Big merger news today! Marriott has completed their acquisition of Starwood and the sync of both Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest programs. For now, we travelers can take advantage of the best of both worlds. This is the best deal for points and hotels, as both programs will exist separately until 2018. At that time, they will be combined into a single award chart.

Two main components of the merger happen immediately – Status Matching and Points Transfer Ability.

How do I get set up with the merger benefits?

First, go to the match link from Starwood – or check it out from the Marriott side! Emails were sent early this AM to loyal members informing them of their new additional benefits.

 

Members page of Marriott - courtesy of Marriott Hotels

Members page of Marriott – courtesy of Marriott Hotels

Sign in where necessary, and get to that success page! If you’re quick enough – you can get those benefits recognized immediately for upcoming stays, or even the stay you are in currently!

 

Success! Matched on the Starwood side grants me immediate Marriott Platinum Elite Benefits!

Success! Matched on the Starwood side grants me immediate Marriott Platinum Elite Benefits! Courtesy of Starwood Hotels

 

Status Match – Either Direction!

As both rewards programs remain separate until 2018, status is being matched in either direction – from Marriott (or Ritz) to Starwood, and vice versa.

 

Merger Tier Matching - Get your benefits immediately! Courtesy of Marriott website

Merger Tier Matching – Get your benefits immediately! Courtesy of Marriott website

 

Just a quick refresher, the benefits of basic Platinum status of each are below:

  • Ritz-Carlton Platinum Elite benefits – 50% bonus points over basic level, platinum arrival gift of points or miles, complimentary regular room upgrade
  • Marriott Platinum Elite Benefits – 50% bonus points over basic level, complimentary room upgrade, welcome gift of bonus points, food/beverage amenity, or air miles, complimentary premium Internet, lounge access and breakfast for two
  • SPG Platinum benefits – 3 points/dollar in spend (50% over basic level), welcome gift of Bonus Starpoints, continental breakfast, or local amenity, best available room upgrade, complimentary premium Internet, gym/club/exec-level access, Uber, Delta, Emirates crossover rewards.

A cursory review of the platinum benefits across companies shows little difference between Starwood and Marriott. However, there is a definite downgrade in Ritz-Carlton Platinum – which does not include upgrades to standard suites, or breakfast as a perk of status.

Additionally, if you have United Gold or higher, you can match that to Marriott Gold (and thus to Starwood Gold). If you have SPG Platinum, you can match to Marriott and Ritz Platinum, which grants United Silver status as well. Benefit when you stay and when you fly!

 

Points Transfer – Either Direction!

This may be the best result loyal SPG members could hope for. For a time we were concerned of a severe devaluation of our points – only being able to get 1, maybe 2, Marriott points for every SPG point. However, Marriott correctly realizes the importance and loyalty of the largest and most valuable hotel loyalty program in SPG. The conversion is at a 1:3 Starpoint to Marriott Rewards, in both directions! This is such a flexible and beneficial perk, especially as the points transfer instantly from and into both accounts!

 

"Point

Point Conversion – instantly, in either direction! Courtesy of Marriott Hotels

 

This opens up a whole new world of redemption possibilities for SPG members, whose points are even more valuable now that we are getting favorable conversion rates. Thus, go to the Starwood site to convert your points into Marriott points, or the Marriott site to convert to SPG points. The minimum transferable points are 1,000 Starpoints to 3,000 Marriott Rewards, or 1,000 Marriott Rewards into 333 Starpoints. There is no maximum and you can transfer back and forth if necessary!

 

Starwood Transfer Site - very easy to use. Courtesy of Starwood website

Starwood Transfer Site – very easy to use. Courtesy of Starwood website

 

What’s the Point?

I (and many others) have amassed a bunch of Starwood or Marriott points, or both. Now that we can transfer freely between programs, we can benefit from redemption options previously not available. I took a cursory look at Marriott’s tiers (below), and if you chop the points cost by a third, they become very, very reasonable in some cases.

 

Marriott Reward Categories - a third of the cost in Starpoints! Courtesy of Marriott website

Marriott Reward Categories – a third of the cost in Starpoints! Courtesy of Marriott website

 

Marriott Reward Tiers (for Ritz, etc.) - a third of the cost in Starpoints! Courtesy of Marriott website

Marriott Reward Tiers (for Ritz, etc.) – a third of the cost in Starpoints! Courtesy of Marriott website

 

SPG Reward Categories. Right number is high season, and note that Weekends for Cat 1 & 2 Hotels are 1,000 Starpoints less. Courtesy of Starwood site

SPG Reward Categories. Right number is high season, and note that Weekends for Cat 1 & 2 Hotels are 1,000 Starpoints less. Courtesy of Starwood site

High Point Comparisons

For example, I take the most expensive JW’s and Ritz’s, which are Category 9 and Tier 5 respectively (45,000 and 70,000 Marriott points), retailing for anywhere between say $400 to upwards of $1,000. These can be redeemed for a mere 15,000 SPG points or 23,333 SPG points. This means that the top of the line Ritz Carlton hotels cost 20% less than the top of the line St. Regis or best Luxury Collection hotels by Starwood (at 30,000 Starpoints).

I would gladly stay in a nice JW Marriott for 15,000 Starpoints, as it is comparable in cost to ONLY a category 5 hotel at Starwood. Category 5’s, ranging between 12,000 and 16,000 Starpoints in high season, typically would be nicer Sheratons, or a Westin or W in a Tier 2 city (i.e. not NYC). These would retail for maybe $200, $250, but a JW for in NYC, category 9, could be had for the same Starpoint cost – and a higher cash rate. Thus, you can benefit from redeeming higher tier hotels at a favorable conversion.

Low Point Comparisons

Additionally, even on the lower side, Marriott category 1 is massively overpowered when compared to Starwood category 1. Starwood had four, and now just three, category 1 hotels in the United States (Tuscon, AZ, Detroit, MI, and Kansas City, MO airport Four Points), and 64 category 2 hotels. Marriott, by comparison has 141 category 1 hotels, and another 560 category 2 hotels in the United States. Marriott has many more by several orders of magnitude, presenting travelers with more low-point cost options, since you can get them for 2,500 or 3,333 Starpoints each night!

 

Cool Promotional Touches!

At my current hotel (Sheraton Downtown Denver) they made sure all guests were well aware of the merger. Both a large standup and promotional fliers greeted guests in the lobby.

 

 

 

Featured Image from Starwood Website.

What do you think of the Starwood-Marriott merger? Have any questions? Know where you’re going to redeem those points? Let me know in the comments, or reach me directly at TheHotelion@gmail.com! Like my posts? See more here, on TravelUpdate! Follow me on Twitter and Instagram@TheHotelion or on Facebook (The Hotelion, if searching, use a space!!)