The Marriott-Starwood Merger Closed and You Can Already Status Match and Transfer Points Between Accounts

Marriott’s deal to acquire Starwood has closed. And they’re seriously ahead of the curve with member benefits.

They are ready to let members link Starwood and Marriott Rewards accounts. This is a huge benefit to the loyalty program from a data-matching standpoint, it will help them eventually move to a single loyalty program. But there are two big benefits to members for doing it.

  • They will status match you. If you have Marriott status, they’ll give you equivalent Starwood status so that you will receive elite treatment staying at Starwood hotel properties, and vice versa.

  • They will let you move points between Marriott and Starwood accounts at a ratio of 3 Marriott points to 1 Starwood point. So if you want to use Marriott points for Starwood hotel stays you can, and if you want to use Starwood points for Marriott hotel stays you can.

    You can also use Marriott points, transferred to Starwood, to then transfer points to one of Starwood’s many airline partners (with the usual bonus of 5000 miles when you transfer points to 20,000 miles).

Members can link their accounts, in order to match status and transfer points, just go to members.marriott.com.


St. Regis Bangkok

On Thursday I spoke with Thom Kozik who runs Marriott Rewards and with David Flueck the new head of Starwood Preferred Guest who had been running Global Revenue Management at Starwood. Though I don’t recall this, David mentioned meeting me up in White Plains when Starwood rolled out their new elite program benefits in January 2012. I took that as intended to signal continuity with the program.

No program has ever set up a mechanism to link accounts this quickly. Delta and Northwest did it, and America West and US Airways did it, but some time into their merger. They got all of the work done before the deal closed, and were ready to pull the trigger.

Link Your Accounts Now – There’s No Reason to Wait

The data matching does help the programs do their job, and Northwest and Delta offered miles to customers for linking their accounts. Flueck said they considered incentives, but their objective here is member benefit and that the status match, points transfer, and access to properties across both chains’ portfolios provided a compelling reason to do it. He assured that members won’t lose out if they link their accounts right away, they’re “not going to come up with something richer down the road.”


Marriott Boca Raton

How the Status Match Works

The status match means getting equivalent status in one chain based on what you have with the other. This isn’t yet letting you earn Marriott elite nights for stays at Starwood hotels, or Starwood elite nights for stays at Marriott hotels. The nights you have in your Starwood and Marriott accounts don’t pool together to help you earn a higher status tier at this point.

Here’s how Marriott’s and Starwood’s tiers line up for the match:

  • Marriott Rewards Platinum = SPG Platinum (base)
  • Marriott Rewards Gold = SPG Gold
  • Marriott Rewards Silver = SPG Preferred Plus
  • Marriott Rewards Basic = SPG Preferred

There’s a lot embedded here. A Marriott Platinum becomes a Starwood Platinum, but the equivalent of a 25 stay (not 50 night) Platinum. That means Marriott Platinums don’t get Starwood Suite Night awards (or alternative benefit choice). They don’t get “Your24” 24 hour check-in, even though it takes 75 nights to make Marriott Platinum and that’s a Starwood 75 night benefit. And they don’t earn the extra Starpoint per dollar that 75 night Starwood Platinums do.

However Starwood Golds getting Marriott Gold is fantastic. While both levels offer 4pm late checkout, Starwood Golds aren’t normally entitled to club lounge access or breakfast but they’ll receive these benefits when staying with Marriott (at brands where those are offered).


Breakfast at the St. Regis Bali

You Can Use Your Points in Either Program, Moving Them Back and Forth

The ability to move points back and forth between accounts at will is a huge benefit. It lets members redeem points at either chain’s properties. It lets members redeem for Marriott travel packages with Starwood points, and for Starwood Nights and Flights awards with Marriott points. It lets Marriott members transfer to more airline partners like Japan Airlines and Aegean.

And I think they’ve chosen the right ratio. At 2:1, Starwood members would have been very unhappy 4:1 would have been too generous. A single Starpoint is worth somewhere around 3 times as much as a Marriott point. Consistent with how I value point, a Marriott point is worth about 7/10ths – 8/10ths of a cent and a Starwood point is worth a little over 2 cents (2.2 – 2.4). They took the baby bear approach, 3:1 is just right.

Thom Kozick said told me he ‘wished he could say it was because it was the number I threw out’ when I met with him and Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson in March but they “did lots of analysis of stay patterns, property distribution, 3:1 is the right number” for them.

Transfers won’t be instant, but they’ll happen over the course of a few hours.

Still Many Questions Left to Answer

The deal has just closed and there’s a lot of work to do. Most of that work will happen with hotel employees, owners, corporate employees, and any number of other projects. But for customers there’s little as important as what the loyalty program is doing so it’s great they’ve got something positive to offer on day one.


SkyCity Marriott, Hong Kong

We don’t know what co-brand credit card relationships will look like in the future. But Marriott has told us what we already knew — that a Starpoint is worth more than a Marriott point. Even someone who wants Marriott points ought to earn using a Starwood American Express, and transfer points over, for spend that’s unbonused. They’ll earn 3 times as fast, since each card earns 1 point per dollar for unbonused spend and Starwood points transfer 3:1 to Marriott. This tells me that in the future any Marriott card will have to have stronger earning.

And we don’t know how Starwood lifetime elite status will be honored in the program, but they’ve told us that Starwood Gold is equivalent to Marriott Gold, which gives Starwood’s lifetime Golds hope that their status will be honored with lifetime Marriott Gold — which will be an upgrade.

Marriott hasn’t said whether they’ll add suite upgrade benefits to Marriott Platinum, though I suspect they will.

It’s also not clear when we can expect these questions to be answered. Kozik emphasized that this “is the beginning of a journey” there’s a lot of work to do to get to a single loyalty program and though they’ve talked about 2018 he wasn’t willing to reconfirm that at this point, he just suggested that as they work to get it right they’ll communicate their progress.

On the one hand, it’s impressive they’re ready with the technology on day 1 to link accounts, that shows the IT work is well underway. On the other hand, closing is happening later than anticipated thanks to extended regulatory review, an 18 month project starting now wouldn’t be ready to combine programs for the start of the 2018 program year. There’s too much to do to more than project right now.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. Here in Germany it says:

    COMING SOON

    Get ready to link your accounts to enjoy the best of each program.
    Instant status match. Transfer points. It’s all about you.

    Check back soon.

  2. I am a MR Plat by staying 75 nights, AND an SPG Plat by staying 50 nights. I view this as an overall LOSS for me. I get nothing for my COMBINED night total, meanwhile there are now a TON of new people that are matched to the level I earned with each program. 🙁

  3. I am lifefime plat in both, so the merger doesn’t help me in that way either. But I do have a ton of Marriott miles, (I was hoping for the 2:1 which is fair if you compare top Marriott to second to top SPG). I don’t have any Starwood points – why? Because they are the far more desirable. But it’s an option I didn’t have and better that it happens earlier.

    Thanks for the scoop Gary!

  4. It is complete bullshit that a Marriott Platinum does not get Starwood Suite Night awards as the equivalent of a 50 Night SPG Platinum, since I had to do 75 nights to get that Platinum. How dare Marriott/SPG equate a 75 Night Marriott Platinum with the equivalent of a 25 Stay SPG Platinum? What a cruel and unequal joke. Shows just how cheap and disgusting Marriott is, considering that they are the ones supposedly taking over SPG.

  5. When does the status expire? If Feb 2017 then it might be better to match your Amex Plat SPG gold afterwards so it expires in 2018?

  6. You briefly mention the MR travel packages, but it’s worth delving into some details. The instant point transfer makes for a very nice bonus for those with high SPG balances who use those points for the 1:1.25 airline mile transfer.

    With SPG, 100K points transfers into 125K miles with airlines like AA. But now you can instead link accounts, and transfer 90K into 270K MR. Then you can redeem the 270K MR for a travel package that gives 120K AA *plus* a seven night cat 1-5 Marriott stay. Transfer 5K more SPG into 5K AA to even out the comparison.

    Before: 100K SPG => 125K AA
    After: 100K SPG => 125K AA + 5K SPG + 7 night stay.

  7. @stvr love your assumptions, Head for Points was first as far as I know 12 hours ahead of Doctor of Credit. I prewrote this and my wordpress imploded, posts got eaten yesterday, nothing could be changed on my blog in any case all day. There’s still a synching issue I’m battling.

  8. @stvr – There’s nothing to ‘scoop’ here. There is no benefit to the consumer to hear this any earlier / later in the day because this is not some deal that is going to expire or get gamed away by wretched DoC people. Gary actually understands the industry and no one does this better.

  9. Looks like they took away the SPG benefit of transferring points between spouses… ugh. Would have been nice to Transfer Marriott rewards to SPG, then SPG from my wife’s account to my SPG Gold account.

  10. Re: MR Golds/Plats who are unhappy…don’t forget, you guys are the ones making out like bandits in this merger. Don’t like that you can’t get breakfast on your RC vacation stay? Go to a StR or LuxCollection instead where you will. Get a SPG Platinum welcome gift worth more than your MR one. Take advantage of Make A Green Choice. Actually get rewarded for on-site dining. Get crazy bonus points from Uber/Delta that you aren’t currently getting w/the UA partnership. Have a good chance at actually getting a suite at an SPG property.

    Jesus H.C. the moaning…

  11. Gary, now that I’ve matched from Marriott to SPG, I have platinum status in both accounts. However, an earlier post of yours analyzed the disadvantages of UA elite status and I thoroughly agree. I have no elite UA status and I was given a buy-up of only $159 to fly in first from HNL to LAX while as an elite on UA, you won’t have that option to buy up because you’re automatically listed for an upgrade. Do you think I should combine my UA/Marriott? I will secure lifetime UA silver status though cause I’m lifetime platinum with SPG. Your thoughts?

  12. @YMX Marriott Platinums make out like bandits because SPG Platinum is stronger with suites and breakfast. You might argue Marriott Gold (50 nights) would warrant Starwood Platinum (25 stays/50 nights) but it’s also a giveaway level. Marriott Golds are getting 4pm late checkout at Starwood, and only have it at Marriott thanks to this merger, so net net even they’re winning IMHO

  13. Hi Gary,
    Have you heard anything regarding Lifetime status matches. I’m currently Lifetime Platinum with MR and Lifetime Gold with SPG. Will my Lifetime Platinum carry over?

  14. I tried to link when the news broke, as did so many others that the message I received was that my computer could not access the site due to the heavy traffic volume (same error message as a “Denial of Service” attack). So I waited a couple of hours, and — presto! — no problem. Immediately, Marriott upgraded my status to match the higher level I have with Starwood.

    Now the only question, “Do I take a chunk of Marriott points, convert them to SPG and then onto airline miles (20k at a time to get the 5k bonus) as a hedge against devaluation?”

  15. No mention of Platinum Premier MR conversions to SPG. Do I get the SPG suite upgrades or any other benefits when I link over?

  16. It would be interesting to see just how much better Marriott Plats do with suite upgrades now that top-tier elite ranks have likely swelled in both programs, but proportionately more so in SPG since the two programs will still be operating separately for at least another year or two. I also wonder how some MR road warriors would feel to have their requests for, say, a 5 or 6pm checkout denied because the T&C have now set or “guarantees” 4pm as the hard upper time limit for late checkout…

  17. Marriott Elites – pay no attention to DCS, he ever been a true SPG elite and has been on a multi-year anti-SPG odyssey.

    4pm guarantee is great, and it’s usually no bother to get a few more hours beyond that (this comes from someone who does 100+ nights annually w/SPG).

    Honestly – would you rather have NO guarantee at all, or 4pm? Most rational people would say the latter. But not everyone is rational of course.

  18. May anyone who takes pride in being able to think for themselves read and digest comments by other posters without paying attention to anyone who would purport to be more qualified to decipher, interpret or filter such comments for you. I know I would be offended if someone thought I was incapable of reading a comment by another poster and making up my own mind about what it means….

    And beware of the fallacy known as “argumentum ad populum”…

  19. Gary you “ROCK”!
    Thanks for the great information you consistently provide……I just linked my spg and marriott accounts and have the ritz carlton and sapphire reserve credit cards due to your informative blog…Keep up the good work!

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