The Marriott / SPG rumor mill. What’s real?

I wasn’t planning to post about all the Marriott rumors circulating around, but readers keep asking me if they need to do something immediately to protect their points.  So, I figured that it would be helpful to summarize what we think we know.  I’ve listed below each of the rumors I’m aware of in order from most certain to least…

#1 April 16 Announcement (fact, not rumor)

On Monday afternoon, Marriott is going to make a rewards program announcement.  I know this because I was invited to a Marriott Rewards Program event in New York.  If you didn’t get that invitation, don’t worry.  Everyone in the world was invited to the online version of the event via Facebook (found here).

Next up, the rumor mill…

#2 Combined program begins in August (this looks legit)

Of the rumors circulating, the most convincing I’ve seen to-date is this image posted on Flyertalk:

The text of the flyer reads:

One powerful programme.
Three different names.

Starting this August, Marriott Rewards, The Ritz-Carlton Rewards and SPG will come together as one programme. For now programme names will stay the same, but everything else will be consolidated. You’ll get easier access and even more opportunities at more than 6,500 hotels across 29 brands, including:

  • Book, earn and redeem points at all participating hotels seamlessly
  • Aligned Elite status and benefits with a 29 brands
  • A simplified experience – one account, profile, log-in and points balance

Explore all the new changes at:
members.marriott.com

The key take-away from the flyer is that the programs will merge in August.  When that happens, your Marriott and SPG points will be merged together into one set of points.  And it should then be possible to earn and redeem those points at all Marriott, SPG, and Ritz properties.

#3 The leak that started it all

On April 9th, coltonatx posted the following on Flyertalk:

I am surprised this hasn’t leaked to FT yet, but a good source shared the following details about the merged program:

This too looks legitimate to me, but there’s less context to “prove” that this is really from Marriott.  If we assume that this is true, though, we learn a bit more about the merged program:

  • The points in the new program will be more like Marriott Rewards points in value than like SPG. We know this because of the 10X point earnings. Today, non-elite Marriott members earn 10X at most Marriott properties, but SPG non-elite members earn only 2X.
  • Free breakfast will finally be available to some elites at resorts
  • The new program will have 5 elite status tiers, but we don’t yet know what benefits any of these tiers will offer.

A bit of evidence that the above is true came from a reader named Rose via the Frequent Miler Insiders Group on Facebook.

Rose ads some evidence that free breakfast may be available at the Platinum elite level (which appears to be equivalent to Marriott Gold status in today’s program based on the 50 night requirement).  This seems likely since Marriott Gold members today get free breakfast at most properties.  On the other hand, I wouldn’t assume that a Westin employee would necessarily know details at this point about future free breakfast benefits, so I consider this tidbit a bit less certain than the other info listed above.

#4 Details revealed or wild speculation?

Things got crazy in the rumor mill when OU812 posted on Facebook.  It’s important to note that OU812 specifically wrote that the following changes were discussed but that not all will be in the final program.  So, even if we assume that OU812’s source is completely legitimate, we should treat all of the following as possible but far from certain program changes:

FWIW speculation on changes to MR as we currently know it, based on discussion with someone in the know at MR but not privy to final decisions:

  • Names of status levels above Platinum have not been confirmed. MR wants to differentiate status levels above platinum to ensure proper recognition and avoid confusion among front line staff. Working names are Platinum 50, Platinum 75 and Platinum 100
  • Instant recognition of status at all levels upon check-in, with arrival points, free HSI, food & beverage vouchers, and choice of other benefits depending on status level
  • Spend requirement for all levels above silver. If spending level not reached, but nights are, status is at appropriate level based on spend.
  • Gold and platinum 50 upgrades limited to preferred level, concierge floor, higher floors, corner rooms, or view rooms at resorts. (No suites!)
  • Guaranteed suite awards (4) per year for platinum 75 and above
  • Guaranteed lounge access only for levels platinum 75 and above
  • Free breakfast at resorts for platinum 75 and above
  • Guaranteed late check-out, 2:00pm for Gold, 3:00pm for Platinum 50, 4:00pm for Platinum 75, Plat 100; resort and conference hotels subject to availability.
  • Platinum guarantees: 48 room guarantee remains, others guarantees are gone (platinum arrival gift, bed type, room type, lounge access, ultimate reservation guarantee)
  • Lifetime status changes coming. If status level not obtained, lifetime status identified in system. New Lifetime Level above Platinum will be added in 2019! Benefits reduced to upgrade to preferred floor for LTG; upgrade, late check-out for LTP
  • Big changes coming to awards! Dynamic award pricing, points required for award night based on hotel room rates at time of booking. No black-out dates, no categories!

Some the items above may wind up on the cutting room floor or may not be implemented until a later date due to IT integration issues. Posted as a point of discussion and not a statement of fact.

Regards,
RIP…

Given that OU812 specifically wrote “Some the items above may wind up on the cutting room floor” and “Posted as a point of discussion and not a statement of fact” I think it would be silly to assume that all of the above is really going to happen as written.  Instead, I think this gives us a general idea of what we’ll likely find in the new program:

  • Marriott may introduce a spend requirement to certain status levels.  That is, it won’t be enough to stay 75 nights per year to get Platinum 75 (AKA Platinum Premier) status. Instead you’ll also have to spend a certain amount at Marriott/SPG/Ritz properties.  I’ll actually be surprised if they implement the spend requirement for low level status unless they also grant waivers for certain credit card holders and/or those who spend enough on Marriott/SPG/Ritz cards.
  • Marriott may move towards dynamic award pricingDon’t panic!  Yes, this would likely mean the end to the great values that are sometimes available, especially during events that cause prices to go sky high.  On the other hand, when hotel prices are low, points may be more useful under the new system.  We need to wait and see if this is really implemented, and how.  Then we can panic.

#5 Do we lose the ability to transfer SPG points to airline programs on Monday?

Answer: No.  I don’t believe the rumor.

This rumor came from a single comment on the One Mile at a Time blog.  The comment reads:

According to the SPG agent I just spoke with on the phone, the airline transfer program is being “discontinued” on April 16th. If you need to transfer do it now.

One Mile at a Time wrote about this rumor and gave reasons not to believe it.  Lucky wrote:

Let me say up front that I don’t think this is true. I tried to contact the reader and didn’t hear back, the IP address has multiple names, and I called the SPG Platinum line several times myself, and all the agents confirmed they hadn’t heard anything (and it didn’t sound like they were trying to cover something up, but rather that they genuinely didn’t know). So I don’t think this is true, though it did get me thinking….

And even if the reader was telling the truth, there’s no particular reason to believe that the phone agent had the right information.

In the unikely event that the phone agent was correct (which I still assert is not the case), those of us with 90,000 or more SPG points shouldn’t worry.  Why?  Because you’ll get more miles for your points via Marriott Travel Packages if you’re OK transferring to Aeromexico, Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, British Airways, Copa Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, GOL/Varig, Hawaiian Airlines, Iberia Airlines, Southwest, United, or Virgin Atlantic.  See: 12 things you need to know about Marriott Travel Packages.

Wrap Up

The key message here is not to panic.  The scariest of the rumors is also, by far, the least likely to be true.  If Marriott really does “ruin” their rewards program, I’ll bet that we’ll have at least until the end of July to transfer points and/or run around yelling that the sky is falling.  But, keep in mind that so far the merger has been good for most customers.  There’s a chance that they’ll keep that up.

All we really know are the following:

  1. There will be an announcement on Monday in which we’ll likely learn a lot more
  2. The programs will merge in August
  3. You’ll be hearing from Frequent Miler Monday evening or Tuesday about our take on whatever Marriott has revealed.  See you then.

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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45 Comments on "The Marriott / SPG rumor mill. What’s real?"

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Gene
Guest

Everyone needs to transfer their points out to their favorite airline and NOW.

CaveDweller
Guest

Do Nothing wait and see just like when the market tanks about every month.There could B a + here somewhere I had my 100k already to spend but.
CHEERs

LACLONGQUAN
Guest

Hi Greg:
The outcome of the final/complete merge has a lot of unknowns. But can you give your best guesses?
1. What should I do my SPG & Marriott points: Transfer between the two account? Exchange for 7-Night and Miles packages? (Marriot agents told me that I can extend the deadline of 7-night package unlimited because they are my awards)? Exchange SPG to miles?
2. Or just wait and see.

THANKS.

LLQ

JWHPN
Guest

Thanks for posting this. I really need to stay on top of these upcoming changes for the following reason. I have made a speculative booking way in advance of a SPG Cat 7 resort in Europe. I found availability in a suite and use 210k Starpoints to book 7 nights that otherwise would’ve cost me at least $18k. IF the announcement is true, I’m hoping there’s a window where I’d be able to cancel and rebook a Marriott 7 night award and get an additional 120k miles out of the booking.
Do you think its reasonable to believe that’s possible?

CaveDweller
Guest

Good 4 u my friends think points are a JOKE . I’ve gotten 30 nites 4 or 5* for like $20 per .I tell them get the cards where’s the downside only up as in Free.

CHEERs

Tim
Guest

Any rumors on what happens to the SPG cards? Debating if I should apply now for wife. She has never had either and it would be worth an application or 2 if they are going away soon. I also don’t want to get in a situation where they convert to a new product and then we miss that bonus. Thoughts?

jan
Guest

what do you think will happen to the Marriott air and hotel travel packages? My Marriot biz card closing date is April 23rd and I met the min spending of 3k for 75k points. I will have enough for the Air and Category 6 package. How many days do I need to wait after Marriott statement closing date for the points to go in my Marriott account? The ONLY reason for the Marriott biz card application a month ago was for the travel package.

S.G
Guest

What i know is that i have 90K Starpoint that i bought ( no credit card rewards neither nohing earned with hotel nights ), with the propose to use them for a travel+air package so, i move them to Marriott, and then reedemed for a 7 night certificate and 120K Alaska miles. This was not the time that i want to make this, but i didn´t want to take any chances.

ajs5034
Guest

if we’ve been on the sidelines about getting the SPG Business Amex, should we do that ASAP in order to get the bonus before everything gets realigned?

jan
Guest

Greg, thanks for the answer. sorry not sure how to reply to your answer instead of writing another message….which is the best air transfer for the Marriot travel package? I already have stand by privileges wherever United Airlines fly so I would like to have the 120 K air part to go to an airline for little or no fuel charge and lowest award redemption miles for Biz class ticket for connecting from Asia/Europe to Africa/Oceania/Europe/Asia. So for example, I will have United stand by for LAX to LHR but would like to use award redemption for LHR to Asia/ Oceania. Hope this makes sense.

Dan
Guest

In your wrap up, when you say they will “merge in August”. For all intents and purposes, does that mean for bookings made starting in August? Or for stays starting in August and bookings earlier?

Steven
Guest

Greg, if SPG will discontinue transfer to Airline in 04/16, why do you think thy will keep Marriott Travel Packages alive? they can cancel at the same time, there’s nothing to prevent them to do so……I think Marriott know this loopholes for long time, but they are just lazy/slow to change it…….I predict SPG will devalue a lot later last year, the new Marriott really don’t care much even huge devaluation customer will leave, size wise only competitor is Hilton and they are revenue based points now, then for a customer what’s the other choice? IHG? they don’t even have free breakfast…..one thing I know for sure SPG 15K for Marriott Category 9/ 25K for Ritz will gone.

Mickey
Guest

Greg, how about status. Current platinum based on 25 spg stays, on track to have another 25 spg stays in 2018. 50 nights including Marriott in 2018 would be doable, but require some nights that I don’t really need or want.

For an already booked August 2018 Marriott stay, am I likely to get pretty much the same as my July 2018 stay at the same hotel? (Referring to upgrade, free breakfast, lounge , late check out )

Am I likely to get most of the same four benefits for 2019 business, based on 25 2018 spg stays (or if need be 50 combined Marriott Starwood nights )?

What I really don’t get is new program starting mid year, unless pretty much promised stuff for 2019 stays is based on the old qualifications.

Second big question, is when do you see categories getting redone next, and will there be an opportunity to book at existing point levels before that happens?

Thank you

dan
Guest

In point number 2, is there any concern around the word “participating”? Would they not count some top tier SPG hotels as participating (St. Regis Bora Bora, Al Maha, and others that are 60k+ points per night)?

Also, even if they don’t exclude those, I was hoping to get an absolute steal at the St. Regis Bora Bora considering top tier marriott/ritz is only 23.3k SPG points (which is much better than 120k SPG points per night). But now it sounds like they might go revenue based so it could turn into a much worse return than even what is out there today. Bummer.

trackback

[…] Until then, let the speculation begin! […]

Max
Guest

Selective leaks usually mean that a bloodbath is coming and Marriott is feeling nervous as well. It does not really matter if we panic or not panic.

P-Ugh
Guest

I have Gold now under Marriott and have a stay booked in Canada JW Marriott in September. With my Gold I would get free breakfast. If they change that in August, I probably won’t get free breakfast by the time I’m there.

Will the Starwood biz card still allow us to get Sheraton lounge access?

Fresh
Guest

should one do a status challenge still before any of this and if so which one seems to be the one that is most favorable knowing all of this information now the spg 18 nights or the marriott 9 stays?

TIM GRABLE
Guest

Greg: Any guess how this might impact lifetime Marriott Platinum members?

Kevin
Guest

Any speculation on SPG Lifetime status? I am 6 nights from Lifetime Gold. Do you recommend completing those stays before August or should I not bother.

Nick Reyes
Editor

Since we should know tomorrow and you can’t complete 6 nights between now and then, I recommend waiting to find out when they (hopefully) announce the details tomorrow :-).

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[…] As we previously reported, Marriott will be making an announcement today at 4:30 about the future of the Marriott, SPG, and Ritz rewards programs.  Will this be good news, bad news, or much ado about nothing? Nick and I will be there in person, but you can view the event yourself via Facebook (here).  Also, please join us here on this blog page (see below) or on Twitter while we tweet our reactions to the event live. The following are the most recent of our tweets. Once we start tweeting about the Marriott event, the tweets should show up here with the most recent tweets on top: […]