Now that Marriott’s acquisition has closed, and they’re already letting you link accounts, match elite status, and move points between programs, there are fantastic arbitrage opportunities created.
However long the period lasts where the Marriott program and Starwood program retain their separate identities while letting members move their points and status back and forth between the two — whether only a little over a year, or for two years — this period may wind up as one of the real golden ages of hotel loyalty programs.
There are several fantastic opportunities that have been created.
Access to Properties in Both Portfolios
Marriott members will have Starwood’s luxury hotels to use their points at. Marriott Platinums will be able to use their status at Starwood properties — and receive benefits they haven’t had before, like suite upgrades (if a standard suite is available at check-in the Platinum is entitled to it, it’s not strictly the result of a property’s beneficence) and breakfast at resorts.
Starwood members will have more properties to redeem for, Starwood’s portfolio is about 1200 hotels and the combined company will be around 5700.
This is the first, most basic, and obvious benefit to transferring points between accounts.
Al Maha Desert Resort
More Airline Elite Status Benefits
Marriott has a great partnership with United, and Starwood partners with Delta, Emirates, and soon China Eastern. Marriott and Starwood elites get elite treatment with these airlines. Now they get elite treatment with their partner’s partners.
Marriott elites, by status matching, will become Starwood elites entitled to the benefits of the Starwood and Delta Crossover Rewards program.
- Starwood elites earn Starwood points flying Delta in addition to Delta miles and Delta elites earn SkyMiles in addition to Starpoints when staying with Starwood.
- Starwood Platinums get priority check-in, priority boarding, and free checked bags as well as upgrades (at the bottom of the queue).
- Delta Platinum and Diamond members receive elite benefits with Starwood, sort of Gold-lite like what’s provided to co-brand credit card holders — elite check-in, late checkout, and modest room upgrades similar to what Starwood offers to Golds.
Marriott elites will also get access to the Starwood and Emirates Your World Rewards program.
- Starwood Gold and Platinum members receive 1 Starpoint per US dollar spent when flying Emirates in (in addition to miles earned for the flight itself).
- Emirates Skywards Silver, Gold, and Platinum members earn 1 bonus Skywards point per US dollar spent when staying with Starwood (in addition to the SPG points earned for the stay).
- Starwood Platinums receive elite priority check-in and boarding with Emirates and e-gate benefits
- Emirates Gold and Platinum members get priority check-in, late check-out, and free internet with Starwood.
Starwood Platinums are effectively Emirates Silver-lites and Emirates Gold elites and higher are effectively Starwood Golds without the 50% bonus earning of Starpoints and modest room upgrades. And all elites in both programs get more points.
A similar Starwood relationship with China Eastern is slated for launch.
China Eastern 737
Meanwhile, Starwood Platinums will get Marriott Platinum. And Marriott Platinums get United Silver. United Silver gets access to economy plus extra legroom seats free at check-in and priority boarding so you don’t wind up having to gate check your bags.
Take Advantage of Unique Airline Miles Transfer Opportunities
Starwood has some of the best and most unique airline partnerships. Most transfer 1:1 into miles, and when you transfer points to 20,000 miles you get 5000 bonus miles.
One of my favorite options is Aegean Miles & Bonus which may have the very best Star Alliance award chart. While only one connection permitted, Aegean has some great values like 90,000 miles roundtrip for US-Europe business class (and North Africa is included in Europe). First class is 120,000 miles roundtrip. It’s 110,000 miles roundtrip for US-Middle East business class and 110,000 miles roundtrip for US-Africa business class. One-way awards are available at half these prices.
One of the downsides of Starwood airline transfers is that they’ve long been 2-1 into United, thought to be the result of United’s relationship with Chase — they didn’t want the Starwood Amex to earn United miles more efficiently than Chase’s own co-brand. However, Marriott has a strong transfer relationship with United, better than their other airline partners.
As a result you’re now about to transfer 19,000 Starwood points to 57,000 Marriott points, and on to United miles. 56,000 Marriott points become 25,000 United miles. You’ll have 1000 Marriott points left. Marriott travel packages give an even better ratio but we’re now at effectively better than 1:1 Starwood:United.
Meanwhile Starwood points do not now transfer to Southwest, but Marriott’s travel packages are one of the best ways to earn a companion pass.
Transfer 80,000 Starwood points to Marriott and you have 240,000 Marriott points. Members have regularly been able to book 5-night travel packages (which were marketed to timeshare owners): 235,000 Marriott Rewards points for 5 nights at a category 1-5 hotel and 120,000 Southwest points (which is enough for a companion pass). In other words, 80,000 Starwood points could get you 5 hotel nights and a Southwest companion pass. Boom. Now someone can travel with you whenever you fly Southwest, paid or award.
Speculative: Stock Up On Your Starwood Nights Now for Lifetime Status
Marriott’s status matching gives Starwood Golds the same Gold level in the Marriott Rewards program. Platinums get Platinum. This is true even though Marriott requires more nights to earn Gold than Starwood does, and more nights to earn Platinum. Starwood has two metallic elite levels, Marriott has 3. And Marriott lifetime status takes more than Starwood.
This suggests to me — though Marriott hasn’t said this — that Starwood lifetime Platinums will get Marriott lifetime Platinum. And Starwood lifetime Gold will get Marriott lifetime Gold (versus getting only lifetime Gold and Silver, respectively).
There’s no guarantee, but it’s a good bet that if you can hit Starwood lifetime status next year it’s worth doing so.