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While I’m not thrilled about Marriott’s takeover of Starwood in the long term (it reduces competition), in the short term it presents some cool opportunities. For example, it’s now possible to transfer points at a fair ratio between the two programs. That means those with Starpoints can take advantage of Marriott’s Hotel + Air Packages, those with Marriott points can take advantage of Starwood’s direct mileage transfers, etc.
It also means that SPG Gold members can match to Marriott Gold, and SPG Platinum members can match to Marriott Platinum.
The best way to spend your way to SPG Platinum status
Reader Ali asked me the following question on Twitter, regarding earning SPG Platinum status through credit card spend:
@OneMileataTime Worth it 2 get Ritz CC and spend the 75k for Plat status W/ SPG or keep that spend on SPG Amex? My annual spend over 350k.
— Ali Yusufaly (@anyusufaly) December 11, 2016
The Marriott “family” of loyalty programs has co-branded credit cards for Starwood, Ritz-Carlton, and Marriott, all of which offer some opportunity to earn status:
- The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express offers SPG Gold status (which can be matched to Marriott Gold) after spending $30,000 on the card in a year
- The Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card offers Ritz-Carlton Gold status for the first year, and in subsequent years you can earn Gold status for spending $10,000 on the card, or Platinum status for spending $75,000 on the card (which can be matched to SPG Gold and Platinum status, respectively)
- The Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card offers 15 elite qualifying nights per year, and you earn an additional elite qualifying night for every $3,000 spent; that means you’d have to spend $180,000 to earn Marriott Platinum status
So if you want to earn Platinum status with both Ritz-Carlton (which is virtually the same as earning it through Marriott) and Starwood, spending $75,000 on The Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card is your best bet. If you’re a big credit card spender, that’s not all that much to spend in order to earn top tier hotel status, in my opinion.
SPG Platinum members get unlimited complimentary suite upgrades
Should you spend $75,000 for SPG Platinum?
Now that we’ve established the best way to earn SPG Platinum through credit card spend is with The Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card, the follow-up question is whether or not it’s worth it. In Ali’s case, the alternative is spending that money on the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express. Both cards offer one point per dollar on non-bonused spend, though I place significantly different valuations on the two points currencies:
- I value Starpoints at ~2.2 cents each
- I value Ritz-Carlton Rewards points at ~0.8 cents each
So for $75,000 of spend, your “return” would be $1,650 on the Starwood Card, or $600 on the Ritz-Carlton Card (the latter assumes you’re not spending in any of the bonus categories, which include travel and restaurants). So at most you’re losing ~$1,050 worth of points, but you’re gaining top tier status with Starwood and Ritz-Carlton.
Is that worth it? I guess it all depends on how many stays you’d make with the brands over the coming year. If you’re making just a couple of stays it’s probably not worth it, while if you plan on spending 50+ nights with them, it’s definitely worth it, in my opinion.
There are a few further things to consider:
- If you plan on staying mostly at Marriott and Ritz-Carlton properties, there’s not a huge difference between Marriott Gold and Platinum
- There are lots of easy ways to earn SPG Gold status, like just by having The Enhanced Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN or The Platinum Card® from American Express, which gets you guaranteed late check-out and a 50% points bonus, so for some people that’s “enough”
- If your primary goal is Starwood lounge access, having the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express gets you access to Sheraton club lounges
For those serious about earning top tier status…
Assuming you’re a big credit card spender and plan on frequently staying at Starwood properties, I really think this is a strategy worth considering.
Keep in mind that if you spend the $75,000 early next year, the status would be valid through the beginning of 2019, so you’d essentially be getting two years worth of Platinum status for the $75,000 worth of spend.
Ultimately we don’t know what the future of Marriott’s three loyalty programs will look like. Eventually they may all be consolidated, though that shouldn’t happen earlier than 2018. Regardless, if you complete this spend you have top tier status in whatever the combined program is through 2019.
I love The Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card for the great sign-up bonus of three complimentary nights at any Tier 1-4 property, the $100 domestic companion airfare benefit, the Marriott Gold status for the first year, the $300 travel credit, etc.
For those who aren’t already top tier with Marriott and Starwood, I think putting $75,000 of spend on the card in order to achieve top tier status could make a lot of sense. While you’ll lose value in comparison to putting the spend on the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express, the benefit of top tier status with the world’s largest hotel chain could more than make up for that.
Anyone else considering using the Ritz-Carlton Card to earn top tier status with SPG/Marriott?