The Starwood-Marriott hotel merger closed Friday, meaning all Starwood properties now fall under the Marriott name.
While the deal is complete, there’s still a lot to be done before the two hospitality companies truly become one.
However, Marriott did take a significant step toward merging the loyalty accounts – something the hotel industry deems vital to its business – of Starwood and Marriott.
This is of great interest to those who play the Miles and Points game.
While the Starwood Preferred Guest program and the Marriott Rewards programs will remain separate until late 2017, or potentially into 2018, the closing of the deal brought with it the ability to transfer elite status between the two programs as well as the option to transfer points from one program to the other.
Once your SPG and Rewards accounts are linked, you’ll be able to transfer points from one account to the other.
The transfer ratio is as follows:
1 Starpoint to 3 Rewards points
3 Rewards points transfer to 1 Starpoint
Early reports indicate that transfers are almost instantaneous, so if you have an award you want to book in the near future, transferring the points quickly shouldn’t be an issue.
As for earning points, as I indicated above, the programs will remain separate for at least the next year or so. Which means, points earned at Starwood properties, or with the SPG Amex credit card, will credit to your SPG account. Points earned at Marriott properties, or with the Marriott credit cards, will credit to your Rewards account.
From there, the points can be moved, at will, if you so desire.
Once your SPG and Rewards accounts are linked, your highest level of status in Marriott Rewards, Ritz-Carlton Rewards or SPG will automatically be your status across both programs.
Here’s the breakdown from the Marriott website.
Account linking, the most important aspect of cross-program status recognition and points transfers, can be done at the link below.
Merging two hotels, and their associated loyalty programs, is a major endeavor.
Marriott has done a good job compiling a fairly extensive FAQ page in anticipation of members’ questions.
It can be found here.
If you have balances in either, or both, of the loyalty programs, being able to combine points can prove highly lucrative.
The obvious play is moving points from one program to another to “top off” for a desired award stay.
But, don’t forget that points in the SPG program can transfer to a number of airlines at a 1:1 rate.
And if you transfer 20,000 SPG points to American Airlines – or any of SPG’s partner airlines – you’ll receive a bonus of 5,000 miles, making your total transfer 25,000 miles.
So, if you only have 15,000 SPG points, but 15,000 or more Marriott Rewards points, you could combine your balances into SPG points, transfer the 20,000 to an airline and receive 25,000 miles total.
For most domestic U.S. airlines, that’s enough for a free roundtrip ticket within the continental U.S.
And don’t forget the current credit card offers from both Marriott and Starwood.
The Chase Marriott Rewards Premier credit card is offering a sign up bonus of 80,000 points after spending $3,000 within the first 3 months of account opening.
The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express is offering a sign-up bonus of 25,000 Starpoints after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months.
If you haven’t had either of these credit cards, by signing up for both, you could have approximately 167,000 Marriott Rewards points, or, 55,600 Starpoints, when combined into one program, without staying one night at either a Marriott or Starwood property.
Credit card application caveat: If you’ve signed up for 5 or more credit cards from any bank within the past 24 months, it is unlikely your application will be approved by Chase. And, if you’ve had the SPG Amex card before, you will not receive the bonus again – American Express’s current policy is one product-specific (SPG, Amex Everyday, Premier Rewards Gold, etc.) credit card bonus per applicant’s lifetime.
Another caution with regard to The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express…recently Amex announced a sign-up bonus of 2-free nights in an SPG Category 1-5 hotel instead of the typical 25,000 Starpoints sign-up bonus for the personal and business versions of this card.
For Miles and Points enthusiasts, the points are a much better option.
The two night sign-up bonus is slated to run through October 19, 2016, but application pages for the 25,000 points sign-up bonus are still active while the 2-night sign-up bonus is going on.
If you’re going to try for the 25,000 points, be sure the application page you’re using is not for the 2-night sign up bonus.
And, if you’re not familiar with Marriott’s Travel Packages, you really should give them a look.
The ability to combine SPG and Marriott points just may make a really lucrative – but expensive as far as number of points needed – travel opportunity within reach to many more travel aficionados.
There are good aspects to the merger of Starwood and Marriott, and there are some negatives, as well.
So far, Marriott’s done its best to make it a smooth transition, and one that members of each loyalty program can feel okay about.
Being able to have your highest level of status recognized by both brands – well, one brand as of Friday, really – is good.
And being able to transfer points, at a fair transfer rate, between programs, immediately, is very good.
Until the merger of the two loyalty programs officially happens, there are plenty of ways to leverage each to enjoy some really fantastic travel opportunities.
Bon Voyage, everyone.