Marriott’s new loyalty program has launched, but as of this writing they’re still working through the IT. They told us to expect things to be down throughout Saturday. If things work on Sunday I’ll be impressed.
Some members have reported success at various times today with various tasks. Soon you’ll be able to now combine your Marriott, Starwood, and Ritz-Carlton accounts. Your elite status credits from each program will count together towards status this year, although if you happen to want to qualify under old Starwood rules (25 stays earns Platinum) you should combine into your Starwood account and you’ll need to qualify only using legacy Starwood properties.
There’s a lot for members to be unhappy about.
- Existing Marriott balances will certainly be worth less next year as Marriott introduces a new top redemption tier 8 and introduces peak redemption pricing.
- Sweet spot redemptions like Marriott travel packages will no longer be a great deal
- Earning from spending on Starwood credit cards is reduced by one third
- Starwood’s elite benefits are going to get watered down a bit as they translate across the full Marriott portfolio of hotels
- The most exclusive Starwood benefits will be nearly impossible for most members to attain. 75 night elites received ‘Your24’ twenty four hour check-in. 100 night elites received a personal ambassador. Those benefits will now require 100 nights and $20,000 annual spend.
There’s also a lot to be happy about.
- Marriott members already got elite 4 p.m. late check-out
- They’re now going to get a suite upgrade benefit, suites confirmed up to 5 nights in advance, breakfast at resorts and a food and beverage benefit at Courtyard, and more flexible check-in privileges along with a dedicated concierge at the very top level.
- Marriott members get much nicer hotels to redeem at (the Starwood portfolio)
- Starwood members get faster earning for their spend at hotels
Westin Stonebriar Chairman’s Suite Balcony
The Merger Isn’t What We’d Want, But it’s the Best We Could Expect
What you think of the change depends on which of these things matter most to you. However compared to what might have happened I still think that the new Marriott program is about the best we could possibly have hoped for or expected. It’s stapling some version of the Starwood elite program onto some version of the Marriott redemption program (‘the best of both worlds’) along with some devaluation of each.
Although Hilton is throwing shade at Marriott for not offering breakfast at all hotel chains still, such as Ritz-Carltons, the Marriott program is more rewarding than Hilton Honors which still doesn’t offer guaranteed late check-out or suite upgrades.
St. Regis Bali
And the Marriott program is more rewarding that the IHG Rewards Club program which still doesn’t offer guaranteed late check-out, suite upgrades, lounge access or breakfast (or even elite benefits on award stays or the option to spend more points for an upgraded room on redemptions).
There’s little question that the Hyatt program does more for top tier elites than any of the three large U.S.-based chains. If the Hyatt footprint works for you that’s wonderful, but they have just 10% of the properties that Marriott now has.
I Don’t Know Why Everyone is Shocked With How Marriott is Handling Travel Packages
A lot of people are unhappy with how Marriott is handling travel packages. Marriott finally shared the new chart for how legacy travel package certificates would work in the new program. We’ve been asking for months, Marriott said they wouldn’t reveal it until the day the new program launched, and that there will be a blackout for redeeming these packages for the next month.
Lucky from One Mile at a Time says “Marriott is actually being extremely unreasonable here.” Top category (9) certificates only map to category 6 redemptions in the new program. Shawn Coomer says Marriott is screwing customers.
Lucky says “The further big issue is the expectations that Marriott has created here.” I disagree. If you read between the lines even a little bit you knew these packages were going to have less value going forward, not more value. I do get the outrage but I don’t get the surprise.
Basic principle: when a loyalty program won’t tell you what to expect you know to expect disappointment.
Upgrades Are Going to Be Better Than Before at Marriotts, Regardless of What They Fail to Promise
Marriott is hoping hotels upgrade guests but doesn’t owe you anything if they don’t. Marriott has been promising suite upgrades the way Starwood offered to Platinums. However if a standard suite was available and a hotel didn’t give it to a Platinum guest, the hotel was doing something wrong to the member. In the new Marriott program, the terms and conditions contain weasel words.
Marriott definitely wants hotels to upgrade Platinums to available standard suites (the suite upgrade benefit only applies at the 75 night tier for Ritz-Carlton properties). They’re paying incentives to hotels based on elite guest satisfaction, so hotels want elite guests to be happy. However there’s not really recourse in the terms – a violation of program rules vis-a-vis the memebr – if a hotel fails to deliver.
Elite benefits simply haven’t been in the Marriott DNA. There are 5 times as many hotels as Starwood had and Starwood had 20 years of pushing suites as a benefit (and hotels still sometimes failed to comply).
We’ll simply have to wait and see how Marriott delivers the benefit before becoming disappointed. My expectation is that some hotels will be excellent, others less so, and that overall more hotels will be offering more suites than before the merger but that consistency is going to take time to develop.
Presidential Suite, Sheraton San Diego Marina
As Soon as the Websites are Available, Start Booking Those Luxury Redemptions
The new program will offer all of its hotel properties for a maximum of 60,000 points through the end of the year (before introducing a new higher redemption tier and additional higher peak date pricing next year).
There are Starwood hotels which have charged 70,000 or more points per night, which is 210,000 points per night in the new program. These hotels will have rooms that cost just 60,000 points in the new program.
And despite some language on the website suggesting this wouldn’t be the case, Marriott maintains that it will be.
However rooms will be limited. You use your points for ‘standard rooms’ however standard doesn’t mean ‘the most common’ it means ‘the lowest category’. Hotels can create very limited lowest room categories. For instance I currently have a points reservation at the St. Regis Maldives (old Starwood pricing, 90,000 points per night) for an overwater villa. The new program will give you rooms at 60,000 points per night — equal to just 20,000 Starpoints in the old program. But it’s a garden villa. And the property has only about four of those. So getting a room on points won’t be easy there.
Al Maha Desert Resort
I’m really looking forward though to seeing what happens at a hotel like Al Maha Desert Resort. Outside of a couple of royal suites all of the rooms are the same — standalone villas with private pool — except for location on the property. The hotel is also nearly all-inclusive. Your meals and two activities per day are included. If they still provide meals and activities and the majority of rooms (again, they’re all alike) this will be one of the greatest deals in the history of hotel loyalty. I have to think they will not be this generous.