Should You Redeem Your Starpoints At Ritz-Carlton Hotels?

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:

marriott-rewards

And here’s Starwood’s free night chart:

spg-business-amex

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:

ritz-carlton-rewards

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!

ritz-carlton-hong-kong
View from the Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong

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.

ritz-carlton-almaty-37
Marriott Platinum members don’t get club lounge access at Ritz-Carlton properties

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.

Grand-Hyatt-Hong-Kong-Grand-Suite - 38
The excellent club lounge at the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong

I’m also intrigued by the Ritz-Carlton Kyoto, which looks great — I could actually see myself redeeming points for a longer stay there.

ritz-carlton-kyoto
Ritz-Carlton Kyoto

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.

ritz-carlton-fhr

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.

Bottom line

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?

Comments

  1. None of the Marriott vacation properties I would want to stay at give you breakfast or have a lounge as Resorts are exempt from this. And most Autograph hotels that are pretty nice don’t have lounges either. Same with Ritz’s as a Marriott platinum you might as well be at a Courtyard for as little benefits they give you as an elite.

  2. Marriott hotels are not aspirational at all. I went through their whole portfolio and there were max 2-3 places I wouldnt mind making an effort to stay at. Not exciting in the least

  3. I have to say it is pretty annoying how little respect Marriott is giving their platinums compared to what spg is getting. What are the better SPG hotel brands? Are Weston’s better than sheratons or W’s? Which ones have lounges and breakfast? Should I match my Marriott platinum to Starwood and then convert the points Marriott?

  4. I’ve seen a lot of bloggers get really excited about high level SPG to Marriott redemptions. I think you;ll be surprised at just how good of a value SPG can have for Categories 2-4, especially with Cash and Points, or on weekends, or 5 nights for price for four.. Nearly all Marriotts in half-way decent cities, even lower end properties, are now Categories 7 and above. And, they’ve increased in category often 3-4 years in a row. I do think a lot of the value in SPG is to be found in these lower end properties that now just won’t be available through Marriott. Not everybody wants to stay in these expensive places for 1-2 nights but instead can get a lot more nights at lower level properties. I think you are getting a little blinded by the bling of late.

  5. Hopefully the RC (and Edition?) lack of breakfast is one of the first things that’s fixed 2018-onward (though it probably means point inflation).

    @Bob – IMO, W>Westin>>>Sheraton. St. Regis & Luxury Collection are excellent; Le Meridien, W, Westin, Autograph, Design all quite good. SPG is VERY mid- and top-heavy.

    All Sheratons have lounges, maybe half of the Westins do, only a couple int’l Ws IIRC.

  6. I generally agree. Also needing to be considered is AWARD AVAILABILITY at Ritz-Carlton and EDITION properties. I’ve got an award stay planned for the Park Tower Knightsbridge London in a few weeks…and looked at the Marriott options. The London EDITION isn’t available for awards even though there are entry level rooms available, so clearly EDITION is playing games with award availability.

    I considered the JW Grosvenor House property, which isn’t far from the Park Tower. It once was a SPG Le Meridien if I recall correctly, but it always disappointed us. Ultimately, I’ll take the guarantee of great service and possible suite upgrade at the Park Tower over the nice service and nothing else at the Grosvenor House.

  7. So I have 6 nights in Tokyo. Looked long at the incredible Ritz there as a redemption. I ended booking the Autograph Prince Sakura. It came down to getting that free breakfast. Saved a ton of points too. And I don’t intend to spend too much time in a hotel with Tokyo outside my door.

  8. Im not sure all of this is correct.
    i match as SPG platinum to Marriot platinum.
    I ALSO matched as a ritz PLATINUM member as well, meaning i would have access to upgrades and the lounge.

  9. @ Bob — You should definitely match, there’s no downside. As far as transferring points goes, you can transfer them freely and anytime, so there’s no need to do so until you have a need.

  10. @ Bob: Yes, there are many SPG brands that are better or more interesting to many than those of Marriott. StR is comparable to RC, but more StR properties are considered superior to RC than the other way around. StR > Lux Collection, but many Lux Collection >> Autograph Collection. There are a mix of 5 and 4 star hotels in Lux Collection…while Autograph is mostly 3-4 star hotels with a few 5 star hotels thrown in. Westin and Le Meridien are generally > Marriott FS…though all can also be comparable. Westin and Le Meridien have more interesting design and culture aesthetics, while Marriott usually is more bland. W >> Westin/Le Meridien > Marriott > Sheraton…and W is comparable to EDITION…but there are only 4 EDITIONs! Those 4 EDITIONS may actually be better than many Ws…but not all of them, especially outside the USA.

    MR Platinum never gave you much in guaranteed benefits that make a difference to more SPG elites. MR Plats only get free breakfast at HALF of the brands…while SPG Plats get free breakfast at all brands that offer it…including resorts. SPG elites spend more than MR elites, so lounge access isn’t quite as big a deal for SPG Plats as it seems to be for MR Plats…which is why only Sheratons and most Westins have lounges, while almost no StR, LC, or W hotels have lounges/clubs.

    SPG PLatinums get a lot more than MR PLatinums because SPG already had given far more to its Plats. If you don’t believe it, try staying as a Plat at higher end SPG hotels.

  11. @Bill – I have stayed at high end SPG as a plat. I have been rather unimpressed. As a six year MR plat, I have always received early check in, late check-out and complimentary breakfasts at MR and RC properties (this is the first I even read that RC didn’t provide complimentary breakfasts). I have enjoyed upgrades to meet my interests at sixty percent of stays if guess. Marriott and RC properties use their discretion to reward called customers I suppose, but I certainly don’t have much interest in the SPG properties – especially considering the high inconsistency in hospitality. So, I’m happy that they have merged since I can finally use my SPG points to redeem at the high tier MR properties.

  12. @Kent – how many of your ~60% of stays were to a corner room / club level floor, vs. a suite / Jr. suite?

    what is your definition of “high inconsistency in hospitality” when it comes to SPG?

  13. RC Kyoto is just wonderful. The rooms are great and very well thought out, but IMO the common areas are even more visually stunning, especially at night: e.g. the hallways that look like Japanese lanterns, the dramatically lit bonsai tree and hallway to the spa, the room doors, etc. The design on everything and hard product is top notch.

    Here’s some photos of those areas from a trip almost exactly a year ago to show what I mean (a tad grainy since they were in low light at night): http://imgur.com/a/fw4Oq It reminds me of Vegas but in the best way possible, as in “very visually interesting design.”

    RC HK of course is well known, and don’t forget RC Macau! 🙂 RC Tokyo is underrated IMO, especially after the recent refresh and especially club level. But of course Tokyo has a lot of really stiff competition in the 5 star hotel market. It’s in stark contrast to US RCs… too many of them are overpriced and under-delivering (kind of like W hotels in the US vs. Intl.).

  14. Hi Ben ! I have to say that your coverage of the merger has been fantastic so far and is possibly the best one out of all the blogs out there. Maybe my query isn’t directly related to your post here but as a Starwood 100+ platinum who has never stayed at any other hotel chain in the last 3.5 years, I have 2 queries which maybe you can cover in a separate post ?

    1. Generally I redeem starpoints or pay to stay at St Regis, Luxury Collection or W hotels as they are the top 3 brands in the Starwood portfolio. As I have no clue about the Marriott portfolio, apart from the ritz Carlton properties, what 3 brands would you highlight as the top 3 luxury brands under the Marriott portfolio ?

    2. Do you think you can do a separate post about the Marriott rewards travel packages with how the valuations, benefits, etc would work ?

  15. Even Ritz Carlton does not have many aspirational properties. The HK one is nice. But without upgrading to a view room I’d consider the room mediocre at best. The Kyoto one is fantastic though.

  16. @UA-NYC
    Good questions.

    All of my reservations at JWs have been upgraded to a suite. At RCs, it is difficult, especially when checking with colleagues who have been plat longer than me, but I have enjoyed suites on many occasions (especially in NYC).

    Inconsistencies at SPG from my experience: room quality, breakfast offerings, cleanliness, and courteousy of the staff, denied early check-in and late checkouts in major metropolitans.

    Two of my favorite MR properties: Grand Kameha in Zurich and the Renaissance in Lucerne.

  17. I feel like I’m the outlier here. I don’t much care for lounge access (when I travel, I need that space to retreat to away from people -i.e. my room) and I don’t eat breakfast in the mornings (thank my non-cooperative digestive system) so those perks are worth $0 to me. So if I was rolling in Starpoints like everyone here seems to be (which I’m not, and I can’t fathom where everyone gets all these starpoints), I’d definitely book Marriott properties. And while it’s true that Marriott properties in most U.S. major cities (New York, Chicago, etc..) are category 7 and cost a huge load of points, I’d argue Marriot has some pretty aspirational properties outside the U.S. Their hotels in Thailand, for example, look gorgeous, and given that my means for going to Thailand and Asia in general are pretty limited, I will absolutely take a Marriott hotel redemption over a paid rate with breakfast I don’t eat…especially since the hotels I end up staying at for work-related travel are inevitably Marriotts, and between that and tweeting I always end up with a good Marriott balance.

    So, that’s my spiel on behalf of Marriot on this RC thread – my apologies! Just wanted to provide a perspective from those of us happy with Marriott (and not too stuck on breakfast)!

  18. I am trying to find some redemption opportunities for Ritz in Tokyo and Kyoto in early April and it says “Unfortunately, no points redemption rooms are available for the dates you selected.” How common is that? Is this something that a phone call can fix or there are really black outs like that?

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