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Update 6/9/17: An earlier version of this post incorrectly suggested that the Marriott Rewards and SPG programs could merge by the end of 2018, however the chain is hoping to offer a shared IT platform by that date, not a single loyalty program.

It’s not news that Marriott and Starwood are in the midst of a huge merger. Since the deal was finalized, the chains have been working to combine various elements. The merging of the loyalty programs started off well, with an instant status match and point transfers. Now, we have an idea of what the next steps are for the merger.

Leeny Oberg, Marriott’s Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, gave an update at the Goldman Sachs Lodging, Gaming, Restaurant and Leisure conference yesterday, noting what challenges lay ahead for the two brands. Ultimately, Marriott expects to offer one shared IT platform for the Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest programs by the end of 2018, however the program merger will not be completed by then.

In the interim, Oberg said that the two programs can change their policies to become more like each other. Plus, she added that one of the largest challenges of the merger is having to integrate IT systems. Once the combined company is able to put together a comprehensive system for both the front-end business and the back-end business, it hopes to have a single program that’ll work across both chains.

Image courtesy of Hotel Marque’s de Riscal, A Luxury Collection Hotel.

One other challenge for SPG and Marriott as it stands is that of its co-branded credit cards. Marriott currently has a deal with Chase (the Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card), and SPG offers its members credit cards through American Express (the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express and Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express). Oberg says the credit card issue could prove not to be that big of a deal because they’re short-term contracts. In addition, Amex and Chase are competing to offer more benefits — ultimately, good news for the consumer. Marriott has “tremendous potential… [for] a stronger credit card deal than we had before, good benefits for all constituencies,” Oberg said.

Of course, at this point, it’s not yet clear if the combined company will offer multiple credit cards — one from each of the issuers. It could be a good idea to have both a Chase Marriott card and Amex SPG card in your wallet for now. That way, if either hotel chain drops one of the issuers — like Hilton recently dropped Citi in favor of Amex — you’ll be able to keep your card, at least for a bit. For example, when Hilton announced that it was dropping Citi in favor of Amex, Citi stopped accepting new applications for its Hilton co-branded cards. TPG says that he’s happy to be grandfathered into being able to hold his Citi Hilton Honors Reserve Card at least for a couple of months, since the issuer is no longer taking applications.

Featured image courtesy of The Stones Hotel – Legian Bali, an Autograph Collection property.

H/T: View From the Wing

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