Even Hotel Employees Are Confused Following the Marriott-Starwood Loyalty Program Merger

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I recently had my first Marriott stay following the merger of the Marriott and Starwood loyalty programs.  My wife and I spent a few nights in Portland at The Nines, a Luxury Collection Hotel.  We used points for 2 nights and booked the 3rd night through AMEX Fine Hotels & Resorts.

As many folks have already noted, the technical glitches during the Marriott-Starwood integration were annoying.  But I figured once we got past the IT upgrades, things would be back to normal and I could continue enjoying my free award stays and Platinum status perks.

It Might Be Time to Reconsider Chasing Marriott Elite Status Based on My Recent Experience at The Nines, a Luxury Collection Hotel in Portland

Unfortunately, I think the merger of the loyalty programs has created confusion for hotel employees as it relates to what perks elite status guests can enjoy.  Specifically, I’m referring to lounge access.

As a guest with Platinum status, one of the benefits I enjoyed most in the past was access to hotel lounges.  Instead of eating outside of the hotel, it was nice to enjoy a free hot breakfast in the lounge.  So I was somewhat surprised to learn I couldn’t use the lounge at The Nines.

During check-in, I was advised by the front desk associate that following the loyalty program merger, lounge access was reserved exclusively for Platinum guests staying on the same floor as the lounge.  And because no lounge floor rooms were available during our stay, we’d have to miss out on the benefit.

I certainly realize missing out on a croissant and cappuccino in the lounge is not the end of the world.  But what frustrates me is that the changes to the newly integrated loyalty program do not appear to be properly communicated to hotel employees.  For example, the Marriott webpage dedicated to summarizing Platinum status perks clearly states lounge access is a benefit.  And the fine print doesn’t have exclusions about which floor you’re staying on.

Hmmm…According to the Marriott Website, Platinum Guests DO Get Lounge Access. And the Terms & Conditions Don’t Seem to Be as Restrictive as What the Front Desk Associate Told Me.

Even more irritating was the fact the hotel did actually have available rooms on the lounge floor during our stay as the below screenshot shows.  If I wanted, I’m sure I could have made my case to the hotel manager.  But my wife and I didn’t plan on spending much time in the hotel anyway.  To me, it was more about the principle.

The Front Desk Told Me Rooms on the Lounge Floor Were Unavailable, but That’s Not What the Marriott Website Showed

I’ve reached out to Marriott for clarification regarding the lounge access benefit.  Perhaps I still have a bit to learn about the lack of benefits for guests with status.

In any event, I’m definitely rethinking my hotel elite status strategy moving forward.  As my colleague, Joseph, recently wrote, switching to Hilton certainly seems compelling.

Have you had any negative experiences after the Marriott-Starwood integration?  Let me know in the comments below.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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George
2 years ago

I stayed at SPG property using miles, which had I booked pre merger would have been 12k SPG points, but instead I booked at an astronomical 50k Marriott points. I was gold, now gold elite, and found the upgrade to be meager, compared to prior stays, but it was an upgrade nonetheless. The more important issue was I cancelled a SPG hotel that I booked using SPG points pre merger and the points never returned to my account. It took a tweet and a few DMs to resolve the issue.

Personally, I find the new point structure ridiculous. Where I could earn a free night at a premium SPG property after 2 months spending on my SPG Amex, I’m now finding it could take 3x as much to stay at same property under Marriott points. No worries though, I’m happily using new Hyatt Visa and look forward to a promising future.

Keith
Reply to  George
2 years ago

It’s hard to beat Hyatt’s loyalty program. The only challenge is it’s a smaller chain. Whenever possible though, I try to redeem points for a Hyatt award stay. I’ve never had a negative experience.

MB
2 years ago

I sent a simple email questioning an upcoming stay and have yet to receive an answer although our stay is past. I called and really didn’t get a solid answer from the hotel re: a room available with points. The automated reply from the email was back on Aug. 23rd! “Thank you for contacting Marriott!
We have received your email. For your records, the following case number has been created: 63869830.
We are experiencing higher than normal email inquiries.
One of our team members will review your inquiry and respond to you as soon as possible with a personal reply.
Thank you for choosing Marriott!” Crazy….

Keith
Reply to  MB
2 years ago

It’s no wonder they’re experiencing higher than normal email traffic. Even with all of the changes, it’s frustrating to not get a response in nearly a month.

DSK
2 years ago

Your post bothered me as a Lifetime Platinum (hoping to be Lifetime Platinum Premier before the end of the year) so I researched it. The answer you received made me laugh–I wonder if the hotel employee came from Hilton because that is exactly the policy for Hilton Gold members (no lounge access unless upgraded to Executive Floor).

However, in looking at it further (and I didn’t realize this), the hotel was actually correct that you are not entitled to lounge access because Platinum members who stay at SPG Luxury Collection hotels are NOT entitled to lounge access under the Marriott Terms and Conditions, which I’ve copied below. Hope this helps–I’m guessing many people don’t focus on the exceptions.

“Guaranteed Concierge/Executive/Club/Signature Club Lounge Access for Members plus one guest at JW Marriott, Marriott Hotels, Sheraton, Delta Hotels, Le Méridien, Westin, Autograph Collection, Renaissance Hotels, and Courtyard (outside the United States and Canada) during normal hours of operations. . . . Lounge Access is not offered at the following brands: The Ritz-Carlton, St. Regis, EDITION, The Luxury Collection, W Hotels, Design Hotels, Tribute Portfolio, Gaylord Hotels, Four Points, SpringHill Suites, Protea Hotels, Fairfield, AC Hotels, Aloft, Moxy Hotels, Residence Inn, TownePlace Suites, Element, Marriott Vacation Club, Marriott Grand Residence Club, and participating Vistana properties.”

Keith
Reply to  DSK
2 years ago

Hi DSK – congrats on upcoming Lifetime Platinum Premier. I did read through the terms & conditions and see that, but think it’s a bit contradictory to have this on Marriott’s marketing bullet points: “At hotel brands that have lounges, you’ll have full access and complimentary breakfast.”

DSK
Reply to  Keith
2 years ago

I totally agree and the Marriott marketing statement is wrong on this and other areas (free breakfast at Courtyards, for example).

However, I was a bit sensitized to this because I heard that Ritz Carlton hotels were not changing their lounge access restrictions as a result of the combined program, so I knew that marketing statement was false. I just hadn’t realized how many SPG hotels fall into the same category.

Keith
Reply to  DSK
2 years ago

Yes, I think they’ll have to backtrack on some of these changes or loyal members like us will take our business elsewhere.

Jack Dykhouse
2 years ago

In June of 2018 I submitted a question to Marriott confirming that I was Lifetime Gold under the old Marriott program. I wanted to be sure I would be Lifetime Platinum under the new program. I received an automated reply giving me a case number (179892021), but I still have not received a reply in spite of follow-up emails. I recently called, but the lady said she could access that information – only that my current status was Platinum.

Keith
Reply to  Jack Dykhouse
2 years ago

Hi Jack – it seems like you’re not the only one. A few other comments mentioned the slow response time, which is definitely frustrating. I hope you eventually get a response back confirming your Lifetime Platinum status.

Marie
2 years ago

Staying at a property now that I stayed in the past. They did not know I had been upgraded to gold, and had no upgrades available. They used to give me upgrades when I was Elite and even gave me free water and wine vouchers most of the time. Nothing this time – I think they are even charging me for a bottle of water.

Eman Rob
2 years ago

I just had a miserable stay at a Sheraton Atlanta following the merger. Some front desk agents weren’t aware of the lounge access issue for Platinum Elites, or the welcome amenity options, or late checkout. It was constant confusion. More annoying (in addition to being billed incorrectly, etc.) was that the new Terms and Conditions state that if not offered a welcome amenity that the Platinum Elite member is given $100. No one at Starwood seems to understand this (have called several times to the main Starwood line as well as the hotel). It is stated clearly on Marriott’s website. Will try to deal with it on the Marriott side (they still have separate numbers and customer service).

Keith
Reply to  Eman Rob
2 years ago

Yes, I feel like they should have planned ahead more to train folks about the program updates. I understand there’s a learning curve, but it’s definitely annoying to loyal members who spend 25, 50, or 75 nights on the road.

Kyle
2 years ago

Keith, my stays in the last month at Marriotts (I’ve had 5 of them) have all been miserable. The app, website, service, rewards nights/points posting, confusion on access. Access denied because even though when I booked a night, it showed me lounge access (I’m also Platinum Elite), when I arrived, the hotel said, they have chosen to close their lounge on weekends and that’s within their right to do so. I’m a Hilton Diamond, and just have no reason to keep trying out Marriott. Hilton is a better experience lately.

Partha
2 years ago

This looks like a violation of elite benefit guarantee. You should request compensation.

swag
2 years ago

I was denied a 4pm Platinum-guaranteed checkout at a Springhill over Labor Day weekend. 🙁

Nora
2 years ago

You do realize that Platinum and Platinum Elite are two different status levels, right? Platinum doesn’t give you lounge access, Platinum Elite (the screenshot you showed) does. I was super confused before also, so I think it’s the traveler who is confused, not hotel employees.

Al
2 years ago

It would probably be helpful for all of us if you escalated the situation to the hotel manager so the hotel and marriott can straighten up their platinum benefits policy.

Ruben
2 years ago

So sorry about your experience! I just saw another recent Million Mile Secrets post on FB about the de-valuation of points since the merger, so I’m probably going to jump back on the Hilton points myself.