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SPG members alert: 2018 is your last year to earn SPG Gold with 10 stays

2016 and 2017 were good years for me – I had status in not one, but two hotel programmes, all thanks to Marriott’s acquisition of Starwood hotels. But obviously good things don’t last.

In what seemed like a seemingly long week for SPG, Marriott Rewards and Ritz-Carlton Rewards members, all was finally revealed early today when details of the changes to unify both programmes were announced.

If there are five key takeaways, they are:

  • All three loyalty programmes are unified essentially with point, elite tiers and earning requirements aligned across, and you can transfer points freely from one to another, or earn elite-qualifying nights from one portfolio towards another programme. Marriott will only rebrand all three into a single programme in 2019.
  • There will be six tiers in the new programmes. For SPG, this means a new Silver Elite tier at 10 night. Gold Elite will now require 25 nights, while Platinum Elite goes for 50 nights and Platinum Premier Elite at 75 nights.
  • All elite qualifications will be made based on nights, and not stays, from 2019.
  • All SPG starpoints will be automatically tripled in August 2018 to match the ‘value’ of Marriott Rewards points.
  • Award charts across the programmes will be unified with a eight category chart, along with off-peak and peak redemption rates at each level.

News of the announcements were leaked earlier last week (read Loyalty Lobby’s report here) and caused anxiety among many members, on and offline.

Being an SPG Gold Preferred Guest that offered very good value for the elite membership, naturally I was worried if it was going to be tougher to requalify, given the stark difference in both programmes’ requirements (SPG required 10 stays or 25 nights for Gold, while Marriott required 50 nights).

So what has changed for SPG members?

Under the new programme, SPG Gold Elite will now require 25 nights (the same) rather than 10 stays, as Marriott removes the stay-based qualification. This will definitely trim many SPG Gold members as I know a majority of them does a whirlwind survey of Starwood properties in China or Thailand (where they are the cheapest) to requalify for Gold each year.

However, Marriott will continue to honour stay-based qualification for SPG members until the end of 2018, so this is your last chance at Gold (and move one year closer to lifetime Gold Elite) if this is the normal route you take to achieve status. Note that the stay-based qualification will only apply for stays at SPG-associated hotels, so this means you can’t be staying at the (supposedly) cheaper Courtyard by Marriott and count towards your SPG Gold.

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You can still get your SPG Gold this year (for the last time) with 10 stays

Alternatively, you could also choose to throw money at Marriott and work towards 25 nights at any Marriott, Starwood or Ritz Carlton properties for Gold. #justsaying.

The update wasn’t too bad and in fact is a boon to Marriott Rewards members – Gold Elite now require only 25 nights to qualify with similar perks to what they currently would get at 50 nights.

So what are you getting with the new Gold Elite?

With the changes, I guess these are the changes I reckoned with the new Gold Elite:

The only upside: More points earned per US$ spent

Downsides:

  • Late checkout now reduced to 2pm (which is lame)
  • Welcome gift reduced to points only, with no indication how many points
  • And the fact that you need 25 stays to qualify

compare

While SPG Gold Preferred Guests get mapped to the new Gold Elite status, on the Marriott end, existing Marriott Rewards Gold Elite are upgraded to the new Platinum Elite while the silvers with 25 nights minimum now gets gold.

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New benefit summary table

Earning changes

From August 2018, all your stays across Starwood, Marriott and Ritz Carlton properties will earn a unified 10 points per US$1 spent (exceptions apply for some properties). Elite silver members will earn a 10% bonus, while elite gold and platinum members earn a 25% or 50% bonus.

At first glance this sounds better given that SPG members currently earn 2 or 3 points per US$1 spent, and even after tripling the new deal sounds better. But until we see how the Starwood properties are mapped to the new award chart categories, this remain to be seen.

If SPG maps the property at the same level, it will be good news for SPG members. A current category 6 hotel cost anything from 20,000 to 25,000 Starpoints to redeem, and that translates to 60,000 to 75,000 points after the August conversion. Under the new chart unveiled by Marriott, a category 6 hotel will only require 50,000 points. Even if the hotel is upgraded to the next category, members will not be worse off. But let’s wait and see how the hotels map out come August.

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Comparison of existing SPG award chart versus new award chart

Lifetime elite status here to stay, but more difficult to achieve

With the new elite silver level introduced, SPG members will now find it more difficult to achieve lifetime elite gold.

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New lifetime elite qualification requirements

You will now need to achieve seven years of elite gold statuses, along with 400 nights stayed across any of the 29 brands combined. This an increase from the 5-year, 250 nights requirement.

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Current SPG lifetime status requirements

So if you haven’t already achieved lifetime Gold with SPG – too bad, it’s a further climb now. I figure that is now further out of reach given that I stay in hotels on average 10 nights a year – I might just get there when I’m 70.

Final words

I’m sure that many SPG loyalists saw this coming – a devaluation of their beloved programme, or a hike in the investment required to maintain it. While props to Marriott for merging both programmes and meeting halfway in terms of requirement, the impact is more real for SPG members given the increased spending required, along with the slight reduction of benefits for the programme.

More work for less perks? Sounds like a brilliant business plan, but obviously poorer off for customers. You might be better exploring other programmes given that Gold qualification is now comparable to some other programmes.

Having said that, given that Marriott and SPG together forms the world’s largest hotel chain, it might be a tough choice to shake them off altogether. Even with these revisions, the programme is still relatively competitive.

For the full details of the new programme come August 2018, check it out here.

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