Ultimate guide to the new combined Marriott, SPG, & Ritz-Carlton loyalty program

Friday newsletters always feature luxury travel conteststipsseries, or news.

Today (August 17, 2018): the new combined Marriott, SPG, & Ritz-Carlton loyalty program explained.

In 2016, when the Marriott hotel group purchased all hotels in the Starwood portfolio, not much changed to their loyalty programs. In addition, Marriott also managed a separate loyalty program for their Ritz-Carlton properties. Tomorrow, August 18th, the loyalty programs of Marriott (Marriott Rewards), Starwood (Starwood Preferred Guest or SPG) and Ritz-Carlton (Ritz-Carlton Rewards) are finally uniting into one program with 110 million (!!!) members. As for now, the three programs will co-exist along each other, until a new name for the program will be introduced in 2019. It’s time to have an in-depth look at the new loyalty program, with everything you need to know from earning points and elite status benefits to free hotel nights and boosting your frequent flyer accounts. I will focus on Marriott Rewards in this article, but everything mentioned here also applies to SPG and Ritz-Carlton Rewards (the 3 programs are now identical). I highly recommend to subscribe to the (new) loyalty program – which you can do for free – as it’s the best in the travel industry.

With the new program, members can earn points and exchange them for valuable rewards when they across Marriott’s 31 different hotel brands in almost 6000 locations in more than 110 countries. The 30 brands are divided into the 5 categories of Luxury, Premium, Select, Longer Stays, and Collections, and within each category they’re further broken up into “classic” and “distinctive.” The luxury category comprises Ritz-CarltonSt Regis and JW Marriott in the “classic” luxury segment and Ritz-Carlton ReserveThe Luxury CollectionBVLGARIW Hotels, and Edition in the “distinctive” luxury segment.

How do you feel about the new program? Leave a comment below.

In this overview, I explain the new Marriott Rewards program:

  • Membership tiers
  • Earn Marriott Reward points
  • Redeem awards & travel for free
  • Pros & things I like about Marriott Rewards
  • Cons & things I don’t like about Marriott Rewards
  • Reviews of Marriott luxury hotels around the world
  • Key points
  • Poll: what’s the best hotel loyalty program?

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MARRIOT REWARDS EXPLAINED: MEMBERSHIP TIERS

Marriott Rewards is a top class awards structure offering a five-tier system of awards points. Silver Elite is the first level, Gold Elite the second, Platinum Elite the third, Platinum Premier Elite the fourth, and finally Platinum Premier Elite With Ambassador is the top-level. Each level has benefits and as the member moves from Silver Elite to Premier Elite With Ambassador, they become more valuable. But even basic members without elite status enjoy some benefits, such as member only rates, mobile check-in and complimentary standard in-room WiFi as long as you book directly on Marriott.com, Marriott’s mobile app, Marriott’s call center, or through a Marriott hotel. For an overview of all elite membership levels, click here.

  • Silver Elite is reached after completing 10 eligible nights in a calendar year and comes with the following benefits:
    • 10% bonus on Marriott Rewards points
    • Late check-out (when requested and available)
    • Access to an elite reservation line to make reservations or request redemption stays and reward certificates
    • Reservation guarantee: if for some reason the hotel is unable to honor your reservation, Marriott will pay for your accommodations that night at a nearby hotel and compensate you for the inconvenience.
  • Gold Elite is reached after completing 25 eligible nights in a calendar year and comes with the following benefits:
    • 25% bonus on Marriott Rewards points
    • Guaranteed 2 p.m. late checkout, subject to availability
    • Room upgrade (based on availability at check-in)
    • Welcome gift (250 to 500 bonus points, varies by brand)
    • Access to an elite reservation line to make reservations or request redemption stays and reward certificates.
    • Reservation guarantee: if for some reason the hotel is unable to honor your reservation, Marriott will pay for your accommodations that night at a nearby hotel and compensate you for the inconvenience.
  • Platinum Elite is reached after completing 50 eligible nights in a calendar year and comes with the following benefits:
    • 50% bonus on Marriott Rewards points
    • Guaranteed 4 p.m. late checkout, subject to availability
    • Room upgrade, including suites (based on availability at check-in)
    • Welcome gift (500 to 1000 bonus points – varies by brand – or breakfast or amenity)
    • Complimentary premium internet.
    • Guaranteed room & bed type
    • Lounge access
    • Annual choice benefit (5 suite night awards or gift option)
    • Access to a dedicated elite line to make reservations or request redemption stays and reward certificates.
    • Reservation guarantee: if for some reason the hotel is unable to honor your reservation, Marriott will pay for your accommodations that night at a nearby hotel and compensate you for the inconvenience.
  • Platinum Premier Elite is reached after completing 75 eligible nights in a calendar year and comes with the following benefits:
    • 75% bonus on Marriott Rewards points
    • Guaranteed 4 p.m. late checkout, subject to availability
    • Room upgrade, including suites (based on availability at check-in)
    • Welcome gift (bonus points or breakfast)
    • Complimentary premium internet
    • Guaranteed room & bed type
    • Lounge access
    • An additional annual gift choice (5 Suite Night Awards or Gift Option)
    • Guaranteed room availability when you make a reservation at least 48 hours before arrival
    • Access to a dedicated elite line to make reservations or request redemption stays and reward certificates.
    • Reservation guarantee: if for some reason the hotel is unable to honor your reservation, Marriott will pay for your accommodations that night at a nearby hotel and compensate you for the inconvenience.
  • Platinum Premier Elite with Ambassador is reached after completing 100 eligible nights and $20,000 USD of spend at Marriott properties in a calendar year. If you meet the ambassador qualifications, you’ll receive all the Platinum Premier Elite benefits, along with the following:
    • Ambassador service (your contact person to make your stays as personal and enjoyable as possible)
    • Your24: flexibility to choose your check-in and checkout time

MARRIOTT REWARD: EARN POINTS

There are several ways to earn Marriott Rewards points and boost your account:

  • You earn 10 base points for every US dollar spent on all qualifying charges with stays at the Marriott group. Points can be earned across allmost all brands on room rate and incidentals that can be charged to the room, such as dining and spa services. Some exceptions apply:
    • At Element, Residence Inn, and TownPlace Suites you earn 5 base points per dollar.
    • At BVLGARI Hotels and Ritz-Carlton Reserves, you earn nothing at all as these brand do currently not participate into the Marriott Rewards program.
  • Marriott Rewards elite members automatically receive extra bonus points on all the base points they earn: a 10% bonus for Silver Elite status, a 25% bonus for Gold Elite, a 50% bonus for Platinum Elite, and a 75% bonus for Platinum Premier Elite.
  • You earn Marriott Rewards points with selected travel partners: Hertz, Avios, Diners Club, The Cosmopolitan Las Vegas, Cruises Only, and Traveling Connect. The partner list changes regularly so check the Marriott Rewards website for the latest updates.
  • You earn Marriott Rewards points when you shop online for your favorite brands in Marriott’s shopping portal, called Marriott Rewards MORE. The online shopping portal is only available to residents of the USA, Canada and the UK.
  • You can also buy Marriott Reward points online, up to 50,000 points per calendar year for yourself or another Marriott Rewards member.
  • You earn miles with ‘rewarding events‘, when you hold a meeting, conference, wedding or other event at a participating Marriott brand hotel. Per each qualifying event, base members can earn up to 60,000 points (2 points per $1 USD); while Platinum Premier Elite members can earn up to 105,000 points per qualifying event. If you choose to earn frequent flyer airline miles instead of points, all member tiers can earn a maximum of 20,000 miles (1 mile per $1 USD) per qualifying event. You also get 10 elite status qualifying nights when you book your first meeting — and achieve Silver Elite status automatically.
  • You earn up to 50,000 points per calendar year for referring friends. You can refer up to 5 new members each calendar year, and will earn 2,000 Marriott Rewards bonus points for each stay your referrals make beginning with their first paid stay, up to 5 stays per referral. Your friends will also earn 2,000 Marriott Rewards bonus points beginning with their first paid stay, up to 5 stays. That’s 10,000 bonus points for them, in addition to the base points they’ll earn. Plus, you’ll earn one elite qualifying night for every additional 20 room nights you book — up to 20 elite qualifying nights per contract.
  • Spent via Marriott branded credit cards is one of the fastest ways to earn Marriott Reward Points. These credit cards are only available to residents of the USA, UK, Canada, United Arab Emirates and Japan. Both American Express and Chase issue credit cards for Marriott’s new loyalty program. For example, the Marriott Rewards Premier Plus VISA card comes with a $95 USD annual fee and offers the following benefits:
    • 6 points for every $1 spent at 6,500+ participating hotels.
    • 2 points for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
    • Silver Status with the Marriott Rewards program.
    • one free night hotel stay at a property with a redemption level up to 35,000 points.
    • Coming in 2019: 15 credits toward your next Elite membership level.
    • No foreign transaction fee. For example, if you spend $5,000 internationally, you would avoid $150 in foreign transaction fees.
    • Complimentary premium internet at Marriott hotels
    • 75,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in your first 3 months from your account opening

MARRIOTT REWARDS: REDEEM POINTS & TRAVEL FOR FREE

The Marriott Rewards program offers several possibilities to redeem points:

  • You can use your Marriott Rewards points to book a free or discounted standard room at any of the Marriott Group hotels and resorts worldwide (except for BVULGARI and Ritz-Carlton Reserve Hotels), with no blackout dates.
    • You can redeem free nights without black dates, starting at just 7500 Marriott Rewards points for a night at a category 1 hotel to a minimum of 60,000 Marriott Rewards points at a category 8 hotel (cf table below or this link). Properties are grouped into categories, depending on the hotel brand, location and type.
    • Coming in early 2019, Marriott will add peak, off-peak and Category 8 redemption rates. Category 8 hotels will set you back 70,000 points in the off-peak season and 100,000 points in the peak season. Category 1 hotels will drop to 5000 point off peak and raise to 10,000 point in peak season.
    • You can stretch your Marriott Rewards points with Cash + Points Rewards, and book a seriously discounted hotel room using a combination of Marriott Rewards points and cash. The exact value of this varies from hotel to hotel, but you can stay for as little as $55 USD and 3,500 points.
    • Awards at PointSavers hotels are charged at one category lower level (up to 33% fewer points) and category 1 hotels at 20% off. The properties that participate in PointSavers changes every few months, however you can find the current list on their site.
    • When you redeem 4 nights at select hotels and resorts, then your 5th consecutive night is free.
    • You can also use your Marriott Rewards points to upgrade to a higher room category. Upgrades start as low as 5,000 points depending on the view or room type.

marriott rewards new chart

  • The Marriott Rewards program let you redeem points instantly at any participating Marriott. That’s on anything that can be charged to your guest room, such as dinners, cocktails, massages, or golf. Each $1 USD is valued at 250 points. So if you would like a spa treatment worth US$50, you would redeem 12,500 points.
  • The Marriott Rewards airline transfer program allows you to convert Marriott Rewards points to frequent-flyer miles on more than 40 airlines, including United, Delta, Emirates, Lufthansa, China Eastern and more. The transfer ratio is three points for one mile. You can transfer as few as 3,000 points and up to 240,000 points per day — and any amount in between. As a bonus, you get 15,000 points extra for every 60,000 points you transfer to airline miles, for a total of 25,000 miles in the airline program of your choice.
  • The Marriott Rewards program also allows you to exchange your points for so called ‘travel packages‘, which include a week of hotel accommodations with airline miles included (which is a better deal than using points of hotel and flight booking separately).
    • Click here for the tables with the point requirements.
    • You’ll receive 10% more MileagePlus miles when you redeem for a Marriott Rewards Hotel + Air Package on United Airline (up to 12,000 more miles).
  • You can directly redeem your Marriott Rewards points for an airline ticket on virtually any airline. You will need more points to book a flight as compared to transferring them to an airlines’ frequent flyer program and book a flight from there, but you will not face the standard restrictions that limit most frequent-flyer awards. Plus, you can search for airline tickets whenever you choose, even during peak periods such as holidays. Click here for more info.
  • You can redeem your Marriott Rewards points for a car rental virtually everywhere world. Click here for more info.
  • You can use Marriott Reward points for shopping in Marriott’s Exclusively Yours online shopping mall, a virtual shopping paradise of top designers and brands, including merchandise from Apple, Tiffany & Co., Michel Kors, Prada, Nikon, Canon and many more.
  • You can also redeem points for ‘Exclusive Moments‘, which are exclusive events with artists, musicians, chefs, or athletes. From walking the red carpet to ziplining through the rain forest to going backstage with your favorite band, make the most out of every exclusive moment.
  • You can transfer 1,000 points or more – up to a maximum of 50,000 points per year – to friends and family for a transaction fee of just $10 USD. Gold and Platinum Elite members transfer for free.

PROS & THINGS I LIKE ABOUT MARRIOT REWARDS
  • Since the acquisition of Starwood, the Marriott Group’s portfolio of hotels is one of the largest in the world. With more than 6500 properties worldwide, it is quite easy from a geographical point of view to earn or redeem points at many properties across the globe.
  • Although North America is its stronghold, Marriott does have a strong worldwide presence in most major international markets and business centers, so the program appeals to travelers worldwide.
  • Marriott runs an excellent ‘Best Rate Guarantee (BRG) program, which means you will always get the best available rate at a Marriott branded hotels when you book through an official Marriott channel. If you find a lower rate for the same hotel, room type and dates within 24 hours of making your reservation, you need to submit a BRG claim form. A Marriott representative will review the claim, and if approved, Marriott will match the rate and give you an additional 25% discount on the room or 5,000 Marriott Rewards points (up to your choice). Finding a better rate is not difficult at all, as I explained in my tips for booking a luxury hotel at the cheapest price.
  • WiFi is complimentary as long as the reservation is made through Marriott.com, Marriott’s mobile app, Marriott’s call center, or through a Marriott hotel.
  • The list of Marriott Rewards’ airline partners is impressive and the 3:1 conversation rate of points into miles is unmachted. In addition, you receive a 5,000 mileage bonus when you convert 60,000 points into miles (resulting in 25,000 airline miles instead of 20,000).  As a consequence, one of the single best values of Marriott Rewards is to transfer your points in bulks of 60,000 to an airline partner and book free award tickets or upgrades.
  • Marriott Rewards allows you to earn miles with more than 40 airline partners instead of points. In most cases, you earn 2 airline miles per USD on all qualifying charges when staying at one of the Marriott managed hotels around the globe. All you need to do is update your profile if you prefer to earn miles for your stays with any of these frequent flyer programs.
  • Marriott Rewards allows to pool points among households and friends. You can move up to 50,000 points per year into the account of a friend or family member. There is no charge for Gold or higher Marriott Rewards members. Silver and base level members must pay a flat fee of $10.
  • Unlike most loyalty hotel programs, you do receive stay (or night) credit for award stays (or nights), meaning that award stays count towards Marriott Rewards elite qualification
  • Marriott Rewards regularly launches excellent promotions to boost your account. Marriott’s global promotions are typically called “MegaBonus.” During Marriott’s MegaBonus promotion last fall, they offered a Category 1-5 free night certificate after making just two stays at any Marriott family property.
  • You can book a redemption stay even if you don’t have enough points. As long as you earn or purchase the needed points at least 14 days prior to check-in, you’re good to go.
  • Marriott Rewards points do not expire as long as you keep your account active by doing one of the following at least once every two years: make a paid (or redemption) stay at any of the participating hotels worldwide; redeem points; or use a Marriott branded credit card for purchases every 24 months.
  • There are no award blackout dates. As long as there is a standard room available, you can book it using your Marriott Rewards points.
  • Marriott Rewards has a number of different award types, including travel packages, airline tickets, train rides, and hotel stays.
  • There are quite a few ways (e.g. PointSavers Award, 5th night free) to save on the number of Marriott Rewards points for hotel stays.
  • The travel package award option is a very good one, but does require a high number of points. You redeem for airline miles and a 7-night hotel stay. You don’t have to spend the miles at the same time, however. They are just deposited to your chosen frequent flyer account.
  • With Your24, Marriott Rewards’ top elite members can choose any 24 hour period to check-in and check-out. The catch is that this is subject to availability, and the hotel will confirm this at most a couple of days in advance.
  • Marriott Rewards has teamed up with MileagePlus, the frequent flyer program of United Airlines:
    • Platinum Premier Elite members enjoy complimentary United MileagePlus premier silver status. This includes access to Economy Plus at check-in for you and a companion (when available), upgrade confirmation as early as day of departure (when available), one complimentary standard checked bag (up to 50 pounds or 23 kg), premier access priority airport services (where available), and 7 award miles for every dollar you spend on United flights.
    • If you’re a member of Marriott Rewards and United MileagePlus, you get 10% more miles when you convert Marriott points to MileagePlus miles, and 10% more miles when you redeem Marriott points for travel packages.
  • Marriott Rewards has teamed up with Skywards, the frequent flyer program of Emirates:
    • Marriott Rewards members earn 3 points per US dollar spent on all eligible Emirates flights (on top of Skywards Miles). Plus, Marriott Platinum members enjoy elite in-airport benefits, including priority check-in, priority boarding and complimentary e-gate access.
    • Emirates Skywards Silver, Gold and Platinum members earn 1 mile per US dollar (on top of hotel points) for all eligible stays at Marriott hotels and resorts worldwide. Plus, Emirates Skywards Gold and Platinum members enjoy additional benefits at Marriott hotels and resorts, including 4pm late checkout, access to the Marriott elite check-in line and complimentary in-room Internet access.
  • Elite Lifetime Status is possible within the Marriott Rewards program, and is determined by your total qualified nights stayed and points earned throughout the course of your membership:
    • Lifetime Silver Elite is reached after 250 nights & 5 year elite status. Lifetime Silver Elites get all Silver Elite benefits and points never expire.
    • Lifetime Gold Elite is reached after 400 nights & 7 year elite status. Lifetime Gold Elites get all Gold Elite benefits and points never expire.
    • Lifetime Platinum Elite is reached after 600 nights & 10 year elite status. Lifetime Platinum Elites get all Platinum Elite benefits and points never expire.


CONS & THINGS I DO NOT LIKE ABOUT MARRIOT REWARDS
  • Marriott’s most luxurious hotel brands BVLGARI and Ritz-Carlton Reserve do not participate in Marriott Rewards. So, unfortunately, this means that you cannot earn nor spend points for stays at the most luxurious properties in the Marriott group.
  • The Best Rate Guarantee does not apply to Tribute Portfolio Homes, Sheraton Vacation Club, Westin Vacation Club, The Ritz-Carlton Montreal, The Ritz London, Ritz-Carlton Residences, The Ritz-Carlton Club, Marriott Vacation Club, Marriott’s Grand Residence Club, or any other properties operating under Marriott Vacations Worldwide Corporation brands, its subsidiaries and its affiliates.
  • You cannot qualify based on number of stays; only the number of nights counts.
  • Members are only be allowed to earn elite night credit for a single room at a hotel on a single night. This is especially costly for families who have to book more than 1 room to fit everyone. Now they’ll be paying for 2 or 3 rooms but only getting elite credit for 1. Members will still earn points for all the rooms they book and pay for — it’s just the elite night credit that will be limited to 1 per night.
  • Platinum Elite members get a welcome gift at each hotel. While that’s a good thing of course, things are a bit complicated as the gift varies for each brand. There are 76 (!!!) different Platinum Elite welcome amenity policies, confusing the top elite members (cf table below). Worst of all, a welcome gift is not offered at Ritz-Carlton, BVLGARI, Edition, and Design Hotels.

  • As shown in the table above, Platinum Elite members can choose breakfast as a welcome option. However, the breakfast program is disappointing and hugely confusing as Marriott has not standardized its complimentary breakfast offerings. For example, breakfast as a welcome gift is not offered at Ritz-Carlton, Design and Edition hotels, while JW Marriott, Sheraton and Westin only offer continental breakfast instead of a breakfast buffet. Of course, the trick is to always book via Virtuoso to have free breakfast included with your stay (bookings made via Virtuoso also earn Marriott Rewards points and do count towards elite status).
  • Marriott’s has now more than 30 brands in its portfolio and suffers from brand confusion. Differences between Ritz-Carlton vs St Regis, and Sheraton vs Marriott hotels are not always clear. In an effort to clear up things, Marriott has grouped its brands into several categories (although I believe that some brands will disappear in the future, as they will fuse with each other):
    • Classic Luxury
      • Ritz-Carlton
      • St. Regis
      • JW Marriott
    • Distinctive Luxury
      • The Luxury Collection
      • W Hotels
      • Edition
    • Classic Premium
      • Marriott
      • Sheraton
      • Marriott Vacation Club
      • Delta Hotel
    • Distinctive Premium
      • Le Meridian
      • Westin
      • Autograph Collection Hotels
      • Design Hotels
      • Renaissance Hotels
      • Tribute Portfolio
      • Gaylord Hotels
    • Classic Select
      • Courtyard
      • Four Points
      • Springhill Suites
      • Protea Hotels
      • Fairfield
    • Distinctive Select
      • AC Hotels
      • Aloft
      • Moxie Hotels
    • Classic Select Longer Stays
      • Marriott Executive Apartments
      • Residence Inn
      • TownePlace Suites
    • Distinctive Select Longer Stays
      • Element


MY REVIEWS OF MARRIOTT‘S LUXURY HOTELS

Click the thumbnail to read my reviews of Marriott hotels around the globe:


KEYPOINTS
  • Marriott Rewards is one the best regarded loyalty schemes in the world, so be sure to sign up to the program when you stay at a Marriott hotel.
  • Marriott has an impressive portfolio of luxury hotels, where you earn and/or redeem points.
  • Book using a Best Rate Guarantee to collect tons of free hotel points or throw in an additional 25% discount.
  • Subscribe to Marriott’s promotions to speed up your earning rate of hotel points.
  • One of the best way to spend your Marriott points is to transfer them to airline miles, followed by cash& points redemptions at Marriott properties.
  • BVLGARI Hotels and Ritz-Carlton Reserves do not participate to Marriott’s Rewards.

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6 Comments

  1. comprehensive article – very useful. but the marriott portfolio is not the “largest in the world” with more than 6,500 properties worldwide. that distinction goes to wyndham, which has 8,000.

  2. the conversion rate for points to miles is 3 to 1 but they also raised the amount of points for airline transfers to 3:1 as well! Not so impressive now!!! Basically a draw, not any benefit.

  3. I almost forgot one other point regarding the airline points… when you use the card for regular purchases and earn 1 point per dollar spent, the airline miles are reduced because the transfer amount is now 3:1 for most airlines due to their one time conversion upgrade. So the airline program, which was great, is now not very good at all!
    Very disappointing!

  4. “Best in travel industry program”….not even close. They diluted the whole SPG program. You can put lipstick on a pig, but it is still a pig. I hate Marriotts! Many others feel the same way. Other than those who get corporate rates, I will speculate they will lose many SPG customers. The program isn’t rewarding enough.

  5. The new SPG program is not rewarding anymore…even for their low category hotels. For example, I used to redeem 3000 SPG points for 1 night stay at Four Points by Sheraton, Niagara Falls, ON. After the merger, one free night stay got bumped to 35000 (eg ~11600 old SPG points).

    Different example, W Fort Lauderdale, FL… I used to redeem 1 week for 72000 SPG points, now you need 3000,000 (eg 100,000 old SPG points).

    Moreover, SPG Amex credit card will get you 2 points for $1 spent.. doesn’t cut it for 2,3,4 fold increase in free nights redemption rates.

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