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We all know that August 1 will be a big day in the travel community. Marriott will merge its three separate award programs, Starwood, Marriott and Ritz Carlton awards, all into one combined program.  In preparation for that, there are five SPG/Marriott related tasks you should complete by July 31.

Buy SPG points at 35% discount before July 20

This will be the last time you can purchase SPG points, and you have just one week left to do so. Through July 20, you can purchase up to 30,000 SPG points at 35% discount. The annual maximum allowed is 30,000 points. So if you have purchased 30,000 SPG points this year (especially during last month’s promotion), you won’t be eligible for this month’s new promotion.

The 30,000 SPG points will get you 90,000 Marriott points. At the cost of $682.50, it is equivalent to 0.76 cents per Marriott points. Should you buy? Well, generally buying points only make sense if you are topping your account balance for an award. But since this is the very last time you will be able to buy SPG points, it is worth considering it, especially if you are looking to redeem a Marriott Travel Package.

I have never purchased any SPG points in the past, because I simply didn’t have a need for it. But this time, I decided to take advantage of this promotion and purchased the maximum 30,000 points in both my account and my husband’s account. I went through Top Cash Back cash portal to earn a 1.25% cash back on my purchases. I plan to combine my SPG points with my husband’s points to redeem a travel package. More on that next.

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Redeem a Marriott Travel Package

The best redemption of Marriott points is the Marriott’s Flight and Hotel Travel Packages. But sadly on August 1, the value of these Travel Packages will go down dramatically. For example, currently 270,000 Marriott points (or 90,000 SPG points) will get you 7 night stay at Category 1-5 hotel plus 120,000 airline miles (or 132,000 United miles). But after August 1, you will need to spend 330,000 Marriott points for a 7 night hotel stay at Category 1-4 hotel plus only 100,000 airline miles.

I have never booked a Marriott travel packages before, as I have plenty airline miles.  Our family of five usually don’t stay at any single hotel for seven nights, but when we do (like in Hawaii), we need two hotel rooms which becomes costly. I often end up staying at condos to save money. However, last month after reading the Marriott Travel Package Arbitrage article written by Greg the FrequentMiler, I decided to redeem 360,000 Marriott points for a category 8 travel package with 120,000 Alaska miles. For the next 12 months, our family’s trips are set in stone and I have no more vacation days left for any seven-night hotel stay, So I am booking this travel package strictly for arbitrage, and to convert my stash of SPG points to some valuable Alaska miles.

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The 7-night hotel certificate was posted to my account the same day and is valid for one-year from the date of issue. The miles took a week to show up in my Alaska Mileage Plan account. As for the 60,000 SPG points I just purchased, I plan to combine them with my remaining SPG points to reach 270,000 Marriott points for a Category 5 travel packages with 120,000 Alaska miles. I am hoping, and betting on, both my category 5 and category 8 seven-night certificates will turn into fixed points come August. But I am not suggesting that you do the same. Make your own call as to whether or not you should redeem points for a travel package, especially if you don’t have any specific plan for a seven-night hotel stay.

Evaluate your SPG/Marriott/Ritz credit card portfolios

A lot of changes are coming to Amex SPG cards and Chase Marriott cards. In the past, SPG card is a great way to earn valuable SPG points. But this will no longer be the case starting on August 1. You should evaluate whether you want to keep your existing SPG/Marriott/Ritz cards, upgrade them or even cancel them.

Read more: What you need to know about the 6 Amex SPG & Marriott cards

Last month I was offered to upgrade my Marriott personal card to the new Premier Plus card for 20,000 Marriott points. I took the offer, and I also decided to keep my Amex SPG card because it is my oldest credit card.  Both cards will get me one annual free night at category 5 hotels which cost 35,000 points. I still have to book hotels in Bangkok for next February, and the St. Regis Bangkok, a category 5 hotel, looks really good to be added to my first dream trip.

I also decided to apply for the Ritz-Carlton credit card, after reading another awesome analysis written by Greg the FrequentMiler about why you should consider getting the card now. The card comes with Marriott Gold status, which in August will be converted to Platinum Elite status (except for those who earn Marriott Gold through SPG matching). The new Platinum Elite status will last through February 2020. Marriott Platinum members gets free breakfast at SPG and Marriott hotels worldwide. My breakfast will be covered at St Regis Bangkok!

The sign-up bonus for the Ritz card is two free nights at Tier 1-4 Ritz hotels, which currently cost up to 60,000 Marriott points. There is a chance that in August, the two free nights will be converted to 120,000 points total. If that happens, I will be able to book two nights at the W Koh Samui, ahead of my four-night stay at Conrad Koh Samui in February. W Koh Samui currently cost 30,000 SPG points, but on August 1 it will be a category 7 hotel costing just 60,000 points, and then on January 1, 2019, it will be a category 8 hotel costing 85,000 points per night!

Review existing SPG/Marriott/Ritz award bookings

If you have any existing award bookings for SPG, Marriott or Ritz stays after August 1, it would be a good idea to review each booking to see if the hotel is going down in redemption cost. You can access Marriott’s new award pricing chart here. Marriott won’t automatically refund points difference after August category change. You will need to cancel your booking to get points refunded, as long as the booking is refundable,

For example, many properties in Napa Valley are going down in points. If you have any award booking here, be sure to cancel and rebook to get your points back!

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If you plan to book top resorts after August 1

A new Category 8 will be created on January 1, 2019 for a selected numbers of top Marriott properties at the cost of 85,000 points per night. That means, from August 1 to December 31 this year, you can book those hotels at only 60,000 points when they are temporally priced at category 7. Starting on August 1, there will be a massive group of people trying to take advantage of this short “window of opportunity” to book properties like the St. Regis or Le Meridien Bora Bora, St. Regis or W Maldive for just 60,000 points. If you are one of them, I wish you best of luck. And I suggest you spending some time to study the award availability of these resorts and come up with a plan. Don’t be disappointed if you don’t end up with any booking. As far as I can see, there is not a single award night available at the St Regis and Le Meridien Bora Boar through the end of current schedule!

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To prepare yourself for the SPG/Marriott changes on August 1, you have just two weeks left to complete the five tasks that I just wrote above. But If you plan to purchase SPG points, you have just 1 week left to do so. Better get busy right away and don’t wait until the last minute!

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