Nutmeg Avios

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

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.

SPG banner

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.)

The 2-4-1 voucher with the Virgin credit cards gets easier to use
American Express trialling 'bonus MR points' offers .... and a good Harrods cashback deal
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  1. Would like a comparison of these brand to Hilton group, I some times wonder if I’m too blinkered to alternatives…

  2. Currently have just over 100 000 SPG points. I thought best use is to convert them to air miles. Am I wrong in this?

    • GodSaveThePoints says:

      not at all, you’re totally right. they can be converted to programs like JAL or Asiana for first or business class flights on Emirates or Lufthansa starting at just 40,000 miles. Ex: Lufthansa first class Europe to US for 40,000 SPG points.

      • There are very few people in the UK with significant SPG balances which is why the SPG Moments events in the UK go for peanuts. I noticed the other day that the SPG box at Madison Square Garden is 55,000 points per concert compared to 10,000+ at the O2 in London. The Jamie Cullum private gig I attended for 9,000 points in Dubai was 23,000 points when offered in Washington. The Wimbledon Centre Court tickets I got two years ago for 50,000 SPG points per couple would have been 150,000 if offered for something equivalent in the US – SPG paid around £2,500 per couple for that.

        Whilst I have transferred SPG to Lufthansa in the past, it is not a no-brainer. You should 1.5p per SPG point when redeeming for a hotel (or at least that should be your target). You won’t get that at the top hotels because they are massively overpriced at 30,000 points but the mid-range SPG hotels at 10,000 points will get you that value. Heck, Liverpool is 3,000 points.

        If you value airline miles at 1p then – with the bonus for a 20,000 conversion – you’re looking at 1.25p per SPG point.

        It is all about marginal value though. You are unlikely to have enough SPG points for a flight (although I had over 1 million SPG at one point!) so you will be using them purely as a top-up so the value you get doesn’t matter that much since the key is that it unlocks the flight you wouldn’t get otherwise.

        • Thanks for responses.

          I actually only ever look at BA redemptions but you guys are telling me my stash could get me first class tickets to USA with Lufthansa? I will check that out. We were/are planning a Miami trip for 2017 so this might come in handy.

          I looked at virgin and BA and realised even with 241 not much saving as Virgin redemption cheaper…

  3. Given the 25% bonus, you’d be far from wrong to convert now. Depends on you, of course & your points needs. I think in your position, I’d rather take 125,000 airline points now than find the 25% bonus gets taken away overnight…

  4. how long do you think the amex spg will be around for new applications?

    • @ 10K, it should be around a year or so

      my guess is a move towards SPG devaluation, as SPG is much more generous

      however – you never know – Marriott might be buying into the more successful loyalty scheme as well as the real estate…

      points schemes typically take 12-18 months or so to integrate

      • Realistically you can churn the SPG Amex twice in the next 18 months. X2 if you have a partner. That is at least 59K miles for £4K spend over 18 months

        • hiya dev…

          just checking the maths on that, please correct me if wrong, am I missing an extra 1000 points?

          (11+11+5+1+1) x 2 = 58k

        • I might have made a slight error in my calculations:

          1 = 10 + 1 = 11k

          2 = 11 + 5 +1 = 17K

          3 = 11 +5 + 1 = 17 k

          4 = 11 + 5 + 1 = 17k

          = 60k SPG points + 25% bonus = 75k air miles for £4K spend.

        • It gets better if you have parents or siblings that you can refer. For every person, add 17k for another £1k spend.

        • nope, something’s gone awry there I think

          If we are talking about a cardholder and his/her partner only, where does the 4th churner above get the 5k referral bonus from?

          also churner number one gets 11+1, not 10+1, because they will be referred by raffles

        • Genghis says:

          If a person is referred by Raffles they get 11k SPG points when spend £1k (if not referred get 12k).

        • Genghis says:

          My mistake – if not referred get 10k. Apologies

        • Assuming the first app is a fresh with no referral. They get 10k +1k for the spend. The partner will then be referred so will get 11k +1 k for the spend. 1st app will get 5k bonus. Assuming you combine the points together, you get a total of 28k. The first person cancels the card, waits 6 months and is referred by 2nd person. They get 11k+ 1k for spend. The 2nd person also gets 5K. Combined together, this gives 45k points. 2nd person cancels. Waits 6 months and is referred by first person. This gives a total of 62k. Keep repeating every 6 months. But to minimise expense, spend 1k as quick as possible l, get bonus and combine points thus getting pro rata refund.

        • Genghis says:

          Surely this method relies on one person in the group always having the card in order to do the referrals and therefore spending on the card as quickly as possible in order to get the pro rata refunds is irrelevant?

    • so better not to get referred?

  5. Britbronco22 says:

    As both programs have life time status I’m curious to see what happens. Hopefully they pool together your total nights stayed. However I think the targets are much easier in SPG so that will probably increase

  6. if you want reassurance on SPG loyalty prog

    In a video message about the proposed merger, Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson tried to reassure those customers.

    “Our members should take comfort in the fact that we know, without a doubt, these loyalty programs are the most powerful tool we have for developing strong relationships with our guests,” he said. “To state the obvious, devaluing points or member benefits is not the way to preserve and strengthen these programs.”

  7. Chris Jones says:

    How about status matching?

    I understand that Marriott challenges status matching. I’m planning to stay at a Marriott next year. Would like to get spg gold matched or Hilton diamond.

    Anybody had any luck?

  8. Harry 2 says:

    On what basis do you think the conversion rate from Starwood to Marriott may be 1:2.5 or 1:3? To anyone who just uses the points for hotel redemptions even 2.5 would be generous. What reason do Marriott have for being so generous? Their combined market share will give them a lot of clout. The Hilton scheme is very point hungry since the last devaluation and Hyatt do not have that big a footprint. IHG seems the real competition at the lower end of the market but they do not have that many really classy high end properties.

    Although it is the case that when the Starwood hotels are added, there will be many more upmarket hotels available for redemption, my opinion is that the value of Marriott hotels is better and if I suddenly have 2.5 – 3 times the points to use in hotels that are not that much worse quality but much cheaper in points, that is great news.

    • Raffles says:

      If you strip out the overpriced SPG top tier, 1:3 looks fairer. The cheapest SPG hotels are 3k (2k at weekends) vs 7.5k for Marriott.

  9. 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!

    • 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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?

    • yeap, sounds correct to me.

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


      • 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

        • 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

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

        • 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.

        • 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

  12. 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!

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

    • 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! )

  15. 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

    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.