Some links to products and partners on this website will earn an affiliate commission.
Remember Northern Rock? If you had money on deposit at the bank during the summer of 2007, you most certainly do! At the moment, I feel the same way about Starwood Preferred Guest. In this scenario, however, there’s no Treasury or Bank of England to come to the rescue.
What Am I Worried About?
I have a few too many Starpoints. This is clearly a “first world problem”, but I’ve been lax about applying the mantra “earn and burn” to Starwood Preferred Guest because, quite frankly, the company has proven itself worthy of trust. But there is no denying the fact that the central bank managing the “value of Starpoints” also happens to be the owner of the “Bank of Starpoints”. If Marriott decides to change the rules, there is very little that a SPG member can do, other than take their future business elsewhere.
But like the depositors in Northern Rock, I’m not worried about depositing my salary into a different bank in the future, I’m worried about the money I’ve got saved already!
Joe wrote recently about the rumours circulating around the merger of Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest. He didn’t mention another rumour, one that suggests that Starwood Preferred Guest will be stopping direct airline transfers abruptly on 16 April, 2018.
I rarely react to unsubstantiated rumour, but this particular one has resonated with me. Why? Well, put yourself in the position of Marriott CEO Arne Sorensen and his leadership team and run through a potential thought process.
- I’ve bought an expensive hotel chain. I’d like to keep its customers but rather than spend their points on hotel stays – which cost me relatively little – many insist on converting their points into airline miles, something that costs substantially more.
- Maybe I should stop this. Will the majority of SPG members stop staying simply because they lose the ability to convert to miles at an attractive ratio? Probably not – we’re pretty successful at Marriott without offering such a thing – so let’s put a stop to 1:1 (or 1:1.25) airline transfers.
- If we provide advance warning, however, we might have a “run on the bank” as many SPG members rush to convert their Starpoints into airline miles. That could get expensive.
- Maybe we should just do it without any advance warning and hide it within a major announcement…
There are any number of reasons why this won’t happen next week – and I certainly hope that it doesn’t – but I suspect that you will agree that it sounds plausible…
What Have I Spent My Starpoints On?
The key point I want to make is simple. Nobody, and I mean nobody, should rationally expect that the upcoming merger will mean that the sweetest spots of Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest will become even sweeter.
Marriott Travel Packages are surely not going to cost fewer points or get you more miles. Category 9 Marriott hotels costing 45,000 points / 15,000 Starpoints are not going to reduce to 30,000 points / 10,000 Starpoints. The conversion rate of 20,000 Starpoints = 25,000 airline miles is not going to improve. Etc. etc.
In most cases, we are just hoping that our favourite reward options remain essentially unchanged. So, if we have the points available – as I certainly did – why wait any longer? The major risks are to the downside…
Marriott Rewards Travel Package
I’ve written about this before. You can re-read that post by clicking here.
270,000 Marriott points (90,000 Starpoints) becomes 120,000 Alaska miles and a week at a Category 1-5 hotel.
I don’t desperately need more Alaska miles, but I have long been contemplating a Travel Package top-up and Alaska miles are the highest value option for me, even when compared to bonus point promotions such as this recent one from Avios. I don’t have to decide on the hotel stay, as I received a certificate valid for one year; this certificate can usually be extended for a second year.
Rather than wait and hope to avoid bad news, I simply decided to book the Travel Package now. I might even get lucky and some of my favourite SPG hotels might find themselves as Category 5 hotels in the “new” Marriott Rewards in early 2019.
Starwood Preferred Guest Nights & Flights Package
This has been written about before on InsideFlyer UK as well – click here.
Although this deal is probably not quite as good as a Marriott Travel Package, you can receive 5 nights at a SPG Category 3 hotel + 50,000 airline miles for 60,000 Starpoints. The key element to consider is the wide selection of airline transfer partners.
I did a series on reward charts and earning “exotic miles” last year. One of my favourite loyalty programmes is ANA Mileage Club. I happen to have roughly 18,000 ANA miles. Add 50,000 to that balance and I will have 68,000 ANA miles – enough for a return reward in Business Class between Europe and the Middle East / Africa. Perhaps the Etihad partnership will return, but I’m sure I can find a Star Alliance reward to somewhere exotic in the Indian Ocean or South Africa…
I could have simply converted 40,000 Starpoints into those same 50,000 miles, but essentially I am spending another 20,000 Starpoints for 5 nights at a Category 3 hotel. Compared to the regular price of 28,000 Starpoints that’s a 29% discount.
And even if the worst news is confirmed about elite status for 2019 and beyond, well that’s just more reason to squeeze a 5-night SPG stay into 2018 to burn some more points whilst I’m still a full Platinum member.
I very much hope that nothing bad happens next week. But I decided not to wait, and outlined what I believe to be the two best reward options available from Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest.
What do you think? Overkill? Or wise risk mitigation?