No, Marriott Elites Aren’t Getting Hosed With the Starwood Status Match. Why Do You Ask?

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Reader YMX asked, “Gary, don’t you think the status match is inequitable for current Marriott Golds or Platinums?”

One Mile at a Time also addressed this question.

The issue here is that:

  • Marriott Platinum takes 75 nights to qualify for, and yet Marriott Platinums don’t get Starwood 75 night benefits (which include 24 hour check-in and extra points-earning) or even 50 night benefits (Suite Night Awards or other choices). Instead, they get ‘base’ Platinum which requires 25 stays or 50 nights to earn.

  • Marriott Gold takes 50 nights to qualify for, and they don’t get 50 night status with Starwood which would be Platinum. They get Starwood Gold, which doesn’t come with the club lounge access they’re used to.

And it’s true, Marriott elites aren’t getting as much as they might have hoped for but Marriott elites are definitely better off as a result of the merger and match.

Marriott Platinum members make out like bandits compared to the benefits they’re used to with Marriott Rewards. Starwood Platinum is stronger than Marriott Platinum with suite upgrades and breakfast.

  1. Marriott Rewards allows elites to be upgraded to suites, Starwood Preferred Guest requires Platinums to be upgraded if a standard suite is avialable at check-in.

  2. Marriott Rewards doesn’t provide breakfast at resort properties or Ritz-Carltons. Starwood doesn’t offer these sort of exclusions, so a Marriott Platinum can now stay at a St. Regis resort and enjoy complimentary breakfast.


St. Regis Bali Breakfast

You might argue Marriott Gold (50 nights) should warrant Starwood Platinum (25 stays/50 nights) but it’s also a giveaway level.

  • United Gold elites and higher are given Marriott Gold

  • Ritz-Carlton Rewards credit card holders are given Gold status their first year and then keep it with $10,000 spend on the card each year.

Plus Marriott Golds (and Platinums) are now getting 4 pm late checkout at Marriotts thanks to this merger. Net-net they’re winning.


W Times Square where Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson stayed the night before the merger close

And that’s before getting more nice hotels to redeem points at, Crossover Rewards elite benefits at Delta, points-earning with Uber, et al. and points transfers to Aegean and JAL and others.


W Union Square

Someone earning Marriott Gold on nights may feel entitled to even more than they’re getting, but if they earned it on nights versus receiving it as a giveaway then they’ve likely made poor strategic choices to begin with, that’s not the merger’s fault, though they come out ahead of where they were before the merger.

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. Nice spin, but bottom line is that SPG Plats are getting Marriot perks and Marriott Plats are not getting the one perk they want (and that you frequently touted prior to merger) which is guaranteed suite upgrades (4x year)

    And I predict this will surely go bye when programs merge as Marriott clearly didn’t feel it’s needed to stay competitive.

  2. @Boraxo – Starwood doesn’t offer guaranteed suite upgrades, Hyatt does. Starwood offers priority for 10 nights a year, which Platinums often complain they can’t use effectively.

  3. Thanks Gary. MR Plats and Gold are getting nice benefits & program enhancements in the merger, and all they can b!tch about is a lack of SNAs. Come on already…

  4. The majority of Marriott’s portfolio competes with La Quinta and their 50 night elites want suite upgrades at St Regis/W/LC hotels? lol yeah they’re really getting screwed…

  5. Due to the bogus claims that have permeate travel blogosphere about the purportedly metaphysical superiority of SPG as a hotel loyalty program, there is an air of surreality to discussions in threads like these that are popping all over the place.

    There is absolutely no evidence that SPG (r.i.p.) was ever the great loyalty program that self-anointed ‘travel gurus’ made it out to be. Mundane benefits, like complimentary suite upgrades offered by SPG that are identical to those offered by MR or HH, have been spun by travel bloggers into out-of-this-world perks. They tout “guaranteed” perks like 4pm late checkout, but fail to realize that the only reason a loyalty program would bother “guaranteeing” a perk when they do not have to is actually to limit its benefits. If a 4pm late checkout is “guaranteed”, then that effectively gives properties ammunition or “carte blanche” to deny a request for, e.g., a 6pm checkout. By contrast, as a HH Diamond with no “guaranteed” late checkout but has yet to be denied a late checkout request, I was approved 3 times in as many years in a row for a 6pm checkout at Hilton Buenos Aires. Try that when the T&C have set 4pm as the upper time limit for valid late checkout requests!

    I have an “easy” MR Gold status through RewardsPlus as a UA 1K/1MM/Lifetime UA*G, so I will enjoy whatever “enhancements” MR introduces, and I now have access to “converted” SPG properties that I never cared much for when they were under Starwood. However, if I were a MR Platinum elite, I would not give myself an ulcer by worrying that MR is favoring former SPG elites. It would be business “malpractice” if Marriott/MR did not try to retain as many former SPG loyalists as they could. In fact, MR program managers must be high-fiving one another at their headquarters for having effectively and effortlessly satisfied former SPG loyalists without actually offering them very much! When the dust settles, MR will go back to being MR, and SPG will be, well, all dust.

    Like I said, surreal.

    G’day!

  6. [Non-public personal information about another reader removed from comment. – Gary]

    (Marriott elites…please pay no attention to him, as he is literally speaking out of his ass at this point)

  7. @Gary My understanding is that SPG guarantees upgrades but the window is only 7 nights out based on availability vs. Hyatt will do it at the time of reservation. Either way it is guaranteed vs. the whim of the hotel which is how Marriott handles it.

    And it’s obnoxious to criticize Marriott elites for “poor strategic choices.” Unlike you many of us don’t always have an SPG or Hyatt option when we travel for business. I’m lucky to find a Protea in Africa. A buddy of mine stays at Hilton properties because that’s his best option in rural California.

  8. Why is this so complicated?

    Let’s say Marriott has 50M members and SPG 10M members.

    They ran the numbers and figured out that Marriott Golds represent about 15% of Marriott members, which is roughly the same 15% that SPG Golds represent of the SPG program. (This is entirely speculative, but seems plausible considering how much larger that Marriott chain is.) Do the same for Platinum.

    It was never going to make sense for Marriott to incentivize their much larger base of rewards customers at the same rate as SPG. Gary has spent literally years talking about how the smaller chains have to spend more on marketing/loyalty to keep bringing people back to their program.

    How did anyone reasonably believe that Marriott was going to give them equivalent-night SPG status, which is much more expensive to provide, for bringing the same amount of business to a much larger hotel chain? In what world does this make sense? Honestly, I’m surprised they’re being as generous as they are, and that’s why I’m guessing they matched up the percentages in the programs.

    Finally, they don’t want to drown out the, let’s say, .5M SPG Plat 50 night members, with the, let’s say, 7.5M Marriott members.

    Sure, Marriott members aren’t getting “as much” as SPG members. They also didn’t have to work as hard to stay loyal to Marriott. They’re still getting benefits from the merger. And it would never have made sense to treat the members equally (that would be *exactly* what SPG elites have feared).

  9. Gary,

    Most Marriott Golds who earn status through nights are earning it because their business requires them to travel a lot, often to places where Marriott may have the most (or only) options. Hotel (and airline) programs are supposed to reward cash stays/flights the most. So a Marriott Gold who earned it the hard way may have a right to feel slighted if a Starwood Gold (who didn’t travel as much) now gets the same benefits.

  10. I’m going to have to disagree with you here Gary – the status match isn’t equitable and the point conversion is skewed in SPG members’ favor too. 45,000 MRP = 15,000 Starpoints? No thanks.

    I have absolutely no axe to grind with SPG members getting what they have been given (good luck to them) but Marriott has taken a calculated risk here. Marriott clearly believes (probably correctly) that they can upset their own members in order to, temporarily, keep SPG elites happy.

    In the long run, however, everyone is going to be unhappy. Marriott is almost certainly going to make the new combined program look a lot more like MR than SPG so everything that’s going on right now is just a temporary stay of execution for SPG elites.

  11. @Tony – Golds should have felt slighted the moment they decided to give it away to ~1MM+ UA flyers…sorry but the sanctity of it was long gone already

  12. @Ziggy: “…everything that’s going on right now is just a temporary stay of execution for SPG elites.”

    I could not agree more. MR will go back to being MR. once the dust settles.

  13. @DCS – It’s not just the travel bloggers, but the members themselves who are by and far quite happy with SPG. As a plat, whether I stayed at an aloft or a W, I had great benefits. Hell, even as an SPG gold I routinely would get upgrades to great rooms (occasionally even suites on stays in europe). In the past 4 years I can count on 1 hand how many times I didn’t get upgraded. Actually, I think the only time was at the Sheraton Hong Kong. The awesome breakfast made up for it though 😉

    That said, I can’t disagree with your summary. All that Marriott has to do is convince SPG loyalists that they should stick with Marriott rather than go to Hyatt (or Hilton, LOL). So we’ll see over the next year how well people are treated who now start staying at Marriott’s.

    Although it’s VERY important to note that anyone going for elite status will still have to choose between SPG/Marriott since stays at Marriott’s won’t count towards SPG elite status. Only the points will transfer. I won’t be surprised if this becomes a huge headache soon.

  14. @Jon — The point is, and this is the point, members of other loyalty programs are just as happy with their own program as you are with yours. You LOL’ed about HH, however, I ALWAYS get upgraded to a great room as HH Diamond, and, since 2012, more than 90% of my upgrades have been to suites (junior or full, and, a couple of times, “executive” suites).

    I also frequently stay at Marriott (Gold status) and Hyatt (Platinum status) properties, on both paid and award stays, if [a] I’ll get a better monetary value on personal travel than staying at a Hilton hotel or [b] sometimes there is no Hilton hotel in a city that I visit [rare]. However, the only times I’ve stayed at Starwood hotels [I am SPG Gold] has always been when one was the venue of a conference I attended [Sheraton Lisbon!]. The program’s awards were generally too expensive to be rewarding, so, not surprisingly, starpoints gained fame, not as points for redeeming hotel stays, but for transferring to miles for redeeming free flights, which might have contributed to the demise of the company! However, the bloggers’ constant drumbeat about how SPG was the “best” program just made it seem more than it was in reality [you clearly fell for it]. You look at their room upgrade policy and it is identical to MR’s, but you would not know that if you listened to bloggers. MR Gold is head and shoulder above SPG Gold, indicating that unless one was a very top elite, SPG was definitely less rewarding than MR or HH. The same goes for HGP. Now SPG is gone; and there have been so few posts about HGP these days that its pulse as a loyalty program hardly registers.

    With respect to MR elites’ current displeasure, I believe it is a tempest in a teapot. They likely won’t see much difference in how they are treated [SPG elites, on the other hand, will have a rude awakening]. Everyone should just take a deep breath and go about their business as usual!

  15. Since DCS has now devolved into telling outright lies in his ever-pathetic quest to knock down SPG (and elevate his eternally neglected HH program that is wisely ignored), I thought it might be helpful to correct a few of the myths he’s pitching as “facts”:

    1. No, Starwood did not go “belly up” due to flawed business model – it was a successful, profitable, growing company that was a highly desirable acquisition target due to a premium brand portfolio as well as client base
    2. SPG is also not “belly up”; in fact, the way that MR is being enhanced with legacy SPG benefits, the combined program may yet end up looking more like SPG than MR in the end (which I’m sure would just infuriate him)
    3. Guarantees are a good thing; it is utter desperate nonsense (and a Trump-esque conspiracy) to spin the 4pm guarantee is some limitation designed to ensure no elite ever checks out after that time; that merely sets a benefit floor, and as SPG elites know (and MR elites will come to know), most properties are more than generous…once you’re at 4pm check-out, what’s a few more hours?
    4. It’s also intellectually dishonest (ironically coming from a self-proclaimed Ivy League researcher) to say “all upgrade policies are the same”. SPG – “An upgrade to best available room at check-in — including a Standard Suite”. Very clear! MR – “Based on room availability at check-in, we’ll do our best to upgrade your room. Upgrades are subject to availability identified by each hotel and limited to your personal guestroom”. Suites are buried in the T&Cs. Hmmm…not great, but already rumors that the language may be changing to SPG style verbiage, which would be an enhancement…this is why SPG loyals seem to get no shortage of “real” upgrades (suites/jr. suites), whereas MR loyals aren’t quite as successful. Oh, Hilton for anyone wondering? Per the Diamond page, a brief mention of “Free room upgrades” but no further information (and especially nothing about suites). But hey, beg and plead and demand loudly enough like a certain person, maybe you too can get lucky.
    5. It’s also patently false to suggest SNAs are a “bust”, when no shortage of SPG Plats (such as myself) never have any trouble using them. Also, SPG in its quest to give additional choice and benefits, offered alternatives for its 50 night loyals…quite a smart thing!

    It’s pretty sad, but folks, this is an individual who lives to tear down other programs (and has for years), as he is blind to the weaknesses of his own.

  16. There are no lies. I have argued my cases coherently and factually, and anyone is free to make up their mind based on what is presented. The T&C are clear for anyone who can understand grade school-level English.

    BTW, there is nothing being discussed in this or any other forum on travel/loyalty that justifies your level of venom and puerile taunts, and the last time I checked, there was no statute forbidding the expression of differing or diverging opinions.

    If these forums or fora are more than you can handle, I suggest you stay out before you pop a vein or have a massive coronary.

    With that, I wish you a good life…

    G’day

  17. Stop your lies and intellectual dishonesty and we’ll go from there. I see you conveniently ignored my fact-based rebuttals of all your myths. [Edited personal information about another commenter.]

  18. Say what you want about SPG–that it’s gone belly up, was never that great anyway, etc. etc. Fact is, it was a Hilton hotel that refused my late checkout request as a gold member. Not the measly hour or half hour I came to expect but absolute bupkus. Starwood hotels, however, have never refused me their published 4pm late checkout benefit, even as a corporate preferred member without gold or platinum status. With SPG, getting late checkout isn’t like tossing the dice, and this alone puts the program light years ahead of Hilton.

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