Marriott and Starwood Announce Changes for 2018

Since it’s been two years since Marriott bid to acquire Marriott so it’s easy to forget that the merger only closed 14 months ago.

Quickly Marriott improved benefits introducing 4 p.m. Gold and Platinum elite check-out and trialing an Ambassador service. They also built out experiential rewards. And with the close of the merger they allowed members to elite status match and transfer points at will. Those were all impressive gestures but there’s been little public action over the last year.

Today Marriott still doesn’t have an equivalent suite upgrade benefit or offer breakfast at resorts, Courtyard properties, or on weekends. Those have to be solved. But they won’t be solved right away.

They were never going to be fully integrated in 2018. The most optimistic assessments suggested a minimum of 18 months’ work. And there are two major constraints:

  • IT work. I’ve never seen an IT project finish early or under budget. They need to get hotels on the same platform, and they need a single platform that they’re going to merge data for members onto. Even smaller acquisitions have taken longer to handle the IT.

  • Credit card contract. Right now Starwood and Marriott have two different co-brand card issuers, American Express and Chase respectively, and their pace and ultimately even program structure may be driven by maxizing revenue across the two banks.

W Union Square

So it should surprise absolutely no one that Marriott announced today that Marriott Rewards, Ritz-Carlton Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest are not being integrated for 2018. And 2018 program changes are minimal.

  • Hertz partnership. Starwood members earn points with Hertz rentals, and both Marriott and Starwood Platinums get Hertz Five Star status (if they don’t have it via United or Delta already, indeed nearly anyone who stumbles onto a Hertz lot and trips is given Five Star). Starwood Ambassador (100 night) members and Marriott Platinum Premiers get Hertz
    President’s Circle. Trading Starwood-Uber for Hertz feels like going back in time (where the dream of the 90s is alive in Portland).

  • Points won’t expire for Starwood lifetime elites matching Marriott.

  • Marriott rollover nights and status buy back will end after this year. So only 2017 nights in excess of status requirements roll over to 2018, 2018 nights will no longer roll over.

Al Maha Desert Resort

Here’s the thing. They’re clearly continuing to align the programs. And in announcing the end of rollover they’re preparing for a combined and aligned offering.

However by not announcing what the 2019 program looks like – status benefits that members will be staying for all throughout 2018 — they’re either going to need to wait to combine until 2020 or make elites materially better off across the board in 2019. Otherwise they’re inducing members to stay with promises that would go unfulfilled. And hotels aren’t immunized from member complaints by Northwest v. Ginsberg the way that airlines are.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I beg to differ on the breakfast at Courtyard properties. I’m currently staying at one in Hong Kong and have breakfast, either at the Executive Lounge or at the restaurant for free.

  2. The good news, I still have time to make lifetime platinum. I should have been there in 2018 but my memory does not match their records. There was a time when you could see online how many years you had Platinum, I should have screen captured it because now I have one more year than I thought to go. My suggestion to others looking to achieve lifetime Gold or Platinum keep your own details.

    Current status 484 nights and 8 years platinum.

  3. Phew. The longer they maintain something like the status quo, the happier I am — as an SPG annual and lifetime plat, I’m dreading the final state.

  4. Spg properties were awesome. Marriott were so so. The gist is people staying at Spg were not as profitable to their hosts. Like parasites they were sucking more than providing in value and their host got weak, collapsed and was eaten up by a new host.

    The new host wants to make sure the parasites don’t come onto it.

  5. @Julene – it’s not a guaranteed benefit. I got it in CY Stockholm and I wasn’t even elite at the time. However, it’s not a guaranteed program benefit, so nearly every US CY doesn’t offer it.

    To the changes: meh. I think it sucks that we can’t start qualifying for platinum by meeting requirements across both programs. That’s going to keep me out of Starwood hotels for most of 2018. Which is lame because I prefer their hotels….

  6. The inability to stay at Marriott and credit to SPG or vice versa has cut my stays in half at their properties. There is no longer a reason to go after both statuses when they are the same, and there is no benefit to staying in Marriott when you are collecting SPG nights. This is one thing I wish they would have added.

  7. The bigger question I have is, what becomes of the credit card deal? Does Marriott go out for bid for a new credit card deal with AMEX (SPG) and Chase (Marriott)?

  8. Getting rid of rollover nights for Marriott is HUGE. Why should I stay at Marriott past 75 nights when platinum-premier isn’t defined either in terms of requirements or benefits? And correction to Gary: Marriott’s elite terms do provide for suite upgrades for platinum status guests.

  9. @Marriott Platinum – no, you are not entitled to a suite if you are a platinum, a hotel is allowed to give you one. That’s very different.

  10. @Gary: That is not correct. Marriott’s platinum terms clearly state that upgrades for platinum members are a suite, if there is availability. Golds are not eligible for a suite. Golds only receive an upgrade to a better room.

  11. @Marriott Platinum — The Platinum benefits landing page only says the word upgrade once — in reference to what you get from United as a Silver. … that should tell you something.

    As a platinum your benefit is a room upgrade, subject to availability at check-in, NOT suites. Hotels are ALLOWED to give you suites. But if there is an empty standard suite and they do not give it to you they haven’t broken any rule of the program.

  12. And I quote:

    ​”Complimentary Room Upgrade: Upgrades are based on room availability at check-in and limited to a member’s personal guestroom. Upgrades may include rooms with desirable views, rooms on high floors, corner rooms, rooms with special amenities and rooms on Executive Floors. ***Suites are included for Platinum members only.*** Rooms with direct Club Lounge access are excluded. All upgrades are granted on a space-available basis, as determined at the time of check-in. Upgrades are subject to availability and identified by each hotel.”

  13. There is no guarantee suite upgrade at Marriott. I’ll hit lifetime platinum next year with Marriott. Thankfully they left the rollover nights in this year.

  14. @Marriott Platinum – yes, exactly. “Upgrades ***may include***” it is 100% at the discretion of the hotel what your upgrade will be. If there is an empty suite and the hotel doesn’t give it to you they have done nothing wrong, all you are entitled to is a high floor room if available.

  15. May want to edit that first paragraph:

    “Since it’s been two years since Marriott bid to acquire Marriott so it’s easy to forget that the merger only closed 14 months ago.”

    For this Marriott Gold Elite (via UA), A+ to the international Marriott properties outside the US. Have experienced breakfast in restaurant or executive lounges, as well as the evening complimentary cocktails.

    C+ to the domestic US Marriott executive lounges. Usually small, crowded, no complementary evening cocktails, and the breakfast or evening snacks in the lounges are pretty meager. Atlanta downtown was a recent visit, and it was pretty sad.

    For the Marriott other branded properties, some offer breakfast to all guests or some only with certain room rates.

    At each property we’ve stayed at, status was recognized, and usually got verbal or printed card with what to expect.

    Just surprised that what was offered depended on the country. Kudos to all the Asian properties I stayed at in September and October.

  16. @Gary, @MarriottPlatinum…recently I had a nice success at a Marriott I shall not name. I checked in, nicely asked if there might be a possibility of a Platinum upgrade to a suite (I had checked and they were still selling them). The desk agent did a little checking, and wrote something down on a piece of paper. He excused himself and retreated to the back office. He came back and awkwardly told me there was no availability. I thanked him and went to my room (there were a couple of other people in line and I didn’t want to make a scene or cause a further delay). Got to my room, checked online and saw they were still showing suite availability.
    Called Marriott Rewards Platinum line, explained the situation and asked to be educated as to why the (single class) upgrade was declined. The rep put me on hold, called the hotel and…lo and behold, the guy in the back office sheepishly called me and said I would immediately be moved to a nice suite. He personally came to my room and helped with our bags (I gave him a nice tip).
    Next day, I heard from GM who acknowledged my prior stays there, status, etc., and said to inquire personally and directly for future stays. Nice!
    I subsequently made another reservation there, to be arriving in mid-December, and advised the GM. Btw, I reserved the nicest category short of a suite. Checked online yesterday and my reservation already shows “suite”. Cool.
    This hotel had never given me a suite upgrade so I attribute it to the SPG acquisition and Marriott’s increased commitment to Platinums.

  17. Gary. No You are wrong. The policy clearly states that for elite status guests below platinum the only upgrade, availability permitting, is to a better room but not a suite. There is a specific clause applicable only to platinum that says if available the upgrade for a platinum elite status guest is to a suite. Yes, there may be no suite available and the hotel could upgrade you to just a nicer room, but the intent of the terms is that a platinum should receive a suite if a suite is available. This matches the intent of Starwood’s program but obviously isn’t worded as best as it could be worded.

  18. Your argument is the same as the Hilton mega-troll who shows up on this blog at times. Saying deeply buried in the T&Cs about a chance at a suite upgrade is NOT the same as what SPG has on the landing page for Platinums…the intent for each program’s desire to upgrade is very different.

    I’m sure the SPG language will go away in the future, unfortunately.

  19. @David Hyatt changed the terms for how you obtain status, and either kept benefits just as valuable or increased value at each tier, not actionable.

  20. Hi Gary, your post gave me hope but I checked directly on the Marriott Insiders forum and buyback is dead. There will be no buyback in early 2018.

  21. I have been a Marriott guy since 2007 and made Platinum for Life in 2016. The credit card benefits (the best in class) and perks of platinum at Marriott (early and late check in/out) and upgrades made me choose Marriott when I started my heavy traveling. I got to Platinum for Life because the rollover nights kept me motivated to remain platinum, usually getting about 100 nights per year using stays and credit card points. That rollover feature, plus how Marriott treated me, kept me in Marriotts when other chains were better travel options. I now am Platinum for Life at Marriott, which makes me perpetually platinum (but not technically platinum for life) at SPG. Bottom line is that it is not likely I will stay in a Hyatt or Hilton again because the benefits with Platinum for Life are too good. Why would I stay elsewhere when I get great upgrades and a 4 pm checkout ( not to mention being able to almost always check in as early as 8am!!!). I think it is in Marriott’s best interest to keep the rollover benefit. Once you get ‘there’ you will always stay there.

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