If you are a Starwood Preferred Guest Member, a Marriott Rewards member, or a Ritz-Carlton Rewards member, and you haven’t heard the big news…

Starting this August, Marriott Rewards and the Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) program will merge into one single program and account combining some of their best features.

Many were worried that there would be a devaluing of the Starpoints when transferred to Marriott Rewards ‒ but you will actually get 3 Marriott Rewards for every 1 Starpoint you already have – which isn’t a bad transfer rate.

For now, Marriott is keeping to this transfer rate as the SPG program comes to an end ‒ but when these programs officially merge in August, there will just be one type of reward to earn.

Marriott Starwood timeline

Here’s a timeline, taken from the Marriott site, of what the next year should look like:

Marriott Starwood Timeline

How to earn rewards

This new program, which still remains unnamed, claims that members will earn on average 20% more points for every dollar spent ‒ and here’s how:

  • Stay ‒ Earn rewards at over 6,500 hotels across 29 unique brands.
  • Spend ‒ Earn rewards with credit card partnerships.
  • Dine ‒ Earn rewards on anything that can be charged to your room, such as dining and spa.
  • Travel ‒ Earn points on car rentals, cruises and with other travel partners.
  • Shop ‒ Earn points when you shop with top retailers through Marriott Rewards MORE.
  • Meet ‒ Bring home points when you attend qualified group events.
  • Refer ‒ Earn up to 50,000 points when you refer friends and family.

How to redeem rewards

Even though this program will not be taking effect until August, Marriott has already announced some of the coming changes. For now, all hotels will be given standard rates. But coming in 2019, just like with most hotel prices, there will be a “Peak” time and an “Off-Peak” time. During Peak time, you will have to redeem a little more rewards for your hotel stays. And during the Off-Peak time, you get a discount.

Check out this chart from the Marriott site:

Marriott Rewards Free Night Award Chart

If you compare these values to the old Marriott Rewards points redemptions, you will see that if you are able to travel during the Off-Peak you will be getting some great value for your rewards. Have a look at the former Marriott Rewards “Points Reward for 1 Night Stay” for comparison:

Old Marriott Rewards Free Night Award Chart

It’s going to take time for Marriott to sort through all the hotels to decide which hotel goes in which category, but they have a sample of some free night comparisons across the top five redemption destinations that you can find here.

Thankfully, one thing they have committed to is that more hotel redemption rates will be going down than going up, so it is comforting to know that the future hotel redemption rates should be similar.

It’s also pretty interesting to note that Category 8 is only being introduced in 2019. Because of this, the hotels that are slated to go into Category 8 will be temporarily in Category 7, a savings of 25,000 points per night. So, if you’re planning on traveling soon, you could find yourself enjoying a top premium hotel at a Category 7 price.

Related: The Best Credit Cards In Canada For 2018

Five benefits of the merge

1. Earn elite status easier

Aside from the ability to earn points faster as mentioned above, one of the areas where this new joint program should be better for members is that it is going to be easier to earn elite status.

Marriott Elite Status Levels

Curious about what each status level includes? Be sure to check out all the Marriott Rewards Benefits that will be taking effect in August.

2. No blackouts

One nice feature with the new updated program is that there should be no blackout dates for all hotels throughout the loyalty program.

3. Enhanced mobile features

The Marriott Rewards press release says that:

Members will enjoy a significantly improved digital and mobile experience. When members book directly on Marriott.com, SPG.com or any of Marriott’s mobile apps, they will be able to choose from all 6,500 participating hotels, and also take advantage of exclusive member-only rates and free Wi-Fi. In addition, members will be able to check-in or check out, receive Room Ready Alerts chat directly with hotels using Mobile Requests and where available use their smartphones as their room key on all of Marriott’s mobile apps.”

4. Co-branded credit card

Rumour has it that a new Marriott Rewards credit card will be hitting the market. The US market will be introducing a new luxury SPG card from American Express, however, after listening to a Rewards Canada Podcast that included a interview with Marriott Canada’s Director of Loyalty Marketing, it seem like there is a possibility of us getting a Visa or Mastercard attached to this rewards program. Time will tell.

5. Increased ‘experiences’

One area where Marriott believes that they have added a lot of value is through the experiences, or the Moments, they are adding to the program. They have added 8,000 experiences that can only be purchased with points, and added 110,000 new Moments in 1,000 destinations, that will give members rewards any time they purchase them.

Seems they even had some Toronto Maple Leaf Playoff tickets floating around. So, if “bucket-list” experiences are your thing, this could be a huge plus.

“Experiences range from destination tours and day trips like shark cage diving in Gansbaai, South Africa, to once-in-a-lifetime events. These include exclusive member concerts, VIP experiences to coveted sports events like the Super Bowl and music festivals like Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, as well as hands-on master classes and meet & greets with some of the world’s top athletes, musicians and chefs, including among others, actor and musician Jared Leto, chef Daniel Boulud and Lewis Hamilton, the four-time Formula One™ World Champion and Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport driver.”

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A few more details

Marriott representatives feel like this merger is a good combination of the three rewards programs. They’ve said that they are taking the best aspects of each program, and combining them into one.

And from the looks of it…for now, we agree.

What does this mean for the Starwood Preferred Guest Card from American Express?

We have already started to see some of the changes coming down the line, such as the makeup of the welcome bonus changing from SPG points to a statement credit which is now worth less than what we have been valuing the SPG points at up to this point.

The SPG Amex used to give cardholders 20,000 Starpoints, which when transferred to airline miles was worth about $600:

20,000 Starpoints * 3.13 cent value per point = $626

We used to arrive at that 3.13 cent point value by considering that you could transfer 20,000 Starpoints to Aeroplan 1:1 with a 25% bonus leaving you with 25,000 Aeroplan miles. Given that we roughly value each Aeroplan mile at 2.5 cents.

25,000 Aeroplan miles = $625 discount on flight = 2.5 cents per mile

2.5 cent value per mile * 1.25 transfer bonus = 3.13 cents per Starpoint

Now, however, cardholders are given up to $250 in statement credits:

  • $100 in statement credits if you charge $1,500 in purchases in your first 3 months, and
  • another $150 if you charge $200 or more at Starwood or Marriott properties in the first 6 months.

Will you still be able to get your 5th night free?

Currently, members of SPG and Marriott Rewards have the ability to get their 5th night free if they are booking 5 or more consecutive nights, in certain categories. Thankfully, there have been many reports that this is a feature that will be sticking around – giving your points even more value if you are staying for 5+ nights.

Can you still transfer points 1:1 to airline miles?

One area where we were all holding our breath was to see if we would still be able to transfer these points 1:1 to airline miles and if that sweet 25% bonus when transferring in 20,000 point clumps would still exist.

The good news? It seems that on a whole, the transfer rates will be the same, and even better in some cases.

Thankfully, it also seems like there will be no airline partners lost. There might actually be even more partners to transfer your rewards to. The above mentioned podcast did say that transfering points would still be available, and many of the transfer ratios should remain the same.

It has also confirmed that the beloved 25% bonus will stay in tact – so we can now breathe a sigh of relief.

And finally…the cons

Marriott has yet to show us all their cards, so it will be interesting to see what the coming months hold for this program.

But there are a few areas that people are finding issues with:

  • Some of the status levels don’t include things they used to – one commenter mentioned that Gold Elite used to include breakfast but now it doesn’t.
  • With the business people who travel more than they are home, the Peak season could end up costing them. If their travel falls during that busy time, they will have to use more points to redeem for free nights. Could traveling during the Off-Peak will balance that out for them?

Related: How to Maximize the BMO Rewards Program

What is next for program members?

So, what do all these changes mean for us?

  • With many of the hotel redemption rates still up in the air and if you have a hotel already booked after August, there is a chance that hotel redemption rate could be going down. If this is the case, be sure to rebook your room after August to get the newer discounted rate.
  • If you have 2 or all 3 of these rewards programs, they will need to be combined (even if they are already linked). By combining your accounts you will create a single account and profile ‒ which will combine your points and Elite-night balances. The website suggests that you sign into your rewards account, update your email address, and you will get an email when it’s time to combine your accounts.
  • If you still have questions, feel free to have a look at the Marriott Rewards FAQ or even reach out to Marriott:
Rewards Program Phone Number
Marriott Rewards 877-267-4370 (toll-free in Canada and US)
The Ritz-Carlton Rewards 866-922-6882 (toll-free in Canada and US)
SPG 888-625-4988 (toll-free in Canada and US)

Your thoughts?

What do you think about these changes and this new streamlined program?

Have you heard any news, good or bad, that you can share?

Let us know below.