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.
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 Rewards||Starwood 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).
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:
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:
And the following number of points for Ritz-Carlton:
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.
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?