Marriott’s New Loyalty Program Launches August 18, 2018

Marriott’s takeover of Starwood closed nearly two years ago, though Marriott has been taking their time with integrating Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest. As a Starwood loyalist I’m happy to see this, since I like “my” Starwood to be independent for as long as possible. For now we have the best of both worlds, since the two programs offer points transfers and status matching, while still maintaining the attributes of the individual programs.

Then this April we learned that Marriott would be introducing a new loyalty program as of August 2018, which would be replacing Marriott Rewards, Ritz-Carlton Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest.

The catch is that up until now we haven’t known when in August the programs will actually combine. We’ve even been getting some mixed signals. We know changes are coming to SPG Amex Cards as of August 1, and changes are coming to Marriott Chase Cards as of August 26, but we haven’t known about the program itself… at least up until now.

Marriott’s new loyalty program launches August 18, 2018

Marriott has just announced that they’ll be forming a unified loyalty program as of Saturday, August 18, 2018. The Saturday transition makes sense, as it will minimize the impact it has on members.

As you might expect, migrating systems for a program with over 100 million members will be no small project. As they explained to me, this will be a technically challenging day, which is probably an understatement.

We can expect that starting in the morning on, August 18 Marriott websites will be down for several hours. Then we can expect that for most of the day the loyalty systems will be down, so it won’t be possible to redeem points, attach numbers to reservations, etc. So they ask for everyone’s patience, which is fair enough.

Phone agents won’t be able to book awards during that period either, so don’t expect to be able to redeem points at the new rates until late in the day on the 18th, at the earliest.

When this happens, members should see that all of their points automatically transfer from Starwood Preferred Guest to Marriott Rewards at a 1:3 ratio. Furthermore, those who haven’t yet linked accounts or signed up for a Marriott account will receive a new nine digit account number. This account number should be emailed to members, and will also appear when trying to log into your account with your old member number.

Asking a few important questions

I had the chance to speak to David Flueck, the head of loyalty at Marriott, regarding this transition. While Marriott has answered a lot of questions, there are still some pressing questions that many of us have, given that the new program is just weeks away. Here’s my takeaway (these aren’t direct quotes):

Will members who redeem points for hotels prior to August 18 receive a points refund if the price drops?

No, and this matches what I was told in the past. If you book a hotel before August 18 that goes down in price you can cancel and rebook (assuming it’s outside the cancelation period), but points won’t automatically be refunded.

How will existing certificates issued for Marriott Travel Packages will be handled?

This is the million dollar question for those of us who are looking to maximize our points.

Frustratingly the answer to this is that they still don’t have any information to share about how existing certificates will be handled, other than encouraging members to redeem them before the program changes.

So if you book a Travel Package and have a seven night certificate, we don’t know at what categories of hotels those will be valid come August 18.

The question of whether or not it makes sense to redeem Travel Packages now is still looming. I wrote about this a few days ago, and will have another post about this shortly, though we still have over three weeks to book these. I’m sticking to my current theory, which is that I think they plan on being generous, but don’t want to publicize that, because they don’t want everyone redeeming their points this way, given what a spectacular value it is. That’s the only logical conclusion I can come up with.

Will the St. Regis Maldives, St. Regis Bora Bora, etc., really be bookable for 60,000 Marriott points per night, come August 18?

Historically these hotels have cost an outrageous number of Starpoints. That’s because these are technically all-suite properties, so they often cost 90,000+ points per night (the equivalent of 270,000 Marriott points). That’s just crazy.

It was confirmed that these will indeed be bookable under the new standard award chart.

The catch is that award nights will be limited to “base rooms,” and they haven’t yet defined what those base rooms will be, as they could differ from what these hotels currently consider to be base rooms. So these hotels will be available, though it could be that a very limited number of rooms are designed as base rooms.


I have a feeling a lot of people will be redeeming at the St. Regis Maldives

Bottom line

We can expect Marriott’s new loyalty program to kick in on August 18. However, don’t expect that you’ll be able to redeem your points starting at 12:01AM. This is a huge undertaking for Marriott, and it’s likely to take hours for that to happen, assuming everything goes as planned. At that point it will be a free for all to take advantage of some of the best redemption values we’ve ever seen with the program.

Unfortunately there are still some important looming questions, especially as it relates to Travel Packages, and also just how many rooms will be made available for points at the properties that were otherwise prohibitively expensive.

Comments

  1. Historically SPG has allowed some members to hold a pending reservation for 7 days while points post. Do you think these reservations will automatically cancel on Aug 18? Or can we pending book a place on Aug 13 and be fine?

  2. One easier question:

    So does it mean that we can still buy the ord travel package between Aug.1 and Aug. 17

    Or the deadline is still July 31st?

    Just want to holding the points until the last minute to get the most information.

  3. @ Lucky. Please advise on this strategy for redeeming a hotel and airline packages. I have the MR points to get 4 packages and then be able to do 5 category upgrades. I don’t know in the next 2 years (one year and then an extension) that I would use all 4. To me with the 132k in UA miles for a package it’s better to get the packages even if I don’t use them all as I won’t get as many converted UA miles on a straight points to miles redemption. Was looking at getting a CAT 8 for a stay in Hawaii and a CAT 7 for a stay in Brisbane, Australia. I note that you will have another post on this subject so no need to respond to this one right now. I’ll wait for your follow-up post.

  4. @Lucky – can you confirm by getting Ritz Gold status through applying for Chase Ritz card will convert to Marriott Platinum after 8/18/18?

  5. So for those with the SPG Amex Biz card, is Aug 18 the same date when the Sheraton Club lounge benefit goes away?

  6. Per Gary, you can just call up to get points back if hotel gets cheaper. No mention of cancel/rebooking. That is different to what you say, who is correct?

  7. @ Lucky I am checking into an autograph collection on August 17 for 3 nights. I am a gold elite. Will I still receive the breakfast benefit for my stay? I can’t gather a clear answer.

  8. @jim: Great way to sum it up! 🙂 I’d hate to be stuck with the points early- to mid-August only to find out that I can’t use them for the old Travel Packages.

    @Hal, read the post: “We know changes are coming to SPG Amex Cards as of August 1, and changes are coming to Marriott Chase Cards as of August 26…”

    You should’ve received mailings and/or emails from Amex detailing the changes, too. August 1 is when the changes to the SPG Amex cards kick in. No more Sheraton Club access as of that date.

  9. I second @Jim. I would like to use the 7 nights around July 27 2019 and with this 2 extra weeks it would be possible. Hopefully we can still buy packages until 8/18.

  10. Big bang is an high risk approach. Time will tell whether they are being brave… Or stupid.

  11. While there will be no automatic points refund we won’t have to cancel if the hotel goes down in category:
    “While if a redemption stay is booked prior to when the new categories go into effect, a member would not automatically receive a points refund should the hotel require fewer points, members will be able to contact Marriott for assistance in moving the reservation to new category pricing without losing the reservation. This was not the case in SPG where a new availability check was required–the current Marriott Rewards policy will continue in that regard.

  12. spg agent confirmed that if you reach >75 nights prior to 8/18 then you will not receive the +5 SNAs. seems a bit off still.

  13. @Lucky

    I’ve been trying to transfer Marriott Rewards points to SPG points with a pair of linked accounts for a family member for the past week but have been getting the run around. On the website it errors out, so I called Marriott Rewards. The first agent said it was impossible and I’d have to wait until August. I HUCA’d and the second agent said it was impossible. HUCA again and the third agent said I had to call SPG. I called SPG and they said I had to call Marriott. The third Marriott agent said it was impossible, so I asked for the supervisor. After more than 30 mins of trying to talk to the supervisor (who kept saying it was impossible) I gave up on that call.

    Do you have any advice here? Thanks!

  14. I have three nights booked for the evening of August 17. One of those rooms is one night (8/17-8/18), the other two are for four nights (8/17-8/21).

    Since the SPG rules are in play at the time of check in, but Marriott at the time of check out, do your contacts at Marriott have any idea how this would be credited? We used to be able to get elite credit for up to three rooms/night with SPG, only 1 with the new Marriott rules, but since I check in prior to the rules changing, will I get credit for all three rooms for the entire time?

    Or perhaps it goes by the day of check out since that’s when it will post to the account.

  15. @Lucky does this mean as long as i have Gold status by 8/18 i can maintain that status? i was looking to apply Ritz card to achieve Gold Status.

  16. @ thoams — How your status converts depends on how you earn the status. Marriott Gold not earned through an Amex Plat or Crossover Rewards should convert to Marriott Platinum for the remainder of the year, as far as I know.

  17. @ Neel — What error message do you get online? Have you been able to match status between accounts, if the accounts have any status?

  18. @ Dennis — I believe the status at the time you check-in is what counts, so I think it would go based on that.

  19. @ David L — Personally I wouldn’t be so sure that they’ll continue to offer extensions with the certificates under the new program. It could be, but I don’t think it’s a sure thing. Will have more thoughts in my next post on this.

  20. @ Lucky

    The error message is “Unable to Sign In This service is temporarily unavailable. But don’t worry, we’re on it. Please try again later.” even though I’m already signed in and even after getting that message I can go to the account overview page and am still signed in. It’s been the same since early last week.

    The account has Marriott Silver status from the credit card which seems to have been automatically matched to SPG Preferred Plus (no SPG credit card that would have granted that otherwise).

    Thanks again!

  21. Lucky,

    Your writing shines, but please purge the passive voice:

    “It was confirmed that these will indeed be bookable under the new standard award chart.”

    pains me to read. It sounds like babble from a teleprompter from the 6:00 a.m. news on the ABC affiliate in Bozeman.

    Indeed, my job involves some writing and whenever I think I have completed product, I go through and make all efforts to convert any instances of “to be” into stronger prose.

  22. I want to book the Marriott property on 8/12/2018 to 8/17/18 or can be extend until
    8/20/18. The question is the old points charge 20000MR, then 8/18 decrease to 12500MR only. If I check out after the merging date can I still request the points difference to be return from 8/12?
    Also when can I start attache my TP cert to SPG hotel?

    Thank you if you can help!

  23. Lucky, you wrote several times about the 27th of July as a date of relevance – is anything actually going to happen then?

  24. I’m already frustrated! Booked a night at a Sheraton that converted to a Courtyard the night before I arrived. My reservation was converted from a Sheraton to a Courtyard at a associate rate, which means no points or stay credit. I’ve spend hours with both SPG and Marriott providing documentation I did not book associate rate. If this is how they treat a 50 night Platinum with both sides ignoring me, I’m scared for what is to come. I’m just asking for my one night credit!! Frustrating!

  25. oh boys and girls. lucky is not the oracle of delphi. we will see what happen. and august is the month to stay with spouse and family at home and enjoy the nice weather. keep your fingers crossed and forget about points etc.

  26. Hi Lucky I noted that while the program unifies on 18 Aug, SPG and Marriott will still be a separate ‘account’ (i.e. you can either choose to keep points in SPG or Marriott) until 1 Jan 2019 anyway.

    Does that mean we can do family transfer in SPG (unlimited transfer) until 1 Jan 2019?

  27. What happens if you have qualified for Platinum status with both SPG (4 years) and Marriott (2 years) for a couple of years? Do they add up so I then have 6 years towards lifetime status?
    I haven’t seen a post on this, but doesn’t mean I didn’t miss it.
    Thanks!

  28. With Marriott’s announcement that their website will periodically be shut down on Aug 18, they’ve made it official: 8/18 will be one big cluster*** , yet one more reason to make decisions now regarding package redemptions before it’s too late.

  29. If I convert Marriott points to 7 nights fly+stay package say on Aug 10 2018, do I have to decide the time to use the 7 nights stay then? Once the stay is booked, can I move back the date? We want to use it for our next year travel in Japan, but we would like to travel during Fall vs peak of the summer.

  30. What will be the lounge access policy for Ritz Property in the new program? can not find an answer on the web…..

  31. @Lucky
    So the Marriott hotel I have a reservation but still did not use points yet to pay for (have to transfer from SPG to have enough points) is going down 5000 points a night as of August 18th, my reservation starts on the 26th…what do I do? I was told I really needed to get certificate at least ten nights before…but I would rather use less points. Thanks in advance.

  32. I’m a little confused. Does this mean we won’t be able to book suites at the St. Regis Aspen either?

  33. I have a question about transferring to airlines- I don’t see that mentioned on the Marriott Rewards website. Is that going away (the SPG 20k–>25k) to airlines?

  34. @lucky – although you mentioned that we didn’t know when the program merger was going to happen, Marriott had actually announced it was going to be August 1st. So it’s not a clarification of the launch, it’s a delay in the launch of 17 days.

    Someone posted a screenshot of the old FAQ pages from members.marriott.com on FT, where they had originally listed it.

  35. I guess no one assumes this launch is going to be very smooth. With more than 100 million members, it’s a fairly major undertaking. When Starwood introduced the LT categories back in 2012 there was a great deal of confusion for a few weeks until they got it sorted out.
    This merger has dragged on for so long that it’s become a major PITA. Glad when it’s done and really hope they leave it alone for a few years….without “enhancements”.

  36. @Lucky, any word on what happens to Ritz certs (Tier 1-4) earned via RC Credit Card? I’ve called and emailed customer service and no one has an answer. Thanks!

  37. Hope it goes better than the Fairmont / Accors merger just recently. That ended up a mess with still a trail of destruction. I know Marriott uses PwC for alot of their IT major work so I would assume they have been advising them on this process. That may evoke mixed opinions to some. Didn’t they handle the Oscar envelopes? 😉

  38. I just tried to transfer Starwood points to Marriott manually (through the transfer portal)- to keep the system from having to worry about my account on 8/18- but it still only allows transfers in increments of 1,000 points. Do you know- when Marriott does the transfer automatically on 8/18/18 if they will truly give a 3X conversion rate on the total balance, and not just in 1,000 point increments? For instance, if I have 30,999 Starwood points, will I get 92,997 Marriott points or only 30,000×3=90,000?

  39. New STARWOOD PREFERRED GUEST® AMERICAN EXPRESS LUXURY CARD …

    I have a question about this statement …

    “During each year of your Card Membership (“reward year”), you are eligible to receive up to $300 total in statement credits on your Card Account for eligible purchases made directly at participating SPG or Marriott Rewards hotels on your Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Luxury Card during that reward year. Your first reward year begins on your account opening date. Each subsequent reward year begins on the anniversary of your account opening date. ”

    What does it mean by “participating … hotels” and does the credit include the room payment? Or just charges at the hotel as parking, dining etc?

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