Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

Marriott Bonvoy launches tomorrow – here are my memories of the Starwood brand

Links on Head for Points may pay us an affiliate commission. A list of partners is here.

Marriott Bonvoy is the new name for the combined Marriott Rewards, The Ritz-Carlton Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest programme.

The programme will launch tomorrow, 13th February, although it will take a while to update all of the marketing material, credit cards and the like.  I updated Head for Points last week and you may already have seen the Bonvoy name used on some of our reference pages.

Here is the new logo which Marriott calls “simple, bold and modern”.  After an initial burst of ‘what?!’, I think most people have got used to it.  Luckily Marriott didn’t go the Hyatt route of giving ludicrous names to its status levels ….

Marriott Bonvoy logo

Marriott Bonvoy will launch with over 120 million members.  This is a huge number (Avios has 8 million members for comparison) equivalent to the population of Japan or Mexico.

Of course, in practical terms, little will change.  The ‘big bang’ was in August 2018, when Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest were aligned in terms of features and benefits and the new terms and conditions launched.  The launch of Marriott Bonvoy is just slipping a new skin over the existing Marriott website.

The one change that has been announced is the renaming of two membership tiers.

  • Marriott Bonvoy Titanium Elite will replace Platinum Premier Elite for members who exceed 75 nights
  • Marriott Bonvoy Ambassador Elite will replace Platinum Premier Elite with Ambassador.  This is for members who spend over 100 nights per year and spend over $20,000, who receive a dedicated ambassador to oversee their bookings.

We also know that the two UK credit cards will retain the Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest branding in the short term.

There WILL be a number of hotels going up in (points) price on 5th March as part of Marriott’s annual changes but we will look at that tomorrow.  The good news is that the introduction of peak and off-peak pricing has been pushed back to ‘late 2019’.  The bad news is that ‘Points Advance’ is being tweaked, and locking in a reward now – even if you don’t have the points – no longer guarantees you the price. More tomorrow though.

Goodbye Starwood

Goodbye to the Starwood brand – I’ll miss you

Apart from on the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express credit card, today is the day that the Starwood brand finally disappears.

You will still see the broader Starwood name around – Starwood Capital Group, the investment group run by the Starwood Hotels founder, still exists and is still developing hotel projects.  It recently sold Principal Hotels in the UK to IHG and owns a 30% stake in Yotel.

I’ve had some good times with Starwood.  A long time ago, well before HfP and when I was still a graduate trainee, I had some great stays using Starwood ‘free nights’ promotions.

The chain loved to do offers such as ‘do three stays and get a free night anywhere’.  I remember running up three cheap stays during one of these offers (Sheraton Lisbon was in there at some point) and then redeeming a free night at the Gritti Palace in Venice, one of the jewels in the SPG portfolio.

I was almost certainly the only guest at the Gritti Palace who had flown in via Treviso on Ryanair.  At that time Starwood also had the Excelsior on the Lido, and there was a free Riva boat you could take which linked the Gritti, Danieli and Excelsior.  I remember zipping around the lagoon in that.  The boat still had the Ciga branding which was the chain bought by Starwood to gain control of all these luxury hotels.

Other favourite Starwood hotels included The Kamp in Helsinki (now independent), St Regis Istanbul (which channels the feeling of what I think St Regis should be better than any other hotel in the chain, St Regis Istanbul review here), Westin Kyoto and Westin Dublin, which is both lovely and in the perfect location.  There were a few dumps as well, of course 🙂

In the early days of HfP, I had a better relationship with Starwood than with any other hotel group.  I even appeared as an extra in one of the videos that Starwood hotels had playing on the TV when you entered your room (see YouTube here at 2:49, I am sat behind Quinn talking to Kelly from aroundtheworldin80pairsofshoes).

It was a far smaller company than IHG, Hilton and Marriott and really understood the benefits of engaging with members and the value of loyalty.  After all, staying at one of the few Starwood hotels usually meant driving past a Hilton, Marriott and IHG hotel on the way.  One of the benefits of the takeover for me is that SPG’s talented team has been dispersed across other airline and hotel groups and the relationships have carried over.

Starwood wasn’t perfect, of course.  Purely from a loyalty point of view, pricing top hotels at 35,000 SPG points – which otherwise converted into 40,000 Avios – meant that redeeming at their luxury hotels made little sense.  Paying guests did value top tier elite benefits such as virtually guaranteed suite upgrades.

When Marriott bought Starwood – the equivalent of Asda buying Waitrose – few people thought they would get it right.  To be honest, so far they have done a good job.  Not everything has gone right, of course, but it is far away from some of the dire predictions when the takeover was announced.

Unless you were a top tier elite member doing 75 nights a year, at which point you were well treated, Marriott Rewards was generally seen as very dull loyalty scheme.

Marriott Bonvoy is, genuinely, most of the best bits of Starwood Preferred Guest and Marriott Rewards put together.  Some things have had to give, such as the generous Travel Packages, but so far so good.  I can currently redeem at top hotels such as St Regis New York for 60,000 points whereas it was 105,000 points equivalent in Starwood days.

I was a bit worried when my wife and I ended up with 1 million Marriott Bonvoy points between us, once our SPG and Marriott Rewards balances were merged, but at the moment I have no worries about being able to spend them well.

We are already facing a devaluation when the new Category 8 launch in March and again when peak pricing launches later in the year.  This will put St Regis New York up to 100,000 points on some nights, nearly back to 105,000 in the SPG days – but today all is good.

Over to you, Bonvoy.  You’re on.

How to earn Marriott Bonvoy points and status from UK credit cards

How to earn Marriott Bonvoy points and status from UK credit cards (October 2023)

There are various ways of earning Marriott Bonvoy points from UK credit cards.  Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses.

The official Marriott Bonvoy American Express card comes with 20,000 points for signing up, 2 points for every £1 you spend and 15 elite night credits per year.

You can apply here.

Marriott Bonvoy American Express

20,000 points sign-up bonus and 15 elite night credits each year Read our full review

You can also earn Marriott Bonvoy points by converting American Express Membership Rewards points at the rate of 2:3.

Do you know that holders of The Platinum Card from American Express receive FREE Marriott Bonvoy Gold status for as long as they hold the card?  It also comes with Hilton Honors Gold, Radisson Rewards Premium and MeliaRewards Gold status.  We reviewed American Express Platinum in detail here and you can apply here.

The Platinum Card from American Express

30,000 points and a huge range of valuable benefits – for a fee Read our full review

You can also earn Marriott Bonvoy points indirectly:

and for small business owners:

The conversion rate from American Express to Marriott Bonvoy points is 2:3.

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which can be used to earn Marriott Bonvoy points

(Want to earn more hotel points?  Click here to see our complete list of promotions from the major hotel chains or use the ‘Hotel Offers’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

Comments (33)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Mikeact says:

    Happy memories of lunch with Bill Marriott down in the Keys, Key West. In those days, top tiers had a special Black card from Marriott which opened up numerous doors. I still have all my old cards but rarely stay at major brands nowadays, we prefer more independent properties like the Agriturismo stays in Italy, or decent B&B’s and smaller family run properties many of which can be pretty expensive . We’ve just had a flying visit to stay at a Spanish Parador in Cadiz, fabulous, but again expensive. I guess it’s horses for courses.

    • marcw says:

      You can book Spanish Paradors quite affordable with Avios. You can get a 5 nights voucher (inc Breakfast) for 120k Avios. The only problem is you can not exchange it at the Parador in Granada 🙁

      • Shoestring says:

        bit of a shame that el Talonario Bancotel disappeared – I used those for many a cheap stay, they were also valid at the lesser paradores

  • Boi says:

    Anyway of earning small number of marriott points (i need about 3000) when I dont have MR or SPG card? Need them to complete a booking for May before my next churn.

    • Scottydogg says:

      You can buy points , obviously not the best option , but if your stuck then thats an option
      I need 8000 and im thinking i might need to just buy them , especially if the hotel im looking at comes up on the list for the points increase

  • Kipto says:

    Marriott points bookings.
    I was about to book a Marriott points redemption yesterday for one night but held back. When I returned to the site last night there was no availability for points redemptions. Did I read somewhere that SPG or Marriott had no blackout nights ??

    • Matthew says:

      No blackout for ‘standard’ rooms I think. Check the rooms available for cash as that will show if standard not available. Happened to me too for a Tuscany hotel. Availability will come and go so keep checking.

    • Peter K says:

      There is a difference between no blackout dates and last room availability.
      The first just means that a minimum of one room is made available every day of the year on points, the latter means that if a standard room is available for cash it is available for points.

  • Brian says:

    ‘I was a bit worried when my wife and I ended up with 1 million Marriott Bonvoy points between us’ – lol! I can’t imagine many things less worrying than ending up with a million points. 🙂

  • Pangolin says:

    Well this changeover hasn’t been all roses for me. I had 25 stays at SPG legacy brands but I didn’t get Platinum in the recent sweep. When I queried it they said I only had 22 stays! Fortunately I kept screenshots of the old SPG platform so I have some ammo to fight this with.

    I don’t know how long it’s going to take to get it sorted though. If I don’t get them to finally give me Platinum then I’m done with Binvoy and will stick to Hilton.

  • PS says:


    Does anyone know when Marriot statuses change over? I’m still showing as platinum when I only did 10 stays in 2018 and I thought it would have changed over by now. Just wondering if it’s worth getting a stay in whilst I still have the perks.


  • Sergey says:

    Well, Marriott made status qualification twice as difficult – and out of reach for most people. All the rest aside, this is a tremendous devaluation of the program (as compared to SPG).

  • Daniel says:

    Just checked my Marriott account and notice I’m showing as ‘Lifetime Gold’ despite only having 395 lifetime nights. Is it normal for them to upgrade early, or is this likely to be an error ?

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

The UK's biggest frequent flyer website uses cookies, which you can block via your browser settings. Continuing implies your consent to this policy. Our privacy policy is here.