Marriott Rewards Starwood Preferred Guest

Earning Free Nights With Marriott’s New Loyalty Program: A Lost Cause?

Last week, Marriott and SPG announced a new unified award chart that would go into effect in 2019. I’ve been out of the loop lately, but the general sense on Twitter was that the upcoming changes were worse than the Hilton Honors apocalypse of 2012. I don’t want to get into the weeds of the new elite status tiers and benefits – OMAAT does a good job of explaining the details. What I care about the most is award redemptions. How difficult will it be to earn and redeem points for free nights with Marriott Rewards going forward? After all, a free night award at a top-tier hotel will range between 70,000 – 100,000 points. While redemption rates are going up, so are some point-earning rates on paid stays:

Earning Points on Paid Stays with Marriott Rewards

 BaseSilverGoldPlatinumPremier Platinum
New Marriott101112.51517.5
Old Marriott101212.51515
Starwood Preferred Guest2 SPG/6 Marriott points- 3 SPG/9 Marriott points3 SPG/9 Marriott points4 SPG/12 Marriott points

How do these rates stack up against the new award chart? Category 1 off-peak awards work out cheaper, but that’s just about it. In 2019 non-elite Marriott Rewards members will have to spend $500 – $10,000 on paid stays to earn a free night. Even disregarding off-peak award rates, you’re not much better off. Standard award rates will still require you to spend $750 – $8,500 to earn a free night. For SPG members, it works out slightly better. Non-elites previously had to spend $1,000 – $17,500 for a free night at a Category 1 – 7 Starwood hotel. Now that number is $833 – $16,666, based on Marriott’s new award chart.

Marriott’s  New Award Chart

CategoryStandard (Current)Saver (Current)Standard (August 2018)Off-Peak (2019)Peak (2019)
17,500 points6,000 points7,500 points5,000 points10,000 points
735,000 30,00060,00050,00070,000
840,00035,00085,000 (2019)70,000100,000
9 45,00040,000---

At first sight, the new award chart looks really bad. But keep in mind that Category 8 and Peak pricing doesn’t go into effect until 2019. Also, this new award chart includes Ritz Carlton hotels, which go for 30,000 – 70,000 points per night. Now that St. Regis hotels are in the picture, I’m sure the top-tier will mostly consist of high-end properties. According to the preview award chart, it appears there are going to be plenty of nice hotels in the more reasonably 50,000 – 60,000 point range.

Free Marriott Nights Via Credit Card Spending

If you’re earning free nights via credit card spending, you might as well pack it in. You’ll have to spend $2,500 – $50,000 to earn a free night. For top-tier Ritz Carlton awards, that’s absurd. Especially considering you’d have to spend about half of that on the Hilton and Hyatt cards.

Future Marriott Redemption Strategies

The new Marriott award chard sucks. Plain and simple. The good news is we’re getting advance notice, so there’s plenty of time to take advantage of lower redemption rates and the 1:3 SPG to Marriott transfer ratio. More importantly, you’ve got plenty of time to milk the SPG credit cards for the sign-up bonus and as much manufactured spending as possible.

In the future, you might want to give cash back rewards cards a second look. Or reconsider the Barclay Arrival Premier Card. Before my Arrival shut-down, I paid for most of my hotel bookings with that card and off-set the charges with points earned via gift card churning. Most of the time, I find that it’s cheaper to redeem cash back or flexible rewards over hotel points anyway.

Some of you are going to call me out for having rose colored glasses on, like the other bloggers who have supposedly been spinning this devaluation as positive. While it’s not ideal, the reality is that we don’t know how all the hotels will be categorized. Free nights at most SPG hotels might be more attainable than the 85,000 – 100,000 range. Also, there’s nothing we can do about it, so just keep swimming as they say.

How are you preparing for the Marriott Rewards devaluation? Do you plan on going all out in terms of manufactured spending on the SPG credit cards?

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  1. Looks like I’ll be (1) burning whatever SPG points I can over the summer and (2) moving any and all possible stays to Hyatt. Good thing I get a free aniversary night at a dink hotel for each with CCs.

  2. I am looking to see how many places I need, or want to go, and start booking. Points are easy to get back. I am a 30+ year Marriott member and have Plat Elite Premier. My worry is that all the hotels I want to stay at will go from 40K to 65K. That will be terrible.

  3. So would you say the Amex Personal SPG card is worth keeping for the new Annual Free Night Award?

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