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TPG reader Santosh sent me a message on Facebook to ask about the future of Starwood Preferred Guest:
“What’s the best way to conserve the value of my Starpoints before SPG gets sold?”
Starwood has been the subject of a lot of hotel industry discussion lately, from rumors of a merger with IHG earlier this year to a recent comment by Starwood’s CEO suggesting that a merger or acquisition is imminent. While nothing has been formally announced, Hyatt seems to be a likely partner, leaving award travelers to contemplate the potential upside and downside of bringing Starwood Preferred Guest together with the Hyatt Gold Passport program.
While it’s good to plan ahead, I think it’s too early to worry about protecting your Starpoints. Until the ink hits the paper, it’s possible that no merger will happen in the first place and SPG will continue to be the program we know and love. It’s also plausible that the different loyalty programs will be kept separate, as in the case of IHG Rewards and Kimpton Karma Rewards after their merger late last year.
If a merger does go through, you should have time to take action before any new policies go into effect. For one thing, bringing two companies together takes time: It took years from when US Airways and American Airlines announced plans to merge until they joined their reservations systems last month. While Starwood only tends to give a few weeks notice about its annual hotel category changes, I expect major program updates would be given a wider berth.
Finally, there’s always a chance that a combined program could be even more lucrative. Hyatt might opt to keep the programs as they are and offer 1:1 transfers between SPG and Gold Passport. Or perhaps Hyatt would simply slot its own properties into the Starwood award chart. Call me an optimist, but I’m a big fan of both of these programs and I’m hopeful that they could be merged in a way that would provide more value to members, not less.
If you’re truly terrified by the prospect of a Starwood merger, you could start whittling down your account balance by redeeming or transferring points for upcoming travel as needed. For example, you might send points to Alaska Airlines if you aspire to try Emirates First Class or to British Airways if you’re flying from the West Coast to Hawaii. However, I think doing so would be premature unless those travel plans are already in the works.
Just like with Starwood’s management changes earlier this year, I don’t think a potential merger should be a source of great concern for SPG members. I believe Starwood still has a bright future and the Preferred Guest program is an important part of it.
If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.