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By: Bryce Conway, Founder of 10xTravel.com
Hi Travel Junkies,
Yesterday Marriott announced the details of their new combined loyalty program with Starwood Preferred Guest and the changes were surprisingly not terrible.
I’ll leave all the nitty-gritty details to the dozens of other outlets that covered them and skip right to the good stuff; How the changes impact you and what you should be doing right now as a result of them.
Let’s get started:
How the Changes Impact You:
1) The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card is going to lose value as a day-to-day spending option
Perhaps the worst news from yesterday is the fact that the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card, a staple in the wallet of any points fanatic, is about to lose a lot of value on August 1 when it comes to non-bonus category spending rewards.
This is due to the fact that this card will now earn 2x Marriott points per $1 on all non-category purchases, which is a 33% devaluation from its previous ability to earn 1x on everything and then transfer those points to Marriott at a rate of 1:3 (effectively earning 3 Marriott points per $1 spent).
The Business version of this credit card also was stripped of its Sheraton club access, a perk that many (including myself) use to justify keeping it year after year.
The silver lining is that the Starwood Business card will now earn 4x points on restaurant, gas station, phone, and shipping services.
Oh, and American Express will be launching a new premium Starwood Credit Card in August that comes with a $450 fee and all the usual premium card benefits. We are not sure if this card will be offering a limited time offer to sign up, but here’s to hoping.
(My guess is that it will)
2) Airline Transfers remain relatively unchanged
This was easily the biggest surprise in my book. I fully expected Marriott to take a hatchet to the airline transfer partners and they ended up changing virtually nothing.
The new program will retain all the current SPG transfer partners as well as add 10 more (though many of the 10 already were available with Marriott).
The numbers change a bit but the ratios do not. Marriott points can transfer 3 to 1 to participating airline programs with a 15,000 point bonus for every 60,000 points transferred. This is just the current Starwood transfer rate (1:1, 5k bonus per 20k transferred) multiplied by 3 to account for the new conversion rate.
Speaking of the conversion rate….
3) All of Your Starpoints will be converted to Marriott Points on August 1 at a rate of 1 Starpoint > 3 Marriott Points
This is more of an FYI than anything. 1 Starpoint to 3 Marriott points has been the conversion rate since Marriott acquired Starwood anyway. And overall it is a very fair exchange in my book.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that Marriott didn’t take the opportunity to devalue Starpoints and leave no time for members to transfer them beforehand.
So what should you be doing in response to these changes? Let’s talk about that for a moment.
What You Should Be Doing Right Now:
1)You should grab the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card ASAP
As in right this very moment.
The Starwood card is currently offering a limited time offer of 25,000 bonus points after $3,000 spend in the first 3 months and this offer could disappear at any moment. Who knows when or if it will ever return.
A lot of people see “25,000” and scoff at the offer, but Starpoints are in incredibly valuable if you know where to look. You can redeem them for hotel stays at any of Starwood’s 11 brands, transfer them to more than a dozen different airlines, or transfer them to Marriott at a rate of 1 Starwood point > 3 Marriott points.
I was able to book 6 nights at Le Meridien Chiang Mai for just 3,833 points per night.
Le Meridien Chiang Mai. Yes, I risked my iPhone to get this picture.
Le Meridien Chiang Mai, standard room booked for 3,833 Starpoints per night
10xT Staff Writer John Tunningley just cashed in a few Starpoints to stay at Le Meridien Cairo this coming June. His reservation was just 2,000 Starpoints per night. And no, that is not a typo.
Le Meridien Cairo. Image Courtesy of StarwoodHotels.com
Or if you are more in to the high end redemptions, consider the Sheraton Maui. Which can currently be booked for 20,000 to 25,000 Starpoints per night.
Sheraton Maui. Image Courtesy of StarwoodHotels.com
2) You should consider getting the Marriott Rewards Credit Card before May 3.
With the launch of the new Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card scheduled for May 3, it’s probably safe to assume that the current Marriott Rewards Credit Card will be discontinued. Creating a “now or never” situation with the card and its current 75,000 point bonus.
Note that you need to be under 5/24 to qualify for this card.
Marriott points can transfer to Starpoints at a rate of 3 Marriott Points to 1 Starpoint, meaning the 75,000 point bonus on this card is the exact equivalent of the 25,000 limited time offer you just read about above. These points can book all of the aforementioned properties (and vice versa).
I recently used a small stash of Marriott points to stay at the Rome Marriott Grand Hotel Flora for 45,000 points per night.
Also consider grabbing the Marriott Rewards Business Credit Card, which is not currently subject to the Chase 5/24 rule.
3) You should book high-end Starwood award stays between August 1 and December 31
The new Marriott award chart features 7 hotel categories with an 8th that is launching in 2019.
Meaning that from August 1, 2018 to December 31, 2018, the most expensive hotels in the combined Marriott/Starwood program can be booked for just 60,000 Marriott Points per night!
(Note again that the transfer rate will be 3 Starpoints > 1 Marriot Point, meaning these hotels will cost just 20,000 Starpoints per night).
That is in insanely good value. Let’s look at a few quick examples.
You can book Los Alcobas, a Luxury Collection hotel in Napa Valley for 60,000 Marriot points (20,000 Starpoints) per night. This hotel typically goes for about $660 per night!
Los Alcobas Luxury Hotel in Napa Valley, CA. Image Courtesy of Marriott.com
Or if wine tasting is not your thing, consider Santa Marina, a Luxury Collection Resort in Mykonos Greece. With nightly rates normally exceeding $750 per night. This hotel can also be booked for just 60,000 Marriott Points per night.
Santa Marina Luxury Hotel in Mykonos, Greece. Image Courtesy of Marriott.com
Availability is sure to be tight with such a great opportunity so don’t delay.
4) Marriott Gold Status Members should book stays between August 1 and December 31 to enjoy Platinum Status
The new Marriott program will feature five elite tiers: Silver, Gold, Platinum, Platinum Premier, and Platinum Premier with Ambassador.
Current members with status will be matched according to this chart.
Current Marriott Gold members will be matched to Platinum Elite, which will give them a number of benefits that include enhanced room upgrades (based on availability), free breakfast, lounge access, free wifi, and more.
This is particularly valuable for anyone who currently has a Platinum Card from American Express or American Express Business Platinum Card, as simply having this card gives you Gold Status with Starwood Preferred Guest (which is about to become Platinum Elite on August 1).
Meaning that Platinum card holders (and anyone who earned Starwood Gold Status the old fashioned way) will see a significant upgrade in their amenities while staying at any Marriott/Starwood property between August 1 and December 31, 2018.
The downside though is that after December 31 Amex Platinum card holders will effectively lose their Gold Status benefit, as the new gold benefits are mediocre at best.
Unless of course Amex decides to revise this perk for Platinum Cardholders….. (please?)
These changes feature a number of good things as well as a few bad ones.
To fully take advantage of them consider grabbing a Starwood Preferred Card ASAP, a Marriott Rewards card soon, and book a few paid and award stays at Starwood and Marriott Properties between August 1 and December 31, 2018.
That’s all for today. As always, feel free to email me with any questions.