Since last week, there’s been much speculation about the future of the Marriott Rewards and the Starwood Preferred Guest programs. We knew the programs would be integrated at some point, but we didn’t know when or how. The much-awaited news has been released officially, and here are the details.
Starpoints Are to Be Converted to Marriott Rewards Points
Since a couple of years ago, SPG members have been able to transfer Starpoints to Marriott Rewards at a ratio of 1-to-3. Once the programs merge into a single program in August, all Starpoints will be converted to Marriott Rewards at the same 1-3 rate. You will be able to combine your accounts into one and redeem the points at Starwood properties as well as at Marriott and The Ritz-Carlton properties.
Introduction of New Elite Status Tiers and Benefits
Once your accounts merge into the new program (yet to be named), your elite nights will combine. Additionally, there will be a new elite-status earning system. Effective Jan. 1, you will no longer be able to earn status on stays. Instead, you will earn status on nights only. Depending on how many nights you have earned in both Marriott Rewards and SPG programs, you might be able to qualify for a higher elite tier after your nights are combined.
Here’s how Starwood Elite status tiers will be converted to Marriott Rewards.
There will be five status tiers: Silver, Gold, Platinum, Platinum Premier and Platinum Premiere Elite. Going forward as a program member, you must achieve the following annual night qualifications to earn or retain status.
- Silver Elite: 10-24 nights
- Gold Elite: 25-49 nights
- Platinum Elite: 50-74 nights
- Platinum Premiere Elite: 75-99 nights
- Platinum Premiere Elite Ambassador: 100 nights + $20,000 qualifying spend)
Point Earnings to Change
As a joint program member, you will earn points on paid stays at 29 hotel brands. Regular members will earn 10X points per dollar spent on eligible charges and 5X points at Element, Residence Inn and TownePlace Suites brands. When the new status tiers kick in, you will earn point bonuses at the following rates:
- Silver Elite: 10 percent
- Gold Elite: 25 percent
- Platinum Elite: 50 percent
- Platinum Premiere Elite: 75 percent
- Platinum Premiere Elite Ambassador: 75 percent
For more details on elite benefits, click here.
Redemption Rate Changes
Marriott will implement eight hotel categories under the new program. You will be able to redeem your combined points at about 6,500 properties worldwide with no blackout dates. You will be able to book hotel Categories 1-7 starting in August and Category 8 starting early next year. Peak and off-peak pricing will apply to all brands next year as well, and the redemption chart is as follows.
Airline Transfer Changes
This aspect of the Starwood Preferred Program was the one most people feared would go away. The good news is that airline transfers are not going away! However, transfer rates are changing.
You will be able to convert 3 Marriott points to 1 airline mile. When you think about it, 3 Marriott points equal to 1 Starpoint, so the transfer ratio technically remains the same. Additionally, you’ll be able to transfer points to about 10 more airlines than available on the current SPG list. The number of transfer partners is changing to 45 airlines, so you get more options.
You will be able to keep transfer bonuses as well. Right now, you receive a 5,000-mile bonus for every 20,000 Starpoints transferred, which is going away. Starting in August, you’ll earn a bonus of 15,000 points after transferring 60,000 points to an airline. In other words, you’ll have 75,000 points total to convert to 25,000 airline miles at the new transfer ratio of 3-1.
Speaking of airlines, Delta SkyMiles Crossover Rewards will continue through July 15.
New Co-Branded Credit Cards
Because Marriott partners with Chase and Starwood partners with American Express, it was unclear whether the credit card options would merge as well. It appears that Amex will continue issuing Starwood Preferred Guest credit cards for the time being and even introduced a premium version of the SPG card with tons of benefits and a $450 annual fee.
The currently available personal and business SPG cards will change their earning structure. You will earn bonus points in certain categories, elite status and free annual nights (capped at different tiers for different cards). The business version of the card is also losing the Sheraton Club access. For more information on the new cards, click here. Chase also will launch a new Marriott Premier Plus credit card and discontinue the current Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card.
Phew! The changes sure are aplenty! Although most of our questions have been answered, there’s still room for more information. With the introduction of the new elite status tiers, we don’t know what will happen to the automatic SPG Gold Elite status benefit on the Platinum Card from American Express. The status itself could remain available, but the benefits are being devalued. And we have yet to find out hotel categories and redemption rates for SPG properties once the programs merge and how the Nights + Flights packages would be affected. Until then, we wait.
What are your thoughts on the new integrated program?