The Marriott Rewards, Ritz-Carlton Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest programs merge this month. Here’s what you need to know to maximize your points and your status.
Marriott, now the world’s largest hotel company following its $12.5 billion acquisition of Starwood, is merging three of its rewards programs on August 18th: Marriott Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG), and Ritz-Carlton Rewards. While the news has been out for some time, and some transferring of points has been an option, from Saturday (August 18), all three will be fully merged with the same rules and rates for earning and redeeming points.
That means unified benefits across the 29 hotel brands—more than 6,500 properties—that comprise the three programs. It’s big and pretty exciting news for frequent travelers, but there are a few things you need to do before and after the big day.
Here’s what you need to know
Firstly, there won’t be a new name for the newly combined programs until next year. All three will keep their branding for now.
However, you’ll want to link your Marriott and SPG accounts before August 18 so there is a seamless transfer of points. SPG points will transfer at a ratio of one to three points into Marriott Rewards. Many of the prices for redeeming your points will change, with an adjustment in categories covering which hotels fit into which award redemption bracket.
Crossover Rewards, the popular program between SPG and Delta, where fliers earnt Starpoints for every dollar they spent on Delta and vice versa, sadly ended in July.
However, Marriott Rewards is continuing its RewardsPlus program with United with MileagePlus. It operates a bit differently (no reciprocal points are earned), but elite members of either program enjoy benefits like priority boarding on flights and possible room upgrades at hotels. If you haven’t linked your accounts, be sure to sign up for the free perks.
Even if you’re not signed up to RewardsPlus, you might be eligible if you have the right credit card like the Platinum Card from American Express. That card comes with Gold status in SPG’s program and so will now be honored with Gold status in Marriott’s program, which means room upgrades and welcome gifts at many hotels. You can also transfer points from Chase Ultimate Rewards.
Marriott Rewards points out that on August 18, its systems will be down intermittently to complete the unification, so don’t wait until that date if you need to make a reservation (both paid or with points).
Things to do before August 18
Consult the chart of price changes to determine if you should book before August 18 or afterward to get the best redemption rate. If the cost of an award reservation drops in the points price, Marriott Rewards will not refund the difference in price automatically.
This means it is best to wait to book an award (if the price is dropping) until after August 18. You can also call Marriott Rewards after that date to cancel and rebook an award at the lower price. If it’s going up, be sure to book now; if you have to make any changes to the reservation after August 18, the new redemption rates will apply.
If you can plan ahead, reservations can be made for at least a year in advance, and it is worth locking in the lowest redemption rate now if it’s due to go up later this month.
Marriott Rewards offers a unique redemption called Hotel+Air awards, which include a stash of airline miles and enough points for five to seven nights at one of its hotels. These popular travel packages can be a real gem, but they will be largely going up in price after August 18 so should be booked now.
If you’re planning a road trip vacation, Marriott has come up with a monumental road trip map that guides travelers across some of the United States’ most well-known places like Mount Rushmore, the Wright Brothers National Memorial, and the Grand Canyon. Many of Marriott family hotels are conveniently located along these famous routes.
Here’s what to do after August 18
Members will have to actively combine their accounts once the programs come together; it won’t happen automatically. This will ensure that credit for nights and stays will combine, an important metric for achieving elite status. You may even climb to a higher status level when these are combined. SPG members will receive a new number for Marriott Rewards via email the day after the combination.
Check any existing reservations you have for after this date. If the price has gone down, you call to rebook the reservation and get the lower point price. Don’t forget this step because you could be leaving important points on the table.
Some high-end properties like St. Regis Maldives and St. Regis Bora Bora will be going up a few categories to the highest points redemption rates. But this won’t happen until 2019, which means that you can book these hotels at the lower rates up until the end of January (and yes, reservations can even take place after that date).
That’s a tremendous value to score these famous hotels at a lower price, but these awards (only available after August 18) may go quickly. Be ready to book these starting August 19 because inventory will surely be limited to standard room availability.
Sign up at Marriott’s information page to keep up to date with the latest developments.