Marriott’s takeover of Starwood closed a bit over two months ago, and since that date it has been possible to link accounts between programs, allowing members to match status and transfer points.
Starpoints convert to Marriott at a 1:3 ratio
For the time being, Starpoints can be converted into Marriott Rewards points at a 1:3 ratio (and Marriott Rewards points can be converted into Starpoints at a 3:1 ratio). I was happy to see they chose this as the transfer ratio, since it seems pretty fair to me. Apparently this transfer opportunity will remain possible until Marriott creates a single loyalty program, which is likely to be in 2018 at the earliest.
Why I’m not rushing to transfer Starpoints to Marriott (for the most part)
There are no doubt some good deals available through Marriott Rewards, like their Hotel + Air packages, which allow you to redeem points for a set number of miles with a partner airline, plus seven nights in a hotel. It’s unfortunate that they make you spend all seven nights consecutively in a single hotel, but even if you were to throw away a few nights, it could still represent a good deal.
However, there are a few other things I don’t love about the prospect of redeeming through Marriott Rewards, especially as someone who likes to redeem for aspirational properties:
- While redemption rates at Ritz-Carlton properties are pretty good, Ritz-Carlton only honors limited elite benefits, and you don’t get lounge access, free breakfast, etc., which takes a lot of the fun out of premium redemptions
- While individual hotels sometimes have different policies, as a rule Marriott resorts don’t offer elite members free breakfast
- For the most part Marriott’s non-Ritz Carlton resorts don’t entice me that much
Starwood isn’t perfect either…
While I like to redeem for aspirational properties, ironically I actually think Starwood’s redemption rates for their best properties are way too high. For example, Starwood charges up to 35,000 Starpoints per night for their top properties, which is the equivalent of 105,000 Marriott points per night.
Meanwhile Marriott’s most expensive properties are just 45,000 points per night, which is the equivalent of 15,000 Starpoints.
Ritz-Carlton properties cost up to 70,000 points per night, which is the equivalent of ~23,000 Starpoints.
In practice I don’t actually redeem Starpoints all that much for aspirational properties. Instead I use them for mid-range properties, and then find good paid rates at their aspirational hotels, where I typically get a suite, free breakfast, etc.
One Marriott sweet spot that I’m loving
I don’t expect others to necessarily agree with me about the importance of breakfast or lounge access at Ritz, or what I perceive to be the quality of many Marriott resorts. They just don’t excite me, though everyone is different.
However, in addition to Hotel + Air Packages, I’m finding one other use of Marriott points that I really love.
Specifically, I’m finding that redeeming Marriott points at many of their good city hotels can represent a great value. Take London, for example:
- Starwood’s presence in London is sort of “bleh,” with a Sheraton Grand, Luxury Collection, Le Meridien, and W, none of which are fantastic (there are now also some Design Hotels properties, but you don’t get elite benefits at most of those)
- They cost 20,000 Starpoints per night, which is the equivalent of 60,000 Marriott Rewards points per night
Meanwhile Marriott has several hotels that are quite tempting. For example:
- The EDITION is available for 50,000 Marriott points per night (it’s technically a Tier 3 Ritz-Carlton property)
- The Marriott Hotel Park Lane is available for 45,000 Marriott points per night
- The Grosvenor House JW Marriott is available for 45,000 Marriott points per night
- St. Ermin’s Hotel is available for 40,000 Marriott points per night plus 50GBP
Most of these hotels are 45,000 Marriott points per night, which is the equivalent of 15,000 Starpoints. You also get the fifth night free, meaning if you’re staying for five nights you’re spending an average of 36,000 Marriott points per night, or 12,000 Starpoints.
The London EDITION is arguably nicer than any of the Starwood options, and costs fewer points. However, you don’t get free breakfast at EDITION hotels (which doesn’t bother me as much in a city hotel where I can easily pop into a Starbucks — it’s slightly more annoying at a resort).
Otherwise the JW Marriott Grosvenor House looks great, and has a club lounge, for example.
While I’m not rushing to transfer my Starpoints for many redemptions at Ritz-Carlton or at Marriott resorts, I am finding it extremely tempting to check out some Marriott properties in cities where Marriott has a big footprint, where the choice is often between a 45,000 point Marriott Rewards property, or a 20,000 point SPG property.
Now if only the two programs would offer reciprocal elite qualifying stays & nights, because as it stands nights spent at Marriott hotels don’t count towards SPG elite qualification. I suspect that will be changed in 2017, though that’s just speculation on my part.
Anyone else finding value in transferring Starpoints to Marriott for redemptions at some city hotels, given that a comparatively advantageous pricing of Marriott’s Category 9 hotels compared to Starwood’s Category 6 hotels?