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Marriott Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest and Ritz-Carlton Rewards were officially integrated on August 18 of last year, and over the last few months, the rumor mill has been swirling with a single question: What will the combined program’s name be and when will the programs officially become one? In November, leaked information seemed to indicate that the program name would be Bonvoy, a name that was almost universally panned by TPG readers (and many others online). Just over a month later, we saw the alleged new logo posted online. In both of these cases, Marriott refused to confirm or deny that this information was accurate.
No longer: Marriott has confirmed to TPG that the new program name will be Marriott Bonvoy. The new branding will roll out in just four weeks: on Wednesday, February 13. From Feb. 13 forward, Marriott Rewards, SPG and Ritz-Carlton Rewards will officially be retired.
New Elite Status Tier Names, Same Benefits
We reported in November that two of Marriott’s elite status levels may be renamed in the Bonvoy program, and we now have confirmation that this was correct. As of mid-February, existing high tier elites will see the following changes:
- Marriott Platinum Premier Elite (75+ nights) will become Marriott Bonvoy Titanium Elite (yes, really)
- Marriott Platinum Premier Elite with Ambassador (100+ nights and $20,000+ spend) will become Marriott Bonvoy Ambassador Elite
Note that the program’s other three tiers of elite status (Silver, Gold and Platinum) will not be changing with the implementation of the new brand.
Yes, That Was the Bonvoy Logo
The logo that was released in early January as part of Marriott’s trademark application in Europe will be the combined program’s brand:
Here’s how a Marriott spokesperson described this logo in an email to TPG:
“The logo is simple, bold and modern communicating that Marriott Bonvoy is welcoming and optimistic and conveys a new day, new beginning and new world full of exciting possibilities.”
We’ll leave it to our readers to determine if this claim resonates with them.
Retirement of Legacy Programs
As noted above, February 13 represents not only the launch of the combined program; it also marks the official retirement of Marriott Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest and Ritz-Carlton Rewards. Marriott Bonvoy’s logo and branding will begin rolling out across the combined program’s portfolio of over 6,500 properties on that date. This includes cobranded credit cards like the Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card and the Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express Luxury Card. The program will also embark on a multi-million dollar global media campaign to promote the new brand starting at the end of February.
There are some important implications to this retirement:
- SPG and Ritz-Carlton apps will be deactivated. If you’re still using the legacy SPG and Ritz-Carlton apps, these are being deactivated on Feb. 13 with the new brand rollout, while the current Marriott Rewards app will automatically update to the Marriott Bonvoy app. This shouldn’t have too big of an impact to members, since the SPG app that’s been out there since the Aug. 18 integration follows the current Marriott one quite closely.
- All experiences will be housed in a single site. Both the legacy Marriott and SPG programs offered members the ability to use points for experiences like concerts and culinary events. This will continue in the combined program, though all will be housed on a single platform, which launches Feb. 13. This is somewhat noteworthy as the two have had different experiences, such as World Series or Super Bowl offerings, at different price points (or even different price points for the same experience).
What It Means for You
So, what’s in a name? Well in this case, not a whole lot, given that both name and logo were already out there, albeit unofficially. After a season of significant change for the programs, there are no major functional changes to the program at this point beyond the given names. However, there are a few items worth keeping an eye one once the changeover happens.
What will the expanded experiences look like?
One of the first things that jumps out was the detailed information on the program’s integrated experiences platform launching Feb. 13. The press release we received indicates that this site will have “approximately 120,000 experiences in 1,000 destinations” for members. This includes roughly 10,000 member-exclusive moments from the legacy programs along with 110,000 open to anyone and bookable with a credit card. It’ll be interesting to see what these entail and how the combined program will leverage its relationships to open up unique experiences to members.
What will this mean for upgrades?
Frankly, the shift to new elite status names might be welcome news for a program that currently has three tiers with the word “Platinum” in them. However, it’ll be interesting to see if this results in additional differentiation in on-property treatment, especially for upgrades. Right now, the program’s terms and conditions treat all three flavors of Platinum identically along these lines, with the following verbiage:
“Platinum Elite Members receive a complimentary upgrade to the best available room subject to availability for the entire length of stay at the time of check-in. Complimentary upgrade includes suites, rooms with desirable views, rooms on high floors, corner rooms, rooms with special amenities or rooms on Executive Floors. At The Ritz-Carlton, suites are only included for Platinum Premier Members and rooms with direct Club access are excluded.”
We already know that suite upgrades at Ritz-Carlton properties are limited to Platinum Premier/Titanium members, but how will other brands handle this perk? If a property only has one suite available and a regular Platinum member arrives before a Titanium member, will the lower-tier elite get the upgrade, or will the property “block” it for the higher one?
What additional changes are coming?
We know that new Category 8 pricing will take effect in March, along with the program’s annual category changes (though the exact date hasn’t been released). This coming change will take the ceiling of the price for a standard room on the Marriott Bonvoy award chart from the current 60,000 points, all the way up to 85,000 points. Once peak pricing kicks in, that number jumps to up to 100,000 points per night for a standard room.
We also expect peak and off-peak pricing to be implemented early this year, though this date is also unclear. If you’re afraid of how much the room at your favorite property will jump to in the coming months, remember that you can use Points Advance to lock-in award rates for stays through early 2020 before these announced changes take effect.
I’m am intrigued by the following tidbit included in the statement we received from Marriott:
“Benefits will not change from August 18, but we do plan more innovation for the future.”
The term “innovation” can mean many things, so we’re curious to see what this means for the Marriott Bonvoy program after Feb. 13.
It’s now official: Marriott Bonvoy will set sail on Feb. 13, 2019, and the three legacy brands of the combined program will be retired to the points and miles history books at that time. Marriott describes Bonvoy as more than a loyalty program — they describe it as a “travel program”. We’re intrigued to see if this new branding will have practical impacts on top-tier elites and are curious to learn about future additional “innovation” in Marriott’s new travel program.
Featured image courtesy of the JW Marriott Orlando
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