United and Marriott Offer New Reciprocal Benefits – RewardsPlus Gives United Gold Elites Marriott Gold!

United and Marriott today launched a partnership called RewardsPlus.

In some ways similar to Starwood and Delta’s Crossover Rewards announced in February, the program adds status recognition and some stepped up points benefits for elites in both programs. But unlike Starwood-Delta, points-earning has not been boosted under this new offering.

  • United’s Gold elites and higher get Gold status in the Marriott Rewards program. That’s actually a pretty strong benefit (albeit one you can get by signin up for the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Visa) in that it usually takes 50 nights with Marriott to qualify.

  • All Marriott Platinum and Platinum Premier members get United silver status.

  • United elites will be able to convert miles into Marriott points at a 1:1 ratio, although this represents a poor transfer value (since a United mile is generally worth more than a Marriott point, although it could be useful to top off a Marriott account to have enough points to redeem for a miles and hotel nights travel package.

  • The only benefit that general members of United get is improved transfer ratios of Marriott points to United miles.
    • 20% fewer Marriott points to transfer to MileagePlus miles. Here’s the pre-existing chart for transfers from Marriott to United:

      … now it will take 8000 Marriott points to get 2000 United miles, or 112,000 Marriott points to get 50,000 United miles.

    • 10% bonus United miles when redeeming Marriott points for a miles and hotel nights travel package.

  • There’s no extra status benefit for Marriott elites below the Platinum level (existing Golds or Silvers).

The only substantial benefit to the program is Marriott Gold for United’s Gold elites and higher.

United Silver for Marriott’s top elites has some benefits, Silver is incrementally better than just getting the United co-branded credit card. But since even United Golds get Marriott Gold, it feels entirely ungenerous for Marriott’s top tier elites not to get something more on the United side.

The better transfer ratios moving points between programs is an addition without taking anything away. That makes it ‘good to have’. But it’s not exciting or broadly useful, though it will help some in limited circumstances.

There will be plenty of griping from existing Marriott Gold elites, spending 50 nights in Marriott hotels, about the inflation of their ranks. But Marriott already gives away their Gold level to holders of one of their co-branded credit cards, and Marriott Golds don’t usually get substantially upgrades (a room on a higher floor, even if the floor is called club level, isn’t really a meaningful upgrade) at least outside of Asia. That means more Golds don’t really compete for benefits with existing ones — at least at the level that some of the Marriott Gold member consternation that’s sure to ensue will suggest.

Marriott and Delta were rumored to have been in talks about a deal, and Marriott supposedly walked away over cost. Starwood and Delta wound up working together.

It’s not surprising to me that Marriott wound up finding an airline partner, since word on the street is they were looking for one. And it’s also not surprising that the benefits seem lopsided towards United’s elites, since Marriott is said to have been concerned over the costs involved in doing a deal.

Unquestionably, however, United Golds and higher without Marriott status should register to get Marriott Gold and Marriott Platinums and Platinum Premiers without United status should register for United silver.

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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 InsideFlyer.com, 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. Nice but the double dipping feature of Delta and SPG was the draw for me. Rather than giving status away Marriott should try to improve the differentiation between their elite levels, the only noticeable difference between gold and platinum is more points. Most of their staff apparently don’t even know what Premier Platinum is.

  2. Marriott co-branded credit card benefit is 15 nights credit, which is equivalent to Silver, not Gold. As a Platinum, I just got bumped to United Silver. Wish it were Gold!

  3. Not stellar as I agree the DL/SPG is better.

    Neither matter much to me, but maybe we’ll see some from AA now.

  4. @Linda T – I was referring to the Ritz-Carlton Rewards card which comes with Gold the first year and then gives gold after $10k spend each subsequent year.

  5. Thanks for the clarification, Gary. So if you are a member of Marriott rewards, rather than Ritz-Carlton rewards, do you still get the benefit? Thinking ahead to years I may not reach 75 nights or hold many meetings…

  6. Your statement “That means more Golds don’t really compete for benefits with existing ones”

    I would disagree the amount of travelers with the Ritz Credit card getting gold will be far less than the number of UA flyers getting complementary Gold.

    The primary an unfortunately negative impact is Gold’s get guaranteed lounge access which will increase the traffic in the already crowded lounges.

  7. Yeaaaa…. I was looking for a final, conclusive reason to leave Marriott’s program, and this is the nail in the coffin for me. I’ve spent 7 years spending a lot of nights to earn lifetime Gold status, and now, anyone who has Gold or above with United gets the same status as I have? Thanks for the memories Marriott. I’ll keep and enjoy my lifetime gold status for whenever I decide to show up at one of your properties, but for now, my loyalties (and my credit card spend) are switching

  8. Thanks for the heads up. Is there a primer somewhere about Marriott lounge access for Golds? I’m a UA 1K member who generally avoids Marriotts because I haven’t found their loyalty program to be particularly lucrative. The only material advantage of Gold would seem to be lounge access. But if the hotel doesn’t have a lounge (which I assume is 90%+ of Marriott-family hotels), I’m guessing that Gold status isn’t worth a heck of a lot. Right?

  9. If I read this correctly, there is absolutely no benefits in this partnership for someone who is already a gold or higher in both programs. Seems almost like a partnership that proposes that I can just earn say gold in United and then do most of my stays with another hotel and if I happen to stop by a Marriott I will get gold treatment. Hmmm….

  10. What are my benefits if I am a member of the Ritz Carlton Rewards? Since it’s really just a version of Marriott Rewards, I hope it would be equivalent, but I did not see this addressed in the FAQ

  11. Does this mean a different way to obtain silver status on United without mile spend? Or will the program change by the time that happens? I assume there are some cards that will get you Marriott silver just for signing up?

  12. @bodenste – Marriott PLATINUM gets United Silver, Marriott Silver does not, but yes it would exempt from the United spending requirement for that level of status

  13. @iahphx,
    More like 90% of Marriotts have a lounge. It’s more consistent to find one than Hilton for example.

    This deal is more lopsided towards UA to get more people in Marriott beds. I think it will accomplish that.

  14. As a UA 1K that avoids Marriott, this will make stopping at one less of a heartache than before so I think Marriott is definitely benefiting, if not necessarily their typical guests.

  15. Shane —

    So domestic USA Marriotts generally have lounges? What about their other upscale brands?

    That’s certainly different from my experience with the other chains.

    Getting lounge access is obviously a material perk, so if Marriott is willing to give me lounge access, I’d be far more likely to stay at a Marriott, even if I continue to find the other aspects of their loyalty program to be “blah.” BTW, do I need to book directly through Marriott to qualify for the Gold benefits? Like what happens if I book through something like Expedia: lounge or no lounge?

  16. Note: Although most Marriott and JW Marriott have lounges reset your expectations as they have increased access and reduced the offering in most US locations. What is on offer is usually much less than an airport lounge and with restricted hours when there is food or alcohol. The last couple I’ve stayed at in SF actually expected you to pay for drinks on an honor system.
    For breakfast the lounges are crazy crowded as it seems like at least a 1/3 of the hotel has access and the food offering is low quality continental breakfast, scrambled eggs with no meat or potato products.

    Lounges in the UK are pretty similar (although they don’t seem to charge for beer and wine, during the ‘window’ when they are available). The exec lounges tend to be much smaller though.

    The problem is the lounge access comes from Marriott corp but the costs of providing it belong to the hotel property so they are strongly incentivized to keep their costs down.

    Asia lounges are well worth it.

  17. @iahphx,
    You don’t need to book with Marriott directly to recognize your Gold Benefits. I book everything via a TA and get my benefits easily.

    As far as upscale Marriott brands (JW and Ren), most of them have lounges I’d say around 90%. The last JW I stayed at didn’t have one but they gave me (as a gold), free buffet breakfast, 2500 pts a night and a room upgrade to a central park view. This was a rarity in my experience as most of the time, I get a lounge.

    The lounge experience is not spectacular though. During the morning hours, it does get crowded and the breakfast offerings are fairly mediocre (continental, eggs, bacon, sausage, cereal, oatmeal etc) but it suffices for most people. During the evenings, the appetizers are typically finger foods with 2-3 offerings. Then dessert which is cookies and a cake or 2.

    In either case, liquor is honor system based and they charge for it.

  18. @SJCRussell, if by “drinks” you mean alcoholic beverages, that is true, although (in my experience) it has been that way for at least a couple of years (back when I had Marriott Gold status the hard way). Non-alcoholic beverages were always free.

    What is the increased access? When I was a Gold, the lounge never seemed THAT busy, and breakfast was always decent (eggs, meat, pastries, yogurt, etc.). Evenings were usually a few hors douevres of varying quality (e.g., ravioli) and a dessert (e.g., cheesecake).

  19. I have no experience with Marriott, so as the automatic recipient of their Gold status via this partnership, it seems well worthwhile. The U.S. lounges sound like they offer a better food offering than many U.S. Hilton lounges, which are often strictly continental breakfast (sometimes not even hard-boiled eggs), and in the evening sometimes not even a hot item.

    Are all Gold benefits valid on reward stays?

  20. Thanks for the advice, everyone — with my new status, it seems like I should at least try a couple of Marriotts. Is there an easy way to know whether a hotel has a lounge — like is it listed on the Marriott website? I guess I could always call.

  21. Meh. I’ve mostly avoided Marriotts and will probably continue to do so despite this change.

    I’d rather have seen United hook up with another hotel change but I guess this might not be exclusive?

    I guess there’s still AA to pair up with somebody… AA/Hilton maybe?

  22. Gary – I’m a United 1K and, based on your rec, got the Hilton Reserve Card to get Gold in their program, which has been working nicely. I have no status with Marriott. Now I’ll get Gold on Marriott (for life I suppose since I’m a United Million Miler and have lifetime UA Gold), so should I cancel the Hilton credit card and switch allegiances to Marriott? I don’t spend much on the Hilton card so I doubt I’d get the free night benefit. Thanks! Rob

  23. @explore, yes. Gold benefits are valid on award stays.

    @iahphx, if they have concierge floor rooms, they’ll have a lounge. that’s one way to guarantee it.

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