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Back in April, Marriott and Starwood revealed their new consolidated rewards program. There are a ton of changes which you can see on their dedicated site. I’m still not sure why they decided to switch the programs in the middle of the year instead of January 1st, but anyways, here’s my summary of the most relevant changes.
Elite Status Matching
On August 1, the Starwood Preferred Guest program will cease to exist. Your current balance of SPG points will be transferred at a 1:3 ratio to Marriott Rewards, your SPG credit cards will earn Marriott points, and your Starwood Elite status will be mapped to the new Marriott Program. You are already able to transfer points and match status between your Starwood and Marriott accounts, so much isn’t changing there.
Marriott has unveiled a new set of elite status tiers which basically combine many parts of each program. The Starwood upgrade policy to standard suites remain. Suite Night Awards are also carried over, while the Platinum amenity, lounge access, and late checkout benefits remain the same.
One of my favourite changes is that you will now be able to redeem points if standard rooms are available for sale. This has been the case with Starwood but not Marriott, and I’ve run into this problem with several Marriott properties.
I’m currently Platinum with Marriott, so I’ll be a Platinum Premier under the new program. In my opinion, these changes are generous as you can requalify using the existing criteria or the new policy, whichever is better. The biggest losers are current SPG Golds as they will lose lounge access and breakfast at Marriott properties in August.
Award Chart Changes
The award chart will now include all Marriott, Starwood, and Ritz-Carlton properties. Peak and off-peak pricing, as well as Category 8, will come in 2019. Starwood top-tier hotels were already fairly overpriced, so Category 8 is most definitely a steep increase for Marriott properties.
However, one boon is that Starwood Category 7 properties will be a lot cheaper, one of the reasons why it’s a good time to purchase Starpoints with the current 35% discount. Marriott has only released a selected list hotels and their new redemption values, which I think are fairly balanced. We’ll know more once the entire list is published.
Up in the Air
The redemption options that are still unclear are the airline transfer ratios and Hotel and Air Packages, which are both one of the best ways to use your points. Marriott has said that Hotel and Air Packages and the de-facto 1:1 transfer rate will remain to some extent. We also don’t know how the 7-night certificates or current/future credit card certificates will translate to the new program.
I’m never a fan of award program changes, although this one isn’t too bad. Because there are so many changes slated to come, most people will find at least one portion of the changes advantageous, which is a really good thing.