Marriott Announces Plan to Combine Starwood, Ritz-Carlton Loyalty Programs
In 2016, Marriott announced that it would be acquiring the Starwood Hotels group. Although Marriott had far more properties included in its Marriott Rewards program, Starwood Preferred Guest has always been recognized as one of the best hotel loyalty programs ever created. Ever since the acquisition, travelers have been wondering how the new company would integrate Marriott Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest and the Ritz-Carlton Rewards program. This week, we found out the answers.
Editorial Note: The information related to Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express has been collected by Credit Cards House and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.
How these programs are being integrated
In September of 2016, it was announced that members could move points back and forth between the Marriott Rewards program and the Starwood Preferred Guest program on a 3:1 basis; three Marriott points equaled one Starpoint. Starting in August of 2019, both the Starwood Preferred Guest and Ritz-Carlton Rewards will be merged into the Marriott Rewards program. At that time, each will be automatically converted to three Marriott Rewards points. Also, each Ritz-Carlton point will be converted to Marriott Rewards points on a 1:1 basis. In total, there will be over 6,500 properties in the new Marriott Rewards program.
What the new award chart will look like
Marriott currently offers nine categories of properties that range from 7,500 to 45,000 points per night, while Ritz-Carlton has four tiers ranging from 30,000 to 70,000 points per night. On the other hand, Starwood Preferred Guest has seven categories ranging from 3,000 to 35,000 Starpoints, the equivalent of 9,000 to 105,000 Marriott Rewards points. There have only been slightly higher peak season prices with the Starwood Preferred Guest program.
The new chart has eight categories, but also Off-Peak, Standard and Peak pricing levels. Off-Peak awards range from 5,000 to 70,000 points per night, Standard are 7,500 to 85,000 and Peak prices are 10,000 - 100,000 points. The highest category 8 levels won’t be in use until February of 2019 and the Peak and Off-Peak prices won’t be used until January 2019. This presents a limited time opportunity to redeem your points for less than what you will have to pay once the highest category and the seasonal pricing begins. Thankfully, the new program retains the fifth night free benefit when you use your points to book four consecutive award nights.
Marriott Free Night Award Chart
*Coming 2019 **Coming August 2018
How elite status will be handled
The combined program will offer six tiers of elite status, Silver, Gold, Platinum, Platinum Premier and Platinum Premier with Ambassador. Silver will require 10 nights per year, Gold 25, Gold Elite 25, Platinum 50, Platinum Premier 75 and Platinum Premier with Ambassador requiring 100 nights plus $20,000 in spending. There are numerous distinctions between the levels of elite status, but key areas include room upgrades for Gold and higher, with select suites being offered to Platinum and higher and lounge access is for Platinum and higher. Free breakfast will be offered to Platinum and higher at 23 of their 29 hotel brands, as well as at resorts.
What about airline transfer partners?
The Starwood Preferred Guest program was always a favorite of award travel enthusiasts due to the opportunity to transfer points to airline miles with 35 different programs while earning a 5,000 point bonus for every 20,000 points transferred. Fortunately, the new Marriott Rewards program will retain this feature while adding another 10 programs that had been exclusive to Marriott Rewards. The transfer ratios remain effectively the same with three Marriott points (the equivalent of one Starwood point) transferring to one airline mile with most programs.
How about earning points through credit cards?
The new Marriott Rewards program will continue to co-brand cards with both Chase and American Express (a Credit Cards House advertiser) and both will have new premium cards offered. The new Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Luxury Credit Card will arrive in August. It lets you earn 6X points at participating Marriott properties, 3X points at U.S. restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines and 2X points on other eligible purchases. It will also offer a $300 annual credit at Marriott hotels, and an annual free night award (up to 50,000 points) after card renewal. It also includes a Priority Pass Select airport lounge membership. There’s a $450 annual fee for this card.
The existing Starwood Preferred Guest® Consumer and Starwood Preferred Guest® Business cards will no longer be offered to new applicants, and existing cardholders will receive an Annual Free Night Award after card renewal (up to 35,000 points) and complimentary Silver Elite status. However, you will earn 6x points at Marriott properties and just 2x points for all other purchases. The Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card also offers 4x in small business categories including U.S. restaurants, gas stations, wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. shipping purchases. The annual fee remains $95 for both cards.
In May, Chase will introduce its Marriott Rewards Premier Plus credit card with a $95 annual fee, which will have rewards and benefits similar to the Starwood Preferred Guest card from American Express. Chase will still offer its Marriott Rewards Premier Business Credit Card and The Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card. However, the existing Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card will not be available once the new Premier Plus card launches. Current cardholders will have the option to keep their cards or upgrade to the Premier Plus.
No one ever said that it would be simple or easy to merge three of the most popular hotel loyalty programs, but it’s finally happening. If you are a fan of Marriott, Ritz-Carlton or Starwood hotels, you need to spend a little bit of time trying to understand these changes and how it will affect your travel and credit card use. Once you’ve got it all figured out, you can make the best decisions for your needs.
First published , last updated
Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.