Ever since the Marriott – Starwood merger was approved by the authorities in China, Marriott wasted no time in rolling out their plans for the combined companies’ loyalty programs. There has been a lot of hand-wringing and gnashing of teeth about the good, the bad, the ugly and the unknown that would either delight folks or decimate them. The truth is, almost always, somewhere in between.
More than half of the people I know have a specific loyalty to either Marriott or Starwood. I’m an exception. I’ve been Hyatt Diamond for a while and while they don’t have nearly as many hotels, the perks of Diamond status have worked out nicely for me. So I came to this announcement with a mere Gold status with Starwood and Silver with Marriott. My Starwood Ambassador wasn’t at risk of vanishing. My Platinum status wasn’t going to be instantly diluted by ten’s of thousands of new elites hunting for upgrades. Other than the fact that I had a tidy six-figure balance in my Marriott and Starwood/SPG accounts, I was neutral on the whole thing.
Time To Link My Accounts
I received an email from Marriott advising me it was time to link my accounts. There was some good news in the email. By linking the accounts my lowly Marriott Silver status would be upgraded to match my not-so-lowly-but-nothing-to write-home-about Starwood Gold level. That would pay off in extra benefits anytime I stayed at a Marriott property (5% more points, better chance at upgrades, premium internet, to name a few). They also mentioned something about enhanced exchange and redemption options.
I opened up two different browser windows and decided to try and link the accounts from the Marriott side and the Starwood side to see if there was a difference. This wasn’t necessary as the Marriott site asks you to log into your Starwood account and the Starwood side asks you to input your Marriott Rewards number.
No matter which way you approach the account linking process you’ll end up confirming your account numbers. Here’s a look at the confirmation process of my Marriott number from my Starwood account.
No going back now!. A simple press of the “Finish Linking” button and it would be done. I had a moment of nostalgia for all of the mega-mergers that had come before. Delta-Northwest. Starwood-Sheraton. AFL-NFL. The list is long. Lots of promises. L-O-T-S of promises. Oh well. Here goes nothing. <Presses Button>
I have to hand it to the folks in the IT departments at Marriott & Starwood. It worked perfectly. My Marriott Rewards Silver status was upgraded to Gold. My points were intact in both locations. Now it was time to check out how the points transfers would work.
Boom! Starpoints Transfer at a 3:1 Ratio
When I clicked on the Transfer Starpoints to Rewards Points link, I simply had to enter the number of Starpoints I wanted to transfer over and hit tab. The app did the math and validated what I’d read in the media. 3:1 ratio. Depending on whose figures you believe, Marriott points are worth about .7 cents each. Starwood points are worth around 2.5 cents each. With a 3:1 ratio, the pure math says SPG members are getting the short end of the stick.
In many cases, this ratio can be leveraged to book award stays at Marriott and Ritz-Carlton properties for fewer net points than using pure Marriott Rewards points. There is also some benefit in a reverse 1:3 transfer when a superior Starwood property in the same city can be had for less equivalent points. You can take a look at the Starwood and Marriott redemption charts below and get a feel for the number of points required for each brand. If a Tier 7 Starwood property costs 30-35,000 points per night and a Tier 9 Marriott property costs 40-45,000, it’s easy to see that you could convert 30,000 Starwood points over to Marriott. That would yield 90,000 Marriott Rewards points – 2 Nights for the price of 1 at the top-most tier.
At the end of the day, the merger is now a reality. All of us will link our accounts and start searching for the best deals we can find to make the most of our points. We’ll be sure to let you know what we found.