It is time to move on and to start thinking about how you will be impacted by this. You may already want to start changing your behaviour even though Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest will not be combined until 2018.
There is some upside for everyone if you play your cards right.
If you currently focus on Marriott Rewards ….
You can now stay at Starwood properties without worrying about ‘losing’ any points. Those Starwood points you earn will be turned into Marriott points (I am guessing at 1:2.5 or 1:3) in 2018.
Consider taking out the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express credit card. Here is my review. You will receive 10,000 Starwood points for signing up and spending £1,000. These should convert into 25,000 – 30,000 Marriott points in 2018.
Remember that the Marriott Rewards credit card is not currently available to new applicants so this is your only option if you want to earn Marriott points from a credit card.
Consider getting American Express Preferred Rewards Gold (my review) or American Express Platinum (my review). Gold gets you 20,000 Amex points which become 10,000 Starwood points which should become 25,000 to 30,000 Marriott points. The Platinium bonus is 50% bigger than that.
American Express Platinum also gets you Starwood Preferred Guest Gold status for as long as you hold it. This is likely to give you Marriott Rewards Gold status when the merger is complete.
Do NOT rush to spend your Marriott Rewards points on a standard redemption. When the Starwood hotels are added, there will be SUBSTANTIALLY more upmarket hotels available for redemption, especially in Europe.
If you collect miles with an obscure airline, you may benefit. Starwood has far more airline transfer partners than Marriott and there is a chance that the larger Starwood list will be the one that survives. If you collect, say, Aegean miles then you may want to hold off redeeming Marriott points for anything else until 2018.
Another reason not to redeem now is that, with added Starwood points, you may be able to get to the points needed for a Marriott Travel Package redemption. These are easily the best option for redeeming Marriott Rewards points – you get a large pile of airline miles and a seven night hotel stay for a bargain price. You need at least 200,000 Marriott Rewards points to get one of these packages – if that seems out of reach now, it may not be out of reach if you can pick up some Starwood points for later conversion.
If you currently focus on Starwood Preferred Guest ….
Obviously Starwood members have a lot less to gain from the merger. However, I would suggest the following:
Don’t rush to spend all of your Starwood points. Yes, it is very possible that SPG Moments and all of the ‘fun’ stuff will go away once Marriott gets its hands on the programme. However, all of the Starwood properties will still be available for redemption under the new combined programme.
And, of course, you will also be able to redeem for a huge number of Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, Edition etc hotels as well.
You can now stay at a Marriott property without worrying about having any ‘orphan’ points. In 2018 you will be able to combine them with your existing Starwood balance. Keen Starwood members based in the UK – who have very few property options outside London – may want to start moving more of their UK regional stays to Marriott.
Some Starwood redemptions are likely to become better value. SPG prices its top-end properties far too high. If Marriott sticks with the current reward chart, no hotel would be more than 45,000 points per night. At a 1:3 conversion rate, that is the equivalent of 15,000 SPG points compared to the current 30,000 points charged. Redemptions at, say, the Gritti Palace in Venice would suddenly become half price.
Some Starwood redemptions will also become worse value, and it is possible that some airline partners go away as well. However, there is no rush to make any rash redemptions as plenty of notice will be given about the merger and what will and will not be retained.
Continue to work on achieving or retaining Starwood status. This will be rolled over to Marriott status in 2018, and Marriott may even bring in reciprocal status benefits earlier.
Consider getting the Starwood Amex. Marriott has a long-term deal with Visa so the American Express contract may be terminated. You might as well pick up a sign-up bonus on this card whilst it is still around.
In the short term, I will get one benefit from the merger. I am one of those people who, once my Starwood balance is merged with my Marriott balance, will have enough points for a top-end Marriott Travel Package. 7 nights at a Ritz-Carlton plus 85,000 or 120,000 airline miles depending on which programme I choose will be a fitting way to say goodbye to Starwood.
If you can think of anything else, please add it in the comments below.
(Want to earn more hotel points? Click here to see our complete list of promotions from the major hotel chains or use the ‘Hotel Promos’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)