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As time carries on Marriott and Starwood Preferred Guest are slowly altering their loyalty programs to prepare for integration. This morning Marriott announced a few new changes that will affect both Marriott and SPG members.

A Brief Catch-Up

Marriott and Starwood Preferred Guest have been in the process of merging since September 2016 when Marriott announced the purchase of SPG. We were given the ability to link accounts and transfer points between programs (3 Marriott points to 1 SPG Point and vice versa) and elite status match with impressive speed, immediately following the purchase. The programs have remained separate and all signs point to them remaining separate until at least through 2018, and possibly into 2019.  

What Mergers Mean For Us

In the long run, it’s bad for our rewards when hotels or airlines merge. It means less competition and less need for the airlines or hotels to offer lucrative rewards programs. On the bright side, we have at least another year of being able to take advantage of the Marriott-Starwood merger by combining points and matching status.

In Marriott & SPG Status Matches and Points Can Be Combined Scott went over how to maximize both the Marriott and SPG programs. Give it a read to learn more about why you’d want Marriott and SPG points. You’ll wan to keep your balances as they are until you see an arbitrage opportunity for on an immediate redemption.

Latest Changes

  • To parallel Marriott’s policy, Lifetime Status SPG members’ Starpoints now never expire
  • In regards to the Marriott program, 2017 will be the final year for elite status Rollover Nights. In other words, any extra nights earned in excess of elite qualification in 2017 will rollover and count towards Marriott status in 2018, but excess nights earned in 2018 will not rollover or count in 2019 and so on and so forth.
  • 2017 is also the final year Marriott will offer Status Buy Back (the easy way to keep status once you’ve earned the hard wat the first time, by buying it for tiered amounts of points)
  • SPG and Hertz announced a new partnership effective in 2018 (Marriott and Hertz already have one, but that will be expanding as well)
    • SPG members will also be able to earn Starpoints for Hertz rentals
    • Both Marriott and SPG Platinum members will be eligible for free mid-tier Hertz Gold Plus Rewards Five Star status.
    • SPG Platinum members with Ambassador service as well as Marriott Rewards Platinum Premier members will qualify for Hertz Gold Plus Rewards President’s Circle status and its benefits

While there are some obvious conclusions to be drawn, like the end of Rollover nights and Status Buy Back sucking, I don’t have much else of an opinion when it comes to what these changes actually mean for those with/chasing Marriott or SPG status as I don’t care about hotel or rental car status myself. I’m just happy we have at least another year to fully reap as many points as possible from both programs before they merge.

If you want to dig into these changes a bit more, check out One Mile at a Time’s Marriott Rewards & SPG Program Changes For 2018 and Marriott’s FAQ. Any strong feelings one way or the other? Share them with me in the comments.

Marriott & SPG Credit Cards

Right now Marriott has two Chase issued credit cards, one personal and one business card…

  • Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card
  • Marriott Rewards Premier Business Credit Card

…and SPG has two Amex issued credit cards, also one personal and one business.

  • Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express
  • Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express

If you don’t already have all of these cards, I would plan to get each over the course of 2017 and 2018. Why? Because the completion of the merger will likely see one bank win out over the other, meaning one co-brand of card could get dropped entirely. When a product disappears you lose the ability to earn its sign up bonus. Conclusion: Collect those big bonuses while you can!

You’ll want to keep your balances as they are until you see an arbitrage opportunity for on an immediate redemption, and then transfer as needed between the programs.

Strategy for SPG Cards

Both of the current bonuses for the SPG cards are 25,000 SPG points. You’ll get 25k for spending $3,000 within three months on the personal card, and 25k for spending $5,000 within three months on the business card. It is crucial to snipe Amex cards when the bonus is historically high as you can only get a bonus from a public Amex card (a loophole exists here sometimes with targeted offers) once in a lifetime. 25k is not the known high for the SPG bonuses. I would wait until the offer jumps to 35k for each card before applying, as they are known to do at least once a year.

Strategy for Marriott Cards

The public offer for the personal card is 80,000 Marriott points for spending $3,000 on the card within three months, as well as an additional 7,500 point bonus for adding an authorized user. The public offer for the business card is the same but does not include an authorized user bonus.

The Marriott Business card is much easier to get than the personal card as the Chase 5/24 rule is known not to apply. The 5/24 rule does apply to the personal card.

Both of these public offers typically fluctuate between 80k and 100k bonuses, so it could be worth waiting a bit to see if a higher bonus surfaces.

How to Link Marriott & SPG Accounts

If you haven’t linked your Marriott and SPG accounts yet, learn how to in this post where the process is outlined step-by-step.

Bottom Line

The latest changes to the Marriott Rewards program will likely not be appreciated by existing active members. Loss of Rollover Nights and Status Buy Back are two large drawbacks. Other than that, I don’t see any of the latest changes as revolutionary.

I was happy to realize, however, that Marriott has made public statements about the two programs remaining independent through 2018. Make sure you optimize your Marriott and SPG credit card strategy to get as many of those bonuses (and the highest versions of them) as you can over the next year, in case one or more disappear after the merger.

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