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With less than one week left before Marriott Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest and Ritz-Carlton Rewards become a single program, many travelers may still have some anxiety about what will happen. Will all lifetime nights carry over from both programs? What about lifetime loyalty status? And will Marriott Vacation Package certificates become worthless?
With the transition beginning Aug. 15, frequent travelers have a limited amount of time to make sure they get the most value out of the program. Before systems have limited availability, every member of these loyalty programs should follow these three steps.
1. Take screenshots of balances, lifetime nights and current status
During any transition, it’s possible for records to get lost, mixed with other records or otherwise mishandled. As these three programs become one, any member could find their points gone without warning or documentation.
Before the transition begins on Aug. 15, download screenshots of all the important information in your Marriott Rewards, SPG and Ritz-Carlton Rewards accounts. This includes current status, lifetime status, number of current nights in each program and total lifetime nights in each program. By taking screenshots now, you can prevent redemption problems if some of those points, status levels or nights don’t convert correctly.
» Learn more: Crooks want your hotel points. Don’t fall for their tricks.
2. Book Marriott Vacation Packages before certificates convert to points
When the programs come together, current Marriott Vacation Package certificates will be converted to Marriott Rewards points. However, Marriott has not announced which certificates will align with the new category table. Certificates could convert to fewer points than were previously required to redeem awards.
» Learn more: How does the Marriott-Starwood merger shake out for most members?
If you currently hold a Marriott Vacation Package certificate, you will get the most value by redeeming them before Aug. 18. Although the system will be intermittently down starting Aug. 15, opportunities to redeem packages over the phone or online should still be available.
If you have a certificate and can’t book a hotel room before Aug. 18, it will be converted into points. As a result, outstanding certificates could be worth fewer points than today.
3. Pool points between family members now
Finally, if your family has a number of points in the programs, now is the best time to consolidate them. It’s best to consolidate the points into the account that has the highest status. The member with highest status will not only get the most value from points due to elite benefits, but may also have additional award availability that members at a lower status might not have. With upgrades and access to hotel lounges, awards can get even more valuable when booked by an elite status member.
Another strategy is to consolidate points into the account of the household member who has not received a bonus from Marriott credit cards. By combining points with a credit card bonus, families can get even closer to their next rewards.
» Learn more: Find the best hotel credit card for you
How to use Marriott Rewards through Aug. 17
By Aug. 18, computer systems will be down for everyone — including customer service agents at Marriott, who may be working on the transition.
» Learn more: Cash back vs. reward points — which rewards are right for you?
As the two programs become one, balances may change and status may fluctuate. If there are discrepancies in your account, it may be best to wait until Aug. 19 to sort them out. After that date, all three programs should be combined, and issues can be addressed with proof of status, points balances or lifetime nights stayed between both programs.
If you're staying at a Marriott or Starwood property during that week, be sure to have proof of elite status. The simple act of carrying a membership card or downloading a virtual card to a smartphone can ensure that you'll get your benefits during the stay.
How to Maximize Your Rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2020, including those best for:
Airline miles and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
Flat-rate rewards with no annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Premium travel rewards: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card
Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice: Travel loyalty program reviews Here's how much your points and miles are worth Why I signed up for the SPG Amex after the Marriott merger