Official Launch of New Marriott/SPG Loyalty Program - Plus, Travel Package Conversion Update

August 19th, 2018

Well Ladies and Gents, the moment we have been eagerly waiting for.  The New Marriott and SPG Loyalty Program has officially launched.  If you’ve logged onto to either of your Marriott or SPG apps, you’ll notice that it’s in a bit of a shambles, same goes for the respective websites. Honestly, if they didn’t tell us today was the launch date, you wouldn’t have noticed anything different.

Here is a recap of some of the items we’ve talked about in this merger:

 

That said, followers of this blog will know that there were a bunch of lingering questions that had yet to be answered – one of them being, “What will happen to our existing Travel Packages and how will they be handled?”

 

 

Well, we finally have word.  Granted, it wasn’t officially released by Marriott but it was announced by a Starwood Representative (Starwood Lurker) over at FlyerTalk if you want to read up on it here.  Otherwise, here is the gist of how the existing Travel Packages will convert within the unified program.

No existing Travel Package certificate is losing value in terms of points and, with the new Free Night Award Chart that goes live today, 70% of our hotels either stayed at the same redemption rate threshold or moved down. As we structured the conversion chart, we considered the introduction of peak and off-peak redemption rates, which will be introduced in early 2019. This means that if you have an existing Category 9 certificate, which converts to Category 6 starting today, holders will still be able to attach the certificate to a stay when redemption rates within that category are at their highest.

 

Here is a graphic representation of the old Travel Package categories and their placement in the program.

 

Travel Package Conversion

 

As you can see from the above charts, there were quite a few unexpected devaluations and if you read the above FlyerTalk thread, people are pretty unhappy.  You see, there were quite a few people who took gambles if you will and purchased certain Travel Packages or even upgraded ones they already had with the hopes that they would be able to redeem them at favourable categories once the merge happened.  

 

For example, there was a lot of speculation (or wishful thinking) that Old Category 8 certificates would be mapped over to Category 6 in the new program but in fact the opposite happened.  What some people did was upgrade their Old Category 7 Certificates to a Category 8 for 30,000 points before the merger happened, only to now find out that they had essentially wasted 30,000 points since Category 7 & 8 were mapped to the Category 5.  Same holds true for holders of Cat 9 certs who upgraded to Tier 1-3.

 

In a nutshell, those who were holding Category 6, 8 or Tier 1-3 certificates were essentially out 30,000 points.  In response to that, the Starwood Lurker representative put up a statement over at FlyerTalk stating that Marriott would allow a one-time refund of 30,000 points for those individuals.

 

To be honest, I don’t think anyone was realistically expecting that Old Category 8 Travel packages (worth 40,000/night) would be mapped over to the New Category 5 rates (up to max 40,000/night) or even Old Category 6 Travel Packages (worth 30,000/night) would be mapped over to the New Category 1-4 (up to max 30,000/night).

 

You’ll notice that the figures I bolded above don’t line up with the Standard Pricing in the new chart below.   What Marriott did was allow individuals the opportunity to redeem those particular travel packages during peak season, when that gets rolled out in 2019.  Otherwise, they could have just allowed for redemptions up to the Standard pricing, leaving you with a pretty measly selection for the rest of 2018.

 

In fact, that’s what Marriott did for all the other packages too.  All the maximum values within each conversion correspond to the “Peak” pricing which I think is fairly generous.  We don’t yet know when those “Peak” periods will be but I’m hoping it will work out and align with whatever travels you’e planning.

Free Night Award Chart

 

Now, I’m sure a bunch of you are questioning those “up to max” values and seeing the overlap.  As you can see in the above chart, the “Peak” and the “Off-Peak” values overlap as you head down the redemption chart.  In other words, peak pricing for Category 5 is the same as Category 6 Off-Peak and so on and so forth.

 

Does that mean that we potentially found a sweet spot in that we could theoretically redeem a Category 5 certificate (up to max 40,000/night) at a Category 6 property during off-peak (40,000/night) occasions?  While I’d love to think optimistically about that possibility, I don’t think it’s the case.  Starwood Lurker above mentioned the following caveat:

…holders will still be able to attach the certificate to a stay when redemption rates within that category are at their highest.

 

Basically what they are saying is you can redeem for the highest redemption rate that your particular certificate allows, but you can only do so within your respective category and not use it for a higher category with a similar redemption value.

 

Again, this could change in the coming weeks once the official launch gets ironed out but until now, we have to assume we’ll only be able to use our packages within the category you currently hold.

 

 

New Welcome Bonus on Amex SPG Cards

Amex also released the new welcome bonus on the Amex SPG and Amex Business SPG Card. You can read the updated blog post here which hi-lights the new changes to the card as well as the new Welcome Bonus offer.

Historically, the SPG cards had a welcome bonus of 25,000 Starpoints (Personal and Biz version) and the Marriott Visa card had a welcome bonus of 50,000 Marriott Reward points.

American Express Starwood Preferred Guest SPG CardAmex SPG Card

 

The new Welcome Bonus for the SPG cards are 50,000 Rewards Points in the new program after spending $1,500 in the first 3 months for both the personal and business card.  The annual fees remain unchanged at $120 and $150 respectively.  The referral bonus has yet to be confirmed but as it currently stands, it’s a $25 credit to your account.

 

Many were expecting at minimum 50,000 points to mirror the old Marriott Visa card yet hoping for 60-75,000 points since the old SPG welcome bonus was 25,000 Starpoints at it’s highest which when converted 1:3 meant it was worth 75,000 Marriott Rewards points.

 

One last thing, if you acquired Gold Status with SPG through your Amex Platinum Card, you know that it came with a Status Match over to Marriott Gold Elite.  In the new combined program, Gold Elite members from Marriott would be converted to Platinum Elite only if said status wasn’t achieved through status matching or through credit card acquisition.

New Marriott/SPG Program Elite Tiers

 

It turns out that some members have been given Platinum Elite status despite the terms and have been actually been taking advantage of during stays since the merger. A possible glitch! Take a peak at your Marriott profile and let me know in the comments below if you were one of the lucky ones!  (Enjoy it while it lasts I say!)

 

 

Wrap Up

Let me know in the comments below how your travel packages turned out after the conversion and how you feel about it.  Did it have a positive or negative impact on any future travel plans?

I know for certain that a lot of people are upset at how Marriott handled this and are wondering why they waited so long to tell people.  This alone was enough for people to say they are moving on from Marriott/SPG to other programs like Hyatt and Hilton.

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