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One of the most interesting things to occur recently in the travel loyalty space is the merger of Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest. (although perhaps more for the blogging community than the general public!) Many details were announced on 16 April, but many things simply were left unsaid. One might assume that 18 months is more than long enough to design a new loyalty programme, but I guess not. The things that haven’t yet been resolved are causing me a headache or two – and demonstrate the folly of undertaking this switchover mid-year – and I thought I’d share my unanswered questions with readers…
What is Meant by “Combine Accounts into One”?
How sure is Marriott that SPG members “… will WANT to combine” accounts? In fact what I (and others) really want is this:
I’m willing to trust the promise, but I wonder about the implementation. Will I have to delay combining my accounts in order to continue accumulating stays within SPG, so that I can renew Platinum status with 25 stays? Or will my Marriott account gain a stay counter, and make it so that only formerly SPG branded properties would accumulate “stay credits”. Both sound like an IT nightmare to me – something that could easily go wrong…
What Will Happen to Starwood Preferred Guest in August?
Will SPG accounts be shut down, with points balances transferred immediately across to Marriott? How will that work for the inevitable laggards who delay combining their accounts? Will they continue to earn points for stays at the legacy SPG brands, albeit with the new earning ratios? Or will they earn nothing until they combine accounts?
What About the SPG Benefits Being Promised?
When I log in to my SPG Dashboard, I see this message quite prominently.
And it seems quite clear that I have all of 2018 to reach 50 nights to earn my choice of:
However, Marriott plan to offer something different to those members who manage 50 nights during 2018:
Will the SPG 50-night benefits be snatched away in August? I have seen a report on Flyertalk that suggests that 27 July, 2018 is the deadline for making a selection under the existing SPG rules.
Or will the 50-night benefit continue for the rest of 2018? Is it really so difficult to remove that section from the website, or to make clear that you must reach 50 nights before August? Or perhaps will people be able to earn BOTH the SPG 50-night benefits and those to be offered by Marriott?
What Will Happen With Those Who Matched Status?
We’ve discussed this previously on InsideFlyer UK. I get it Marriott. The company wanted to downgrade the benefits associated with “Gold” status because Gold status is rather simple to achieve via Starwood Preferred Guest. (through 10 stays or a credit card) Perhaps Marriott also liked the current SPG system of different “shades” of Platinum.
But having decided that… Marriott then realised that Marriott Gold members would scream murder if they were to lose the benefit package that required them to stay a minimum of 50 nights in 2017. So the decision was taken to make them all Platinum members.
So now Marriott is stuck in the situation where status matched Gold members with bookings for August and beyond have seen their expected benefits chopped. Similarly, but less grievously, status matched Platinum members will also miss out on the Platinum Premier status that Marriott 75-night members will receive.
We know what needs to happen. Some of Marriott’s executives even admit it. So why is it taking so long to announce formally that those with Marriott Gold status today will enjoy Marriott Platinum status in August?
5 months of benefits is not nearly costly enough to risk alienating thousands of SPG members over it…
Best Rate Guarantee Policies
This area might be a niche interest only relevant to select travel hackers such as yours truly. But which policy will survive beyond August? Both, or just the Marriott version? What will happen with Best Rate Guarantee claims made today for stays well into autumn or early 2019? Will I receive 5,000 Marriott points, or the 6,000 point equivalent of 2,000 Starpoints? What about the relatively lenient cancellation policy permitted by SPG?
Allocation of Hotels to Award Categories
I still scratch my head and ponder why Marriott would release a new award category chart, but not publish the list of hotels to be allocated to each category. Until I know how much my favourite mid-range hotels will cost, this chart is close to meaningless…
Yet if Marriott is publishing award charts prematurely, where is the chart for Points & Cash? Will there be one?
This is only a short list really. There are many other items that could be raised as unanswered questions. Did some executive get too excited and schedule a launch before everybody was ready? Or was it all just too complicated, and the decision was taken to go public and “crowd source” the flaws?
What do you think? What would you ask Marriott if you had the chance?