United + Marriott: Reciprocity cuts both ways

JW Marriott & Ritz-Carlton tower over the LA Live complex in downtown Los Angeles (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

JW Marriott & Ritz-Carlton tower over the LA Live complex in downtown Los Angeles (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

United and Marriott have launched a  new program called RewardsPlus (a clever combo of each loyalty program name), which offers reciprocal elite level benefits in both programs.

This means that starting today, United Premier Gold, Platinum, 1K and Global Services members (who are not already elite with Marriott) will get elite Gold level benefits in the Marriott Rewards program, including concierge lounge access, automatic room upgrades, late checkout, free internet, free breakfast, among other bennies. Starting August 1, all Premier members (including Silvers) will be able to convert their miles into Marriott Rewards points at a 1:1 ratio, up to 50,000 miles per year.

That’s great news! But reciprocity cuts both ways.

So this also means that elite level Marriott Rewards members (who now get automatic Mileage Plus Premier Silver status) will have access to United Economy Plus seats at check in, domestic upgrades, priority check in and boarding lines. They will also get one free checked bag.

Marriott Rewards is one of the largest and richest hotel loyalty programs out there with 43 million members.

While Marriott won’t reveal how many of its members are elite, let’s estimate it at 3%. That means an additional 1,290,000 Premier Silver flyers competing for EP seats and shorter lines reserved for MileagePlus Premier members.

Marriott Rewards elite members who have long complained about overcrowded concierge lounges and fewer opportunities for upgrades are already moaning about the new program on FlyerTalk. MileagePlus Premier Silver members who have seen a significant dilution in benefits over the years will now have to compete for space with a lot more travelers with the same status.

This program is identical to Crossover Rewards, a reciprocal program between Delta and Starwood launched last winter.

Effective immediately,  you can link your accounts here United RewardsPlus  or Marriott RewardsPlus and your benefits are good through January 31, 2014. After that, benefits will apply on a yearly basis if you maintain elite status.

What do you think? Is this a good thing, or not? If you are a United Premier beholden to another hotel brand, will this make you consider a move to Marriott? Please leave your comments below!

Chris McGinnis


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  • PointsVulture

    United Silver status is only for MR Platinum elites (75 nights)

  • Ed Jones

    Same here…Marriott was choice #2 if Hilton wasn’t around. Shifts my attitude completely (I’m such a point wh0re).

  • http://www.travelskills.com/ Chris McGinnis

    Hey there…not sure about the BK yet, but the the new Boarding area (old AA gates) is, according to SFO, going to be as good as T2 when it comes to food offerings. Opening expected Jan 2014. — chris

  • Hyattisariot

    Now I don’t have to get to 50 nights at Marriott and still have Gold! BTW, Chris, what is replacing Burger King at Terminal 3? I noticed that sheet rock surrounds it. Also, any idea if the food court down near the old AA gates will reopen when that new section of terminal is opened (next year?)? And, if so, with what restaurants? Thanks.

  • robertasb

    Yes absolutly considering changing hotel loyalty – have been with Hilton HOnors for ten years but this could change my mind

  • Jay

    IMHO, it’s about dilution and devaluing the programs. It (normally) takes a lot of stays to become a Marriott Gold member, and now there will be many more (UA-powered) Marriott elites competing for the same benefits. I was already underwhelmed by my time with Marriott, and had switched to be both Hyatt Diamond and Starwood Platinum instead of teetering between Marriott Platinum and Gold. I find Starwood (and Hyatt) truly appreciate their highest tier members, and there isn’t dilution of Starwood perks with the addition of DL members via Crossover. Never liked United before the merger, and certainly don’t like it now. RewardsPlus has sealed the deal.

    Bye-bye Marriott!

  • Jim

    Re: DL-SPG Crossover Rewards, If you were a Delta Gold/Platinum, I don’t believe SPG would automatically make you an SPG Gold/Platinum. Yes, you get to enjoy some of the benefits of SPG elites. In the case of RewardPlus, if you’re a UA Premier Gold/Platinum/1K, you get MarriottRewards Gold status (and all the perks and 25% earning bonus that comes with it).

    I see RewardsPlus as a “plus” versus Crossover.

  • MadMac89

    Well, if you’re a Million Mile1K and also Lifetime Platinum at Marriott, it sucks.