The SPG/Marriott Rewards merger has been on many a pointchaser’s mind in recent times. In April, it was announced that the programs would merge in August. In June, Marriott unveiled the new hotel categories for the unified program, which got me really excited. And now, an official announcement has been made on Flyertalk that Saturday, 18 August is the date that the two programs (or three, if you count Ritz Carlton Rewards) will become one.
When this happens, all your SPG points will be converted into new program points (they’ve not named the new program yet) at a ratio of 1:3. SPG members who haven’t linked accounts or signed up for a Marriott Rewards account will get a new 9 digit account number.
Here’s 5 things I’d like to point out:
If your hotel is going up in price, you need to book before 18 August
Bit of a no-brainer here, but you should already have done your due diligence on Marriott’s new unified categories. If you’re eyeing a hotel that is going up in price, you’re going to want to lock it in before 18 August. Remember that hotel stays can be booked 350 days in advance, so if you even have an inkling of your 2019 travel plans it makes sense to lock them in now (you can always cancel later before the penalty period starts).
If your hotel is going down in price, you’ll need to ask for a price adjustment on or after 18 August
If you’ve booked a hotel that is going down in price, your points will not automatically be refunded.
You’ll need to contact customer service to get an adjustment- but the good news is the Starwood Lurker has confirmed that there’s no risk of losing your booking during this process, as “members will be able to contact us for assistance in moving the reservation to new category pricing without losing the reservation. This was not the case in SPG where a new availability check was required, so I’m pleased that the current Marriott Rewards policy will continue in that regard”.
Example: The Westin Singapore costs 20,000 SPG points a night today. From August 18, it will cost 50,000 new program points. If you want a refund of those 10,000 new program points, you’ll have to cancel and rebook- it will not happen automatically.
Don’t expect to redeem rooms from 12.01am on 18 August
The merger of two large programs is, as expected, a technical nightmare and Marriott is already telling people to brace for system downtime. In the words of Marriott:
As we launch our new program, a temporary outage of all systems, sites and apps is planned for August 18 beginning early morning (U.S. Eastern Time). This means that for most of the day there will be time when bookings are not possible, your account is not accessible, account combine is not available, etc. Please plan accordingly and be a bit patient with us during this transition.
What this means is you shouldn’t expect to redeem your points at 12:01 am on 18 August– there will be plenty of gremlins in the system for Marriott to work out, and you’ll just need to monitor Flyertalk very, very closely to see when systems are up and allowing people to book.
Once systems are up, it’s going to be a mad rush as everyone scrambles to take advantage of the Category 8 properties which are temporarily priced at Category 7 pricing till year’s end. Good luck.
Speaking of which…
Can we please put this St Regis Maldives thing to rest already?
It seems no matter how many times I say this, people keep asking me the same thing. “Are you sure the St Regis Maldives/ (insert other Cat 8 property name here) will be available at 60,000 new program points per night?”
Yes, yes I am. Ben from OMAAT had the opportunity to speak with David Flueck, the head of loyalty at Marriott. It is confirmed that SPG’s top tier hotels will be priced at 60,000 new program points per night for base rooms. What is less clear is how hotels will be defining base rooms. Will only a small sub-segment of rooms be made available in this category? Wait till 18 August to find out.
No one knows how hotel certificates under Marriott Travel Packages will be handled
In my article on who should and shoudn’t be buying SPG points, I noted that Marriott Hotel + Air Packages were one of the best uses of SPG points (just transfer them over to Marriott Rewards before 18 August), That’s going to be significantly devalued post 18 August, so if you’re in the market for one you’re going to want to act soon.
As you know, Hotel + Air Packages give you a certain number of airline miles with your preferred program plus a certificate for a 7 night stay in a particular Marriott hotel category.
What happens to these hotel certificates after 18 August? No one knows. Marriott has encouraged members to redeem them before 18 August, but members are holding on to them in the hope that they’ll be refunded at a generous rate or remapped generously to the new categories. Read Ben’s post on this matter if you want more theories, but suffice to say there’s no official word on what will happen.
Exciting times afoot I’m sure, especially for those of you who have bought SPG points in anticipation of the category changes. I realise there are still some unknowns, but honestly, worrying about it won’t make it better. Whenever news comes out we’ll cover it here, so in the meantime get ready to sharpen your pitchforks for 18 August. It’s gonna be epic.