We expected revisions to Marriott’s loyalty program after the company’s $12.2 billion acquisition of Starwood back in 2015. Well, this week it happened, and the changes are more extensive—and more guest-friendly—than anybody expected.
The biggest news is the adoption, beginning in August, of unified benefits across the 29 hotel brands—that’s about 6,500 properties in 127 countries—that comprise the Marriott Rewards, Ritz-Carlton Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) programs. The company estimates that guests will earn 20 percent more points for each dollar spent—and reap the rewards 20 percent sooner. They’ll also reach elite status sooner, earning Silver status after 10 nights, Gold after 25 nights, Platinum after 50 nights, and Platinum Premier after 75 nights. Platinum Premier members who crack the 100-night mark will bask in the personalized glow of the vaunted Ambassador program.
Platinum and Platinum Premier members will get free breakfast at 23 of the 29 brands—a list newly expanded to include Courtyard, AC Hotels, Protea, and Moxy properties. Marriott Rewards, Ritz-Carlton Rewards, and SPG members will now earn 10 points for each dollar spent at all brands except the budget-minded Residence Inn, TownePlace Suites, and Element, where they’ll get five points for every dollar. Moreover, guests will earn points not just on the room rate but also on dining dollars and purchases of qualifying incidentals. And the icing on the cake: Marriott has made it easier to redeem your stash of points, with no blackout dates on any hotel in the portfolio. The company will debut a standard Free Night Award chart with standard pricing in August, and it will further refine the chart to include peak and off-peak pricing during 2019.
Naturally, the company has reimagined its mobile and Web experience: Book directly through Marriott.com or SPG.com or via one of the group’s smartphone apps, and grab special member rates and free Wi-Fi during your stay. The apps themselves are smarter, too: Guests can now get room-ready alerts, check themselves in and out, and in some hotels, use their phone as a room key.
Maintaining momentum, Marriott will roll out some perk-heavy new plastic with really long names: the Chase Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card and the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Luxury Card. Among other goodies, the Marriott card promises six points per dollar spent at participating hotels and two points on almost everything else; the Starwood card returns six points on the dollar at participating hotels, three points on airfare and dining in the United States, and two points on everything else—not to mention automatic Gold elite status.