Marriott Rewards members will find a new hotel loyalty program waiting for them in August – and perhaps even a new membership tier to come along with it, but how does the new, as-yet-unnamed scheme compare to today’s program for perks and points?
Australian Business Traveller compares Marriott Rewards to Marriott’s upcoming loyalty program to reveal the winners and losers of the transition for those who earn status directly from Marriott, rather than getting their Marriott Rewards status via SPG.
Biggest winners: Guests staying 75+ nights per year
It’s no surprise that serious road warriors spending two and a half months (or more) at Marriott’s network of hotels each year continue to be the best-rewarded, gaining valuable benefits like five free ‘suite night awards’ upon reaching the 75-night mark, each good for a one confirmed room upgrade to a suite.
Space-available room upgrades at check-in aren’t going away – including upgrades to select suites, as available – but using a ‘suite night award’ lets you lock in that upgrade up to five days before your arrival, giving your the highest priority: great if you’re planning a trip away with your partner.
The number of bonus points earned on hotel stays also rises from the outgoing 50% Platinum Elite bonus, to 75% at the new Platinum Premier Elite tier, which you’ll qualify for after your 75th night.
Favourites like hotel lounge access and 4pm late check-outs will remain, as will complimentary United Premier Silver status, delivering perks like flight upgrades, extra-legroom seating and one free checked bag on eligible United flights.
Hit the 100-night mark and Ambassador service is added into the package, whereby a Marriott representative is on-hand to handle your booking preferences and special requests to customise your stay, and to assist when things go wrong – taking a page from the Starwood Preferred Guest program, which is merging with this one.
Another ex-SPG perk being introduced network-wide for 100-night guests is Your24, where you can arrive at a hotel at any time during the day or night and check-out 24 hours later, while only paying for the one night.
Losers: Lovers of free breakfasts
Under the current Marriott Rewards program, spending 50 nights or more in hotels every year gives you free breakfast with every stay (with only a small handful of excluded properties) – and while reaching the 50-night mark in the new scheme also unlocks the ‘breakfast tier’, the rules are a little different.
Instead of giving you free daily breakfast plus an arrival gift (of Marriott points, airline frequent flyer points or a food & beverage amenity) as under today’s system, the benefit will become daily breakfast or an arrival gift, not both.
Of course, hotels are always free to go above and beyond to recognise their most frequent and valued guests: they just no longer need to give you something extra, if you’re getting breakfast, too.
Winners: Guests staying 50-74 nights per year
Most benefits for these travellers will be the same in the new program as today – there’s still hotel lounge access, 4pm late check-outs, and more – but the most noticeable improvement is that complimentary room upgrades will now include selected suites.
As always, upgrades are subject to availability at check-in, but to maximise your chances of getting a suite, five ‘suite night awards’ will be provided after staying for 50 nights each year.
(If you reach the 75-night level as above, you’ll get another five ‘suite night awards’ – or 10 in total for the year.)
Members at this level will also earn more points, with their status bonus rising significantly, from 25% to 50%.
Losers: Guests staying 10-24 nights per year
Speaking of points bonuses, guests spending between 10 and 24 nights in Marriott hotels every year currently earn a 20% bonus on points during their stays, over and above the number of points earned by base-level members.
From August, the new program cuts that back to 10% instead, with no new benefits being introduced at this tier to make up for it. You’ll still get late check-out, however, subject to availability.
Winners: Travellers spending big on dining, spa treatments
If you regularly charge incidentals to your room such as meals, drinks, spa treatments or mini-bar purchases, you may or may not be earning Marriott Rewards points on these expenses under the current program, depending on the hotel brand you’ve booked for each stay.
Under the new scheme, points will be earned on your entire hotel account across all properties in the network, at the rate of 10 points per US$1 spent at most brands (5/US$1 at some reduced-service properties).
Combined with higher points bonuses for elite-tier travellers, this change alone could boost your haul very nicely – and if you’re in the ’10-24 night’ bracket, could help offset the points you’ll be losing through the reduction of your bonus.
Winners: Guests staying 25-49 nights per year
Under the current program, guests who stay 10 nights get the same benefits as those staying up to 49 nights, which isn’t the fairest approach for travellers at the higher end who stay almost five times as frequently.
The new program introduces a new mid-level tier at 25 nights, so rather than being stuck with the Silver status you earned after your first 10 nights, you’ll instead be bumped to Gold.
That sees your points bonus rise from 20% to 25%, and your in-room WiFi boosted from standard to ‘enhanced’ speeds for a faster connection. More noticeably, you’ll also be eligible for room upgrades at check-in based on availability: just not to suites as at the higher tiers.
Replacing the generic “late check-out” benefit you currently receive, your new perk is “2pm late check-out, based on availability”, giving you a better time to aim for when making your request, and potentially, a few extra hours to relax in the room before you depart.