Rumor about new Marriott/SPG cards: 3 tiers and really good initial offer

When Marriott took over Starwood, they said that they would run parallel loyalty programs until 2018.  More recently they have said that they hope to bring the programs together by the end of 2018.  While we are eager to learn all about the new program, one aspect that is especially interesting is the question of what will happen to their credit cards.  Today, Marriott branded credit cards are issued by Chase whereas SPG cards are issued by Amex.  When the programs fully merge, who will issue the new Stariott cards?  And what features will the cards have?

A reader reports mingling with Marriott employees at an SPG hotel lounge where he heard that the separate Marriott & SPG programs would be going away in late 2018 (nothing new about that) and that the current credit cards would be replaced with “a three tier card system” and with a “really good initial offer.”

There’s not much info here, and it might not even be true.  Even if we assume that the reader report was completely accurate, we can’t know whether the Marriott employees had any real information or were making it up themselves.  And, if it is all true, it doesn’t tell us much.  Or, does it?

Why report this at all?  It may seem silly to report this rumor, but I’ve always enjoyed speculating about what the future might hold.  At the very least, this rumor gives us some context with which to speculate…

If the “three tier card system” is true, I’d argue that Amex is most likely the winner of the new card contract.  Amex has long offered three tiers of Delta cards: Gold, Platinum, and Reserve (Never mind that they recently added a fourth tier with the Delta Blue card).  And, more telling, they recently announced a three tier card system for the Hilton contract that they won in a tug-of-war with Citibank.  See: Hilton Amex Cards. Everything you need to know.  The Hilton announcement came after I heard the Marriott/SPG rumor.  Obviously there’s nothing stopping Chase from offering 3 tiers of cards.  But Amex has more history with it.  I know… it’s not much to go on, but it’s something.

So what?

If Chase earns the contract, this could be bad news for those of us who are over 5/24.  The 5/24 Rule is where Chase won’t approve new card applications for those who have signed up for 5 or more cards in the past 24 months with any banks.  So, if Chase got the contract and offers big signup bonuses, it would be very sad for those of us stuck on the sidelines.  On the other hand, many of Chase’s co-branded cards are not subject to the 5/24 rules, so maybe these cards would not be either.  But the current Chase Marriott consumer card is subject to 5/24, so it’s tough to know what will happen.  For the record, Chase cards that are known not to be subject to 5/24 include: AARP, Disney, BA, Hyatt, IHG, Marriott business card, and Ritz.

If Amex earns the contract, we won’t have to worry about being over 5/24 in order to get approved.  And we should be eligible to earn signup bonuses on each version of the card.  And, like the Hilton and Delta cards, there may be business cards that match one or more of the tiers.  It’s theoretically possible that there would be as many as six new cards with consumer and business versions of each of three tiers. This would match Amex’s historical Delta portfolio. More likely, I think, they would match the new Hilton portfolio with three tiers of consumer cards and just one business card.  Time will tell.

For the most part, I think that Amex winning the contract would be a good thing for most of us.  One big downside, though, has to do with Amex’s 5 credit card limit per person.  They’ll allow people to have any number of charge cards, but only 5 credit cards (not counting authorized user cards).  Many of us are already scrambling to open up slots for the new Amex Hilton cards.  We will likely have to do the same for the new Marriott/SPG cards.

Another big question that will be raised if Amex wins the contract, is what happens with the current Chase Marriott and Ritz cards?  Will Amex take over the accounts as they are soon going to do with Citi Hilton cards?  Or will the Chase cards get converted to Chase Ultimate Rewards cards as happened with the end of the Fairmont card?  If the latter, I’d bet that the Marriott personal card will convert to the Sapphire Preferred, and the Ritz card will convert to the Sapphire Reserve.  I’m not sure what would happen with the Marriott Business card.  Maybe it would convert to the Ink Business Preferred.

For those way over 5/24 who want to get the Sapphire Reserve or Ink Business Preferred cards, this line of thinking may offer a new option.  Neither the Ritz card nor the Marriott Business card is subject to 5/24 rules.  So, you could sign up today for those cards and hope that they eventually convert over as follows:

  • Guess 1: The Ritz Card may get converted to the Sapphire Reserve (Note: After signing up for this card, secure message Chase to ask to be matched to the 3 night offer which is no longer available)
  • Guess 2: The Marriott Business card may get converted to the Ink Business Preferred

One thing we can be sure of is that when the credit card situation is publicly announced, we will scramble to figure out the best ways to take advantage of the changes.  Should we keep or cancel our current Marriott, Ritz, and SPG cards?  Should we sign up for any of those cards before it’s too late?  What are the pros and cons of doing either?  As a reminder, I recently covered similar questions with respect to Amex taking over the Hilton portfolio.  Please see these posts:

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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  1. Even more significant than which issuer and which signup bonuses are offered will be the points earning capacity of any new cards on everyday spending. If it’s just one Marriott point per dollar such as with current Marriott branded cards, rather than three Marriott points via the current SPG card, there will be a huge shift of spending to cards offering Ultimate Rewards points.

    • True, but even that depends on what they do with the new program overall. Remember that they’re supposedly not keeping Marriott Rewards, but moving to a new combined program. They could move to a high-value points program like SPG. More likely, I think, is that they’ll move to a more Hilton-like approach where points aren’t worth as much, but you earn lots of them. In that case, absolutely, they would have to have a base earning rate of 3X or so in order to be worthwhile for spend.

  2. I think the signup bonuses over the next few months will give us some insight in to who won the contract.

    Im guessing whoever loses the contract will offer some nice bonuses before the card goes away to get more customers.

  3. I have held the Chase Marriott card for 29 years. That is a long time in any business to hold a brand. I would be surprised to see Amex to have Marriott and Hilton under the same umbrella as those are fierce competitors.

    On the other hand, I would love to have my Ritz card and Marriott card convert to full Chase cards as you suggest.

    I am a few nights short of lifetime Platinum at Marriott and just hope nothing screws with that.

  4. Sorry, but your source either mis-heard or they were yanking his chain.

    With AMEX’s disadvantage position with respect to major money center banks, and the fact that they just secured the entire Hilton portfolio — one in which they used to have all to themselves — I just don’t see it possible that Marriott is going to throw in their lot with AMEX who issues their arc competitor’s credit cards.

    Moreover, Chase has been with Marriott the entire time and SPG only fell into Marriott’s lap by the merger.

    AMEX’s securing the Hilton portfolio was a defensive move given the loss of Costco and the ANTICIPATED loss of SPG.

    Further, although Chase issues both the Marriott Visa products and the IHG MasterCard products, they are at least different cards run on different systems.

    If AMEX were to secure both Hilton and Marriott they only would be AMEX cards run on the same system and not enough of a differentiation for Marriott, as well.

  5. ‪This is exciting!!! You know chase/Marriott contract ends in 2018 and SPG/Amex ends in 2020. So looks like American Express has the upper hand 🙂

  6. I’m extremely pessimistic. I’d expect an overall devaluation of points and benefits when the merger finishes. There may be a good card or two that comes out of the mix, but right now I say earn and burn.

  7. While I admit up front that I’m a cynic, suspect whatever Marriott/SPG do(es), it will be a major disaster for their loyal customers. I will be shocked if they do anything that will incentivize the entire program. I had been a loyal Marriott customer for years (believe I’m now “Gold Lifetime” headed to Platinum) but they have lost any connection with “customer service” since the buyout of Starwood. Prior to that, I actually received benefits when I checked into Marriott branded hotels, soon after, no luck – and not only no luck – had a Marriott hotel rep tell me that my Marriott status means nothing. As a result, I burned almost all my Marriott points for a trip for my wife and I a month ago – granted, the hotels treated us really well (but, they were part of “The Autograph Collection”), it didn’t win us back as customers.

    I’m now a Hyatt customer with the Chase Hyatt card – while not as good as Marriott, so far, customer service is much better (famous last words)…

  8. I went ahead and took a gamble and applied for the Ritz Card, for two reasons. If the card ceases to exist in the future, to take advantage of the sign up bonus and the perks before it’s gone forever. The second reason is to gamble on if Amex wins the Starriott bid, that the Ritz is converted to a UR card so that I can downgrade other cards.

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