I dunk on Marriott a lot for its failure to deliver on promised benefits, for its clueless customer service agents, and its broken IT. And Starwood members are generally unhappy with the Marriott Bonvoy program. To be fair, benefits aren’t received as consistently as they used to be for Starwood members. The credit card’s earning isn’t as rich. And top status is harder to earn, with a minimum spend requirement at the 100-night level to receive ‘Ambassador’ service that no longer includes an individual assigned Ambassador.
However, for Marriott Rewards program members the Starwood merger has surprisingly been a blessing and that’s really easy to forget.
- Before the Starwood merger there was no guaranteed late checkout
- There’s no breakfast at resorts and more brands as an elite benefit
- The Marriott credit card has stronger earning for spending than it used to (basically meeting the Starwood Amex in the middle)
- Before the Starwood merger suite upgrades weren’t promised if a suite was available at check-in, there was no advance suite upgrade program or 24-hour check-in for top elites, and no Ambassador program at all.
Marriott Rewards members don’t have quite as good an earn-burn value proposition than they used to, with hotels requiring more points than they used to (and a single Marriott point worth a bit less). However they also have access to much nicer hotel than before – the Starwood portfolio contains aspirational properties all over the world at which to spend points, while Marriott’s pre-merger portfolio was far more workmanlike overall.
What Marriott has lost is its sine qua non of consistency, and that’s hard for members and a completely fair criticism. And Marriott hasn’t kept its lofty promises to members made when Bonvoy launched. But that doesn’t change the fact that pre-merger Marriott Rewards members were made better off by the merger.
Starwood members on the other hand, who were loyal to the program for the elite experience, have reasonable grounds for complaint. Those benefits aren’t as easy to achieve or as consistently applied. The credit card is no longer such a rich source of points. There are some redemption values compared to Starwood pricing at top end hotels which were ‘beyond the award chart’ (charging double the points of a top category hotel – or more) and there are more places to redeem.