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The first details of the newly combined Marriott and SPG program were announced last week and, overall, I believe they were much better than expected. This led TPG Editor-at-Large Zach Honig to decide to focus entirely on Marriott for the rest of the year, and most likely far beyond. With all due respect to our Editor-at-Large, even with the combined program looking solid at face value, the announcement still didn’t do enough to convince me to put my current Hyatt loyalty aside now, nor in the future.
I’ve been a Hyatt Diamond or Globalist for the last three years, and while there have been bumps in the road, I consistently enjoy my Hyatt stays and get outsized value with my World of Hyatt points. So after a week of considering my loyalty future, here are 7 reasons why I’m not jumping ship for Marriott and will continue to keep my business at Hyatt.
1. Uncertainty in the New Marriott Program
While the initial details of the combined program are, in my opinion, around 80% positive, it’s still too early to declare the new program a winner. There are still quite a few potential devaluations and unknowns that could really hurt the value of your points moving forward:
- What category are properties going to be placed in?
- Are peak and off-peak dates going to be controlled by individual properties?
- How many points are all-suite and aspirational properties going to require?
- Are Marriott Hotel + Air packages going to increase in cost?
- Are Chase Ultimate Rewards transfers going to stay at a 1:1 ratio?
With all of these important aspects of the new program still to be announced (heck, we don’t even have a name for the combined Marriott program yet), I’m definitely not ready to jump ship from Hyatt, which shouldn’t see any major changes in 2019 to its own World of Hyatt loyalty program given how recently that program was introduced.
2. Hyatt Properties Present a Consistent Experience
I’ve been to Hyatts all around the world within every brand of the chain’s portfolio, and I don’t recall ever staying at a property which was miscategorized. There’s no mistaking a Park Hyatt for a Hyatt Regency, or a Grand Hyatt for an Unbound Collection. When I pick a property within the Hyatt portfolio, my expectations are met and the experience is standardized around the world. Hyatt Houses and Hyatt Places are almost identical properties regardless of where in the world they pop up.
I cannot say the same for the expansive Marriott portfolio. Just last month I stayed at the JW Marriott Copacabana in Rio, and nothing about that property represented the other JW’s I’ve visited. Certainly not all generic Marriott hotels are created equally, and I’ve found a very large variation in property conditions, common spaces, room sizes and other factors at Marriotts.
For example, let’s look at Courtyard properties. Within the last year I’ve stayed at the Courtyard in Durham, North Carolina, which resembled an updated Super 8. Then, not two months later, I visited the Courtyard in LaGrange, Georgia, which was more akin to a full Marriott hotel branded property. Compare those two with the Courtyard Seoul Times Square, which has an executive lounge with a rooftop patio, and I don’t know what to expect when booking a Marriott property, even within a single brand.
3. Fewer Nights For Top-Tier Elite Status (and No Spend Requirement)
After 60 nights with Hyatt — now even including both paid and award nights — you’ll receive top-tier Globalist status with all benefits. There are no additional levels of Globalist, no spend required and you’ll be assigned a My Hyatt Concierge (thankfully, my concierge has really stepped up their game lately).
For comparable benefits under the new Marriott program, you’ll need 100 nights and $20,000 in spend to be given an Ambassador, and you’ll need the same 100 nights every year to keep that Ambassador. Compare that to subsequent years after your first year of Hyatt Globalist, where you’ll only need 55 nights to re-qualify, or only five more nights than the equivalent base-level Platinum in the new Marriott program.
4. Strong(er than Marriott) Card Partnerships
With Chase Ultimate Rewards earning cards offering 1x-5x points per dollar and UR points transferring to Hyatt at a 1:1 ratio, your path to free nights at any Hyatt property is easier than putting spend on the combined program co-branded Marriott and SPG cards.
Beginning August 1, your current Starwood Preferred Guest and Business Starwood Preferred Guest cards take a 33% loss in the number of points they earn on non-bonus spend. The cards currently earn an effective 3 points per dollar in the new Marriott currency, which will drop to 2 points per dollar. Even the new premium card offers a subpar 2x points on non-bonus category spend (and nothing to get excited about in bonus category spend).
Earning enough points in the combined Marriott program for one night at a category 8 property during a peak date would require $50,000 in non-bonus category spend on either of the current SPG Amex cards. But using the Chase Freedom Unlimited, a free night at a top-tier Hyatt like the Park Hyatt Sydney, would take just $20,000 in non-bonus category spend.
5. Easier Free Nights
Comparing only the number of points required for free nights between hotel chains is an uneven equation. You have to factor in the rate that points are earned with paid stays, transfer partners and co-branded card earnings. When all three of these factors are considered, Hyatt requires fewer points for free nights, especially for top aspirational properties, than the current or future Marriott/SPG program does.
Category 8 properties in the unified Marriott program — which apparently won’t even include all-suite properties — can cost 100,000 points per night during peak dates. Category 7 Hyatt properties, with no properties excluded and no peak or off-peak dates to worry about, cost 30,000 points per night. When you also consider that 30,000 Hyatt points are much easier to earn than 100,000 of the new Marriott points, it’s a solid win for Hyatt, with award nights easier to attain up and down both award charts.
6. More Suite Nights
Hyatt Globalists earn four suite upgrade certificates, each good for stays up to seven nights. For every 10 nights you stay above 60 in a year, you’ll earn either another 10,000 points or another suite upgrade certificate, again good for up to 7 additional nights.
Compare this to the new Marriott program, which gives Platinum members five suite upgrade nights and then another five nights once you hit 75 nights. But after 75 nights with Hyatt, you could potentially have 35 nights in a suite, or more than triple what Marriott provides.
For a family of four, the Hyatt Globalist suite upgrade certificates are extremely valuable, giving me, my wife and the little ones additional space. Hyatt Globalists — like Platinums in the combined Marriott program — also receive complimentary suite upgrades at check-in if a standard suite is available, which is now clearly delineated on Hyatt.com so you can check for yourself before walking up to the reception counter.
7. Complimentary SPG/Marriott Gold Worth Significantly Less
I’ve had SPG Gold status and therefore Marriott Gold status courtesy of The Platinum Card® from American Express for two years. Lounge access and breakfast at Marriott properties over the last two years have been fantastic, but as things currently stand, that all goes away in August. The Amex Platinum will provide complimentary Gold status in the new program, not Platinum, meaning my breakfast and lounge access at Marriott worldwide is gone in just two short months. With no lounge and no breakfast, my motivation to search out an SPG or Marriott over a Hyatt is almost nil.
Even with a significantly smaller global footprint compared to the giant Marriott/SPG property count, Hyatt is typically anywhere I want to go and quickly expanding. And if I’m headed off the beaten path, I usually won’t be looking for a traditional hotel property in the first place. I will still be utilizing my Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express until August — in fact, I’ll be using it more than ever to try and lock up a few airline transfer bonuses. But after that, the card will be out of my wallet.
I’m sure there will be times I won’t be able to stay at a Hyatt in 2019 and beyond, but my typical secondary Marriott and SPG options won’t be where I turn. Without lounge or breakfast, I’ll simply be looking for the best deal while keeping an eye on IHG Accelerate promos or other OTA loyalty programs. I’m glad my current Starpoint balance will still be useful in the new program, but nothing announced so far will pull my hotel loyalty away from Hyatt.
Featured image of the Park Hyatt St. Kitts by Michael Y. Park / The Points Guy.