How You Can Win From the Marriott & Starwood Merger

If you haven’t seen it in the news, allow me to be the first to tell you that two major hotel chains are planning to merge, and they will instantly become the biggest hotel chain in the world.  This has been in the works for a while, as these plans were proposed and approved back in 2016 in subsequent shareholder meetings that outlined how Marriott International would make the acquisition of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide.  This deal has since closed, and Starwood shareholders were rewarded with 0.8 shares of Marriott as well as $21 for Starwood common stock.

What the Hotel Merger Means to Consumers

Let’s put the financial aspect aside for a minute and talk about how serial travelers like myself are going to reap major rewards from this.

The big win for us travel buffs is that they are merging the loyalty programs.  This means that the current pool of hotels at my time of writing this is over 5,500 hotels in over 100 countries, giving members a tremendous opportunity to not only book more hotels an earn points, but also use those same hotels to cash in rewards points already earned.

While members were able to link both accounts and enjoy elite status in both hotel loyalty programs since the acquisition, the loyalty programs remained separate for the two hotel brands.  Additionally, members could exchange SPG Starpoints at a rate of three to (one) Marriott Points.

I couldn’t possibly say it better than these guys, so for a video on the subject, check out the below. 

What We Know About the Future of the Loyalty Programs

Here are some bullets on what I have read about about merger and how loyalty programs will be affected.

  • Benefits are merged across Marriott Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest, and Ritz-Carlton Rewards.
  • The three programs will eventually be merged together into one.
  • The 3 to 1 ratio will still apply.
  • The program is yet to be named.

In addition, there will be five categories of status:

  • Silver
  • Gold
  • Platinum
  • Platinum Premier
  • Ambassador

After 100 booked nights, the highest level is unlocked.  Platinum Premier and Ambassador members will enjoy an earning of 17.5 points for every dollar spent.  This tier will require a $20,000 spend yearly, which yields an average of $200 per night, so this is really geared towards the extreme luxury travelers and serial business people who travel for work.  I feel like I travel frequently, and have stayed in many Ritz Carlton properties, but my yearly total is normally around 10-15 nights.

With the new redemption plan, there will be no blackout dates! On the downside, hotels can price-gouge (or as Forbes said it, “points-gouge”).

As an example, let’s say a property has a 25,000 point value during a normal time of the season.  This can be worth 20,000 during a slower part of the season and as high as 30,000 during a busy part of the season.  With that in mind, it’s wise to visit properties in Central America during a rainy season, etc.  This all kicks in on February 1, 2019.

Additionally, the SPG airline transfer points program remains the same with the 3 to 1 ratio I talked about, and ten additional airlines are on board to partner up with the program.

With this merger, the Marriott credit card expansion continues.  Chase and American Express are now on board, since they were with SPG, and they will be offering a new Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Luxury credit card that will offer even more benefits.  There are also rumblings of more rewards to be offered to the SPG business card holders.

Chase is offering an enticing offer with the Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card launching May 3rd.  This comes with a whopping 100,000 point bonus upon signing up!
As consumes, I feel we really win big with this merger.  Any time hotels merge and essentially allow us to leverage our points to even more properties and destinations, we win!  I’ll be updating you more as I obtain more information and find more hacks on how we can take advantage of this as travelers.
In related reading, here are some hotels I’ve reviewed that you will be able to book under the Marriott umbrella of brands.


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Peter is a digital nomad who largely writes from Asia, Europe, and South America. Always following the "vibe," he sets up shop in hostels and AirBNB's and continues to entertain us with wild stories from life abroad.

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