Update 2019-02-26: Please note that the Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) American Express Card Canada is no longer available. It has been replaced by the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card. Get the details here!
Changes To The Marriott Rewards Introduction
The wait is finally over. Today Marriott announced all of the changes to Marriott Rewards and SPG, and I must say I’m relieved. Generally, when we see programs merge, there’s some give and take on both sides to keep all loyalists (or as many as possible) happy. I was really nervous for this announcement, especially after Accor announced the discontinuation of the Fairmont President’s Club in July, 2018 (being replaced by Le Club AccorHotels – a dumpster loyalty program).
Let’s look at a summary of the changes to Marriott Rewards:
- 5 elite tiers:
- Silver at 10 nights
- Gold at 25 nights
- Platinum at 50 nights
- Platinum Premier at 75 nights
- Platinum Premier with Ambassador service at 100 night and $20,000 in annual spend
- All Platinum members and above will receive suite upgrades subject to availability
- Platinum members will receive 5 confirmed suite upgrades per year
- Breakfast is being expanded to resorts, and will be included for all Platinum members and above (excluding Ritz-Carlton, EDITION, Gaylord, Marriott Vacation Club and Marriott Executive Apartments)
All things considered, Marriott essentially took everything good about the SPG program and incorporated it into Marriott Rewards. While the new Marriott Gold tier has fewer benefits than the old program, it’s more in-line with what Starwood offered Gold elites. Furthermore, Platinum status now requires what the old Gold status needed concerning qualifying nights, representing a pretty serious upgrade for those who stay between 50-74 nights/year.
The print is super tiny on the above chart, so if you want a closer look, you can check out all of the details on the Marriott website here.
Great News For Marriott Gold Members… Well, For Some
I don’t think this outcome could be any better for current Marriott Gold members. It was highly speculated that the new Gold tier would not include lounge access at properties, which turned out to be true. However, the greatest change to Marriott Rewards is that current Gold members will transfer to the Platinum Elite tier in the new program, which represents a serious improvement on benefits. Also, for those qualifying for next year, the new Platinum status requires the same number of nights as Gold in the current program, which represents a significant upgrade to benefits.
The American Express Platinum Card currently offers automatic Gold status with Starwood Preferred Guest, which in turns translates to Gold status with Marriott. I have no idea how long the SPG status will remain a benefit of the Platinum Card, so I would urge anyone who has been considering the card to apply sooner than later and get your status matched before this benefit is discontinued.
Apply for The American Express Platinum Card for SPG/Marriott Gold Status
Apply for The American Express Business Platinum Card for SPG/Marriott Gold Status
Here’s how current status tiers will translate with the new program in August:
It will be very interesting to see how Amex changes this benefit moving forward with the new program. Prior to the merger, cardmembers were only eligible for SPG Gold status (before reciprocal benefits were introduced), which resembled more how the new Marriott Gold tier looks and didn’t include lounge access or breakfast. My best guess is that come 2019 American Express cardmembers will only receive Gold status in the new program as a benefit of the Platinum card, which would represent a pretty serious devaluation of benefits.
Changes To Marriott Rewards – No Devaluation To Airline Transfer Partners
Another sigh of relief – Marriott plans to keep the current airline transfer program as is, with the same transfer rates being offered.
Currently SPG offers 1:1 ratio on points transferred, with a 5,000 mile bonus for each set of 20,000 points transferred.
The new Marriott program will offer airline transfers at a 3:1 ratio, with a 15,000 mile bonus for each seat of 60,000 points transferred. While the transfer rate is the same, this is a slight devaluation since you will now need to convert a minimum of 60,000 points to be eligible for the transfer bonus.
Changes To Marriott Rewards – Free Night Prices
I use SPG and Marriott Reward points a lot for free-night stays around the world, so naturally, I was very interested to see how the new award chart would look. Currently, Marriott offers slightly better award rates compared to SPG, with the most expensive Ritz-Carlton requiring only 70,000 Marriott Reward points per night (or 23,334 SPG points), whereas the most expensive standard SPG properties (some very exclusive properties not included) would cost 35,000 SPG points (or 105,000 Marriott Rewards). The new chart looks very fair, though it’s tough to say for sure without knowing what category each property will fall into.
Let’s take The Marriott Wailea Beach Resort on Maui as an example, which is currently a category 8 property requiring 40,000 Membership Reward points per night. If Marriott converts that directly to a category 8 property in the new program, that same free-night will cost 85,000 points per night, which represents more than a 100% increase, which would be really bad. While I fully expect this resort (and other similar luxury Marriott properties) to increase in value (category 6 or 7), I think the top tier category will be reserved for select Ritz-Carlton and St Regis properties around the world (think St Regis New York).
What About The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card In Canada?
While there hasn’t been any news on this card yet, it’s likely that changes to Marriott Rewards will include some changes to existing Amex products in Canada or the introduction of new cards. American Express recently indicated some changes were coming to the referral program or welcome bonus (or both) after April 16th, which I don’t think was coincidental with today’s announcement. If you want to take advantage of the current welcome bonus of 20,000 SPG points after spending $1,500 in the first three months of membership, apply today!
Apply for The American Express Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card Update 2019-02-26: Please note that the Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) American Express Card Canada is no longer available. It has been replaced by the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card. Get the details here!
Apply for The American Express Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card Update 2019-02-26: Please note that the Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) American Express Card Canada is no longer available. It has been replaced by the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card. Get the details here!
It’s tough to speculate on what American Express will offer for Canadians, but there was a new premium card announced for American consumers and it looks great. Interestingly enough, they are keeping the SPG branding despite the new Marriott program.
The new Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Luxury Card will include:
- 6x points per dollar spent at participating hotels, 3x points per dollar spent on airfare and U.S. restaurants, and 2x points per dollar spent on all other purchases
- A $300 annual statement credit for on-property purchases
- An anniversary free night certificate valid at any property retailing for up to 50,000 points per night
- Automatic Gold status
- A Priority Pass Select membership
A $100 Global Entry fee credit
I don’t expect to see the same benefits offered to Canadians, but hope to see a similar premium product, so long as they offer a generous statement credit to offset the annual fee.
Changes To Marriott Rewards Bottom Line
Overall, I don’t think there could have been a better outcome. While I’m sad that come 2019 American Express Platinum cardmembers will see a devaluation to benefits (mainly no more lounge access/breakfast at select properties), I am excited to see much improved benefits for current Gold members from August through to the end of the year.
My plan is to try to attain Platinum status the old fashioned way by staying exclusively at Marriott/SPG properties between now and 2019, which shouldn’t be too hard since award stays count towards status and I likely won’t be staying at any Fairmont properties after July, 2018 when Le Club AccorHotels replaces the Fairmont President’s Club.
It would be nice if American Express offered some status night credits on one of their Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Cards, or at the very least, offered some updated benefits on their current cards (or even the introduction of a premium card like we saw for American consumers today).
Perhaps best of all, and most important for travel hackers in Canada, is the airline transfer program is going to remain with the same transfer rates (though more points will need to be transferred to take full advantage of the bonus) and the Marriott Hotel+Air packages are sticking around (though there has been some talk of changing the prices on some of the packages, which is maybe overdue since it’s such a sweet spot).
Starwood and Marriott loyalists can breath a sigh of relief today. Tune in tomorrow as I’m sure we’ll see some news regarding the American Express Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Cards in Canada.
What do you think of the changes to Marriott Rewards? Is it enough to keep you loyal or are you looking at a new program?