When United Airlines tweeted about a “new rewards experience” coming to MileagePlus last Friday, I was very afraid. The news at United has not been good lately, but even with minor fee increases and a minimum-spend requirement that effectively kills mileage running for status, United MileagePlus remains world’s best loyalty program. Today, United and Marriott announced a partnership that makes MileagePlus an even stronger program.
Today we’re pleased to announce RewardsPlus, a powerful new extension to the existing partnership between MileagePlus and Marriott Rewards. In addition to improving the value of points and miles for active members of each program, RewardsPlus will also offer strong reciprocal travel benefits, such as Marriott Rewards Elite status, valid at over 3,700 hotels and resorts worldwide. Full details and a FAQ are available at www.united.com/rewardsplus, but here are some of the highlights:
- Access to Complimentary Marriott Rewards Gold Elite Status: Starting today, MileagePlus Premier Gold members (and higher) can register to receive complimentary Marriott Rewards Gold Elite status, which includes benefits such as lounge access and free breakfast (at select locations), room upgrades (subject to availability at check-in) complimentary internet access, priority late check-out, bonus points, and more. Similarly, Marriott Rewards Platinum Elite (top-tier) members can register to receive Premier Silver status in MileagePlus.
- New Miles-to-Points Transfer: We’re introducing the ability for Premier members (at all levels) to convert MileagePlus award miles into Marriott Rewards points at a 1-to-1 ratio, up to 50,000 miles per year.
- Improved Points-to-Miles Transfer: We’re improving the rate at which all members can convert their Marriott Rewards points into MileagePlus miles by offering a 20% discount off the number of points required for miles. This will be the leading conversion rate for transfer of Marriott Rewards points into airline miles.
- Improved Mileage Earning on Travel Packages: We’re adding 10% more MileagePlus award miles when members redeem for a Marriott Rewards Air and Hotel Travel package using points transferred from a Marriott Rewards account – a bonus of up to 12,000 miles.
You can register for complimentary Marriott Rewards Gold Elite status starting today, by going to www.united.com/rewardsplus. The enhanced points and miles features are coming in August–stay tuned for more information on how to take advantage of these, as well.
My preferred hotel chain is Hyatt and that will not change, but Marriott will bump Hilton as my secondary chain and I intend to take full advantage of this status offer. Marriott Gold Elite status includes complimentary upgrades, breakfast, lounge access, internet, and late checkout–all benefits that are tangible and extremely useful when I travel.
Marriott Plats can receive Premier Silver status on United as well, so the lower elite ranks will be inflated a bit, though the fact that United no longer allows Premier Silvers to choose Economy Plus seats until check-in means that higher-tiered elites will not have to worry about even more competition for an Economy Plus seat unless the ticket is purchased less than a day in advance of travel.
Sign-up is a breeze–I just entered my MileagePlus credentials here (scroll down to bottom of page) and my Marriott number was already populated. I confirmed the upgraded status and received the following confirmation:
Now I know this is going to sound cynical, but can we expect a sandwich from United? By that I mean we recently saw increased change fees and new revenue requirements for status qualification in 2014. This was followed by today’s news–a genuinely positive benefit added to the program. Next, will we see the top of the sandwich–one more slice of bad news? For now, all we can do is wait, take advantage of the new Marriott status, and continue to enjoy world’s best loyalty program.