Marriott, SPG, and Ritz-Carlton’s rewards programs will merge into one program (but still with three different names) in August. With regards to elite benefits, they’re mostly getting better for Marriott elites, but they’re getting a bit worse for SPG elites. Meanwhile, elites will continue to get no meaningful recognition at Ritz properties (boo). For details about the upcoming program merger, please see our guide: Marriott SPG Ritz Transition Guide.
The following chart shows how your current elite status will change in August. It’s important to note that current status matches between SPG and Marriott will not help. In other words, if you earned SPG Gold status through stays, a credit card, whatever, you can currently match that to Marriott Gold, but you’re August status will still be Gold Elite unless you also earned Marriott Gold directly.
The sweet spot elite status in the new program is Platinum Elite. This will get you the vast majority of the best benefits: 4pm late checkout, 50% point bonus, welcome gift, free breakfast at most properties, and lounge access. And, when you earn 50 elite nights you also get a choice benefit such as 5 suite night awards.
Of course, you might not have the opportunity to actually stay 50 nights at Marriott & SPG properties. But all hope is not lost. There are quite a few shortcuts to status that you can pursue instead…
Two Distinct Shortcut Paths: Elite Nights vs. Other Shortcuts
There are two types of shortcuts to elite status. One type of shortcut offers a way to get elite nights more quickly or easily. Elite night shortcuts are stackable. That is, you can mix and match these shortcuts in order to earn whatever level of status you want. The other shortcuts are not stackable. Each offers a way to get to a specific level of status, but if you want to go for a higher level of status, these generally won’t help.
Elite Night Shortcuts
The following shortcuts are stackable. You can earn elite nights from one or more of these options in order to add them up to the 50 nights you need.
The credit card options are stackable in 2018 only:
- Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card: 15 elite nights. If you have this card, then you either already received 15 elite nights or you’ll get 15 elite nights added to your account upon your card anniversary. If you received an offer to upgrade to the new Marriott Rewards Premier Plus, make sure not to upgrade until after the 15 elite nights post.
- Marriott Rewards Premier Business Card: 15 elite nights. Sign up for this card to get 15 elite nights. If you already have this card, then you either already received 15 elite nights or you’ll get 15 elite nights added to your account upon your card anniversary.
- Big spend on above cards earns elite nights: 1 elite night per $3K spend.
- SPG personal card: 5 elite nights. SPG and Marriott elite nights will combine in August.
- SPG business card: 5 elite nights. SPG and Marriott elite nights will combine in August.
- Host Marriott meeting: 10 elite nights per meeting. Make sure the elite night benefit is listed in your meeting contract.
- SPG: Earn elite night credit for up to 3 rooms at once (until August)
- Book award nights. Marriott hotels are available for as little as 7,500 points per night (6,000 points per night when point saver awards are available). SPG free nights are available for as little as 2,000 Starpoints per night (6,000 Marriott points) on weekends, or 3,000 Starpoints per night (9,000 Marriott points) on weekdays.
- Book 5th night free awards (even if staying 4 nights). Both programs offer 5th night free awards, but until August SPG offers them only for categories 3 and higher. Best deal for mattress running: Book a Marriott category 1 hotel for 5 nights. For 30,000 points, you’ll get 5 elite nights. Note that you do have to check into the hotel to get credit.
Once you earn 50 elite nights this year, your status will be good for the rest of this year, all of the next, and through February of the year after that.
The following shortcuts will get you to a specific elite level, but you can’t stack them with elite nights to get higher status.
- Chase Ritz-Carlton Card (sign up before August): As long as you sign up before August, you’ll get Marriott Gold status which will convert to Platinum Elite status. If you sign up August or later, you’ll only get Gold Elite in the new program (unless you spend $75K). For complete details see: Consider getting the Ritz-Carlton card right now.
- Marriott Status Challenge. UPDATE: A few readers have posted that this is no longer available. YMMV.
If you enroll before August:
- 6 paid stays will give you old Gold / new Platinum Elite
- 9 paid stays will give you old Platinum / new Platinum Elite Premier
(Note that you must have Marriott Gold status to enroll in the 9 stay Platinum challenge)
- SPG 25 stays by December 31 2018 (SPG cards add 2 stays each). Stays must be with Starwood properties.
- SPG Lux Card (spend $75K). The new SPG Luxury card that will premier in August will allow earning Platinum Elite status with $75K spend.
- United Gold elite or higher: Enroll in RewardsPlus before August (but status will only last through Jan 2019). See: United Premier Elites: Sign up for RewardsPlus before August.
- Timeshare Ownership: Both Marriott and Starwood have affiliated timeshare ownership programs, and each offers elite status under certain conditions. In the new program, if your timeshare promises Platinum status, you’ll get Platinum Elite status. For those given Marriott Gold status, you might match up to Platinum Elite in August, but in future years I believe you’ll go back to Gold.
The easiest option for most is to simply sign up for the Ritz card before August. Done. In my case, I have all four credit cards that offer stackable elite nights in 2018. That means that I’m starting with 40 elite nights and so it will be really easy to reach 50. In fact, I’m interested in going for Platinum Premier Elite 75 night status (see why in this post). The Ritz card won’t help with that unless I get it and spend $75K really fast. I don’t plan to do so. Instead, I’ll earn the extra 25 elite nights through actual stays and maybe a meeting or two.