Today was a big day for Marriott. The frequent traveler community was waiting with bated breath to hear what the world’s largest hotel chain would do with their new loyalty program. I won’t summarize the whole thing for you. Scott did a great job of that here. When these massive changes come, I typically expect to lose out in some way. Today felt a little different. The vibe in the frequent traveler community is that Marriott did a great job. How good of a job they did depends on your current status with Marriott / SPG, which benefits are important to you, etc. I have been mulling things over for a few hours, and if you’re currently Lifetime Platinum with Marriott, like I am, today is overall fantastic news, and I think it will end up driving more business back to Marriott.
Achieving an Unachievable Lifetime Status
The new Marriott program has two highest tiers: Platinum Premier (earned after 75 nights) and Platinum Premier with Ambassador (earned after 100 nights). If you’re Marriott Lifetime Platinum today, you get Lifetime Platinum Premier. What makes that so cool? It’s unachievable. Outside of those being grandfathered in, one cannot earn that status ever again. The new highest lifetime status is Platinum Elite status, achieved via 600 lifetime nights plus 10 years of Platinum Elite status. When I earned Lifetime Platinum a couple years ago, the qualification threshold was 750 nights and 2,000,000 lifetime points earned. This is awesome. I have Marriott’s highest tier, minus the Ambassador, for doing nothing.
Because Marriott currently allows SPG <-> Marriott transfers at a ratio of 1 <-> 3, let’s agree that those are the relative value of each point. Previously, as a Lifetime Platinum, I would earn 15 points per dollar spent at Marriott properties. Given the conversion ratio, that’s the equivalent of 5 SPG points per dollar. Top tier SPG elites earned 4 points per dollar at SPG properties. Platinum Premier members in the new program earn 17.5 points per dollar, a 16.6% increase, or the equivalent of 5.83 SPG points per dollar. That is FANTASTIC value, especially considering that I never need to qualify for status again.
The Credit Card Lifetime Platinum Status Trick Might Be Gone
What trick am I referring to? The Marriott Rewards credit card granted 15 award nights per year. These counted toward lifetime status. Additionally, for ever $3K spent on the card, Marriott would give you an elite night. This ALSO counted toward lifetime status. I put a lot of spend on my Marriott card year after year, and while I certainly stayed at a lot of Marriott properties, this trick greatly accelerated my attainment of lifetime Platinum status.
I have had top tier status with most of the hotel programs at one time or another, and one thing that I hated about Marriott resorts was that if my wife and I traveled to a great resort, we would still have to pay for breakfast. I’m not overly entitled or against paying for breakfast, but many resorts only offer an expensive hotel buffet and aren’t close by alternative dining options. At around $25 per person for five days or more, this added a significant cost to the trip. Oh. And now we have two kids. Those costs REALLY add up. Hyatt is great about giving complimentary breakfast for the whole family (officially up to four people). Now Marriott is on par (with the exception of Ritz / Edition properties). Well done, Marriott!
Officially, and typically in practice, Marriott properties would upgrade Platinum members to the best room available, excluding suites. Hyatt and SPG were way ahead of Marriott here, not only offering complimentary upgrades to suites, but ALSO offering ways to confirm suite nights in advance. Now complimentary upgrades include suites, and with all lifetime Platinum members moving to the new Platinum Premier Elite tier, we will be ahead of just about everyone in the upgrade queue. For life. This is amazing. Hopefully hotels actually respect the official policy and give the upgrades when they’re available.
They Didn’t Break Airline Transfers
In the new program, I earn Marriott points with stays at a way better rate than I used to. Meanwhile, Marriott is keeping airline transfers alive at the same ratio as before. 60,000 Marriott points will translate into 25,000 airline miles.
Driving Business for Marriott
It’s funny how lifetime status can have an opposite effect sometimes. As soon as I got lifetime status with Marriott, I thought, “Sweet! I don’t need to stay there again any time soon. I’ve got my lifetime status, and I’ll always have it. Time to focus on qualifying at Hyatt!” Hyatt Diamond (now Globalist) was simply way more rewarding. In the new program I’m going to earn more points per stay than I used to, I’ll get free breakfast for the family at resorts, and suite upgrades are in the cards. That’s pretty darn compelling. I canceled my Marriott Credit card a long time ago, but when the new credit cards are released, I may just pick one up again.
I think today was a great day for all Marriott Rewards members. If you’re now a lifetime Platinum Premier Elite like me, it was even better. What do you think? Am I missing something? How do you feel about the changes?