Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

So, Marriott has bought Starwood …. what should your points strategy be?

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Like it or not, and 90% of HFP readers who are impacted would probably choose ‘not’, Marriott has bought Starwood.  Game over.

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.

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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.)

Comments (50)

  • Simmo says:

    Did any of the other chains look into buying SPG?

    High-end SPG just doesn’t fit into Marriot in my eyes, maybe I’m blinkered with the low grade marriott’s we have in the UK, I personally hope they sell the better properties to Hilton, IHG, or somebody else!

    • Rob says:

      They don’t own the hotels and the brand contracts with the hotel owners are tight – you cannot just tell a hotel owner to rebrand from Sheraton to Marriott. Marriott will now have 30 brands which is ludicrous by any standards.

  • Wally1976 says:

    OT. Harry – help! I went to apply for a Barclays current account last night in advance of getting the Dragon Passes (don’t need them until August but planning ahead) but they only seem to offer a standard ‘Travel Pack’ which doesn’t include the lounge passes. Have they stopped doing the ‘Travel Pack Plus’ including the Dragon Passes? Any ideas? Thanks.

  • Mucky says:

    For anyone who’s partner/themself received the SPG Amex offer a few months ago for 20,000 points on a £2000 spend it could be worth you referring your partner.

    Convert 20,000 SPG to 25,000 airmiles
    You have spent £2k on the card to have received those points which is an additional 2,000 points in SPG. Send them to the partner who you are referring the card to (Raffles has an article how to do this for free).

    Refer receives 5,000 points referee receives 11,000 on a £1k spend. Again send the 5,000 points to your partner as you did for the 2,000.

    Thus leaves you a total of 19,000 points (
    2000 received from your partner
    11,000 sign up bonus
    5,000 your partner received for your sign up
    1,000 for your initial spend)

    You can either spend another £1000 on the card to receive the final 1,000 SPG points for the 20,000 to 25,000 transfer bonus. Or buy the 1,000 points for around $34. Which equates you buying 6,000 miles for 0.4/0.5p depending on conversation.

    Raffles is that right?

    • luke says:

      yeap, sounds correct to me.

      the buying 6000 avios for 34usd is a good trick..

      cheers

      • harry says:

        the logic is all wrong 🙂

        you’re already 19/20ths there, ie 95% on the way to getting your bonus 5000

        so you could argue $34 = 1000 + (5% x 5000 = 250 points) = total 1250

        you’re paying 2.72c/ point – might be worth it to get a quick exit & spend your £1000 on a 2 point Amex card elsewhere etc

        • luke says:

          think I agree with mucky here
          if you have 19,000 spg points, and no ability to earn any more points and are wanting to do a partner transfer to ba, you can either

          a. transfer 19,000 spg points to avios, netting you 19000 avios
          b. spend 34 usd to have 20,000 spg points, and transfer to avios, netting 25,000 avios

          you have simply purchased 6,000 avios for 34 usd

          seems pretty simple.

          tell us where our thinking is skewed harry, cheers

          • harry says:

            MS isn’t exactly difficult, we’re just talking about £1K

          • Mucky says:

            I also agree with Mucky here 🙂 but going on Harry’s argument

            I could take the £1k spend and put it towards a referred gold sign up bonus of £2k for 22,000 MR points. 50% of 22,000 is 11,000 add that to the 1250 points harry was talking about and the $34 has enabled me to receive 12,250 miles at 0.2p per mile 🙂

          • Genghis says:

            But £1k of MS is money that you wouldn’t have necessarily spent.

          • harry says:

            I don’t mind various logical answers – but simply object to calling $34 = 6000 points because that’s illogical

            Better to see $34 as $34, offset by your £1000 = 2000 MR points (=£20) with various other Amex card, and the 1250 starpoints, net result is it’s $34 of spend you get back

            you’d already earned 95% of the 5000 bonus points, just not triggered the payout by hitting 20K points

  • craig paolozi says:

    I have 120k Amex MR points from referrals & spend – and not sure if I should convert them to SPG and get 60k or transfer to Hilton and get 240k HHonour points.

    I already have 100k Hilton HHonour points and 75k SPG points and have top end status in both

    • Scallder says:

      Craig – have you got any trips planned (or at least in the works)? I’d perhaps suggest looking at those destinations you’re planning and see the availability of SPG/Hilton properties in the area. That should allow you to know whether you’ll likely be able to spend the additional points, especially the SPG ones before any kind of Marriott conversion.

      I’m personally sitting on a balance of c120k Starpoints and reckon I’m going to hold onto them for now, as even if SPG lives on until 2018, I would presume (or at the very least hope) that would allow for redemption stays until the end of 2018/early 2019 for Starwood stays.

      • Craig Paolozzi says:

        Yeah paying for 3 nights at Hilton Vilamoura in June and 4 nights at CP Vilamoura using my 320k stash of IHG points lol

        Looking at a few night break in October somewhere hot still lol

        Abu Dhabi maybe April 2017 so spg and Hilton both have good properties there

        Maybe I’ll split the 120k amex Mr between Hilton and SPG

        • scallder says:

          Would highly recommend Dubrovnik in October. Stayed at the Hilton there which is just outside the old town so a great location and hotel is lovely. It also has an executive lounge with a balcony over looking the old town/ocean with decent drinks/canapes etc. We took breakfast out on the patio in the morning though. Weather is still lovely but not too hot, and the city is lovely. Tip though – have a look at the cruise port stats to see what ships are docking when as you do not want to be inside the city walls once the population of a huge cruise liner has just disembarked!

  • Zander says:

    I wonder what will happen to the Skywards/SPG Your World Rewards, it’s a great programme but maybe not for much longer?

    I’ll most likely cash out my SPG points for miles at some point as I dislike Marriott a lot, I’m yet to have a decent stay whereas Hilton and Starw oodles have been fantastic even without status.

  • idrive says:

    OT:Thanks Rob, I just checked and got my Accor Platinum Extended to 04/2017, 2 days after re-joining via Amex Plat as per your article.

    • Matt says:

      I cancelled my Amex Platinum last year, however my Accor Platinum which was due to expire in 04/2016 has also been extended to 04/2017… ( I moved my Accor stays to Hilton thanks to the Diamond status match, effectively trading free alcohol for free breakfast! )

  • George says:

    I got the SPG Amex in December – cancelled in January. The card still shows on my account (as cancelled) but I was wondering, does the card ever disappear from the portfolio of my cards?

    I also still come up as an SPG amex cardholder on SPG.com

    This is the first Amex that I’ve ever cancelled, so I’m keen to make sure when I can churn it, if that’s what I’ll end up doing anyway…

    • scallder says:

      George – you can delete the card from online services. Off the top of my head there’s an option within card management to do so.

    • scallder says:

      Having it still on online services won’t matter for churning – just 6 months from date the card was cancelled.