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Seven Things To Do Before the New Marriott Rewards Program Launches in August

July 20, 2018
7 min read
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Summer is flying at a pace that I've never experienced, and August will be here in less than two weeks. This means that the Marriott and SPG programs will become one in the very near term. The exact date that two become one is still a bit of a mystery, but we know it will come in August. That could mean August 1 or August 31, but in either case, today is as good a day as any to check off some last minute agenda items to prepare for the new Marriott Rewards program launch next month.

Last Day to Purchase Discounted SPG Points

Today is the last day to purchase at least 5,000 SPG points and get a 35% discount on the purchase. This drops the per point cost to 2.275 cents per point. It is always possible they will throw up another sale in the few days remaining before the programs combine and SPG is no more, but I'm not personally counting on it. I plan to buy the maximum 30,000 points allowed today because I know I will more than get my money out of them with some planned travel.

Make Your Award Bookings Now if the Price is Increasing

There will be some award chart gems that go live when the new combined chart launches in August, but there are also some real award chart massacres happening to popular family destinations. If you haven't combed over the line-up of the award chart prices that are changing next month, please do so now. At the very least, glance at the summary I have for you below. You will sadly find hotels at Walt Disney World, Grand Cayman, Beaver Creek, Atlantis, Punta Cana, and more jumping out of points range for some of us.

  • Walt Disney World Dolphin: going from 36,000 Marriott points to 50,000 points
  • Walt Disney World Swan: going from 36,000 Marriott points to 50,000 points
  • Sheraton Lake Buena Vista: going from 12,000 Marriott points to 25,000 points
  • Atlantis, Royal Towers, Autograph Collection: going from 40,000 Marriott points to 50,000 points
  • The Cove Atlantis, Autograph Collection: going from 45,000 Marriott points to 60,000 points
  • Westin Punta Cana: going from 30,000 Marriott points to 35,000 points
  • The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman: going from 70,000 Marriott points to 85,000 points
  • Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort: going from 45,000 Marriott points to 50,000 points
  • Westin Grand Cayman: going from 36,000 Marriott points to 50,000 points
  • The Westin Riverfront Mountain Villas, Beaver Creek Mountain: going from 36,000 Marriott points to 60,000 points
  • Vail Marriott Mountain Resort: going from 45,000 Marriott points to 60,000 points
  • Le Westin Resort & Spa, Tremblant, Quebec: going from 36,000 Marriott points to 50,000 points
Make your Walt Disney World Dolphin bookings now

You can make award bookings as far out as the schedule allows at the current prices as long as you do it before the combined chart launches in August. Currently, that means you can make award reservations at most properties into early July 2019.

If your family needs more space than a standard hotel room can provide, don't forget to give a special look to the Marriott Vacation Club properties. Many of these multi-room units are going up in award price.

Marriott Waikoloa Suites are getting more expensive

Check Your Status

While you have all year to qualify or re-qualify for elite status under the current rules, I am personally earning credit for three Category 1 SPG rooms this weekend at a cost of 2,000 points per room. My understanding is that beginning in August you can only earn elite status credit for one room at a time, so I am knocking some of this out now to get me a little closer to retaining my Platinum status one final year. In 2018, you can qualify for SPG Platinum status one last time based on just 25 stays, but all of the stays have to be from the SPG side of things if you are using the SPG rules.

Combine Your Points

SPG lets household members combine their points with no fee while Marriott caps their points sharing feature at 50,000 points per year and charges $10 if you don't at least have Gold status. I am not 100% sure what will happen with this functionality beginning in August, but if you want to be sure you can combine your SPG points into one bucket with your household member for free, I'd do that now.

Book Vacation Packages

The Marriott Hotel + Air Packages are getting more expensive in August, so if you want to turn your points balance into seven nights of a hotel stay plus airline miles, I recommend doing that as soon as possible. The current prices for five nights at a Category 1 - 5 Marriott property + 55,000 airline miles start at 200,000 Marriott points. Beginning in August, the starting price will be 255,000 points.

You can purchase a vacation package without knowing where you want to stay, and Marriott has not yet told us what will happen to the vacation package hotel certificates that have not yet been used. My bet is that they will be at least as valuable in the new program or they would be warning us about what is to come.

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Make Your August Booking Plans

As you may know, the Category 7 SPG resorts will get temporarily (much) cheaper in the new program. Currently, it costs 30,000 to 35,000 points SPG per night to book award stays at Category 7 SPG properties including St. Regis Princeville in Kauai, St. Regis Punta Mita in Mexico, St. Regis New York in Manhattan, the St. Regis Aspen, St. Regis Deer Valley in Utah, and many more.

However, from August 1 until they add an eighth category in early 2019, you will be able to book all of those properties for a maximum of 60,000 points per night in the new program. This is the equivalent of 20,000 SPG points at a 3x transfer ratio. Remember that with award stays, if you book five award nights, you will only pay for four nights. This drops the per-night price to just 16,000 SPG points per night. That is almost half-off the current maximum rate of 35,000 points per night, and it may present a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to stay at these world-class resorts for a reasonable award rate.

The view from the St. Regis Princeville in Kauai

This once-in-a-lifetime chance is especially true if you have been dreaming of visiting the currently astronomically priced resorts, such as the St. Regis Maldives that will be going from the current equivalent of 270,000 Marriott points per night to 60,000 Marriott points per night for a standard room. Demand will likely well out-pace supply for some of the super high-end resorts with a limited number of standard rooms, so have your strategy in place to book as soon as the functionality goes live in August.

Photo credit: St. Regis Maldives

To circle this back to the final day to purchase discounted SPG points, at 2.275 cents per purchased point, 16,000 points per night comes to $364 per night. That certainly isn’t a cheap hotel stay, but is much less than what these resorts often sell for with cash.

Deadline to Transfer SPG points to Amtrak Guest Rewards

If you like to transfer your SPG points to Amtrak, July 31, 2018, is the deadline to transfer to do so. Until that time, SPG points will transfer to Amtrak at a 1:1 ratio, but note that there is not a 5,000 mile bonus when you transfer 20,000 SPG points to Amtrak Rewards the way there is when transferring to most airline programs.

What are your specific last-minute Marriott and SPG agenda items to complete before August, and which properties are you locking in before the award chart changes?

Featured image by (Photo courtesy of St. Regis Princeville)