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The Last-Minute SPG and Marriott Merger Checklist

Aug. 16, 2018
8 min read
SPG — The St. Regis Punta Mita Resort, Mexico-01 Starwood Preferred Guest Hotel
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Update: The 60,000-point pricing detailed below is no longer available as of March 5, 2019. For details on Marriott redemption options, please visit How to Redeem Points With the Marriott Bonvoy Program.

This is officially the final countdown before the Starwood Preferred Guest and Marriott Rewards programs become one on this coming Saturday -- August 18. The merger and integration process has been years in the making, and hopefully, you are already well prepared for the big transition coming this weekend. However, I can't possibly be the only procrastinator that is still ticking off last-minute SPG and Marriott to-do items.

To help you (and me), here are some last-minute SPG and Marriott checklist items to be sure and complete as soon as in, get on this today.

Transfer Points Between Household Members

Marriott's current rule on point transfers between members is that you can transfer 1,000 - 50,000 points per year to another member for a fee of $10, which is waived for Gold and Platinum elite members.

Starwood has a much more family-friendly policy that permits SPG Members who reside at the same address to transfer SPG points to each other without a yearly cap or fee in 1,000-point increments. SPG members must have shared the same residential mailing address on file for at least 30 days prior to requesting the points transfer.

Since we haven't heard anything to the contrary, at this point, I'm betting that the policy in the new combined program is more similar to the current Marriott policy than the more generous SPG policy. If you want to combine points with a household member via the SPG site, I'd do that today.

The good news is that functionality is still live as of when I tested it this morning, the bad news is that transfers are not instant. This means you may not have the points moved from one account to another before the new combined program is live.

Last Call to Purchase SPG Points

I know lots of us have August 18 circled in red on our calendars to make bookings at high-end properties that are decreasing in award price. Being able to book St. Regis level properties in Maldives, Bora Bora, Al Maha, Kauai, Punta Mita, Manhattan and more for "just" 60,000 Marriott Rewards points per night is going to be exciting, but you probably need to have the points in place to grab that availability while it is (hopefully) still there.

Photo courtesy of the St. Regis Bora Bora.

If your combined SPG and Marriott point balance is short of what you need to book the stays you want, you can still purchase SPG points as of today. SPG allows you to purchase up to 30,000 points per year, which will convert to 90,000 Marriott Rewards points. Marriott only lets you purchase 50,000 points annually, which isn't even enough for one night at those high-end properties. Since the SPG program as we know it is going away as of this weekend, I'm making the assumption that the ability to purchase SPG points will end as well.

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The bad news is that SPG points are not discounted via a sale right now, so they are quite expensive at 3.5 cents each (the equivalent of 1.17 cents per Marriott point). That is cost-prohibitive in many situations, but if you are looking to book five nights and enjoy that fifth night free at a super high-end resort, it could be worth topping up to the 240,000 Marriott Rewards points you will need for that stay, factoring in that SPG points transfer to Marriott at a 3x ratio. For reference, Marriott Rewards points sell for 1.25 cents per point.

Be Careful Transferring Points Between SPG and Marriott

I may have made an error this morning trying to prepare my Marriott and Starwood accounts for this weekend. To get ahead of any potential tech integration problems that may or may not happen as they combine the programs, I transferred my SPG points into my Marriott Rewards account. I thought the transfer would be almost instant, as it had been in the past, but that was not exactly the case.

When my SPG points didn't appear in my Marriott account within an hour, I asked other TPG staffers if they had also experienced a slow down in points transfers and there was a nerve-racking report of a recent transfer that took days. Yes, days. Before having a full-on panic attack that I just royally messed up my August 18 strategy, I checked the Marriott app. Thankfully, the points transfer was reflected in the Marriott app, though I don't know how that plays into trying to book award stays.

Given all that, I would be very careful in transferring points right now from SPG to Marriott (or vice versa) as they may end up in Neverland for a period of time. Hopefully, that time period is just minutes or hours.

If you do decide to transfer SPG points to Marriott , you can do so by logging in to your SPG account, selecting "Redeem Starpoints", then "More Options" and finally "Transfer Starpoints to Marriott Rewards".

Month-Long Blackout Coming for Marriott Travel Certificates

While we are still guessing as to exactly what will become of the existing Marriott Vacation Travel Certificates, we do know that from August 18 to September 18, 2018, you will not be able to modify your certificates for existing reservations or use them to make a new reservation. In other words, these are your final few days to use a certificate for roughly the next month. We won't learn exactly how the old certificates work in the new program until the new program is live.

Lazy river at the Marriott Marquis Houston. (Photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy)

Be Ready for August 18

If you haven't already read our post on 6 Tasks To Complete Before Marriott and SPG Combine, head there next. That article talks about lifetime status, the full award chart for the combined programs, making Marriott Air + Travel Package purchases before they are devalued and identifying which properties to book before and after the August 18 pricing changes.

Hopefully, you have already done most of those tasks, and are now in the final stretch before the go-live date of the combined program. If so, you just need to prioritize which of those booking and rebooking tasks you hope to complete this weekend versus which can wait until later.

We know that Marriott hopes to have the new program up and running at some point on August 18, but we don't know exactly when during the day. All systems will be down while they cut over, and we will be tweeting and posting through the day as functionality returns.

I recommend making an organized list of properties and dates you want to book as soon as the new program is live so you have all of that information in one place as soon as the hot high-end properties are available for fewer points than today. Repricing a stay at the Aloft Wichita for the new lower rate can perhaps wait until things are all ironed out later in the week, but if you want St. Regis Maldives for 60k points per night, I'd be ready this weekend with dates, back-up dates and points ready to rock and roll.

(Photo by Zach Honig / The Points Guy)

If you are running behind in prepping for the Marriott and SPG loyalty programs to become one this Saturday, you still have time, but you need to get busy right away in order to maximize your points and perks both before and after the August 18 cutover.

Featured image by Photo courtesy of St. Regis Punta Mita