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(Photo: Jamie Ditaranto)

Marriott Reveals New Unified Loyalty Program

SmarterTravel

When Marriott acquired Starwood in 2016, there was much speculation on how the merger would affect two very different loyalty programs. Since then, the Marriott and Starwood programs have operated independently, but as of yesterday, Marriott has announced that the programs, plus the Ritz-Carlton Rewards program, will officially merge into one mega-program beginning in August 2018.

The merger will create the largest hotel loyalty program on the market, giving its members a chance to earn points through any of the company’s 29 hotel brands under one program. With 6,500 hotels to choose from, Marriott members will not have any trouble finding a points-earning hotel anywhere in the world.

But what does that mean for members’ existing points?

How Points Will Transfer

Starwood Preferred, Marriott Rewards, and Ritz-Carlton Rewards members will combine separate accounts into one, and points will be transferred at varying values. Starwood points, which have been valued higher per point than Marriott and Ritz-Carlton points, will be tripled. Non-elite members in the new program will begin earning 10 points per dollar spent at every brand, excluding Residence Inn, TownePlace Suites, and Element, which will only earn five points on the dollar. Additional points can be earned across all brands for incidental purchases during a stay at any of the hotel brands in the new portfolio, which will make it even easier to earn elite status.

In addition to the three-to-one points transfer, Starwood and Marriott members will also be combining their elite programs with a new earning structure of five elite tiers: Silver, Gold, Platinum, Platinum Premier, and Platinum Premier with Ambassador. Overall, the tiers will be much easier to reach for Ritz-Carlton and Marriott Rewards members. You can read the full tier chart and check out all the benefits here.

The new program will also be keeping Starwood’s airline transfer partners plus 10 more, for a total of 45 transfer partners. The one-to-one transfer ratio will remain to same.

What’s New

Marriott will also be introducing two new personal credit cards. The Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Luxury Card will earn members six points on the dollar spent at participating hotels and three points for every dollar spent on airfare and at U.S. restaurants. The Chase Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Card will also earn members six points per dollar at participating hotels, and two points per dollar spent on other eligible purchases.

Marriott is also promising members an improved digital and mobile experience with access to member-only rates at all 6,500 of its participating hotels from Marriott’s mobile apps. Members will also be able to use the apps to check in or out, receive alerts when the room is ready, chat directly with hotels, and use their smartphone as their room key.

Still to Come

Announcing the new program months before the August merge gives members across all three programs plenty of warning, but there are still a few things we don’t know. Over the next few months, Marriott will be releasing more information about when and how members can combine their accounts. And even though the new program will begin in August, Marriott hasn’t yet revealed the name of the new program.

For now, there is a sense of relief among the members across all three programs as they plan for the new points-earning opportunities of a unified program.

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Jamie Ditaranto is a writer and photographer who is always looking for her next adventure. Follow her on Twitter @jamieditaranto.

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