It’s now possible to transfer points from Starwood Preferred Guest to Marriott Rewards at a 1:3 ratio, and vice versa. I think that’s a fair ratio, so I’m quite pleased with that aspect of the merger.
Marriott points are more valuable for hotel redemptions… except…
As much as I love Starpoints, I’ll be the first to say that all around Marriott has more attractive redemption rates for most hotel stays; a lot of the value I derive from Starpoints comes from their flexibility, including being able to efficiently convert them into airline miles in virtually any quantity.
As a reminder, here’s Marriott’s free night chart:
And here’s Starwood’s free night chart:
As you can see, Marriott’s top hotels go for 45,000 points per night, which converts to 15,000 Starpoints. That’s much lower than Starwood’s top hotels, which can cost as much as 35,000 Starpoints per night.
The only issue is that there aren’t actually that many aspirational Marriott hotels that I want to stay at. So it’s great to have attractive redemption rates, though without many interesting hotels (from my perspective), that’s only so useful.
Ritz-Carlton redemptions — yay?
Perhaps more interesting is the opportunity to redeem Starpoints at Ritz-Carlton properties. Ritz-Carlton hotels belong to five tiers, costing between 30,000 and 70,000 points per night. Here’s the pricing:
When you do the math, that’s like spending between 10,000 Starpoints and ~23,000 Starpoints per night for a Ritz-Carlton stay. Keep in mind that with Marriott (much like with Starwood) you also get the fifth night free on award stays, meaning you’re potentially spending 280,000 points for five nights, which is an average of 56,000 Marriott points per night, or under 19,000 Starpoints per night. That’s really good, given that Starwood’s top hotels go for significantly more.
I’ve seen some people suggest that Ritz-Carlton redemptions are ripe for devaluation given all the SPG members who will suddenly have access to these properties.
I’ll admit that when the 1:3 ratio was first announced, redeeming at Ritz-Carlton was the first thing that came to mind for me. Being able to redeem at properties like the Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong and Ritz-Carlton Kyoto? YES PLEASE!
The catch with Ritz-Carlton redemptions…
Then I put more thought into it. Keep in mind that Marriott Rewards Gold and Platinum members don’t get free breakfast or lounge access at Ritz-Carlton hotels. You’re typically not going to get a suite upgrade either.
I’m not suggesting any of that is a deal killer, as it’s certainly not. The terms don’t entitle members to those benefits, and that’s fair enough.
But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I’d generally rather redeem at a slightly less nice hotel and get benefits. This is especially true when I’m staying at resorts on a “true” vacation, where I value breakfast and suite upgrades even more than during normal stays.
Don’t get me wrong, Ritz-Carlton has some unique properties, and I absolutely see myself redeeming points at some of them. But as I’ve put more thought into it, my perspective has changed from “OMG I’m going to drop everything and redeem all my Starpoints at Ritz-Carlton” to “meh, if the hotel is in the right location and there’s not a better option, I guess that makes sense.”
I could see myself using points to stay at the Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong for a one night stay. But for a longer stay I’d rather book the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong and use a suite upgrade, which access to their incredible club lounge.
I’m also intrigued by the Ritz-Carlton Kyoto, which looks great — I could actually see myself redeeming points for a longer stay there.
To give one last example, I just wrapped up a stay at the Ritz-Carlton Almaty, which was fantastic, and is by far the best hotel in the city. It’s only a Tier 1 Ritz-Carlton, meaning a free night would cost 30,000 Marriott Rewards points (or 10,000 Starpoints). If visiting Almaty, staying there is a no brainer.
Not to complicate things even further, but I’m not sure the best way to stay at that hotel is to redeem points, even at just 30,000 points per night. The Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts rate would have been $220 per night, and includes free breakfast plus a $100 resort credit. When we’re comparing the cost of award redemptions and paid stays at Ritz-Carlton, we also have to factor in the value of the extra amenities we get on paid rates.
Using my valuation of points, that makes a paid stay a no brainer. Again, while there are plenty of Ritz-Carlton properties I’d gladly stay at, actually redeeming points isn’t a no brainer in many cases.
I’m excited about all the Ritz-Carlton properties that we suddenly have access to as SPG members, as they’re among the few Marriott properties that I consider to be aspirational. At the same time, without full elite benefits I’d really only redeem points at them if they were truly the best option where I wanted to be, rather than going out of my way to redeem at them. For many of the cheaper Ritz-Carlton hotels, booking through a Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts seems like a better option.
To my fellow Starwood loyalists, how are you feeling about the opportunity to redeem points at Ritz-Carlton properties? Are you looking forward to doing so, or hesitant because of the lack of elite benefits?