United’s Much Anticipated Announcement: Partnership with Marriott

United scared me on Friday, and I wrote about that fear on Sunday, by saying changes were coming to the MileagePlus program.

That fear was unfounded as United introduced unambiguously good changes to MileagePlus, though very minor changes from my perspective, in the form of a partnership with Marriott.

What does this mean for you?

Status Match

If you’re United Gold or higher, you’ll get Marriott Gold Status through January 2014. If you’re a Marriott Platinum member, you’ll get United Silver through January 2014.

Analysis:

Sweet, free status!

Marriott Gold gets you: “guaranteed lounge access and free breakfast  at JW Marriott®, Renaissance Hotels®, Marriott® Hotels and Autograph Collection® Hotels, room upgrades (available on a space-available basis), complimentary high-speed internet access at more than 3,700 hotels globally, a 25 percent point bonus on all Marriott stays, priority late check-out (when available) and Gold Elite customized offers and awards. ”

United Silver gets you: “complimentary access to Economy Plus® seating at check-in (when available), complimentary Premier Upgrades on domestic flights (when available), Premier Access travel services (which include designated ticket counter check-in lines, priority security lines and priority boarding and baggage handling), one complimentary standard checked bag and 25 percent Premier bonus award miles on United flights.”

I have United Silver, and it’s a nice way to skip the line and get an Economy Plus seat at check in. I haven’t sniffed a free upgrade, and I doubt I will.

These status matches aren’t worth much, but they’re worth something. And enterprising folks will match this unearned status to other airlines and hotels for even more free status.

Better Mileage Transfer Rate

The other touted benefit may be worth more: better mileage transfer rates.

United will begin to offer the opportunity for its elites to transfer United miles to Marriott at a 1:1 rate, and you can transfer up to 50k miles per year.

You might think “1:1″, a maximum number of miles you can transfer, and the limitation that only elites can transfer means this is a good deal, but transferring United miles 1:1 to Marriott is an awful deal, since United miles are worth much more than Marriott points are worth.

Luckily, the better benefit an improved transfer rate from Marriott to United is open to all.

These are Marriott’s rates for transferring its points to United miles that it’s had since before today’s announcement.

Marriott’s top conversion option, 140k Marriott to 50k United, is a 2.8:1 exchange ratio. Today’s announcement says “all MileagePlus and Marriott Rewards members will receive a 20 percent discount when converting Marriott Rewards points into MileagePlus miles,” so that must mean 112k Marriott will equal 50k United miles, a 2.24:1 ratio.

Whether 2.24 Marriott to 1 United is a good trade depends on your valuation of the two currencies. I would value one Marriott point at about half a cent and one United mile at about 1.8 cents. That means I thought the old transfer ratio was good and the new one is even better!

It’s possible that neither new transfer ratio will intrigue you, but it’s not possible both will. I will stick to converting Marriott points to United miles and will be happy with the improved ratio.

Recap

Today’s announcement of a Marriott/United partnership is excellent news. Not because the partnership is particularly exciting, it really isn’t, but because there weren’t negative changes to MileagePlus today, which many of us feared. In 2013, not taking a huge loss to the value of your points is a big win.

Full Statement from United Hub:

United MileagePlus® has joined forces with Marriott Rewards®, an award-winning, industry-leading program for over 3,700 hotels and resorts worldwide, to provide unprecedented travel benefits to their most loyal members. Starting today, through “RewardsPlus,” United Global Services, Premier 1K, Premier Platinum and Premier Gold members can register for Marriott Rewards Gold Elite status, and all of the benefits that come with it, while Marriott Rewards Platinum Elite members can register for MileagePlus Premier Silver status, featuring some of our most popular Premier perks. Status offerings will be effective until Jan. 31, 2014.

RewardsPlus will soon include other features as well. Beginning in August, members of both programs will receive a discount when transferring Marriott Rewards points into MileagePlus award miles and will get additional miles for travel packages. Also, for the first time, all MileagePlus Premier members will be able to convert miles into Marriott Rewards points.
“We share United’s belief that a high level of customer service and recognition are among the most important elements of our members’ travel,” said Ed French, senior vice president, Marriott Rewards.  “We are bringing together the world’s leading hotel and airline loyalty programs to enhance the customer experience from beginning to end.”
“United and Marriott are advancing our partnership to provide unmatched recognition and benefits for our mutual customers,” said Tom O’Toole, United’s senior vice president of marketing and loyalty and president of MileagePlus. “The combination of United’s global network, Marriott’s brand scale and our top-rated loyalty programs enables our best customers to enjoy a heightened level of service wherever they travel.”

Features and benefits

Here are some of the ways in which this new partnership adds value for customers who are members of both the Marriott Rewards and United MileagePlus loyalty programs.

United Global Services, Premier 1K, Premier Platinum and Premier Gold MileagePlus members:

Marriott will offer Marriott Rewards Gold Elite status*, which includes guaranteed lounge access and free breakfast  at JW Marriott®, Renaissance Hotels®, Marriott® Hotels and Autograph Collection® Hotels, room upgrades (available on a space-available basis), complimentary high-speed internet access at more than 3,700 hotels globally, a 25 percent point bonus on all Marriott stays, priority late check-out (when available) and Gold Elite customized offers and awards.
Premier Gold and above members can also convert MileagePlus miles into Marriott Rewards points at a one-to-one ratio, for a maximum of 50,000 miles a year. MileagePlus will also extend the miles to points transfer benefit to Premier Silver members.

Marriott Rewards Platinum Elite members:

We’ll offer Premier Silver status, including complimentary access to Economy Plus® seating at check-in (when available), complimentary Premier Upgrades on domestic flights (when available), Premier Access travel services (which include designated ticket counter check-in lines, priority security lines and priority boarding and baggage handling), one complimentary standard checked bag and 25 percent Premier bonus award miles on United flights.

Added value for members of both programs:

In addition, beginning in August, all MileagePlus and Marriott Rewards members will receive a 20 percent discount when converting Marriott Rewards points into MileagePlus miles as well as a 10 percent bonus on MileagePlus miles with Marriott Rewards travel packages.
For information about RewardsPlus and to register for complimentary Marriott Rewards Gold Elite status, visit united.com/rewardsplus. For additional details about the benefits of the Marriott Rewards program, visit marriottrewards.com.
* Gold Elite benefits may vary by hotel brand.  Limitations and restrictions may apply. See full terms.

5 Responses to United’s Much Anticipated Announcement: Partnership with Marriott

  1. Do you know if the United Silver status will be given automatically or do you need to call to get the status?

  2. Very interesting development, maybe Marriott will have a transfer bonus to celebrate the new relationship. I have about 35K Marriott and my parents have 300K+, so maybe they will show us some love.

  3. Great article…..as a Platn. Marriott member, hit the Marriott link above and then
    hit the “learn more” tab to take you to the sign up page.

    ( I signed in to my Marriott account first and it worked great) 7 to 10 days and I should be granted United status.)

  4. Yawn. Who would bother with Marriott in the first place? Hilton offers better value for churners.

  5. Great to know. My dad has gold status with Marriott; I’ll be sure to let him know he can also have it with United!

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