Travel packages bookable through August 17th. Marriott & SPG to tie the loyalty knot on Saturday August 18th

Marriott has finally announced the specific date when the loyalty programs will merge: August 18th 2018And we have just confirmed with Marriott that Travel Packages will be bookable through August 17th! 

Check out our updated Marriott SPG Transition Guide.

Questions not yet answered (but we’re trying!):

  • What will happen to travel package stay certificates that haven’t been applied to a stay prior to August 18th?
  • How many Starpoints per dollar will the SPG credit cards earn between August 1 and August 17?
  • We previously believed that it was necessary to earn Marriott Gold status by the end of July in order to get Platinum status with the merged program.  Do we now have until August 17th to do so?  For example, if we sign up for the Ritz card before August 18th, would we get Marriott Gold which converts to new program Platinum?
  • What will happen to members mid-stay on the changeover date? e.g. Marriott Gold staying at a St. Regis from Aug 14-20. Will they start getting breakfast mid-stay?

Following are the contents of an email I received from Marriott PR regarding the program merger date, along with my thoughts in italics and blue


Great news. On August 18 a new era will begin for the 110 million members of Marriott International’s award-winning loyalty programs – Marriott Rewards, which includes The Ritz-Carlton Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG). For the first time since Marriott’s acquisition of Starwood Hotels and Resorts in 2016, the programs will operate under one set of unified benefits and one currency spanning the entire loyalty portfolio of 29 brands and more than 6,500 participating hotels in 127 countries.

I’ve outlined the details of the changes below, including important dates and tips that members can use to maximize their benefits before August 18. While we have communicated all of the new Elite tiers, and benefits, this afternoon members will start to learn the programs launch date as well as the information below.

On August 18, members can expect the following program changes:

  • On August 18, members with Marriott Rewards and SPG accounts will be able to combine their accounts into one, creating a unified profile with one points balance (Starpoints will be multiplied by three), and Elite-Nights earned.
    • Book, earn and redeem across the portfolio of 29 participating brand, 6500 hotels in 127 countries all in one place, on any of our digital, mobile and voice reservation channels including www.Marriott.com and www.SPG.com.
      • A new SPG app will launch, mirroring the functionality of the Marriott Rewards app, including Mobile Requests.
        Great. We get more buggy Marriott technology.  The good news is that it should still be possible to beg for upgrades electronically (see this post)
    • Earn more points:
      • 10 points per dollar spent for stays (except 5 points per dollar spent at Residence Inn, TownePlace Suites, Element and 2.5 points per dollar spent at Marriott Executive Apartments and ExecuStay properties)
        Why does Marriott allows have to complicate things with exceptions for certain brands?
      • On average members will earn 20% more points per dollar
        As long as you don’t count a reduction in points awarded as an elite welcome gift, this is true.
      • Full-folio earn on room rates, restaurant and bars and qualifying incidentals charged to the room
      • SPG members will see their points balance triple
        This is true, but a little misleading since they are converting Starpoints into rewards points
    • Achieve Elite status faster with new qualifying tiers:
      • Members can enjoy new benefits and elite status levels
      • More properties to choose from to achieve status
      • New for SPG members – Silver Elite status at 10 nights; new for Marriott Rewards members – Gold Elite status at 25 nights and Platinum Elite status at 50 nights.
      • Combining accounts means some members will have enough nights to qualify for higher elite status.
    • Easier to redeem everywhere and for less
      • Nearly 70% of properties are getting less expensive or staying the same when redeeming points for free stays with the new award chart announced last month (52 percent of hotels will move to a lower redemption rate and only 31 percent will go higher.)
        Uh, sure.  See: Marriott’s Sleight Of Hand: Category Changes Worse Than Advertised.
      • Members can redeem for stays using the new Free Night Award Chart
      • Category eight hotels can be booked at category seven rates throughout 2018
        Yes, this is a sweet deal.
      • Introduction of off-peak and peak rates on top of standard in 2019 will make sought-after properties more affordable
        Um, that’s optimistic. Most of us think it will make sought-after properties less affordable when they decide that peak = January through December.
      • No blackout dates
        What this really means is that legacy Marriott hotels can continue to withhold standard rooms from award inventory whenever they want to — they’re just not allowed to call it “blackout dates” when they do so.

All SPG members will receive a new 9-digit account number that aligns with the specifications of the new system.  The new account number will appear through a pop-up when they log into their account. Passwords will stay the same (unless the member elects to change it themselves). Some members of Marriott Rewards will also receive a new account number. These members will receive an email with their new account information or a call from our customer engagement centers.

Important to note, on August 18 starting early morning (U.S. Eastern Time) our sites and apps will periodically be unavailable as we migrate our systems to one, new platform. This means during this planned system transition there will be times when no one can make a booking, and times when we will only be accepting credit card bookings. As a result of those particular instances, members will not be able to book a redemption stay or have their member number attached to their reservation.

In other words: All hell will break loose on August 18th.  Go hide somewhere until the dust settles.

To help members navigate the different dates, we’ve assembled a few pro-tips:

  • Between now and August 18, members should maximize their redemption power by checking out the previously published Free Night Award Chart and deciding if they want to redeem before or after the new rates take effect.
    Good advice.  See: Book these now: Top properties going UP in August
  • Anticipate the outage on August 18 and book their stays in advance or wait until later in the day.
    Did we mention that all hell will break loose on August 18th?

Thanks and let me know if you have any questions.

Dan

Dan Forman
Marriott International
Senior Director – Loyalty, Digital, Marketing Innovation PR

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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Christine B
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Christine B

Darn it. Was so hoping this would be August 1st.

Ken
Guest
Ken

Does this mean we have till August 18th to book at the current travel package rates?

LTL
Guest
LTL

Greg – I’m trying to make a decision about how to use 150k SPG points. I want to stay at a Cat 8 hotel next year — the kind that will temporarily be Cat 7. Do you agree with this analysis (realizing it’s a gamble):

-140k SPG –> 420k Marriott
-Buy Ritz Tier 1-3 travel package for 420k Marriott and get 120k miles
-The gamble: The Ritz package gets converted to 300k Marriott points, which can be used to book 6 nights at a “Temporary Cat 7” hotel (60k x 6 = 360k with 5th night free)

My logic for buying Ritz Tier 1-3 is that it’s the ‘second highest’ priced travel package, and gambling that it will map onto the ‘second highest’ category of hotels, i.e. Cat 7.

I think the downside risk here is that the Tier 1-3 package converts to a category-based package *and* it maps to Category 6 *and* it costs an exorbitant amount of points to upgrade to a Cat 7 (if I buy the package at the current price of 420k but they want an additional 150k Marriott points (to total 570k, the new Cat 7 price). Because then I wouldn’t be able to buy a “Temporary Cat 7” hotel and I would have certs, rather than points

How risky do you think my gamble is? (And, do I have the math right?)

Thanks!

thomas
Guest
thomas

hi does this mean, we just need to be Marriott Gold by 8/18 to maintain gold through 2020? if so i was going to apply for Ritz credit card.

Chris
Guest
Chris

Greg, I have the Ritz card now and they didn’t put my Marriott number down so I have separate Ritz and Marriott Rewards account. I am Marriott Gold via Amex Plat. Should I merge the 2 now or wait. Hopefully, they wlll not downgrade me since I have Ritz card. Of course, I have stay Aug 22-26 at Marriott property and want to make sure I get club access! Thanks

Diane
Guest
Diane

I want to book the Westin on Cayman Island for late 2019. The Westin is a SPG property. I upgraded my 1-5 cat Marriott travel package to a cat 7 because the Westin will be a 7 after the merger. My plan is to book 7 nights for Dec/Jan 2019 after the SPG/Marriott Hotels are merged. Do you see any reason why this would not work? Have I missed anything?

Nick Reyes
Editor

It’s doubtful that will work. A current Category 7 property charges 40K points per night. The new Category 7 will charge 60K points per night. I think it is unlikely that a current Category 7 package will map to a new Category 7.

For more on Marriott Travel packages, see:

https://frequentmiler.boardingarea.com/2018/07/23/what-will-happen-to-existing-marriott-travel-package-certificates/

Personally, I think the conversion to points is likely and therefore it probably won’t matter at all which package you’ve reserved. See that post for more.

Pam
Guest
Pam

So pick the far right column in terms of airline miles & the hotel points take care of themselves?

Nick Reyes
Editor

If you don’t care much about the hotel certificate, yes. If you have a specific hotel in mind, do the best you can to book a package that most closely lines up with the number of points that will be required. As noted in the post I linked to above, it’s probably more likely that Marriott will be a little generous (i.e. your current Cat 6 package, which works at hotels that charge 30K today, could move up to new Cat 5, which works at hotels that charge 35K if they decide to maintain it as a certificate).

I think it’s more likely that these will get cashed in for points and it won’t matter which category you bought, but it makes sense to buy something you can live with if it stays as a certificate.

StarGuy
Guest
StarGuy

hey diane the westin cayman will be a cat 6(50,000 points) not 7

ron
Guest
ron

Hi All: I am debating booking a travel package with no immediate travel plans in the near future. What would be more valuable in the long term – 132,000 united miles or 120,000 Alaska miles? Thanks!

Nick Reyes
Editor

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to predict that answer for some unknown point in the future without a destination in mind. Miles can devalue at any point without notice (we saw Alaska do that with Emirates a couple of years ago, doubling the cost of first class overnight with no notice). I can’t tell you what will be more valuable in the future.

I can tell you that if you want to travel to Europe today, Alaska miles aren’t very helpful at all. You want United miles.

If you want to travel to Asia today in first or business class, Alaska miles are much better — if you can find availability on their partners.

If you want to create a really complex itinerary to take advantage of United’s excursionist perk, you want United miles.

If you want to stopover somewhere on your way there or on your way home, you want Alaska miles.

If you want to fly on the EVA Hello Kitty plane, you want United miles since Alaska isn’t a partner with EVA.

If you want to fly to South Africa in first class for 70K miles and stopover in Hong Kong on the way, you want Alaska miles.

If you want to fly from Japan to the Maldives on an award ticket, you’ll need United miles since Alaska doesn’t publish an award chart for travel between those regions.

My point is that there are a lot of variables. I guess United miles are easier to use since it’s easy to book United partner awards online and there are a lot of Star Alliance partners. Alaska has a better award chart today — but whether or not they will at an undefined point in the future for whatever your destination of choice might be is hard for me to say.

I chose Alaska miles for a Travel Package becuase they will be hard to earn in the future (1 mile per dollar with the Alaska Airlines credit cards will basically be it) and I am confident that I’ll use them before they devalue between a trip I’m planning for next year and one I hope to book for 2020 as soon as the schedule opens in 2019. But United could certainly make more sense for you.

ron
Guest
ron

Wow! thanks for the very detailed response!!! Much appreciated! United seems to likely make more sense since we do travel with more frequency to Europe. That said, and this is probably not very rational but I will likely go with Alaska as we have a decent number of United miles and we can always top off our account with Chase UR points. As you point out its tougher to collect Alaska points and I’ve been looking for a reason for us to go to Asia or South Pacific…

Pam
Guest
Pam

Nick, you are fluent in these flight miles uses – would you please write a resource guide/app we can download/purchase?!

wise2u
Guest
wise2u

it seems since most details have been revealed, that not knowing what happens to unbooked travel certs can be very good or very bad deal…flip a coin or continue speculating….we have 2 cat 6 certs and enough points to upgrade both to 9…was planning on Hawaii, but SPG has so many better options there…..my strategy is to hedge, by upgrading one to cat 9 and leaving it unbooked (IMO they would have to honor a top tier Marriott stay, since that is the cert I will have with a year before it expires, merger or no merger)…I will book a lvl8 or 7 stay with the other cert at a hotel I can live with and trade it in or upgrade it and rebook for SPG property if it is allowed after merger…redemption blackouts are already happening I looked at Marriott Maui wailea for a redemption and found a message for the first few months of the year that redemptions were not being given during that time, then in April you have weekly availability…so the wording said blacked out, but in a different way….and variable point redemtions instead of set category prices are what killed Hilton for me….where some nights were jacked to 300k-400k a night a week beforehand after being unavailable for months….we need some lawsuits to force the hotels to stand behind their claims, instead of hiding behind bullcrap technicalities designed to make it impossible or at an unrealistic point amount to book an award.

Pam
Guest
Pam

@wise2u – you are so right about hotels over-inflating points requirements last minute – so that is when I usually switch over to the Chase Travel Portal & book the same room there where the cash price generally doesn’t correspond to increased points on the hotel’s website.

Robert
Guest
Robert

You list as unknown what will happen to “unattached” travel certificates, but do we know what will happen to travel certificates that are attached to a reservation as of 8/18 and the reservation is canceled at a later date?

Mary T
Guest
Mary T

Hello:

I got Marriott Gold through the Amex Platinum/SPG gold matching? Just want to confirm that after the merger, my gold status will not be upgraded to platinum. Is it correct?
Thank you for clarifying!!!

Mary T
Guest
Mary T

Hello:
I would like to have clarification on this. Before the merger, it requires 75 nights to achieve platinum status. After the merger, it only requires 50 nights. I have 26 nights now. Does it mean that as long as I have additional 24 nights ( instead of 49 nights) by the end of the year, I can have platinum status from the time I complete the 50 nights (not 75 nights) until Feb 2020?? And those 24 nights can be paid or reward nights???
Thank you for helping!!!

Julia
Guest
Julia

There seems to be a lot of information out there for people who aim for high end properties but not for lower categories which we usually frequent. So not sure how this would affect us. Also, very annoyed that I did a platinum challenge after the head of Marriott said Gold from credit cards wouldn’t be Platinum in the new program, and now it is. Cost us $1068 to get.

Bridget
Guest
Bridget

So glad that status was awarded early. I too was going to complete a challenge & was only 3 stays into my challenge when I was rewarded platinum for my credit card spend.
Each of those nights were under $100 so I’m not mad.
But would’ve been angry too considering how many points I have to use already.

C J
Guest
C J

Hello Greg, I have 200k Marriott points and am about to take the gamble on a package. I do not have a trip in mind yet. But should I go for 1-5 or 6 or buy some spg points ( which are less expensive then Marriott points once converted at 1:3) and get a higher package? Next question is should I gamble further and attach it to a hotel with the plan to cancel the res; that is going up in point in that category or just hold the cert? Just so you have a full picture; I am currently SPG 50 night Plat and will get to Lifetime gold by the end of this year. Have the SPG CC and just got my Ritz card.