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The day has finally arrived: Marriott and Starwood are merging to create one of the world’s largest hotel chains, with more than 1.1 million rooms at over 5,700 hotels in 110+ countries around the world. While there will no doubt be some growing pains — no surprise for programs with a combined 85 million members — the merger gives both Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest members access to many more exciting properties. Additionally, members of both programs will receive reciprocal benefits right away (more on that below).
See the answers to your most pressing SPG/Marriott Rewards questions in our post-merger Q&A with the heads of both programs.
First, let’s recap all of the brands that now fall under the Marriott umbrella, broken down by (former) chain.
Marriott Hotels: AC Hotels, Autograph Collection, Bulgari*, Courtyard, Delta Hotels and Resorts, Edition, Fairfield Inn & Suites, Gaylord Hotels, JW Marriott, Marriott Executive Apartments*, Marriott Hotels and Resorts, Marriott Vacation Club, MOXY Hotels, Protea Hotels, Renaissance, Residence Inn, SpringHill Suites, Ritz-Carlton, TownePlace Suites
*Bulgari does not participate in Marriott Rewards; members can redeem but not earn points at Executive Apartments.
Starwood Hotels: Aloft, Design Hotels, Element, Four Points, Le Meridien, Sheraton, St. Regis, The Luxury Collection, Tribute Portfolio, W Hotels, Westin
In total, that’s 30 brands, covering properties ranging from the Four Points by Sheraton Tucson Airport (SPG Category 1) to the Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong (Marriott Tier 5). Starwood and Marriott members alike will have access to all 5,700+ hotels — in other words, you should find a redemption (or earning opportunity) that works for you in just about every corner of the globe.
There will be many changes over the next few months and years, but for now, both programs will be operated independently (with a few exceptions). We sat down with Karin Timpone, Marriott’s Global Marketing Officer — she explained that as of today, the company’s rolling out the following:
1. Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest members will be able to link their accounts from both programs at members.marriott.com. Marriott has begun activating the site, and it should be live within a few hours.
2. Members will receive a status match from the other program — if you’re a Marriott Platinum elite, for example, you’ll now be an SPG Platinum as well. Matches will take “a few hours” to complete. For SPG Platinum members, this means you’ll now be eligible for United Silver elite status, giving you access to free upgrades, Economy Plus seating, bonus miles, Premier Access, free checked bags and more.
Here’s the full breakdown of how the match breaks down, alongside the number of nights and stays (Starwood only) that are normally required to earn that status:
|Starwood Status||SPG Nights||SPG Stays||Marriott Status||MR Nights||MR Stays|
*Note: Preferred Plus status is granted to Amex co-branded cardholders, individuals with a linked auto club membership and AARP members.
3. Members can transfer points between both programs at a 1:3 ratio — each Starpoint will be equivalent to three Marriott points. That’s about as good as we could have hoped for, given that TPG values Starpoints at 2.5 cents and Marriott points at 0.7 cents each. In theory, you may be gaining value by moving Marriott points to Starwood and losing value by moving them in the other direction, but that’ll ultimately depend on your redemptions. We’ll be digging into how and when you’ll benefit by converting points in the days to come. Transferred points should appear within a few hours, and you can move points back and forth as many times as you’d like.
Note that you can not transfer points earned through the Marriott Vacation Club timeshare program — it’s not yet clear whether Starpoints earned through the Vistana program are eligible for transfers.
This last point opens up some interesting opportunities. For example, if you’ve been making everyday purchases with a Marriott Rewards credit card, such as the Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card (1 Marriott point per dollar spent), you’ll be better off shifting non-bonus spend to a Starwood card, such as the Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express (1 SPG point = 3 Marriott points per dollar spent), instead. (Notably, as of yesterday, that card offers a sign-up bonus of two free nights rather than the 25,000 Starpoints we’ve seen in the past.) You’ll also (indirectly) be able to transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards to Starwood at a 3:1 ratio (which matches Amex Membership Rewards), however you’ll rarely come out ahead by doing so, given that we value Chase points at 2.1 cents each.
For now, you’ll be able to redeem points through each program just as you’ve done before, however you’ll have many more options to choose from — regardless of whether you previously had your points banked with Starwood or Marriott. Redemptions include free nights, SPG Moments and Marriott Rewards Experiences, airline miles (while it lasts, be sure to take advantage of SPG’s 5,000-mile bonus when transferring 20,000 points or more), etc.
All of the current partnerships and opportunities currently available with both programs will remain intact for the foreseeable future. If a partner decides to opt out at any stage of the merger, Marriott has promised to provide as much notice as possible — in other words, we shouldn’t end up with another “Alaska situation” here.
Many programs have yet to be integrated, though they remain available through existing channels. For example, members will be able to take advantage of discounted SPG and Marriott rates, but only when you book Starwood hotels through Starwood and Marriott properties through Marriott. For the time being, each chain’s mobile apps and other platforms will continue to function as they have in the past.
Finally, SPG loyalists will be disappointed to hear that the head of Starwood Preferred Guest, Chris Holdren, has stepped down. He’s been replaced by Starwood vet David Flueck, who also serves as the company’s VP of revenue and has worked on the SPG team in the past. We’ll dig into some of the topics Marriott has not yet addressed in our Facebook Live session with Flueck and Thom Kozik, the head of Marriott Rewards, later this morning. Be sure to tune in at 10am ET!
Featured image courtesy of the Ion Luxury Adventure Hotel (Design Hotels) and the JW Marriott Los Cabos.
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