Staying “Loyal” To Marriott Might Be Easier Than I Expected…

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Marriott’s takeover of Starwood is expected to close in the next 48 hours. While the impact for investors will be immediate, as customers nothing should change overnight. Instead we’re left with tons of questions about the future of Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest, which we’ll hopefully get answers to soon.


In general I think most Marriott Rewards members view this takeover as a positive thing, since they’re unlikely to experience a reduction in elite benefits, and now have access to more hotels. At the same time, most Starwood Preferred Guest members view this takeover as a negative thing, given that it will undoubtedly lead to a reduction in elite benefits. If we wanted to be loyal to Marriott we would have done so all along, given that it’s significantly easier to be loyal to them, since they have hotels just about everywhere.

How this is likely to play out

Given that this is truly a takeover of Starwood by Marriott (it doesn’t feel like a merger of “equals,” unfortunately), realistically I suspect Marriott Rewards will be the surviving program, without many changes. I don’t think the current structure of Starwood Preferred Guest will survive, and if anything I think we’ll just see some minor tweaks to Marriott Rewards.

We’ve already seen Marriott introduce some new elite benefits to match Starwood, and ultimately I hope we see some more benefits introduced. However, big picture I suspect the new program will look very similar to Marriott Rewards, rather than similar to Starwood Preferred Guest.


Of course this doesn’t address at what rate Starpoints will be converted into Marriott Rewards points, in what way elite tiers will be matched from one program to the other (will Starwood Platinum get you Marriott Platinum since they’re both top tier, or will Starwood Platinum only get you Marriott Gold, since both require 50 elite qualifying nights per year?), etc.

Will top tier status with Marriott even be worth it?

Starwood only has two elite tiers — Gold and Platinum — and there’s a huge difference between the two.

The same isn’t true at Marriott, which has three elite tiers, with the following benefits:


As you can see, on paper there’s not much of a difference between Gold and Platinum status, except:

  • Platinum status offers 48-hour guaranteed reservations, though it’s not a benefit I’ve ever used at any hotel chain, since the rates tend to be exorbitant
  • Platinum members receive a 50% points bonus, rather than a 25% bonus
  • Platinum members receive a welcome bonus, which is a nice touch, but hardly something worth going out of your way to earn

Of course in theory Platinum members get preferential upgrades, though when suite upgrades based on availability aren’t a published benefit, it’s not worth going out of your way to earn status for something you’re not entitled to, in my opinion.

For me, guaranteed late check-out and free breakfast/lounge access are the most important perks, and both tiers come with that.

Marriott-Madrid-Auditorium-Hotel - 32
Both Marriott Gold & Platinum members receive executive lounge access

What that means for status qualification

With the above in mind, there are two useful ways to earn status Marriott through credit card spend.

The Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card offers 15 elite qualifying night credits towards status annually, plus an additional elite qualifying night for every $3,000 spend on purchases, with no caps. This means you earn:

  • Silver status as long as you have the card (since it requires 10 elite qualifying nights)
  • Gold status if you spend $105,000 per year on the card (since it requires 50 elite qualifying nights)
  • Platinum status if you spend $180,000 per year on the card (since it requires 75 elite qualifying nights)

But there’s another option. Ritz-Carlton Rewards is a parallel loyalty program to Marriott Rewards, and offers all the same elite benefits. In other words, Marriott Rewards and Ritz-Carlton Rewards members are treated equally at all properties. However, Ritz-Carlton’s co-branded credit card, The Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card, makes it much easier to earn status:

  • Receive Ritz-Carlton Rewards Gold status for your first account year
  • Maintain Ritz-Carlton Rewards Gold status in subsequent years when you spend $10,000 on the card
  • Achieve Ritz-carlton Rewards Platinum status when you spend $75,000 on the card in a year

Assuming that Starwood Preferred Guest is in fact going to be integrated into Marriott Rewards without a substantial change in benefits, and assuming the Ritz-Carlton Rewards program continues to be run in a parallel fashion, I’ll simply maintain Gold status for my Marriott stays by spending $10,000 per year on The Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card. If Marriott does in fact introduce more useful Platinum benefits, then I’ll try to find a way to put $75,000 of spend on the card.

Bottom line

Assuming the Ritz-Carlton Rewards and Marriott Rewards programs continue to run parallel, then then The Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card will hands down be the best way to earn and maintain status for the world’s largest hotel chain. It’s amazing how nowadays you can get useful hotel status without actually spending many nights with a chain.

Similarly with Hilton, you get Gold status for as long as you have the Citi® Hilton HHonors Reserve Card, and get Diamond status if you spend $40,000 on the card in a year. However, much like with Marriott, there’s not much differentiation between top tier and mid tier status.

Of course there are still a lot of unknowns, but is anyone else generally planning on trying to use the Ritz-Carlton credit card to earn status with the combined Marriott & Starwood going forward?

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  1. I’m SPG gold due to my Amex Platinum Business card. Hoping that would translate to Marriott Gold or Platinum after the merger.

  2. SPG peeps: Please help me understand what you like about SPG. Sounds like a Credit Card spend program.
    Marriott is pretty awesome for such a big chain:
    – I get free breakfast AND bonus points/amenity ( doesn’t SPG make Platinums choose?)
    – I get plenty free suite upgrades, especially internationally.
    – WAY more hotels, JWs are nice to have around.Most Westins and Sheratons are nothing special. Run of the mill Marriotts are in way better shape than most Sheratons I have been to recently. Just depends on where you are I guess. W hotels to me are uninviting and too hip to be comfortable. No lounges, usually super expensive for what they are.
    – SPG has terrible hotel earn and burn.
    – Two words: TRAVEL PACKAGES!!

    As someone who earned Platinum in SPG years ago and has been Marriott loyal since I keep scratching my heads as to what everyone likes about SPG.

  3. Just FYI on a potential typo: “However, big picture I suspect the new program will look very similar to Marriott Rewards, rather similar to Starwood Preferred Guest.”

  4. @Ryan, Can you convert 20k Marriott Rewards points into 25k frequent flier miles? It seems to me that Marriott’s exchange rate is nowhere near that good. For example, I see I could convert 20k Marriott Miles to only 5000 miles on American. That 1:1.25 exchange rate alone is a big reason to like SPG.

  5. @Ryan

    For me, I like SPG because of the hotel points transfer-ability to airlines.

    In general, I’ve found the SPG brands where I travel to be superior to Marriott’s offerings (e.g., I’ll take a Westin or a Sheraton over a “proper” Marriott hotel any day). I’ll also give Marriott credit – I stayed at a Fairfield Inn and Suites and was blown away by the cleanliness, it had a decent breakfast spread considering it’s a limited-service brand (or at least that’s how I perceive the brand). So nothing is “absolute” in my mind, though ultimately I consider Hyatt my #1 go-to choice for hotels. The problem is they just don’t have as much global coverage as we Hyatt loyalists would like.

    Remember also, a lot of us recall programs well before (in some cases, multiple) points devaluations, and that also impacts a lot of how we “feel” about hotel brands, and let’s face it, many people relate to brands in general (but hotel brands especially) emotionally, not *only* through bottom-line calculations.

  6. @Ryan — the main thing that I think a lot of people like about SPG that Marriott doesn’t offer is that Platinum SPG members get free unlimited space-available suite upgrades. This can vary in usefulness but at a lot of very nice high-end properties in Europe and Asia in particular it can mean routinely getting upgraded to some very nice suites. SPG also has more consistent benefits across the portfolio — I believe some brands are excluded from breakfast or club access for elite members at Marriott (notably Ritz Carlton), or such things aren’t offered at resort properties, while generally you get the same benefits across all hotels at SPG (though probably overall a smaller share of SPG properties have club lounges than do Marriott properties).

    I don’t know the Marriott portfolio well enough to know, but I also think SPG has more high-end properties. Yes, many Sheratons are dumps, but Westins are generally nicer than Marriotts I think, and some of the better Westins are truly excellent hotels. Plus SPG has St. Regis, Luxury Collection, Design Hotels, and W. You may not have to like all of them, but together they offer a more comprehensive set of high-end properties than Marriott does (especially since there aren’t many JW Marriotts or EDITION hotels).

    But it is all moot now since they will be the same soon enough.

  7. The presupposition of this post is that (almost nothing) will change at Marriott Rewards and SPG will absorbed wholesale into the former program (something that has no basis in fact beyond mere speculation at this point).

    So this post was written just to pump the Ritz-Carlton card? Got it.

  8. @Ryan – most of us SPG elites don’t care about “hotels everywhere”…if we did, we’d be Marriott elites in the first place. I only travel to large cities, so I don’t care about going to a Fairfield in Pocatello or a ResInn in Nome. ~80-85% of the Marriott portfolio is extended stay/discount/limited service…does nothing for me.

    Marriott is also much weaker relative to SPG outside of the US, so your location matters too. ALL hotels are much easier to get upgrades internationally, that’s not a Marriott differentiator. It’s rare that I haven’t been in a suite OUS w/SPG.

    I love the diversity of SPG brands – LM and Ws are great, but I recognize Ws aren’t for everyone. There’s an amazing high-end/boutique portfolio too. And I’d rather stay at an Aloft / Element ANY day over your standard/boring Courtyards, RIs, etc.

  9. I suspect a monster devaluation by converting SPG points to Marriotts at a low rate. It will be without notice of course following so Alaska’s footsteps

  10. @Marcus, I highly doubt they devalue or convert points without notice. There will be notice given and that’s what a lot of us are waiting to see. I am making sure my Starpoints is at the closest 20K interval so I can bail out as soon as program merging is announced if I don’t like what I see.

  11. @Lucky – you also get Hilton Gold Status by having the Hilton Surpass Card.

    Playing a wait-and-see game myself. Just did a big SPG transfer to Alaska, which is hands down the biggest benefit to me. If Marriott doesn’t adjust their program accordingly where it adds a similar value, I’ll go back to staying predominantly at Hiltons where I get Executive Level access just by being Gold. That’s a big benefit there.

    We’ll see…

  12. SPG Gold Elites should be matched to Marriott SILVER. The idea that SPG Golds will be given Marriott Gold is awful. You can earn SPG Gold in 10 stays or 25 nights. So basically you can earn SPG Gold in 10 nights. To give them Marriott Gold that requires FIFTY nights (with no Stays) option is ridiculous.

  13. Move loyalty from SPG to Hyatt have sense? Even if I have to start from 0?

    Before SPG I had Hhonnors Gold like 5 years ago, have sense to come back to hilton?

  14. Having been SPG Gold and Marriott Gold at the same time, I can tell you that I value the SPG status quite a lot more.

    Suites? 50% of the time with SPG. 0% with Marriott.

    How about recognition? SPG: “Welcome. We’re glad to have you. Thanks to your loyalty, we’ve…” Marriott: “Are you a member of our rewards program?”

    It’s not really even a contest. Of course, I’m a member of the liberal cultural elites, so I like W properties.


  15. Breakfast can’t be considered a Marriott Platinum benefit because only a minority of hotels/brands offer it. The majority of hotels/brands do not offer it

  16. Totally unclear why anyone would ever prefer Marriott over SPG or Hyatt. Marriott chains are generally sterile and lack any character whereas so many SPG and Hyatt properties (save for Four Points and Sheraton) have character. 500 bonus points as a Plat in Marrriott – umm, say what – 500 – are you kidding? No SNA’s, no 4th point bonus, no ambassador, no realistic equivalent to SPG moments, no Diamond Club upgrades etc.

    Plus you earn way more points towards top end hotels using SPG or Hyatt. I just stayed at Renaissance Amsterdam (admittedly nice hotel even though 50%+ populated by Americans) for 9 nights and yet I didn’t get anywhere close to half the points needed for one night at a top Ritz Carlton

  17. @Ruben – get yourself the $95 Hilton card if you want Gold (equivalent to 40 nights), no other hotel loyalty program gives away so much status for so little. Esp. since the top tier (60 nights) isn’t that different in terms of promised benefits.

  18. I’ve stayed at Marriott hotels four times in the past 15 months and just discovered that none of them earned any nights or points because they were booked through the various events I was attending. That strikes me as very penurious, and they’ve lost my business for personal and self-booked business travel.

  19. I am a SPG Platinum from my many stays, but am a Marriott Gold just by being a United 1k.

    In my mind, having an airline status means I made mid-tier hotel status means the hotel status is basically worthless in my mind. Not one stay, not one marriott credit card, not one penny spent and I’m a gold…..

  20. @Lucky sez mindlessly: “However, much like with Marriott, there’s not much differentiation between top tier and mid tier status.”

    Why should anyone believe that demonstrably ludicrous line, which is another canard that’s repeatedly and mindlessly spewed in the travel blogosphere echo chamber by self-appointed travel gurus who are clueless and for years called HGP the “best” program when it was at best a WIP, as is now amply clear. In fact, HGP has become a joke or a punchline to one since botching their last status match in which they gave away Diamond status and associated perks, including up to 8 DSUs, to everyone and their dogs. Then we were told ad nauseam how SPG was the only program that was as good as or better than HGP, except that, as evidenced by this very thread, SPG is “no mas”…gone belly up!

    Moreover, while the self-appointed travel gurus were touting HGP and SPG as the “best” in the business, reputable public opinion surveys of customer satisfaction with hotel loyalty programs were consistently ranking HHonors or Marriott Rewards tops, HGP somewhere in the middle of the pack, and SPG dead last or next to dead last. Travel bloggers, of course, predictably dismissed the surveys as b.s., but after the dust has settled it’s clear that the surveys were right on the money:

    1. They’d ranked SPG last and SPG’s now gone belly up.
    2. They’d ranked HGP somewhere in the middle of the pack, meaning that it was essentially a forgettable program and that is pretty much what HGP is now.
    3. HH and MR were ranked tops, and both are currently the two programs where most the action is, with lucrative promos, brisk expansion, palpable vibrancy and highly rewarding perks…

    Bottom line: Listen to the b.s. spewed by self-appointed travel gurus at your own peril, as you will always keep playing the game with less than a “full deck” and making much less, rather than more, with the hand that your circumstances have dealt you…

    One thing that this post got right? It was realistic enough to suggest that MR is not likely to become a SPG clone, like the recurrent pipe dream over @VFTW by the host, that MR would become the “best in the business” by adopting the SPG model, even though SPG is a dead program because it was itself based on a flawed model… 😉


  21. Much like Candidate Trump, everything that emerges from DCS’ mouth is either nonsense, a lie, ill-informed, lacks a basis in real-world understanding…or all the above.

    Look elsewhere for analysis fellow readers 😉

  22. BTW, I got my UA Million Miller welcome kit in the mail today. Iin addition to my new MileagePlus membership card now showing 1 Million Miler just above the *G logo, and a plaque with my name, United/MileagePlus logo and a stylized inscription saying “1 Million Miler 2016″, I got a personal letter from Oscar Munoz, United’s CEO:

    Dear DCS,
    I’d like to congratulate your personally got flying 1 million miles with us.
    You are now part of a select group of loyal customer…etc..etc… I want you to know that you won’t fall below Premier Gold status, even if you travel less often in the future.”

    The relevance to the thread is that as a LIFETIME United Gold, I am “guaranteed” automatic MR Gold status through RewardsPlus, without the need to do the acrobatics…


  23. @UA-NYC — Is there anything intelligent you’d like to say, like contest anything in my incisive skewering of travel blogosphere’s self-appointed gurus and the mindless claims that they make?

    If not, then GET LOST because I have no use for your knee-jerk and puerile reactions to my posts…

  24. DCS has been ranting for years now about how dumb all the bloggers are and how great HH is (search some of his InsideFlyer posts, they make for hilarious reading, like when the ex-Hilton employee told him how wrong he was), and of course no one ever agrees with him because the facts he purports aren’t there. Case closed.

    And his “mastery of the game” via applying for CCs for signup bonuses, getting status matched across programs, etc. is FF101, I’m not sure why he’s so proud of himself.

    I just call out absolute BS where I see it. Quite easy in this case.

  25. I notice that all you do is attack the messenger rather than message, so to speak. I doubt that anyone with an ounce of gray matter between the ears gives credence to your puerile name-calling and ad hominems, which are sure signs of a real loser.

    Get lost.

  26. Nope. Haven’t had good experiences with SPG properties so not going back. I get much better treatment by being a lifetime Marriott Plat Elite member in all of the major destinations where I travel to.

  27. I’m happy with the Ritz card so I will put the 10k spend on it but just received the SPG Amex this year so would like to explore more SPG hotels. The Aloft looks decent and good point value.

  28. @JR — It is really easy to throw out insults anonymously to satisfy your own neuroses and deficiencies, but why should anyone care what you think, especially since it is so demonstrably stupid?

  29. losingtrader – 65000SPG points would take roughly $21000 in hotel spend with no promos. Marriott $21,000 in hotel spend for Platinums with no promos would get you 325,000 Marriott points: thats enough fro 120,000 frequent flyer miles – 7 nights hotel plus you would have 55,000 MR points left.

  30. I had to stop regular business travel 6 years ago due to a medical condition, Marriott allowed me to stay at Platinum on 21 nights a year, as I was only 100 nights off platinum lifetime status. They kept their promise and gave me Platinum lifetime status when my overall nights topped the old 1000 night requirement.

    I did have SPG gold at the time, but with limited cash having had to retire there was no way I could afford enough stays per year to maintain it. SPG weren’t interested in offering me a deal.

    I still manage around 21-28 nights a year in Marriott, I select properties with a lounge when I can, but most UK properties don’t have a lounge and I usually get free breakfast 7 days a week for my family. It’s very unusual that I don’t get a suite upgrade.

    I am happy with MRW, I just hope there are no negative changes to the MRW scheme when the SPG completes.

  31. @Ryan – I’ve seen this thrown out there before, and it’s an incomplete comparison for a number of different ways:
    – Ignores the 4th point Platinum75 gets, which is the first thing you have to true up, since you’re making the comparison to Marriott Plat (75 nights)
    – Ignores Platinum arrival points (bigger % of the total compared to the MR Plat gift) + Make a Green Choice points…those aren’t insignificant
    – Also ignores other non-promo, non-hotel, non-credit card ways to earn points that SPG has that Marriott doesn’t (Uber, Delta, in-hotel dining)
    – Many travelers (such as myself) don’t take vacations that are right at 7 nights at the same hotel, which diminishes a good MR benefit

  32. @DCS – “to satisfy your own neuroses and deficiencies, but why should anyone care what you think, especially since it is so demonstrably stupid?”

    Says the person complaining about being insulted.

  33. One thing I don’t really understand about all of the worry here is that SPG elites never have to stay at a Marriott hotel if they don’t want to. They can continue staying at their favorite Starwood properties, accruing points, redeeming at those properties, etc. This isn’t like an airline merger where routes, planes, hubs, terminals will change drastically. Marriott will figure out points conversions, benefits, etc. But your travel habits don’t really have to change.

  34. @Brian L — You sound like you think that you are a smart guy. So, which came first, the chicken or the egg?


  35. A little insight into DCS’ “mastery” of the game, from the same person who carries a laminated copy of the HH T&Cs to shove in a hotel clerk’s face, if they deny him an upgrade that’s not even promised as a HH Diamond benefit. And yes, this is a direct quote from a post of his on IF:

    And then just yesterday (Dec 23) I checked in at Hyatt Regency Manila, and with nothing to lose, I asked if they would consider giving me a complimentary upgrade to a suite…as a returning customer and GP member? The agent said that if I wanted a suite upgrade I would have to pay for it. I said that if I paid for it then it would not be “complimentary”, would it? She said that she could not authorize a suite upgrade; only the manager could. I said there was no one else to check in so I was willing to wait for her to speak with the manager. She reached the manager on the phone and I heard bits like “Platinum member”, “stayed here last year”… Then she came and told me that the manager had approved an upgrade but he wanted me to understand that this was not something I should expect and it did NOT include free breakfast. Understood!

    So basically, harass your way into things that you aren’t entitled to. Classy.

  36. @Anthony – while Starwood loyals may not stay at these Marriott properties (if they didn’t need to go to small towns or want limited service or the like), you now have a new massive pool of MR loyals who might want to check out these cool new Ws and LMs and LC properties they have access too. Thus, more elites competing for the same rooms / upgrades.

  37. Hey, stupid, anyone who plays the game with a “full deck” knows that “harassing” one’s way into things is precisely the wrong approach. It does not work. What you just did by quoting my getting a suite upgrade at Hyatt Regency Manila as lowly HGP Platinum is to support my thesis that so-called “guaranteed” perks do not have the primacy they’ve been accorded by travel bloggers, and are a limitation instead. You, of course, would take a perfect illustration how things work in the real world and try to turn it into a negative, which is why you and others like you are not getting the most out of your travel dollars or making the most of your elite status. There was no harassment there at all. The property only had to say “no”, and it would have been over. They said, “yes” and I wound up in a suite. Same scenario, same play, different setting: Grand Hyatt Singapore on New Years Eve 2015 — I also wound up in suite as a lowly HGP Platinum.

    Your sense of logic and common sense are simply nonexistent. But keep on writing, since the more you do the more you expose your ignorance, and confirm my overall “thesis” about how the game is played with a “full deck”.


  38. Wow you are clueless. They said “no”, and yet you kept pushing and pushing. You acted like a dick, and likely to get this pushy American off her case, she called her manager and gave it to you. That’s not playing with a “full deck”, that’s being a douche.

    I wonder if Hunter Rawlings knows what an a$$hole he has working for his university.

  39. Go away, man. You are beginning to make me physically sick. I am wasting my time with you because it is clear that you are totally unhinged. A perfectly innocuous conversation at a check-in desk is being turned into some big brawl, and for what purpose? To try to bring back SPG, a program that was so expensive few could afford it and its points currency became famous, not for redeeming stays at Starwood hotels, but for redeeming airline tickets, which likely greatly contributed to the company’s demise? Travel bloggers are doing more harm than good by conning weak minds like yours into adopting standards of “best” that make little sense from the point of view of why one would want to play the game in the first place.

    I am done with you ’cause you are unhinged. Good luck with SPG (r.i.p). You’re getting the “cold treatment” again… in fact, likely forever.

    Have a good life.

  40. Your anti-SPG bias (jealously) is truly showing here, as they haven’t even decided on the surviving program yet, even as they are already upgrading MR with legacy SPG benefits.

    Goodbye Dikoma! And good riddance – VFTW and OMAAT are better off without your Trumpian boasts.

    Hi, EVERYBODY, here’s what passes for erudite commentary in travel blogosphere. I am “jealous” of SPG, a dead, already smelly and soon to be buried loyalty program. I do not know about you guys, but unless one is a necrophiliac, getting jealous of a corpse sounds pretty unhinged to me… 😉

  42. LOL.

    Those links will simply make me into folk hero, especially if anyone who even cares wants to follow the evidence to the end and see that a “nutjob” is hardly how anyone with an ounce of grey matter between the ears would characterize this poster.

    Go on and check out the evidence below. Why let anyone define me for you when I can provide the goods on which you can make up your own mind? No argumentun ad populum, like “it’s true because such or such self-appointed ‘travel guru’ says it true.” It’s just straight from me to you:

    — About my HH Diamond suite upgrade successes:

    — My Treatise on the Anatomy of the types of Big-Time redemptions I have been doing yearly since 2011 that give me the bona fides to pontificate:

    — Jaw-dropping demo of HH Diamond Force: All you wanted to know about it but were too embarrassed to ask:

    — Last, but not least: My objective and quantitative comparisons of hotel loyalty programs:


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