Official: Marriott & Starwood Introducing Reciprocal Benefits As Of Today

Marriott’s takeover of Starwood is expected to close early this morning, before the markets open in the US. This all came pretty suddenly, after Chinese regulators finally gave the deal the green light, which was the holdup.

So while Marriott and Starwood will technically be one company in the next few hours, for customers the changes won’t be quite as instant. A couple of days ago I shared 10 questions I have about the future of Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest, and it looks like we’ll be getting answers to many of those questions sooner than I was expecting.

Merger

Here are the two important functionalities that should go live today:

Matching Marriott & Starwood status

Starting later today, members of both Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest will be able to link their accounts at members.marriott.com and status match. Status will transfer in the following ways (and it’s reciprocal, so you can match in either direction):

Marriott Rewards/Ritz-Carlton RewardsStarwood Preferred Guest
Gold Status (usually 50 nights)Gold Status (usually 10 stays or 25 nights)
Platinum Status (usually 75 nights)Platinum Status (usually 25 stays or 50 nights)

This is very generous for SPG members. Keep in mind that Starwood Gold members don’t typically receive lounge access and/or breakfast, while Marriott Gold members do (at least at many brands).

Marriott-Madrid-Auditorium-Hotel - 32
SPG Gold members will soon get lounge access at Marriott properties

Transferring points between Marriott & Starwood

Also starting later today it’ll be possible to transfer Starpoints between Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest, and vice versa. Starpoints will convert into Marriott Rewards points at a 1:3 ratio, which is the best scenario I was realistically expecting (I was worried they’d go for a 1:2 ratio).

Personally I value Starpoints at 2.2 cents each and Marriott Rewards points at 0.8 cents each, so by that valuation SPG members are coming out ahead.

My conversation with Marriott & Starwood

Earlier I had the chance to speak with Thom Kozik and David Flueck, the heads of Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest, respectively. They were super excited about the integration, and especially about the fact that they’re offering reciprocal benefits and points transfers on day one.

Of course I had a lot of questions, though they emphasized that this is the day they’ve been working towards, and that they’re proud of what they’re able to offer on day one. Based on my questions, here’s what I found out:

  • They’re hoping to eventually create a unified loyalty program, meaning that Marriott Rewards, Ritz-Carlton Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest will all be integrated into one; however, they don’t yet have a timeline of when this will happen, as the focus is on doing everything correctly rather than rushing into something
  • The goal is to create a new program that’s a combination of the three programs; we won’t just see everyone integrated into Marriott Rewards, but rather we’ll actually see a completely new program
  • There’s no news yet about the future of their co-brand credit card agreement, given that American Express works with Starwood and Chase works with Marriott, though that’s something they’ll be tackling going forward
  • We don’t yet know what future benefits will look like with the new program, and that’s what they’re working on now
  • Since they’re creating a new program altogether, lifetime status may not necessarily convert at the same levels as status matching above

Overall the main message I took away is that today is the goal they’ve been working towards, and they’re proud of the fact that they’re offering reciprocal status and points transfers on day one. And I agree, they should be very proud of that.

What do I make of these announcements so far?

Color me very impressed by the speed at which they’re offering reciprocal benefits and points transfers. The fact that they’re offering this the same day the deal is closing is really impressive. Also, as I’ve said before, I think SPG members have generally been dreading the takeover (since the fear is that it will lead to a reduction in elite benefits), while Marriott Rewards members are looking forward to it (since they’ll have access to more hotels, and already have seen an improvement in elite benefits).

So kudos to them so far for really being more than fair towards SPG members. SPG Gold members getting Marriott Gold status is more than generous, and a 1:3 transfer ratio of points is also very nice.

Will Starpoints actually become MORE valuable?!

I’ll have a much more detailed analysis soon, though one of the biggest concerns of SPG members has been that the ability to transfer miles to a couple dozen airline partners at a 1:1 ratio is going away.

While the opportunity to directly transfer points to airlines at a 1:1 ratio may go away at some point, Marriott’s Flight and Hotel Packages may represent a better deal.

For example, for 270,000 Marriott Rewards points (the equivalent of 90,000 Starpoints) you can redeem for 120,000 airline miles plus seven free nights at a Category 1-5 hotel:

marriott-flight-hotel

If you converted 90,000 Starpoints directly into any of those miles (including Alaska Mileage Plan) you’d receive a total of 110,000 Alaska miles. So this transfer ratio is even better, and that’s not even accounting for the fact that you’re getting seven nights at a hotel out of it.

Of course this only applies in specific increments and isn’t as useful if you’re topping off an account, but in general this is good news.

Furthermore, as a reminder, for free night redemptions you need the following number of points for Marriott:

marriott-rewards

And the following number of points for Ritz-Carlton:

ritz-carlton-rewards

Taking into account the 1:3 transfer ratio, this means Marriott stays will cost at most 15,000 Starpoints per night, while Ritz-Carlton stays will cost at most ~23,000 Starpoints per night. That’s really great.

ritz-carlton-hong-kong
The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong for ~23,000 Starpoints per night? Yes please!

Bottom line

Ultimately this is just the beginning of a very long process. We don’t yet know what the future of the programs will look like, when they’ll integrate, etc. However, what I do know is that as of now this is playing out as well as it could. When the takeover was first announced I was ready to burn all my Starpoints as quickly as possible, while now I’m quite digging the Marriott redemption opportunities.

What do you make of this first step in the Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest integration?

For more coverage on the Marriott/SPG merger see:

Official: Marriott & Starwood Introducing Reciprocal Benefits As Of Today Are Marriott Elite Members Getting The Short End Of The Stick?
How To Link Your Marriott And Starwood Accounts What Can Newly Minted Marriott Platinum Members Expect?
7 New Opportunities Thanks To Marriott & Starwood Account Linking Should You Link Your Starwood Account To Marriott Or Ritz-Carlton?
Can You Now Earn Marriott Elite Nights At Starwood Hotels (And Vice Versa)?

Comments

  1. Was hoping my Gold and Gold status would somehow magically become a combined Plat but guess that wasn’t meant to be 🙂

  2. Even before nights + flights, SPG can now go through Marriott to United at 1:~1.33 (exceeding 1:1.25 for most carries about the 5K bonus). Nice to see this as an option here as the current pre-bonus SPG ratio of 2:1 is pretty useless

  3. You can throw away your Ritz card (0.33 Starpoints per dollar non-bonused spending). Your Platinum Amex will now give you Gold status with Starwood, Hilton AND Marriott. Converting UR points into Marriott points was always a sucker move. Amex is the big winner…for now

  4. Another aspect that needs to be discussed is airline partnerships. United has RewardsPlus with Marriott and SPG has Crossover Rewards.

    Based on the above, as a 1k on United, I currently get gold with Marriott. Will the status match system allow me to match to Gold at SPG? If so…having at least Gold on United got a lot more valuable.

  5. It is complete bullshit that a Marriott Platinum does not get Starwood Suite Night awards as the equivalent of a 50 Night SPG Platinum, since I had to do 75 nights to get that Platinum. How dare Marriott/SPG equate a 75 Night Marriott Platinum with the equivalent of a 25 Stay SPG Platinum? What a cruel and unequal joke. Shows just how cheap and disgusting Marriott is, considering that they are the ones supposedly taking over SPG.

  6. You have me worried with the comment about lifetime status not transfering over the same in the new program. I’m lifetime platinum in both, never dreamed I might be less that that in the combined.

  7. As a top tier of both programs I feel like Marriott platinums got the shit end of this deal from every direction

  8. also with this conversion rate there needs to be a Ritz carlton devaluation. They are going to be flooded with award stays from spg members

  9. Marriott is looked at by many as the Grandma and Grandpa of hotels, and SPG is the cool grown up grandkids!. They better get this right!

    I do not trust any of these travel/tourism companies, especially after they merge (look at the airlines of late) so I’m not going to be satisfied until I see the actual program. I’m not going to jump for joy like Ben just yet.

    Marriott, you have sweet talked us today and a little romance goes a long way…but we are watching you!!! Screw us (I see the potential, look at how you just screwed your own MR loyalists – kinda gross)…and many of us have other options.

    SPG folks, casually think on a back up plan for 2017…juuuuust in case 🙂

  10. The page to link accounts is now live. I started by opening my Marriott Rewards acct., then was directed to open my SPG acct. For some reason each time I tried to link them it got hung up and wouldn’t let me. So I went the other direction–first opened my SPG acct., then from there opened Marriott and it linked fine. Might have must been my issue, maybe not.

  11. Also while getting 120k miles instead of 110k is nice, 7 nights at a Cat 1-5 does nothing for me. That’s basically a Fairfield Inn on the side of I-95…not where I’m looking to vacation.

  12. @Justin there are packages for higher category hotels also. 390K MR gets you 120K miles plus 7 nights at a cat 9. That’ll now cost 130K SPG. With the 120K miles alone costing 100K SPG, you’re basically getting 7 nights at a top category MR for 30K SPG…

  13. @justin, a deal where you can throw away the 7 nights at the hotel and still be better off sounds like a pretty good deal to me. Maybe a better comparison would be a cat 4 SPG and a cat 7 Marriott. A good example would be in Cusco. Similarly rated properties both eligible for nights and flights. You can get 5 nights and 50,000 miles for 70,000 points at the SPG property or 7 nights and 120,000 (132,000 United) miles at the Marriott. So are you trying to say that 40,000 SPG points for two extra nights and 70,000-82,000 miles is not a remarkably good deal?
    There is no question to me that Marriott threw their own members under the bus to appeal to the SPG loyalists.

  14. @Lucky sez: “Starpoints will convert into Marriott Rewards points at a 1:3 ratio, which is the best scenario I was realistically expecting (I was worried they’d go for a 1:2 ratio).”

    You would not have worried that the conversion rate would be 1:2 if you had you paid attention to what I have been saying about the “value” of points. You value each starpoint @ 2.2 cpp and each MR point @0.8 cent

    2.2/0.8 = 2.75 = ~3

    In fact, as I showed recently, the better estimate of the AVERAGE value of starpoints is 2.4 cpp, so that

    2.4/0.8 = 3.0

    i.e., exactly the conversion factor used, which I’d predicted it would be months ago over at VFTW.

    There is no advantage at all to the conversion rate of 1:3, since it simply maintains the current relative redemption values of the two points currencies. A rate of 1:4 would have been a plus for starpoints, whereas 1:2 would have been terrible. The rate used is the one that makes the number of starpoints transferred absolutely equal in terms of their buying power within the MR program.

    You value starpoints at 2.2 cpp and MR points at 0.8 cpp.
    IN TERMS of starpoints, MR points are worth 0.8 * 3 = 2.4 cpp, which is not materially different from your value of 2.2 cpp for starpoints.

    Likewise, a HH point is worth 0.4 * 6 = 2.4 cpp IN TERMS of starpoints, meaning no material difference with your value of 2.2cpp.

    Now look at MR points vs HH points: 0.8/0.4 = 2

    So, if starpoints to MR conversion factor is 3
    and MR to HH conversion factor is 2
    then startpoints to HH conversion factor is 6 (you’ve seen that before!)

    Most people are probably confused by now because it does not seem much of the above made sense before, in spite of how often I have expounded about the fact that all loyalty points are worth exactly the same when converted to the same unit.

    The conversion factor for starpoints to MR points is 3.
    MR points to HH points is 2
    Starpoints to HH points is 6
    HGP points to HH points is 3
    and so on…and do you how one also arrives at those conversion factors? Simply from the relative EARN rates!

    QED and G’day!

  15. @DCS, while I agree in principle for most programs, I think SPG is the exception. The only reason that SPG points are “worth” 2.2-2.4 cents is because of the airline transfers. If they are used to actually stay in hotels, they are worth significantly less. That is probably why, with extraordinarily rare exceptions, OMAAT and the other bloggers have all been paying cash for their Starwood stays. I can’t count the number of times that OMAAT has explained that SPG hotel x was $200/night or 12,000 star points (for example) so because he values them at 2.2 cents, he paid cash.
    SPG is a very good airline loyalty program, but a crappy hotel loyalty program. Or it was until Marriott gave away the keys to the kingdom to appease the SPG loyalists. Now it is a pretty good hotel loyalty program, as long as you don’t want to stay at Starwood properties. 23,333 points to stay at the best ritz Carlton properties or 35,000 to stay at any cat 7 SPG (not even including the “special” SPG properties that are literally off the charts) seems seriously lopsided to me.

  16. And for those of you who had a hissy fit when the top category Hiltons went to 80,000-95,000 points, note that the top category Marriott just went to 90,000 to 105,000 points. In fact, Marriott just added two more tiers to the top of their award chart as cat 6 SPG properties are also more than the most expensive ritz Carlton.

  17. I like the fact they prepared a rapid start – yet I don’t share Ben’s euphoria about what it is and how soon they were able to get there. They had many months to prepare this. Furthermore, as a longtime SPG Plat 50 I like the fact that Marriott matches to Plat but this is just a very short term effect to please SPG loyalists. It will be harder to attain in the future – yes, I can stay at more hotels but I was happy with Starwood and never wanted to stay at sh**ty Marriott. I see that given the circumstances it’s an OK approach but still would have preferred Starwood to stay alone or in other hands a thousand times more. All nice SPG properties will soon be flooded by those Courtyard folks…

  18. @Farnorthtrader — Not.at.all. The redemption values of HOTEL loyalty points have little to do with their likely inaccurate use to estimate their redemption value as AIRLINE miles. Remember that starpoints are hotel points and not airline miles. The redemption value of hotel points is more rigorously estimated as the MEAN or AVERAGE of (room rates in $$ divided by the rates of the same rooms in points) and computed over all the hotel categories in a program. Fortunately, the blogger “Wandering Aramean” [1] has actually done the hard work and provided the data to show how one arrives at the MEAN SPG value of 2.4 cpp based on HOTEL data ONLY. It is hotel point currency!!!

    Cat == Starwood hotel category
    Value == the redemption value in cents per point (cpp)

    Cat — Value (cpp)
    1 — 3.8
    2 — 3.5
    3 — 2.0
    4 — 1.8
    5 — 1.9
    6 — 1.7
    7 — 1.9
    ————————————
    MEAN value: 2.4 cpp

    That’s the origin of the value of 2.4cpp for starpoints. Bloggers claiming to have special insights into the value of points are simply doing what they do best: peddling fluff. The point that Wandering Aramean was trying to make, in fact, was that one gets much higher redemption values for redeeming points for stays at lower category hotels than at the “aspirational” properties, which contradicts one of travel blogosphere’s most repeated dogma: one gets higher redemption values at aspirational properties! Well, no. See above — 3.8 cpp at Cat 1 vs 1.9 cpp at Cat 7!

    [1] https://milepoint.com/forums/threads/exploring-spg-point-values-by-hotel-category.114263/

  19. As I have been saying all along, Marriott points have much better earn and burn than SPG. 1:1 doesn’t matter if you earn 3-4 points per dollar instead of 15!!!!! I ONLY redeem for travel packages so the value I get out of my Marriott points is pretty awesome. The fact you can now turn 90,000 SPG points into 132,000 United miles plus 7 nights hotel ought to quiet the masses.

  20. @DCS, a very good point, however, I would counter with a couple of my own.

    The mean from wandering aramean roughly bears out the 3 to 1 conversion (his numbers are more like 0.7 for Marriott and just under 2 for SPG).

    There are, however, two problems that I see with using this average. First, 5th night free with SPG does not apply to the hotels that get you the highest redemption values with SPG.

    More importantly, if you dig a little deeper, as he did in other posts, at the 75th percentile, Marriott points are worth 0.89 cents and SPG are worth 2.29 cents, making the ratio more like 2.5 than 3. I would argue that for most people, this would be a more appropriate measure, perhaps even 90th percentile might be better.

    This is how I look at it:
    If you have only one kind of points and you are going to us them instead of cash, no matter what, the average is what you should use, however, very few people would be in that situation.

    If you have more than one kind of points, rationally, you will use the one that positively varies the most from the average, so your value will start to move from the average toward the upper end. Typically, if you have 4 kinds of points, you should find at least one kind that would get you the 75th percentile value. If you have 6 kinds of points, you should be able to get close to the 85th percentile from one program or another.

    Perhaps more importantly, a lot of people, if faced with the average point values, will choose to pay cash instead. If cash is a feasible option, then the entire bottom half of the data set is removed, because points will never be used for those values. Now we are working with just the top half of the data points and the 75th percentile becomes the mean and the new 75th percentile, which you should be able to achieve with diversification as noted above, is nearly the old 90th percentile.
    Wandering Aramean did not calculate the 90th percentile, however, based on the trend in the data set, it likely would have favored Marriott even more heavily.
    As a result, the fairest conversion rate likely would have been around 2.5 to 1.

    By the way, the same redemption analysis would suggest that 1 SPG point is only worth about 4 Hilton points, not 6 like the earn ratio would suggest, and one SPG point is worth less than 1 Hyatt point, not 2 as the earn ratio would suggest.

  21. @Farnorthtrader — You must be kidding. You’re quibbling about round off errors! I have my own estimates, based on relative EARN rates, which are practically the same — considering the variations in hotel rates by location country, etc — and I have been using for a long time. One would need an infinitely large number of sample points to get “exact” values, but considering the current uncertainty, the agreement between the various estimates is actually startlingly good (0.7 vs 0.8 are not materially different estimates!!!)

  22. This give Marriot upper tier property better value to earn points since you get 10 (up to 15 with platinum) MR than 2 (up to 4 with platinum 75) SPG points per dollar spend at the same time give spg amex better value than chase marriot or ritz card.

  23. To Daniel M and other complaining MR elites…your world just got a lot better, more than your average SPG elite. Posted in VFTW, I’ll re-post here:

    Don’t like that you can’t get breakfast on your RC vacation stay? Go to a StR or LuxCollection instead where you will. Get a SPG Platinum welcome gift worth more than your MR one. Take advantage of Make A Green Choice. Actually get rewarded for on-site dining. Get crazy bonus points from Uber/Delta that you aren’t currently getting w/the UA partnership. Have a good chance at actually getting a suite at an SPG property.

    Could be worse…could be a Hilton Diamond where there’s no lifetime status & key benefits are at the whim of whatever hotel you’re staying at.

  24. Marriott overload today. Trying to process all of this info. Have my accounts linked. Trying to figure out where to transfer my Starpoints to (airline transfer). Can’t see them just transferring to MR.

  25. Ben:

    Thanks for the great information. All accounts linked and status upgraded!

    While doing so I saw the add for the Marriott Rewards Card with 80,000 point sign up. Reads pretty good, particularly after your explanation of the Marriott to airline transfer possibilities. Do you Agree?

    Related: Do you have a link to the application so that you can get credit? Is the first year fee of $85 waived?

    Thanks again,

    John H.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *