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As we wrote about earlier today, the Marriott / Starwood merger seems to have gone off without a hitch.
The key news from a Points/Miles collectors point of view is that, thanks to a very nifty bit of IT work, it is already possible to status match from one programme to another and to transfer Points instantly at a rate of 3 Marriott Points to 1 Starpoint.
This is great news for everyone involved – but particularly for those of us with SPG status and a decent Starpoint balance!
There’s a lot to cover here and I will be writing about some of the great sweet spots and arbitrage opportunities that now exist in detail over the next few days, but here are some initial thoughts:
Being able to match SPG Gold status to Marriott Gold status is great! You can get SPG Gold status for just 10 stays, or through the Amex Platinum card, whereas Marriott Gold usually requires 50 nights. In terms of benefits, SPG Gold basically gets you late checkout, a minor upgrade and a free drink – which is nice but nothing special. Marriott Gold offers guaranteed 4pm check out and Lounge Access (or free breakfast in the restaurant if there isn’t a lounge), which are very valuable perks.
The ability to transfer points freely in both directions opens up a huge number of hotels you can redeem Points at. Again, I think SPG members do particularly well here because Marriott have over 5,000 properties and the transfer ratio mean you can stay at any Marriott for (Edition and Ritz Carlton hotels cost more) the equivalent of just 15,000 Starpoints (45,000 Marriott Rewards Points).
For places like the JW Marriott Grosvenor House in London that is a heck of a deal – particularly when you factor in 4pm checkout and executive lounge access for members with Gold status!
If you like using your Points for nice hotels in expensive cities, the 3:1 transfer ratio to Marriott makes Starpoints, undoubtedly, the most valuable Points ‘currency’ to collect.
Being able to transfer Points between the two programmes also creates the best of both worlds when turning Points into airline Miles. SPG is famous for the number of airline partners it has and the generous 1:1 transfer rate (+ 5,000 Miles when you transfer in multiples of 20,000). Slightly less well known is the tremendous value you can get from Marriott’s Miles and hotel packages.
At the top end, you can get 7 nights at a Category 1-5 Marriott and 132,000 United Mileage Plus Miles (or 120,000 of many other types of Miles) for 270,000 Marriott Rewards Points – that’s just 90,000 Starpoints. It’s ironic that Marriott has a special deal with United that means you get more Miles than with any other airline, while SPG has a terrible 2:1 ratio with United, unlike the 1:1 ratio it has with the vast majority of its airline partners.
That’s a lot of Points of course, but you can also now effectively transfer American Express Membership Rewards Points to Marriott at a 1:1.5 ratio – by transferring them to SPG and then across to Marriott. This is potentially a big deal if you have enough to take advantage of Marriott’s Miles and hotel packages.
I, like many SPG members, was concerned about the impact of the merger – but Marriott and SPG seem to have absolutely nailed it so far. Getting the IT functionality in place (and working) from day one is seriously impressive in itself and the generous status match and transfer ratio is considerably better than I really dared to hope for. Obviously it’s still very early days, but so far so good!