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What will happen to the Starwood Preferred Guest program after Marriott’s planned acquisition in 2016? It’s a question on everyone’s mind this week, as two of the largest hotel chains in the world are set to combine in the middle of next year. While the new hotel giant won’t merge the Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest programs immediately, major change is inevitable, and it seems to have TPG readers (understandably) incredibly concerned.
If you read Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson’s comments following the merger announcement, along with those from Chris Holdren, the Senior Vice President of Starwood Preferred Guest, you might feel a bit less devastated by the merger announcement. Yesterday, Sorenson also took to LinkedIn to provide further reassurance to Starwood and Marriott customers:
While we will be spending a great deal of time in the coming months developing our strategy for SPG and Marriott Rewards, our members should take comfort in the fact that we know without a doubt these loyalty programs are the most powerful tool we have for developing strong relationships with our best customers. The SPG program was one of the most attractive aspects of our acquisition of Starwood. To state the obvious, devaluing points or member benefits is not the way to preserve and strengthen these programs, which is our aim. We will keep our customers in the loop as we work through the strategy. In fact, we are likely to involve many members of each program in crafting the strategies that are most exciting to them.
In other words, Marriott’s CEO hopes to avoid devaluing points and member benefits — while he doesn’t (and can’t) promise that a devaluation may eventually come, it definitely appears to be something that both programs hope to avoid.
If you’re a Starwood Preferred Guest elite, your best plan of action is probably to go about your business as you usually would — it never makes sense to hoard points, and if you’re earning and burning responsibly, you shouldn’t have any problem redeeming your balance before a devaluation is announced (if one is announced at all). Otherwise, at least one other chain is (very) hungry for your business.
Update: Marriott reached out to share a video message from Arne Sorenson, which we’ve embedded above.
Additionally, below is a transcription of the video (with our emphasis) so you can still get caught up if you’re unable to watch it now:
“Early this week we announced the exciting news that Marriott would be acquiring Starwood. I’ve had an opportunity to talk to the financial community and the associates of both companies. And now I’d like to take this opportunity to speak to our guests.
Our guests are what make us passionate about doing our jobs every day. This merger gives us the ability to take two great companies and keep the very best of each of them. We will ensure that the things you love about Marriott and Starwood are prioritized as we strive towards our vision of being the world’s favorite travel company. This will be particularly true for our loyalty programs. The top priority for us as we come together is to treat our guests with the care and attention they deserve.
We recognize that Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest (or SPG) are two of the finest loyalty programs in the industry – each with devoted followers. While we will be spending a great deal of time in the coming months developing our strategy for SPG and Marriott Rewards, our members should take comfort in the fact that we know without a doubt these loyalty programs are the most powerful tool we have for developing strong relationships with our guests.
The SPG program was one of the most attractive aspects of our acquisition of Starwood. To state the obvious, devaluing points or member benefits is NOT the way to preserve and strengthen these programs. As the merger of the two companies progresses, we will share more information as well as create an opportunity for travel thought leaders and members to provide input. The insights we gather will be instrumental in helping us deliver the most rewarding experiences for you – our most loyal guests.
With this merger we have a tremendous opportunity. We plan to embrace it to create a hospitality loyalty program that values the best of both programs – and then some. Thank you, and safe travels.”
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