platinum Premier Elite, with the following added benefits:
    • Your 24 – the ability to choose when to check-in and/or check-out (i.e. arrive early or depart late)
    • Ambassador service – an agent assigned to look after you and your account

Status Bonuses When Earning Points

In August, all points balances will be combined, with Starpoints converted to Marriott points at the standard 1:3 ratio. Marriott claims that members will earn an average of 20% more points, although this appears to be mainly due to SPG hotels handing out more points.

Members will earn 10 points per USD spent with the “new” Marriott, so when you add elite bonuses:

  • Base members will earn 10 points per USD
  • Silver members will earn 11 points per USD
  • Gold members will earn 12.5 points per USD
  • Platinum members will earn 15 points per USD
  • Platinum Premier members will earn 17.5 points per USD

As a reference, Marriott Rewards members currently earn:

  • Base members earn 10 points per USD
  • Silver members earn 12 points per USD
  • Gold members earn 12.5 points per USD
  • Platinum members earn points 15 points per USD

Meanwhile with SPG:

  • Base members earn 2 Starpoints per USD (6 Marriott points)
  • Gold & Platinum members earn 3 Starpoints per USD (9 Marriott points)
  • Platinum 75 night members earn 4 Starpoints per USD (12 Marriott points)

One of the major complaints about SPG was the fact that their “earn and burn” ratio was lower than the competition. The new Marriott Rewards rectifies this. Oddly enough, standard SPG members without status will see the largest percentage increase in their earning ratio. (66.6% more)

Initial Reactions

Any informed judgment will surely need to wait until we have the opportunity to stay at both SPG and Marriott hotels once the new benefits have been implemented. But my initial thoughts are:

  • It is sad to see the loss of a stay-based method for qualifying. Although admittedly travel hackable, a 25-stay Platinum membership also reflects 25 separate decisions to stay with a brand.
  • Is Platinum Premier going to be completely distinct from Platinum? And does that mean that Platinum Premier members will receive higher priority for upgrades? At the moment, there is no real distinction at the hotel level between SPG Platinum, P50, P75, P100 and Marriott Platinum members.
  • Earning more points at SPG properties is good. Hopefully it won’t be paid for with a devaluation – stealth or otherwise – of the value of a point. SPG Platinum members will, however, earn fewer welcome amenity points – 1,000 instead of 500 SPG (= 1,500 MR).
  • How many properties will define themselves as “resorts” to avoid providing lounge access to members with elite status? It is precisely those no-expense-account-holidays where many elite status members seek out the option of an evening meal and/or drinks in the lounge, thereby avoiding a potentially over-priced hotel bar or restaurant.

The Bottom Line

Elite status is an area where many SPG loyalists feared the worst. However, it appears that Marriott has done their best to retain the most attractive benefits from both programmes. Now will it be able to deliver at the hotel level? What do you think?

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