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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