What’s the latest with the Marriott + SPG Merger?

As you may be aware, Marriott and Starwood Hotels merged their IT systems and points on August 18, 2018 (five days ago). This was a huge deal in the points and miles world because Starwood points were being converted into Marriott points, accounts were being merged, there was a travel package bonanza, lots of IT issues, and brand new credit cards emerged like the Amex SPG Luxury Card. First, we can talk about the highlights…

The Good Stuff

Merge Accounts

You can merge accounts now. Even if you’ve linked accounts before, you still need to *merge* accounts. Go to the Marriott link to keep your Marriott account number post merger. Alternatively, go to the SPG link to keep your SPG account number post merger. Note that you’ll get a new SPG number (they convert it to the Marriott format), so you can decide between your old Marriott number or new SPG number.

Once you merge accounts, you’ll have a combined profile with combined nights for elite status and points. Your Starwood points will be multiplied by 3 and added to your Marriott balance.

The new site is a little confusing because many parts are being updated or under repair. Award bookings can be a little complicated and profile features are also missing. Even paid bookings are problematic. Check out this basic search:

I have been trying this search for 2+ hours and have been unable to get through. We’ll go into all this in the bad stuff.

Cheaper Elite Hotel Bookings

The best part of the merger is that the new award charts are now in place. All the Marriott and Starwood hotels have been remapped to Categories 1-7. Here’s the new points chart:

The key thing is that “Category 8” hotels count as Category 7 this year, and there is no peak/off-peak pricing. That means you can book a standard room at any room in the Marriott/SPG system for 60K points. This is huge because elite SPG hotels used to be 35K SPG points per night (105K Marriott points per night), so now you’re saving *a ton* of points per night.

In addition, many category 8 hotels were unbookable on the standard chart and had crazy point requirements like 90K SPG points per night (270K Marriott points per night) for an Overwater Villa at the St. Regis Maldives. These requirements have dropped drastically. You pretty much have to call in to book them, but standard rooms are going for 85K points per night (instead of the 60K, but still a great deal). Higher level rooms are going for 100K-160K points per night, which is still far cheaper than the old SPG requirements, which were the equivalent of 250K+ points/night. So now is a great time to book a LOT of hotels since there’s no peak pricing either.

Lifetime Nights

The merged program now has combined lifetime nights and years of status. Marriott has been generous and counted credit card nights as part of lifetime status, but they might fix that later.

It is pretty much impossible to find Lifetime Nights info on the Marriott website. All the links are either broken or just tell you program info but not your actual Lifetime Nights info…

Except for this link: https://www.marriott.com/rewards/myAccount/lifeTimeNightDetails.mi. Sign into your Marriott account and go here and you can see a raw post of your lifetime info.

 

The Bad Stuff

Missing Status, Nights, Points, etc.

If you want to laugh at the misery of others, or maybe yourself, check out this FlyerTalk thread. There are hundreds of members and probably tens of thousands of people out there with missing nights, incorrect point balances, missing certificates/award nights, and some people have lost their status entirely i.e. going from Marriott Platinum Premier to Marriott Gold. Other users have reported not earning points for stays post merger.

Obviously this is a complex merger given that it’s 100+ million accounts, but it has been pretty rocky. The website has been problematic for a while, many, many users are missing important things, and the booking engine is literally broken at times even for paid stays.

You can email for support, but don’t expect to hear anything back. They are so overwhelmed and are taking multiple days to respond. In my case I’ve been waiting 5+ days post-merger and don’t expect a response anytime soon.

Phone agents are also struggling since there are so many changes in categories, points, systems, benefits, etc. You can’t expect a big merger to go smoothly, but some of Marriott/SPG’s most loyal and valuable members have been extremely frustrated.

Status Downgrades

All the people that had SPG Gold (including status from Amex Platinum card) have stayed Marriott Gold instead of Marriott Platinum. This makes sense since Marriott Gold was a 50-night status and SPG Gold was a 25-night status. But all the people who earned status through United Gold/Platinum/1K status are now the *new* Marriott Gold Elite, which is a 25 night status with way worse benefits (2PM late checkout vs. 4PM late checkout, no breakfast, no suite upgrades, no lounge access). Might as well stay at a Hilton and get the free breakfast. The official terms say UA elites should be Marriott Gold, but users have reported getting Marriott Platinum status for the year. You can call in and try to get it corrected or just wait a few days to see if they auto-move you to Platinum.

Members got Marriott Platinum Challenges are also reporting they are downgraded to Platinum Members. According to Starwood Luker on FlyerTalk, they should also be able to have Platinum Premier status. Marriott is aware of the problems and currently working on solving the issues.

Suite Upgrades

Marriott’s current T&C’s for Platinum members states:

“We’ll do our best to upgrade your room (including Select Suites), based on availability at check-in. Upgrades are subject to availability identified by each hotel and limited to your personal guest room. See terms and conditions for details.

This was supposed to match the Starwood statement, which guaranteed an upgrade to the best available room include standard suites. Marriott has claimed they will update this soon to match the Starwood policy, but let’s see when that happens.

Choice Benefits

Marriott has new Choice Benefits at the 50 night and 75 night level. For a few days post-merger this website would prompt you to log-in and keep error-ing out. At least now it says “coming soon”. Super annoying for those trying to get their benefits and use them, especially post-member when many people will cross the 50 or 75 night threshold due to combined nights.

Travel Packages

Other websites have documented the issues with travel packages, and it would be an article in itself, but this has been a mess. First off, many bloggers mislead users with aggressive predictions of what travel packages would become. To say that a Category 9 package, which worked at hotels covering 45K points/night, would now work at hotels covering up to 100k points/night  next year doesn’t make business sense or logical sense.

The other disappointing thing here is on the Marriott side. They should’ve just published the chart beforehand so people knew what to expect. Since there was a consistent devaluation, there was nothing to hide or no “run to the bank” because of how good the benefits are. They could’ve been transparent, received the same flack, but avoided all these issues.

Instead, Marriott put out the conversions post-merger, and it turned out that old Category 5/6 packages mapped to Category 4 in the new system, Category 7/8 mapped to new Category 5, and Category 9/Tier 1-3 mapped to Category 6 in the new system. Many users were disappointed by their choices, so Marriott allowed partial refunds for those that overpaid for their certificates.

All around messy and confusing, and you have to request a refund manually here by selecting the “Packages – Deals” category.

Meeting Event Nights

There was a loophole in the old Marriott system where you can book a “meeting” and earn 10 elite qualifying nights per meeting. So you could spend $100-150 per meeting, and get 80 nights for ~$800 and hit 75-night platinum.

In the new system, called Rewarding Events, you can earn 10 nights for your first meeting, but then no more. You technically earn one more night for every 20 rooms booked, which is not at all economical. This is fixing a loophole in their system though, so it’s good from Marriott’s perspective.

Conclusion

Five days in, the merger has been messy and haphazard. You expect some challenges but things have been unnecessarily difficult and Marriott should’ve done a better job dealing with these scenarios. There are some clear benefits and opportunities, especially with the award chart and new card, but lots of issues too. I’d suggest we all hang in there and wait for things to improve.

I’ve been a Marriott/SPG Platinum for a few years, and I intend to stay with them until things get worse. The way I see it, the credit card will get you 15 elite nights, and a meeting gets you 10 elite nights, so you’re 25 nights away from requalifying for Platinum Status. This gets you free breakfast, suite upgrades (assuming you get one or they update the T&Cs to make it stronger), and lounge access. It’s very hard to change culture, so I still expect SPG hotels to be high quality and to treat Platinum guests well. Marriott/SPG still have some of the best properties in most cities, with great room availability and good packages. I will miss the travel packages the most, since they were a fantastic value, but Marriott will have my loyalty for a while.

 


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