Five things you need to know about Marriott’s new loyalty program

By Chris Chamberlin, April 18 2018

UPDATE | Earlier advice and commentary provided by Marriott International to Australian Business Traveller has proven to be incorrect. Specifically, this relates to a statement from the company that SPG Gold members would be granted Platinum Elite status under the new program by way of their linked Marriott Rewards tier.

Marriott International has confirmed that the information it publicised in April 2018 was incorrect, but has declined to comment further on the matter.

For more information on this correction, please read: Marriott downgrades elite status for SPG Gold members.


PREVIOUS | With Marriott unveiling its new global hotel loyalty program this week, members will find their existing Marriott Rewards, Ritz-Carlton Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest account benefits harmonised across all hotel chains from August, in the lead-up to an all-new program which debuts in 2019.

Read: Marriott's new mega hotel loyalty program revealed

Marriott has explained how much of the transition will take place – and broadly, how the new program will work – but Australian Business Traveller noticed some gaps in the detail, and put questions to top Marriott executives to find out more about these changes.

We sat down with Marriott International’s Chief Sales and Marketing Officer for Asia Pacific, Peggy Fang Roe (pictured below), and Marriott International’s Director of Strategic Alliances and Partnerships for Asia Pacific, Vibhore Saraswat, to dig into more details of Marriott’s new rewards program.

1. Your highest status today determines your status in the new scheme

Note: The information Marriott provided in this section was later proven to be incorrect. We have now confirmed that SPG Gold members will only receive Gold Elite under the new scheme, unless their travel habits would qualify them for the higher Platinum Elite tier anyway. See the note above for further information.

Do you have both an SPG Gold card and a Marriott Rewards Gold card – even if that Marriott Gold status was really earned by linking your account to SPG Gold?

Under the new program, you’ll be matched to Platinum Elite, Marriott has confirmed, following initial confusion around Marriott Rewards Gold members being given Platinum Elite status in the new program, but SPG Gold members only getting Gold Elite status going forward, when under the current system, having SPG Gold gets your Marriott Gold when you link your accounts.

It’s a bit of a ‘status shortcut’, but as Peggy Fang Roe explains, “as long as you’re a Gold in Marriott, you’re going to become a Platinum Elite (in the new program): that’s the rule, so even if you were to link your (SPG and Marriott) accounts now, you would (get Platinum status in August).”

“It’s just to keep it fair. Our intent is to create more benefits for members, and we want them to be happy and excited about the program. If we need to give (them) more benefits in the short term, we’re happy to do that.”

If you’re an SPG Gold member and haven’t already linked your account to Marriott, do this today so that you get Marriott Rewards Gold status before the new program kicks in: that way, you’ll become Platinum Elite under the new scheme, instead of Gold Elite from your Starwood status alone.

Read: Instant status match: how to link your Marriott, Starwood accounts

2. Changes to ‘free’ status for American Express Platinum cardholders

Currently, an Australian AMEX Platinum Charge Card is all you need for a free bump to SPG Gold status – and by extension, Marriott Rewards Gold status – which as above, will get you Platinum Elite membership in the new program.

Saraswat confirmed to Australian Business Traveller that there will be no changes to the ability to opt-in for this status through AMEX until August when the new program kicks in, so if you haven’t already taken advantage of this, there’s still time.

Regarding status for AMEX cardholders beyond August, Saraswat assures that Marriott is “not planning to remove anything, we’ll just be making enhancements in the way the programs are right now.”

“As you would imagine, the American Express partnership was respective to SPG only, and with our (new) program, we’ll have a bigger portfolio, so we will try to enhance those benefits,” but it’s not yet known which tier AMEX cardholders will be assigned to when requesting their hotel status after the new program kicks in.

The same unknown applies to converting AMEX Membership Rewards points into Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints, but when there’s news on this, you can be sure we'll report it.

3. Nights booked using points will count as eligible ‘nights’ for status

It’s a small detail, but one that many business travellers make use of when booking personal trips – and that’s that any hotel nights booked using reward points under the new program will continue to earn ‘nights’ towards elite status.

This is a different approach to how most airlines work, where if you use your points to book a flight, you generally miss out on status credits, so whether your hotel stay is paid for with points or cash, the nights you spend in hotels will count towards keeping your status or attaining a new tier.

While Marriott has outlined how many points will be needed to book hotel stays under the new program, what hasn’t been shared is which category each hotel will belong to: information Marriott plans to release closer to August 2018.

4. You’ll still be able to buy points in the new program

A favourite trick of savvy travellers is to buy points in the Starwood Preferred Guest program during lucrative discount or bonus point deals, and convert these into airline frequent flyer points to fly business class at economy-like prices.

Saraswat wouldn’t be drawn on whether the new program would continue offer such rewarding promotions, but did say that Marriott is “not planning to remove the ability for members to buy points” under the new scheme.

“We will be having more details on what that arrangement is going to be in the future, but that benefit is going to stay on,” he adds, sharing also that “for simplification we would like that every (airline) partner should have a 3:1 conversion ratio” on points transfers from the new scheme.

5. There’ll be no more ‘secret’ VIP membership level

SPG currently has an invitation-only ‘VIP Preferred Guest’ tier, while Marriott Rewards has its own by-invitation Platinum Premier Elite tier – but in the new program, there’ll be no VIP rank: anybody can qualify for any tier with the right number of nights: it just happens that the name of the highest public tier in the new program uses the same name as the current VIP tier.

Members who earn 75 nights under the new scheme will receive a Platinum Premier Elite, and those who reach 100 nights will get Platinum Premier Elite with Ambassador service for a more personalised travel experience, mixing the best of Marriott Rewards and SPG.

Existing VIPs from both Marriott and SPG will be transitioned to the new program’s Platinum Premier Elite (75-night) tier, except for those with 100 nights or more to their name this year, who will naturally get a Platinum Premier Elite with Ambassador membership.

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a great latte, a theatre ticket and a glass of wine!

MarkJohnSon Banned

MarkJohnSon Banned

19 Jan 2018

Total posts 90

Hmm.. saying the will be no secret tier is exactly what you would say if there was a secret tier.

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2949

Of course, until it was outlined which tiers existing VIPs would be match to in the new scheme. :P

Rohit

Rohit

06 Jul 2017

Total posts 22

Regarding point no. 1, yes those with Amex Plat, which comes with SPG Gold, who status-matched it to Marriott Gold (and got free brekky & lounges) will be converted to Platinum in Aug under the new program, but ONLY for 2018 and not beyond that. Marriott's head of loyalty program in US has confirmed it. Very fair too IMO if you ask.

sagidec

sagidec

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

19 Nov 2011

Total posts 246

I am curious about whether the Amex AU Membership Rewards will partner with SPG/Marriott new program to enable MR points transfer?

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2949

As in the article: "The same unknown applies to converting AMEX Membership Rewards points into Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints, but when there’s news on this, you can be sure we'll report it."

nj8842

nj8842

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

08 Jun 2017

Total posts 2

Thanks Chris for the professional update! Greetings from the audience of your Frequent Traveller University talks.

ryanoleary

ryanoleary

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Jun 2014

Total posts 11

Does this interview (via TPG) with a Marriott exec, seem to contradict the APAC exec you spoke to? I am hoping not! But there seems to be a fair amound of confusion out there over people who Marriott Gold only via their SPG Gold status.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWfgPgiWlqU

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2949

Hi Ryan, the question we put to Marriott on the SPG Gold/Marriott Gold -> Platinum Elite scenario was given on notice, so that the team would be able to look into this properly and provide us with an accurate answer.

FYI, here are some extra quotes which didn't make it into the article, following our question about having SPG Gold via AMEX Platinum in Australia and matching that to Marriott Gold under the current system: "If you’ve linked your accounts, and you’ve linked to Marriott and you get matching status, then you would become a Platinum Elite – we figured it out!"

Other than that, we can only point you to the other quotes published in our article which reaffirm this for our region. TPG is a US-based publication, so naturally, Brian's interview was with a US-based Marriott exec and asked about the credit card Gold perk specific to US-based cardholders.

robbo135

robbo135

24 Jun 2015

Total posts 9

Hi Chris,

I'm not sure there is a distinction between getting SPG gold via Amex AU vs SPG Gold via Amex USA. The response from the SVP of Loyalty was quite clear cut, status from credit cards gets you Gold in the new program. I think a statement from the global SVP of Loyalty has more weighting than a response from an APAC Exec.

The only way this could eventuate is if Amex AU separately reached a deal with Marriott/SPG which is highly unlikely.

As much as I'd like this to be true, its blue sky at the moment. We all find out on 1 August I guess.

John Odlum

John Odlum

13 Sep 2016

Total posts 56

Great article Chris, this is the type of story for which I happily disable my AdBlocker because most other websites are just printing the same material from the press release and have not gone further to get more answers like you have.

clarkysdonga

clarkysdonga

18 Aug 2015

Total posts 49

Point Number 1, thanks guys, exactly what i needed to know :)

rcooney

rcooney

18 Apr 2018

Total posts 1

Thanks, great article, Chris! Do we know what's going to happen with Marriott's flight + hotel packages?

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2949

That's not one of the changes we asked about as it's not something we've ever really covered on AusBT (albeit a particularly savvy way to spend Marriott Rewards points), so that one's a "wait and see".

Rohit

Rohit

06 Jul 2017

Total posts 22

No changes to flights + hotel package as of now. One (unrelated) change is that the United Premier Silver status which came with Marriott Platinum under existing program, that benefit in the new program has been given to those with Platinum Premier status in Marriott (75+ nights).

Batesy

Batesy

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Jun 2016

Total posts 13

So just to clarify. I am currently Gold with both programs after linking SPG gold to Marriot. (SPG Gold via Amex plat charge card) After August I will be platinum elite giving me access to lounges??

Batesy

Batesy

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Jun 2016

Total posts 13

Any follow up Chris??

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2949

Matched status from SPG is covered in the article in the very first section.

Menegatti

Menegatti

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 May 2018

Total posts 2

Hello - just wondering I have 40k+ Marriot points left over from a business trip and need to know if I should move these to SPG before August and what would be the best approach to gain extra points or better status?

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