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One year on: How's the merged program working out for you?

One year on: How's the merged program working out for you?

Old Aug 19, 19, 4:09 am
  #1  
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Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 5,424
One year on: How's the merged program working out for you?

Iím surprised there isnít a thread already. Itís been one year since the programs merged. How are things going?

Overall, my Bonvoy experience has improved A LOT since the chaos days of Aug/Sept 2018. Stays now mostly post automatically, phone wait times are down, and I usually end up talking to reasonably competent (if usually terribly unmotivated) agents.

My on-property experience has been fine. My upgrade percentage is down significantly, with only 30 nights in suites (out of 122 total). However, I had some longer stays at hotels with high occupancy, and in almost every case I felt that the hotel made an effort to provide top floor/view/corner rooms. Often, font desk staff proactively apologized that they couldn't offer me a suite (I don't usually ask for one, as I don't spend much time in the room), and a few times I was offered an opportunity to move to a better room mid-stay. Zero success with SNA on the few stays where a suite would have mattered, unfortunately. Some lounges have upped their game, and breakfast has generally been fine, although almost every property without a lounge now makes you give up the welcome points in exchange for breakfast. Had two stays at a $10 credit brand, and will avoid those in the future.

I did try a couple Marriott hotels, although for my travel patterns, the added footprint does nothing. SPG had places like Taipei or Bangkok or Bali cornered, so the addition of a handful of Marriotts is pretty useless to me. I also haven't found a new brand I loved and vowed to stay at more often, but I suppose having more choice is always a good thing.

I'm often surprised by the huge numbers of Platinum+ guests, especially at properties that provide excellent value for money. I often ask when chatting with FD or managerial staff. It's not uncommon to hear that a place like 4P Singapore has 20% of their rooms taken up by Plats+. Really puts things into perspective, and might be useful to keep in mind for those who raise a stink when they don't get a suite (witnessed this 3 times this year while checking in).

Points earning for stays has been somewhat reduced -- I now mostly have to give up my welcome points for breakfast, MAGC is down by 2/3, and promos are weak. I still have the Amex and will keep it for the free night, but my spend has been zero. Redemption rates have continued to creep up, although numerous good values remain (Marriott points requirements were more reasonable than SPG at the outset, and those of us from the SPG side benefited from some great deals, but of course rates are creeping back up).

IT problems still occasionally occur with website downtime and limited functionality, but IME not much worse than what competitors have going on. Didn't receive anything about selecting my 50- or 75- night benefit. None of this is a big deal to me, but I'm scratching my head that they haven't made some simple fixes that were mentioned here (and at least in some cases brought up directly with the hotel) -- for instance, searching for Lake Biwa Marriott still brings up some sushi restaurant in Florida.

My biggest complaint (only serious complaint, really) is the BRG team. Some of the legacy Marriott folks (or new hires?) are lazy, incompetent, and sometimes rude. Rejections of legitimate claims (I do this a lot and know what I'm doing) are common, and it shouldn't be necessary to send back 2-5 emails for every claim. Supervisors and legacy SPG folks are fine, and almost all claims ultimately go through, but I've had a lot more frustration with Bonvoy BRG this year than with Hyatt and IHG (where, to be fair, I go in with lower expectations).

Overall, my experience with Bonyoy has been decent enough, although I must say that I'd stay with Hyatt exclusively if they had a better footprint and (in some cases) more reasonable revenue rates. With Hyatt, I'm at 100% suite upgrades, great properties and staff, top notch customer service via twitter. Category adjustment with Hyatt over the last 3 years has been very modest, and there are some amazing redemption deals. And even IHG has treated me well this year, with tangible upgrades at almost every stay, and the occasional unexpected large suite/club/breakfast benefit.

How have things been for you?
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Old Aug 19, 19, 4:59 am
  #2  
 
Join Date: Dec 2017
Programs: BA, JAL
Posts: 549
Sorry my response is short - I stopped being a customer and used up my remaining points. I used to use SPG and Marriott a reasonable amount but found the merging a devaluation and erosion of benefits. Particularly found bonuses to now be offered for a lot less as Marriott is 1/3 of SPG. Couldn't find 1500 Marriott (500 spg) any use. I can remember when you could tweet a few texts and earn that.
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Old Aug 19, 19, 5:29 am
  #3  
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Posts: 6,315
My assessment.

The pro's:
- Point earning and burning up significantly vs. SPG. Presumably now this could decline somewhat with peak rates, though I do quite a bit of off peak travel
- An expanded portfolio of hotels. This is relatively marginal for me, particularly as Marriott was already my third hotel chain. I probably do 90% legacy SPG and 10% legacy Marriott - particularly because legacy SPG hotels have much better terms (free breakfast, no blackout, SNAs are usually suites, more reliable on upgrades, etc.) and they're less likely to look like they were designed by my great great uncle
- Possibly more suite upgrades on normal stays. Hard/ impossible to measure, but it's certainly not gotten worse apart from on the not-insignificant number of stays where something goes wrong with my reservation

The negatives:
- System problems are not as bad as they were initially, but still significantly hamper close to half of my stays one way or another (points earning is now the most frequent issue)
- Marriott has essentially closed down any corporate facilities for service recovery. Queries aren't answered, issues aren't followed up, problems aren't addressed - you're stuck dealing with individual hotels. This is not acceptable behaviour - Marriott has expectations of me as a customer, and I have expectations of them as a supplier
- I have the same Ambassador as SPG days, but he's clearly had his hands tied since the merger. He now appears to be too busy to follow up on issues (and/ or no longer has access to email archives), he's often unable to get responses from corporate or hotels, a number of his systems are broken and his email has been down on numerous occasions. If I hadn't already worked with him for a couple of years in the SPG days I'd conclude he was pretty useless to be honest - but I know that's not true

While I still think on paper it is clearly the best scheme, I've decided I'm unwilling to keep dealing with all the issues and with a company which systematically doesn't make things right for me when they should. I'll give Hyatt a try, but I'm not sure if the footprint will work out for my quite eccentric travel needs. With Marriott Lifetime Platinum, credit card Hilton Gold and paid IHG Ambassador, I have a start in any case.
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Last edited by EuropeanPete; Aug 19, 19 at 5:41 am
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Old Aug 19, 19, 5:33 am
  #4  
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It's hard to destroy the loyalty of someone who actually worked for Marriott for 11 years, but Bonvoy has been quite successful in doing that.

I've found my Hilton and IHG stays to give me better overall hospitality. My few Marriott stays have been at former Starwood properties.
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Old Aug 19, 19, 5:54 am
  #5  
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Join Date: Apr 2008
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Programs: UA 1K1.5MM, Hyatt Globalist, abandoned Marriott LTT (RIP SPG), Hertz PC
Posts: 19,628
My thoughts mirror EP's pretty well. I have recognized an improvement in Ambassador service over the last few months - more proactive reach-out (still no in-room small touches though). Have had good SNA success rates this year in Europe.

Still too many downsides to count though:
- peak rates are a likely devaluation for my travel patterns
- IT continues to be quite poor
- Your24 has been a total bust for me this year (honestly, hold properties' feet to the fire or just end the benefit)
- I can see a downward slide for SNAs w/the intro of basically higher floor / better view options and the removal of suites from some properties
- I don't like having to pay a cash co-pay "tax" for a slightly better room due to Marriott blacking out award availability at the base room level (even when for sale); how they show this in the search results is a massive bait & switch
- Have already been bitten multiple times by reduced award availability

Will end the year w/about 50 nights (only 18 or so paid), spend down 60% or so, CC spend down 80% or so. Should finally lose my Ambassador this time so as a LTT and not seeing real benefit for 100 nights/$20K spend, now zero point in sending any nights en masse to Marriott.

Hyatt works for me (yes, I get some will scream about the limited footprint), but again, the benefits are objectively better at the top level, and I can get there post-CC spend with about 45 total nights. And my Concierge has been very responsive.

I don't see any real desire by Marriott to improve the program at this point - they adopted the superior SPG benefits as often noted (so the bulk of the program's Marriott loyals have seen drastic improvements already). Arne is a clown and has of course talked about reducing costs to hotel owners (another signal to no benefit improvement). It's a 7,000 hotel chain that frankly due to scope just won't have to try that hard going forward. No thanks.
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Old Aug 19, 19, 7:01 am
  #6  
 
Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: London and Edinburgh
Programs: BA GGL, British Midland Lifetime* Gold, Marriott Lifetime Premier Platinum
Posts: 7,391
Pros
- Far wider choice of properties; I don't necessarily prefer Marriott hotels, but it makes the choice far easier than under SPG
Cons
- Literally everything else: I earn far fewer points, rewards cost far more, haven't been able to SNA on any of my 53 nights this year, most stays don't credit properly, service recovery is a joke

Hilton aside, it's hard to see who else would be better. I'm an IHG Spire and it's pathetic. Accor is unexciting, unreliable. Easy to see why Marriott has taken its foot off the pedal.
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Old Aug 19, 19, 7:11 am
  #7  
 
Join Date: Aug 2012
Location: KHOU + KSFO
Programs: AA EXP | Marriott Bonvoy Ambassador | Hyatt Globalist
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Overall, my sentiments echo the ones above. IT and tech issues are down, Ambassador recognition is up.

My issue is that once you hit Ambassador, Marriott has zero milestones. At 175 nights through end of July, I ended up taking a status match to Hyatt (via American) to Explorist. Should hit Globalist this week. Hyatt isnt big enough to be a primary program, but makes for an excellent secondary one - Marriott seems disinterested in motivating people away from spending elsewhere past a threshold.

As for the number of Plats - I expect it will drop a little next year. It was quite easy to double dip premerger with the linked programs. LT status is also quite easy to attain.
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Old Aug 19, 19, 7:18 am
  #8  
 
Join Date: Feb 2013
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My experience: I can earn points at a lot of places and use them at a lot of places. What actually happens at those places is a complete crapshoot. More often than not, it's indistinguishable from the experience I'd have had if I bought on Priceline or something. In 60+ nights so far, I've had more instances of having to beg for breakfast vouchers, cleared SNAs revoked on the spot, and other service fails than I have of being recognized in any material fashion. But at the end of the day I'm turning necessary travel into free nights, which is the fundamental purpose of a loyalty program, so there's that.
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Old Aug 19, 19, 7:20 am
  #9  
 
Join Date: Aug 2012
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Originally Posted by arlflyer View Post
cleared SNAs revoked on the spot,
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Old Aug 19, 19, 7:23 am
  #10  
 
Join Date: Aug 2001
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Originally Posted by arlflyer View Post
I've had more instances of having to beg for breakfast vouchers, cleared SNAs revoked on the spot, and other service fails than I have of being recognized in any material fashion.
This. Absolutely this. It has become entirely transactional, like IHG ... but without the points or the promos!
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Old Aug 19, 19, 7:28 am
  #11  
 
Join Date: Oct 2013
Location: ORD
Programs: UA Silver, Marriott Titanium/LT Platinum, Hilton Gold, AA Platinum
Posts: 4,441
I haven't seen a significant change to me personally. I didn't experience the IT issues that many people did, and the cut-over and subsequent point posting, etc. worked fine for me.

I've appreciated the additional properties, and have stayed at a SPG hotel a couple times where I would have, in the past, gone a few more blocks out of my way to book a Marriott. Service at the properties hasn't felt any different to me.

I don't like the rewards devaluations, but it's possible those would have occurred anyway. I like the fact that I went from no LT status to LT Plat under the new program, and also appreciate the SNA's. I've used them on one stay so far, successfully.

I rarely have a reason to use customer service so haven't experienced those issues. The one time I did, while I was walking through IAH after a cancelled flight, I got right through to a rep, who was polite, friendly, and helped me get a room at the nearby Sheraton, using one of my free night certs...all while I was walking toward the airport door.

Some of the SPG lounges have been disappointing. At the above-mentioned Sheraton, I stopped in for some kind of quick dinner. At Marriott, that would be an array of appetizers and probably one or two more hearty dishes. At this lounge is was a big vat of spaghetti and meatballs and a veggie tray. Disappointing. But that can vary from property to property.

Overall, I'd say there were some minor pluses and minuses, but mainly a big non-event for me.
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Old Aug 19, 19, 7:30 am
  #12  
 
Join Date: May 2011
Location: NYC (LGA, JFK, EWR)
Programs: Delta Silver, AAdvantage Gold, SPG/Marriott/Hilton Gold, AMEX Membership Rewards
Posts: 1,302
I made a similar thread a few months back. I am a very minor member: 20-30 nights across hotel programs annually, but likely to increase in future years.

Pros
1) A wide variety of properties - from W, Residence Inn, JW Marriott, Autograph, Edition, etc - I can always find a hotel I know I will like. Residence Inn is actually becoming one of my favorite brands. I research properties diligently before booking and I am usually satisfied with the physical plant, room, food and beverage and bar options, etc.

2) Pretty easy to redeem as a predictable rate compared to Hilton

Cons

1) Very difficult to get some benefits at some hotels - I was denied 2 PM checkout as a Gold last week for example

2) There should be more / better bonus categories with the various credit cards

Going forward, if I have a clear path to 35 nights next year, I will likely focus on Marriott. Hilton remains in play due to great cards and good mid end recognition. I will occasionally stay in Hyatt and IHG but hard to invest much into those programs.
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Old Aug 19, 19, 7:37 am
  #13  
 
Join Date: Feb 2017
Location: London
Programs: EK Gold; UA *G; BAEC Gold, Marriott Titanium
Posts: 302
OK experience for me

Happy with a wider variety of choices but rarely use ex SPG - somehow I haven't found any Westin or Sheraton I really like but that's likely a personal issue or I was just unlucky with the places I've visited (Westin San Diego - uh), Le Meridien DXB was very good though.

Upgrade awards mostly worked out apart from one occasion where the app told me I was upgraded and at check in was told that's now not possible anymore (was a courtyard so don't care much).

The only thing I have noticed is that the offering in European hotel lounge is on the decline in terms of food.

Will remain loyal as nothing really to complain about and Hilton/ Accor/ IHG don't appeal to me.
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Old Aug 19, 19, 8:34 am
  #14  
 
Join Date: Feb 2013
Location: DCA
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Originally Posted by Antarius View Post
Yes, one rather sad episode which was eventually resolved (absent the suite).


Originally Posted by ajamieson View Post
This. Absolutely this. It has become entirely transactional, like IHG ... but without the points or the promos!
I like to think of it more like Southwest Rapid Rewards myself .


The good thing for me is that I at least wasn't really around for the glory days of SPG, so the bar is low...my benchmarking is to Hilton, where I've been Diamond for many years.
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Old Aug 19, 19, 8:48 am
  #15  
 
Join Date: Jan 2019
Posts: 36
Overall I can't complain (lifetime Ti). I didn't come from SPG, so can only speak to how Marriott was for me before and afterwards. My points post within 48-72hrs, I'm not excited about the increase in points needed for award stays, but that is endemic with all loyalty programs. I did do a Hilton status match earlier this year and I do like Hilton properties. However I find that in general, many more points are needed for Hilton stays than for Marriott, even factoring in the more points earn you typically get with Hilton, so I get better value, i.e. more stays, with Marriott. My biggest gripe is the quality of breakfast which seems to be on the decline of late. Plus the level of service overseas and quality of concierge lounges are so much better than the US. I actually look forward to my stays abroad than when I travel domestically. My only experience using SNAs this year was positive, they cleared within a week of the stay.
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