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When It Makes Sense to Transfer Marriott Points to Starwood

Sept. 27, 2016
9 min read
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When It Makes Sense to Transfer Marriott Points to Starwood
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You might also be interested in reading When It Makes Sense to Transfer Starpoints to Marriott.

It's been an exciting end of September in the points and miles world, thanks in large part to the finalization of Marriott and Starwood's merger. This became official on Friday, and while the two won't be fully integrated for some time, the newly combined chain wasted no time in opening up reciprocal elite benefits and point transfers. You now have access to a wealth of new redemption possibilities by being able to convert points from one program to another. Yesterday we went through when it might make sense to convert your Starpoints to Marriott Rewards points, and today I want to look at the other direction: When could it make sense to convert Marriott points to Starpoints?

Before getting into the specifics, let's quickly review the basics. The first step you'll need to take is to link your SPG and Marriott Rewards accounts. This can happen from either Marriott's site or SPG's site, but it only takes a few minutes and has to be completed before you can transfer points. This should also result in the transfer of any elite status you have; SPG Platinum gets you Marriott Platinum (and vice versa), while SPG Gold gets you Marriott Gold (and vice versa).

You'll then need to initiate the transfer. After logging in to your Marriott account, the homepage is filled with links related to the merger, and you'll see a link to transfer points just partway down the page:

Marriott to SPG transfer link

Click on Get Started and then Transfer Now to begin the process of moving Marriott points to SPG. Enter the number of points you want to transfer (in increments of 1,000 points) and you'll see how many Starpoints you'd get (the transfer ratio is 1 Starpoint = 3 Marriott Rewards points). Click Continue and follow the rest of the on-screen instructions to finalize the transfer, which should happen immediately.

At first glance, this may seem like a no brainer given TPG's most recent valuations. You're converting 3 Marriott Rewards points (worth 0.7 cents apiece, so a total of 2.1 cents) into 1 Starpoint (worth 2.5 cents apiece). At this rate, you're actually gaining 0.4 cents for every 3 points you transfer. However, that doesn't mean that every redemption makes sense, as there are Marriott awards that provide outsized value and SPG awards that aren't as valuable.

Let's take a look at some cases where it makes sense to convert Marriott Rewards points to Starpoints.

Booking Low-Tier Properties

Planning a long hotel stay? Focus on low-level properties, like the Le Meridien Angkor, to maximize free nights.
Redemptions at low-tier properties like Le Meridien Angkor can be a great reason to transfer Marriott points to Starpoints.

One of the first reasons you'd want to transfer Marriott points to SPG would be for redemptions in low-tier properties. This is especially valuable if you're looking at redeeming Starpoints for a free stay in a Category 1 or 2 hotel, as these properties require a minimal number of points per night. Here's a breakdown of these costs (and the equivalent Marriott Rewards points you'd need to transfer):

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  • SPG Category 1: 3,000 points for weekdays (9,000 Marriott points) or 2,000 points for weekends (6,000 Marriott points)
  • SPG Category 2: 4,000 points for weekdays (12,000 Marriott points) or 3,000 points for weekends (9,000 Marriott points)

These rates wind up being somewhat similar to those that apply to Marriott's Category 1 and 2 portfolio (7,500 and 10,000 points, respectively). However, the vast majority of those hotels are relatively uninspiring discount brands like SpringHill Suites and Fairfield Inns. On the other hand, SPG has some terrific options in these categories, like Le Meridien Angkor and Aloft Bangkok Sukhumvit 11. I see weekend rates at Le Meridien Angkor in October starting at $125.45, so for 9,000 Marriott Rewards points (converted to Starpoints), you're getting a redemption value of 1.4 cents per point, double TPG's valuation of 0.7 cents apiece.

As always, you'll want to make sure that you're getting sufficient value out of the SPG stay, though you can freely transfer points back and forth as many times as you want if you wind up being unhappy with a given redemption.

Transferring Points to Airline Programs

Another great reason to transfer Marriott points to SPG is to then convert them to airline miles. In yesterday's post, I included Marriott's Hotel + Air packages as a terrific option for sending points in the opposite direction (SPG to Marriott), but many readers may not want a seven-night hotel stay. Marriott Rewards does allow you to transfer points directly to many airline programs, but this tends to be at a relatively poor rate. For example, here are the transfer rates for many popular airlines (including Alaska, American and Delta):

At these levels, you're getting at best 1 mile for every 2.8 Marriott points transferred, but at the low end of the spectrum, you're only getting 1 mile for every 5 Marriott points transferred.

SPG currently has 36 airline partners (Avianca was the most recent addition), and almost all of them allow you to convert Starpoints into miles at a 1:1 ratio (Air New Zealand, GOL, LATAM and United are the only exceptions). However, SPG also gives you a 5,000-mile bonus for every 20,000 Starpoints you transfer. As a result, you could convert 60,000 Marriott Rewards points to 20,000 Starpoints and then convert them into 25,000 miles, giving you a rate of 1 mile for every 2.4 Marriott points transferred.

Given that this bonus is only available at increments of 20,000 Starpoints, I'd strongly encourage you to only transfer Marriott points (via SPG) in increments of 60,000 points (unless you have a specific redemption in mind and need a few extra miles). Here are some examples where converting from Marriott to SPG to airline miles can make sense, using 60,000 Marriott Rewards points and TPG's valuations as the baseline:

  • Alaska: 25,000 Mileage Plan miles are worth $450 and can be put toward many valuable redemptions.
  • Korean: 25,000 SkyPass miles are worth $425 and can be put toward redemptions like first class to Asia and cheap awards to Hawaii and Mexico.
  • Virgin America: 25,000 Elevate points are worth up to $575 toward free flights.

Again though, be sure that you crunch the numbers to make sure that this makes sense. You'll also want to review our post on how long these transfers take to ensure you don't lose out on award inventory while waiting for your miles to arrive.

Booking SPG Moments Packages

Starwood has their own auctions known as SPG Moments
The SPG Moments program gives you access to many events around the world.

If you want to think outside the box when it comes to redeeming Starpoints, you could also transfer Marriott Rewards points to book an SPG Moments package. For those of you unfamiliar with the program, it allows you to redeem Starpoints for a variety of sports, culinary and musical events. TPG loved his luxury experience at a Knicks game with his dad, and if you time it right, you can also enjoy events like Adele (now sold out) and the US Open. Some of these are done as auctions and thus require a very high number of Starpoints, but many have fixed redemption amounts and can be a terrific value.

Now, you Marriott loyalists are probably going to point out that Marriott Rewards has a similar program: the Marriott Experiences Marketplace. However, I (personally) have found that the events with SPG Moments are significantly more appealing and more numerous. At the time of writing, I count just 24 available experiences through Marriott but four times as many (96) through SPG. If you have a stash of Marriott points, it's probably worth visiting the SPG Moments page to see if one would be a good fit for you.

Trying Out Elite Benefits as a Platinum Member

SPG Platinum gives you many on-property benefits at luxurious properties like the St. Regis Princeville.
SPG Platinum gives you many on-property benefits at luxurious properties like the St. Regis Princeville.

Transferring from Marriott to Starwood can also make a lot of sense if you're a current Marriott Platinum member and are interested in trying out a similar level of status with SPG. Under the newly announced reciprocal elite status arrangement, Marriott Platinum grants you automatic SPG Platinum, one of the most rewarding top-tier hotel statuses out there. I've had some incredible award stays as a Starwood Platinum member (like at the St. Regis Bal Harbour), so if you're interested in testing the waters with another chain, this is a great opportunity to do so.

There are a few things to keep in mind if you are unfamiliar with SPG Platinum. For starters, even though you had to hit 75 nights to earn Platinum Status with Marriott, you won't (at this point) receive a pick of choice benefits given to SPG Platinums who stay 50 or more nights, including Suite Night Awards. In addition, the complimentary breakfast benefit isn't automatic; you must choose it as your welcome amenity, forgoing the other options (generally bonus points or local gift). Finally, there are many perks that don't apply to stays at Design Hotels newly affiliated with the SPG program.

For complete details, be sure to check out the member benefits page on SPG's website.

Bottom Line

Now that the merger between Marriott and SPG is finalized, you can freely exchange points between the two programs. This opens up an array of options that weren't previously available to members of both programs. However, you should carefully analyze whether it makes sense to convert Marriott Rewards points to Starpoints before locking in a redemption. Hopefully this post has given you some suggestions for doing just that!

Have you converted Marriott Rewards points to Starpoints yet?

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