Marriott and SPG are Now Fully Integrated... Here's What You Need to Know
Since Marriott bought Starwood Preferred Guest back in 2016, a date of worry hovered in my mind. When will the two programs finally combine, and what will that mean for frequent guests of the brand? On August 18th, that day finally came. Let's take a look at how the integration is going.
1. Your Elite Nights, Status, and Points Have Been Combined into One Account
While from the very first day that Marriott closed the Starwood deal we could "link" our respective Marriott and SPG accounts, which allowed for seamless points transfers and status matching between the two programs. One thing that didn't happen until this month was one account, where nights stayed at Marriott and SPG hotels would all count towards one status. Elite benefits have also been combined or changed under the new program. You can read our rundown of all the changes in our previous article about the merger.
You'll now have to choose which account number you'd like to keep. To keep your Marriott number, use this link. For SPG, use this link. I was able to combine accounts successfully, but there have been intermittent issues this week, so be patient.
I linked my accounts, and as a SPG Platinum earned through stays, I'm showing up as a new Platinum Premier elite member, which is correct. In future years, I'll need to stay 75 nights to reach this level, which is unlikely given my stay patterns.
2. The Marriott program name is temporary.
Sometime in 2019, we'll have a new program name. For now, they haven't sunsetted the SPG or Marriott names. This is an odd choice, especially considering a new SPG card from American Express launched last week (more on credit cards below).
3. Watch How Your Points and Stays Are Posting
I had a one-night stay at the Sheraton Heathrow hotel on August 16th, which was two days before the official integration began. The stay took over 10 days to post, unusual for SPG or Marriott stays. When it did finally post, the points for my stay were wrong- I should've received 500 SPG/1,500 Marriott points for my Platinum check-in gift, per the old rules.
Others have reported positive errors in their accounts, so do the math before phoning into Marriott for a correction.
4. Nights at Premium Hotels Are Cheaper Than Before... For Now
Top-tier SPG properties used to cost 30,000 points a night... that's 90,000 Marriott points. For a limited time, from now until the end of the year, you're able to book top tier Marriott/SPG properties for 60,000 points. That means places like the St. Regis Deer Valley, St. Regis New York, and the St. Regis Maldives can be had for a much lower price than before! Keep in mind, these deals are subject to availability. In 2019, a new, higher tier will be introduced, as well as seasonal pricing. This means that certain resorts will be as high as 110,000 Marriott points a night during certain periods of the year.
5. Credit Cards Have Changed
The "old" SPG and SPG Business cards were excellent everyday spend cards-- but not any longer. While an annual "free" night has been added to the card (any hotel 35,000 points a night and under), your earning on non-bonus spend has dropped 33%, to 2 "new" Marriott points per dollar. You'll also get Silver status, which in my opinion is borderline worthless.
The new SPG Luxury Credit Card from Amex is now available, and for $450, you'll receive a free night each year (up to 50,000 points a night), a $300 yearly Marriott credit, as well as standard luxury card benefits like TSA Pre-Check/Global Entry fee waivers and Priority Pass membership. There's also a sign up bonus of 100,000 Marriott points for spending $5,000 in 3 months. You'll also get automatic Gold status in the new program, and Platinum status if you spend $75,000 a year on the card.
I'd say that with millions of accounts to merge, Marriott has done a decent job at integration. I disagree with the timing of the merger, as well as a lot of the changes from Marriott, which is completely focused on the bottom line. Other bloggers have toted how nice the low award rates on high-end hotels are, but not enough on the fact that the price may nearly double in four months time. I'd recommend Hilton as a much more rewarding program with a similar footprint, if giving up more high-end redemption options isn't a big deal for you.