On Friday, I covered some of the changes that Marriott recently announced concerning the merger of Marriott, SPG, and Ritz Carlton’s loyalty programs. I am only discussing Marriott and SPG since those are much more commonly used than Ritz points.

In August, the loyalty programs become one, using just one point currency, award chart, elite qualifying system, etc. They will keep their separate names until 2019 when the loyalty program will be given just one (yet to be announced) name. In Part I, I went over changes to elite status, earning points from hotel stays, and redeeming points for hotel stays. Today in Part II, I’ll cover earning points through credit card spend, the new credit cards hitting the market in May and August, and redeeming points as airline miles.

As a quick review…

In brief, this is what’s happening in August

  • All SPG points will be automatically converted into Marriott Rewards at a rate of 1:3, which is the current transfer rate. Marriott points will turn into the sole currency for the whole program.
  • Elite status between programs will be transitioned to a singular benefits/qualification system with five tiers: Silver, Gold, Platinum, Platinum Premier, and Platinum Premier with Ambassador service.
  • Earning Points: 
    • The rate of points earning from stays at hotels will increase at an average of 20%.
    • The rate at which you earn points from credit card spend will decrease significantly for SPG members, and increase for Marriott members.
  • Redeeming Points: 
    • As for redemptions at all SPG, Marriott, and Ritz-Carlton family hotels, there will be one singular award chart, eventually with eight categories and three tiers within each category (standard, off-peak, and peak). Prices are going up for Marriott members and generally down for SPG members.
    • As for redemptions as airline miles by transferring points to airline loyalty program parters, the transfer rate across the board will be 3 Marriott points to 1 airline mile (current transfer rate nor the current bonus structure for transferring to airline miles will change).
  • Two new credit cards will be introduced: the SPG American Express Luxury Card in August, and the Chase Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card, in the beginning of May. There will also be changes to already existing SPG or Marriott cards.

Some Missing Pieces Yet to be Determined

  • The name of the program for 2019 and on
  • What hotels will be in what category (a list with specific destinations has since been shared by Marriott since Part I was published, but we still don’t have a complete list)
  • The ability to book hotel award nights with a mixture of cash and points awards options will remain, but the pricing under the new singular program is not yet known
  • Hotel + Air Packages (sticking around, but we’re not sure what they’ll look like)

Redeeming Points as Airline Miles

Thankfully, this part of the plan for the unified loyalty program is not getting worse. It’s actually improving, as SPG’s airline transfer partners and Marriott’s airline transfer partners are combining into one long list under the new program, and all points will transfer at the rate of SPG’s current system (which is better than Marriott’s current system).

Right now, 1 SPG point transfers to 1 airline mile, and when you transfer in increments of 20,000 SPG points you get a 5,000 mile bonus in the program you are transferring to.

All transfer ratios as of August 1 will be 3 Marriott points to 1 airline mile, and you’ll get 15,000 bonus points for every transfer of 60,000 points. This means your existing SPG points are not being devalued on August 1 your SPG points will be tripled in the conversion to Marriott. The same bonus for transferring in increments of what used to be 20k SPG points (60k Marriott points) will be equivalent as well, since 15,000 Marriott points = 5,000 SPG points.

SPG and Marriott’s current separate programs have separate airline partners you can transfer points to. Those two lists will merge into one long list of airline transfer partners in August, and a couple new ones will be introduced that are on neither’s transfer list as of now. Below is a chart that breaks down each program’s current transfer list, what the new list will look like, and what the Marriott point to airline transfer ratio will be as of August 1, 2018.

Starwood Preferred GuestMarriottCombined List + New Partners (8/1)Transfer Rate (8/1)
Aegean Airlines Aegean Airlines 3:1
Aeromexico Club PremierAeromexico Club PremierAeromexico Club Premier3:1
Air Canada AeroplanAir Canada AeroplanAir Canada Aeroplan3:1
Air China CompanionAir China CompanionAir China Companion3:1
Air New Zealand Air PointsAir New Zealand Air PointsAir New Zealand Air PointsNot yet defined
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan 3:1
Alitalia MileMiglia Alitalia MileMiglia Alitalia MileMiglia 3:1
All Nippon Airways (ANA) Mileage ClubAll Nippon Airways (ANA) Mileage ClubAll Nippon Airways (ANA) Mileage Club3:1
American Airlines AAdvantage
American Airlines AAdvantage American Airlines AAdvantage 3:1
Cathay Pacific Asia MilesCathay Pacific Asia MilesCathay Pacific Asia Miles3:1
Asiana Club
Asiana Club
Asiana Club
3:1
British Airways Executive ClubBritish Airways Executive ClubBritish Airways Executive Club3:1
China Eastern Airlines
China Eastern Airlines
China Eastern Airlines
3:1
Delta SkyMiles
Delta SkyMiles
Delta SkyMiles
3:1
Emirates Skywards
Emirates Skywards
Emirates Skywards
3:1
Etihad GuestEtihad Guest
Etihad Guest
3:1
Flying Blue (Air France, KLM, etc)
Flying Blue (Air France, KLM, etc)
Flying Blue (Air France, KLM, etc)
3:1
Gol Smiles
Gol Smiles
Gol Smiles
3:1
Hainan Airlines
Hainan Airlines
3:1
Hawaiian Airlines
Hawaiian Airlines
Hawaiian Airlines
3:1
Iberia PlusIberia PlusIberia Plus3:1
Japan Airlines (JAL) Mileage Bank
Japan Airlines (JAL) Mileage BankJapan Airlines (JAL) Mileage Bank3:1
Jet Airways
Jet Airways
Jet Airways
3:1
Korean Air SkyPassKorean Air SkyPassKorean Air SkyPass3:1
Avianca LifeMiles
Avianca LifeMiles
Avianca LifeMiles
3:1
Lufthansa Miles & More
Lufthansa Miles & More
Lufthansa Miles & More
3:1
Qatar Airways Privilege Club
Qatar Airways Privilege Club
Qatar Airways Privilege Club
3:1
Saudia Alfursan
Saudia Alfursan
Saudia Alfursan
3:1
Singapore Airlines Krisflyer
Singapore Airlines Krisflyer
Singapore Airlines Krisflyer
3:1
Thai Airways Royal OrchidPlus
Thai Airways Royal OrchidPlus
3:1
United MileagePlus
United MileagePlusUnited MileagePlus3:1
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
3:1
Virgin Australia Velocity Frequent Flyer Club
Virgin Australia Velocity Frequent Flyer Club
3:1
Aeroflot Bonus ProgramAeroflot Bonus Program3:1

COPA MilesconnectCOPA Milesconnect3:1
Frontier Airlines EarlyReturnFrontier Airlines EarlyReturn3:1
JetBlue TrueBlueJetBlue TrueBlueNot yet defined
LATAM PassLATAM Pass3:1
Qantas Frequent FlyerQantas Frequent Flyer3:1
South African Airways VoyagerSouth African Airways Voyager3:1
Southwest Rapid RewardsSouthwest Rapid Rewards3:1
TAP PortugalTAP Portugal3:1
Turkish Airlines Miles & SmilesTurkish Airlines Miles & Smiles3:1
El Al MatmidNot yet defined
China Southern Sky Pearl Club3:1

If you transfer in chunks of 60,000 Marriott points (the equivalent of transferring SPG points in 20k chunks now), the transfer rate you’ll get considering the 15k Marriott point (5k SPG point now) bonus will be 2.4:1.

We still don’t know yet what the transfer rates will be to Air New Zealand, El Al, or JetBlue.

Marriott’s relationship with United will stay intact as of August, so you’ll still be able to transfer Marriott points to get United miles, however that transfer rate is suffering a devaluation. It is possible right now to transfer Marriott points to United (via the RewardsPlus program) and get a 2.24:1 rate (by exchanging 112,000 Marriott points for 56,000 United miles). So, depending on how many United miles you need, if you’re looking at booking a United award and were planning on transferring Marriott points to get United miles, you may want to make that transfer before August 1.

Earning Points Through Credit Card Spend

These are the current ways to earn SPG/Marriott points through credit cards:

  • Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express (the business version of this card has the same earning structure, both have a $95/year annual fee)
    • 2 SPG points (which = 6 Marriott points) per dollar spent at Marriott/SPG properties
    • 1 SPG point (which = 3 Marriott points) per dollar spent on all other purchases
  • Chase Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card (the business version of this card has almost the same earning structure, but it’s annual fee is $99 vs $85)
    • 5 Marriott points per dollar spent at Marriott/SPG properties
    • 2 Marriott points per dollar spent on airline tickets purchased directly with the airlines, at car rental agencies, and at restaurants (the business card also offers 2x at office supply stores, and for internet, cable and phone services)
    • 1 Marriott point per dollar spent on all other purchases
  • Chase also issues a Marriott Rewards Credit Card (consumer and business version) that earns less points for a $45/year annual fee.

The SPG Amex cards (both personal and business) will continue to accept new applications come August 1, but the earning structure on them is changing. The earning structure will also change on existing legacy cards.

  • Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express
    • 6 Marriott points per dollar spent at Marriott/SPG properties
    • 2 Marriott points per dollar spent on all other purchases
  • Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express
    • 6 Marriott points per dollar spent at Marriott/SPG properties
    • 4 Marriott points per dollar spent U.S. restaurants, U.S. gas stations, wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers, and on U.S. purchases for shipping
    • 2 Marriott points per dollar spent on all other purchases

While earning will go up slightly for spend at Marriott/SPG properties (from 5 to 6 Marriott points), it will go down on the existing cards for all non-bonused spending to two points per dollar instead of three. Thats like earning .66 SPG points per dollar spent. Ugh.

All of the existing Chase Marriott cards will stick around and keep their same earning structure, but there will also be a new card added to the family: the Chase Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card. A new premium Amex consumer card will be added to the Marriott point-earning portfolio as well.

The New Credit Cards 

The Chase Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card debuts May 3, 2018. It will come with 100,000 Marriott points, 15 elite credit nights each calendar year (starting in 2019), and have the following earning structure:

  • 6 Marriott points per dollar spent at Marriott/SPG properties
  • 2 Marriott points per dollar spent on all other purchases

While this should be considered a separate product (in terms of eligibility for the sign up bonus) than the current Marriott Rewards Premier Card, I assume the Chase 5/24 rule will also apply to this product (as it does the Marriott Rewards Premier Card), which will negate many people’s eligibility.

The SPG American Express Luxury Card debuts in August of 2018. While I expect it will, we don’t yet know if this new premium card will come with a bonus. We do know it will come with the following benefits package:

  • 6 Marriott points per dollar spent at participating hotels, 3 Marriott points per dollar spent on airfare and restaurants, and 2 Marriott points per dollar spent on everything else
  • $300 annual statement credit for purchases at Marriott properties
  • Anniversary free night certificate valid at any property retailing for up to 50,000 points/night
  • Gold status
  • Platinum status after you spend $75,000 on the card in a year
  • Priority Pass Select membership
  • $100 Global Entry fee credit

Overall, earning points to transfer to airlines through everyday spend will be totally diluted by August. We lose the ability to earn 1 mile per dollar on non-bonused spend as not one single card in the existing or planned portfolio will earn 3 Marriott points per dollar on everyday purchases.

 

Bonuses on Existing SPG Cards have dropped

Looks like just today the bonuses on the existing SPG Amex cards have disappeared and been replaced by flimsy statement credits. They are both offering a $100 statement credit after $1,000 in purchases on the cards within 3 months of account opening. They are also both offering an additional $100 statement credit after your first purchase at a participating SPG or Marriott hotel in the first 6 months, for a total of $200 in statement credits.

Compared to the 25,000 SPG point bonuses before, these statement credit bonuses suck. 25,000 SPG points is worth roughly, to me, $625. Apparently this is not something to worry too much about, as Mommy points was just told that we can expect a “very rich welcome bonus later in the summer”.

*Also note that SPG Business Amex cardholders will lose Sheraton Lounge access as of August.*

Bottom Line

While we are getting even more transfer partners and thankfully current transfer rates are staying the same (this is good news for our existing SPG/Marriott points), for those that primarily earned SPG points through credit card spend for redemption via transfers to airline partners (ahem…me), the news about the future earning structure of all the cards in the Marriott portfolio is a big blow. Personally, I will no longer be putting non-bonused spend on either of my SPG cards like I have been doing by default once August hits. No matter how you value these future super-Marriott points that will transfer to tons of airlines, not earning at least enough points to transfer to one mile per dollar spent on everyday spending is not good enough for me.

What do you guys make of these changes? Planning on applying for any of the new cards?

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