** The SPG Amex Canada changes are now live. Read my review of the SPG Amex and SPG Business Amex to learn more.

It’s official, Marriott Rewards, The Ritz-Carlton Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) are merging into one unified loyalty program as of August 2018. Members will soon have access to earn or redeem points and book stays across 29 participating global brands comprising 6,500 hotels in 127 countries and territories. This merger puts iconic brands such as The Ritz-Carlton, Sheraton, St. Regis, W, Westin, and JW Marriott under one roof.

I’ve been sitting on this info for a while, but due to strict embargos, I haven’t been able to talk about this merger. Some of you may have seen the leaked info, but my info is all confirmed directly from Marriott or American Express. In addition, I did some extra digging and got all the info about how this announcement affects your points and transfer partners. Here’s a quick breakdown of the changes which I’ll go into greater detail below.

  • Marriott to merge with SPG come August 
  • SPG points will be tripled and you will need to merge your accounts via a digital portal
  • Nights stayed will be merged and new tiers of status are being introduced
  • All hotels to be recategorized from 1 – 8
  • A category 1 hotel will require 7,500 points for a free night, category 8 will require 85,000 points
  • A Free Night Award chart with peak, standard and off-peak pricing will be introduced in 2019
  • Additional airline transfer partners announced
  • Moments experiential platform is expanding
  • 5th Night Free, Flight and Hotel Packages remain (some changes to points requirement)
  • Changes to sign up bonus for the Starwood Preferred Guest credit card from American Express
  • You can still transfer Amex Member Rewards to SPG

Marriott Rewards merger

Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest merger breakdown

Once the merger happens,  Marriott Rewards, The Ritz-Carlton Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest become one. That means all your stays across the 29 brands will earn you status, and the points you earn can be redeemed at any property.

Come August, members will earn 10 points per dollar spent at all brands except for Residence Inn, TownePlace Suites and Element where you’ll earn 5 points per every dollar spent. In addition, all members will begin earning points for food and beverage, spa services,  and qualifying incidentals.

SPG points will be tripled come August. So at that time, if you have 1,000 SPG points, you’ll have 3,000 Marriott Points when you merge your accounts. Even if your accounts are already connected to the transfer website, you’ll still need to formally merge your accounts via a new digital portal. Marriott will provide detailed instructions for that process at a later date.

Status merger and new tiers being introduced

The Marriott status tiers are being expanded and are as follows:

  • Silver elite status – 10 nights
  • Gold elite status – 25 nights
  • Platinum elite status – 50 nights
  • Platinum Premier elite status – 75 nights
  • Ambassador – 100 nights and $20,000 of spend
  • Members who have achieved Lifetime status will continue to have their status recognized

Any nights you’ve accumulated between SPG and Marriott will immediately be merged come August. That means if you had 7 accumulated nights with SPG and 4 with Marriott, you would now have 11 total nights which would put you in Silver elite status.

Alternatively, let’s say you were Gold Elite at Marriott with 60 nights, but you only had 15 eligible nights at SPG hotels with no status. Well, due to the merger in August, you’d have 75 qualifying nights which would give you Platinum Premier elite status.

With these status tiers, you’ll earn an additional 10, 25, 50, and 75% in points per dollar spent for Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Platinum Premier tiers respectively.

Breakfast, welcome gifts, and lounge access now start at Platinum elite status across all brands which is up from Gold elite status at Marriott.

starwood preferred guest merger

Free nights changes

The biggest change comes in the redemption of free nights. All hotels are being recategorized across the board, but I’ve been told that more hotels are being moved down as opposed to up. Once the merger happens there will be just 8 categories and it’ll cost you the following for a free night.

(Coming 2019)

There are a few things that instantly standout here. The obvious thing being the introduction of peak and off-peak pricing come 2019. It makes business sense to introduce peak pricing. I have confirmed that hotels will have being dynamic control (where hotels can make adjustments based on demand). They can change it 14 days in advance so book your hotels asap. Remember, you don’t need the points in your account when making a reservation so you can cancel or get the points at a later date.

That being said, this chart does potentially create an opportunity for guests to get value at tourist places e.g. Mont-Tremblant at a lower price during the low season as opposed to paying a fixed price year round in the current system.

Even with these changes, there could be some good value still especially for hotels that traditionally cost 20 – 40K points. Category 8 hotel will now cost you 85,000 points for a free night, keep in mind that the top SPG hotels previously cost 35,000 SPG points for a free night which works out to 105,000 Marriott Rewards points.

The chart with specific hotel categories will roll out in August and I should be able to get in advance, so I’ll keep you posted.

Many people will be disappointed by these changes, but to be honest, it makes business sense for Marriott to do this now and it’s not fair to complain until we see what hotels end up where in the category chart before passing judgement. 

Transfer partners update

One interesting piece of information I got from Marriott was the fact that new airline partners would be introduced for a total of 40. I didn’t get the list of partners, but 10 new partners is great news. Marriott indicated that the ratio for point transfers would remain the same.

In the previous SPG program, many airlines had a 1:1 transfer ratio. In the new program 1 SPG = 3 Marriott Rewards, so it’s likely that it’ll take 3 Marriott points for 1 airline partner. Of course, not all airlines had a 1:1 ratio in the past so keep that in mind.

I did confirm that the 25% transfer bonus still applies. That would imply that you need to transfer points in 60,000 increments to get that bonus. In theory, it would be something like 60,000 points would get you 25,000 Aeroplan points (20K, + bonus 5K)

American Express Membership Rewards points can still be transferred to Marriott Rewards under the new program. I have yet to confirm the ratio, but it sounds like there would be no devaluation. If you currently have membership rewards points, you’ll still be able to transfer points to SPG on the 17th of April.

Slight change to the SPG credit card from American Express

The Starwood Preferred Guest credit card from American Express in Canada will see two big changes. As of April 17th, 2018, the 20,000 sign up points bonus is being replaced with a statement credit of up to $250. You’ll get $100 after charging $1,500 to the card in the first 3 months and another $150 you charge $200 or more in purchases to your Card at participating Starwood or Marriott properties in your first 6 months.

In addition, the referral bonus of 5,000 SPG points is now gone and replaced with a $25 statement credit. I have confirmed with American Express that these offers are temporary as they prepare for the Marriott program changes and attempt to ensure a smooth transition for our card members.

American Express also told me that you’ll also have access to more properties and different ways to earn and burn points come the 17th.

There was no update available when I asked them about what the new transfer ratio would be when the new Marriott Rewards program launches, but this may simply be due to the fact that things have not been decided yet. I should also note that American Express has yet to be formally introduced as the official Canadian credit card partner now that Chase is gone, but I wouldn’t read too much into that.

Read my review of the Starwood Preferred Guest credit card from American Express now for my thoughts on the changes.

ritz carlton merger

Moments experiential platform is expanding

110,000 new Moments experiences in 1,000 destinations are being added to the 8,000 exclusive, member experiences that only can be redeemed with points. Those new moments can be purchased with cash and do not require a hotel reservation, but in the future, you’ll be able to use points to redeem them.

These moments are incredibly popular and range from unique day trips such as live shark cage diving in Gansbaai, South Africa, to once-in-a-lifetime events such as VIP experiences to coveted sports events like the Super Bowl.

Moments Live is also being introduced which focuses on musical and culinary events. Expect VIP access and exclusive performances to some of the top musicians and some stunning dining experiences with superstar chefs.

Additional notes about the merger

With all these changes, many people are likely curious about some of the other perks and benefits that currently exist and how they’re affected. I’ve confirmed all of the following directly from Marriott.

  • Redeem for 4 Nights, Get the 5th Free remains. There are no changes to this promotion
  • Flight and Hotel Packages also remain, but there will likely be some tweaks to the points required for a redemption. Marriott told me that they have not decided on the final changes yet
  • Members can still make points reservations without having the points in their account
  • It’ll still take two years of account inactivity for your points to expire
  • You’ll be able to choose from all 6,500 participating hotels when making reservations online or via the mobile app
  • Members will be able to check-in or check out and receive Room Ready Alerts via the app

If you have any other questions about the merger or how certain benefits will or will not change, please leave a comment below. I do not comment on rumours and only post facts, so I’ll try my best to get the answers you’re looking for.