Your Checklist for the Just-Launched Marriott Program
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After more than two years in the making, the newly unified program of Marriott, SPG and Ritz-Carlton is officially here. If you’ve been keeping up with our comprehensive coverage of the new loyalty program, hopefully, you’re already well prepared for the big transition and ticked off all of the pre-merger SPG and Marriott to-do items. Now, here’s a checklist of tasks to complete as soon as possible with the just-launched program.
1. Combine Your Marriott and SPG accounts
Unless you’re just shy of earning lifetime elite status under the old SPG program, you’ll want to combine your Marriott and SPG accounts. By doing this, all of your rewards will be in a single account. Depending on how many elite nights you have in each account, you might get bumped to a higher status level, as opposed to just having your status matched. The reason those chasing lifetime elite status with SPG should hold off on doing so is because those who will miss the lifetime requirement by a single year could earn two years of status by achieving the respective legacy statuses of both Marriott and SPG before the end of 2018.
The profile you keep depends on which site you combine your accounts from. If you prefer to keep your Marriott login, head to Marriott’s site; if you prefer to keep your SPG login, head to SPG’s site.
2. Book Stays for 2019 Now Before Category 8 and Peak Pricing Set In
Although Marriott will raise the redemption rates for most top-tier properties and implement peak and off-peak pricing on February 1, 2019, the current pricing structure will remain in effect for all reservations made before then. So, if you book stays for far in the future now, the lower rates will apply. Don’t forget, award bookings can be canceled up until 48-72 hours before your stay and you don’t need to have the necessary points in your account until 14 days prior to check-in, so there isn’t much risk in speculatively booking future stays now.
Given how low some redemption rates are, it might make sense to transfer points from Chase Ultimate Rewards — earned with cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Sapphire Preferred Card — to Marriott Rewards. Ordinarily, that would mean taking a currency worth 2.1 cents and ending up with one valued at 0.8 cents per point, based on our latest valuations, but since these redemptions could get you significantly more than 2.1 cents in value, it’s worth considering.
3. Rebook Existing Reservations That Have Dropped in Price
Many properties increased in price with the launch of the new award chart. However, some actually became cheaper, including The Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne in Miami, Florida. Your best bet is to review your current reservations at properties that dropped in price and rebook your stays to drop the number of points needed. Be careful not to cancel your reservations outright as many travelers are eyeing properties that now require fewer points for free nights and are waiting to snatch award inventory as soon as availability appears.
Hopefully, you’ve been preparing for the go-live date of the combined program and none of these tasks came at a complete surprise. While any large-scale integration like this never leaves everyone happy, the merger has generally been positive news for members thus far — over two-thirds of the 6,800+ in the unified program require the same or fewer points for a free night. One question that remains unanswered is how the program will determine dates for off-peak, standard and peak redemptions in 2019, so for now, the best option is to speculatively book all of next year’s award stays.
Featured photos by Shuttestock.com.