Now That Marriott Acquired Starwood, Should You Get a Marriott or Starwood Credit Card?

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Since Marriott successfully acquired Starwood, the biggest news and action in hotel loyalty has been Marriott Rewards and figuring out the direction the program will go. After some early bumps they’ve been adding benefits like 4pm checkout and experiential redemptions that Starwood offered. And they’ve rolled out the ability to status match and move points back and forth between the two programs.

There’s no question it’s been interesting to cover, will continue to be, and that the most interesting developments in the space will come from the integration of Starwood and Marriott.

And it’s meant paying a lot more attention to the opportunities provided by Marriott points, and through arbitraging the Starwood program now that they’re linked.


Starwood’s Al Maha Desert Resort

Now that their credit cards even earn bonuses on spend across the three brands it’s important to understand which is the right card product for you.

Arguments for getting the Starwood card:

  • Starwood card earns more for ongoing spend. Earning 1 Starpoint per dollar on unbonused spend is worth a lot more than earning 1 Marriott point per dollar. If this wasn’t clear enough from my points valuations, the fact that you can transfer 1 Starpoint to 3 Marriott points should make that pretty obvious.

  • Starwood card may not be around forever. We don’t know what the future holds for co-brand cards, but Chase issues the Marriott card and has for a long time and we expect the Starwood Preferred Guest program to be sunset in the future. So it may make sense to get the Starwood card while you still can.

  • Starwood card has $0 annual fee the first year (then $95). In contrast the Marriott card’s fee applies in year one.

Arguments for getting the Marriott card:

  • Marriott card lets you spend for elite status. You get 15 elite night credits every year for having the card (compared to 5 Starwood nights with American Express) and you get an additional elite night credit for every $3000 in spend, a feature Amex doesn’t offer.

  • Marriott card has a separate bonus. The current bonus offer is the biggest one they’ve had, which is great — 80,000 points after $3000 in spend within the first 3 months of cardmembership. A second piece of the signup bonus — 7500 points — comes from adding an authorized user and making a purchase within the first 3 months of cardmembership. Divide by three and you have Starpoints. You can only get the bonus for the Starwood card once, so this is another SPG bonus.

The Marriott card and Starwood card each give you elite qualifying nights in their respective programs. Getting both cards means an opportunity for more than one card bonus quickly.

The Marriott card’s bonus isn’t once in a lifetime, you may be eligible if you aren’t a current cardholder and haven’t received a bonus in the past 24 months. On the other hand, the Marriott card seems to be tough to get for many customers that have had 5 or more new cards in the past 24 months. American Express is once in a lifetime per product, but doesn’t have a ‘5/24’ limitation.


Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel, Credit: Ritz-Carlton

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. The SPG card will let you spend to Gold, but not Platinum. $30k spend gets you Gold status. Even if you have both the Marriott personal and business cards, it requires $60k spend to hit Gold. Of course, if you have nights from actual stays, the spend becomes less, which it doesn’t on the SPG card. The SPG card will not let you spend to Platinum, though.

  2. @JL100 —> Actually, I have both.

    @Gary —> In terms of ON-GOING spend, I think you left off an important point: what you earn per stay at Starwood and Marriott properties when using the card.

    The Marriott card comes in effect with Silver status, as you get 15 nights’ credit and only need 10 for Silver. With SILVER status (Marriott only; no SPG equivalent):

    Staying @ Marriott
    — using SPG AMEX: 2x Starpoints on spend + 12 Marriott Rewards points on stay = equivalent of 18 Marriott points, or 6 Starpoints per $1.
    — using Marriott Rewards Visa: 17 Marriott points for staying at a Marriott or Ritz (5.667 SPG points) per $1.

    Staying @ Starwood
    — using SPG AMEX: 2x Starpoints on spend + 2 Starpoints for staying at Starwood = equal to 4 Starpoints (12 Marriott points) per $1.
    — using Marriott Rewards Visa: 5x Marriott points on spend + 2x SPG points on the stay = equivalent of 11 Marriott points, or 3.667 SPG points per $1.

    With GOLD status (earned at one and matched by the other):

    Staying @ Marriott
    — using SPG AMEX: 2x Starpoints on spend + 12.5 Marriott Rewards points on stay = equivalent of 18.5 Marriott points, or 6.167 Starpoints per $1.
    — using Marriott Rewards Visa: 5x Marriott points on spend + 12.5 Marriott points on stay at Marriott or Ritz = 17.5 Marriott points (5.833 SPG points) per $1.

    Staying @ Starwood
    — using SPG AMEX: 2x Starpoints on spend + 3 Starpoints for staying at Starwood = equal to 5 Starpoints (15 Marriott points) per $1.
    — using Marriott Rewards Visa: 5x Marriott points on spend + 3x SPG points on the stay = equivalent of 14 Marriott points, or 4.667 SPG points per $1.

    IN EVERY CASE, regardless of your status, you get the MOST return (points per dollar spent + nights’ stay) if you STAY at Marriott but PAY with your SPG American Express. Second most points: stay at Starwood and pay with your SPG American Express. So . . . regardless of where you stay, pay with the Amex card . . .

  3. @JL100 – yes, both.

    But IMHO, the time to get both was back when the merger was announced — which is when I got the business SPG Amex (I’d been a long-time personal SPG Amex holder) and then I signed up for the business Chase Marriott Visa card.

    We’ll see how the two programs merge (and whether any SPG nights from credit cards will count for a combined program), but the points conversion has been exceedingly favorable for SPG members.

    I’m hopeful that my SPG points will help get me to lifetime platinum status on Marriott in a combined program. And if not, I can always use them for hotel stays or airline point conversions.

    It’s been a win-win.

  4. i have both SPG personal and business versions. even though i have no real use for the personal version, i intend to keep it for now as i am hoping/expecting some lucrative deal for the card holders by amex or chase.
    it may be a wishful thinking but who knows.

  5. @David G. —> Yes, me too; that’s when I got the Marriott card as well, when the merger was announced.

  6. Since you mentioned and compared the annual fees, you should also mention that the Marriott card gives a free Cat 5 night every year on your anniversary, which for most people will at least cover the $85 annual fee, and potentially quite a bit more at certain properties. Surprised this benefit was not at least mentioned, since it is a very compelling reason for keeping the card long term. Certainly not the best annual free night benefit, but at least you don’t need to spend anything to get it.

  7. @Gary cuts and pastes: “Since Marriott successfully acquired Starwood, the biggest news and action in hotel loyalty has been Marriott Rewards and figuring out the direction the program will go.”

    Are you kidding me! Hyatt completely reinvents its loyalty program and makes a mess of things, and Hilton Honors goes fully revenue-based, gets rid of their award chart and introduces some other significant programmatic changes, and the “Thought Leader in Travel” thinks “the biggest news and action in hotel loyalty has been Marriott Rewards and figuring out the direction the program will go”!!!

    I am speechless…

  8. Question about the benefit (elite qualify nights & anniversary free night) of Marriott personal & business credit card. Does these benefits stack up? Like do I get total 30 elite nights and also 2 free nights for having both personal & business version?

  9. i don’t follow Marriot/Ritz/Starwood, but what about the Ritz credit card, or is that similar, or equal to the Marriot product?

  10. The biggest news and action is the future of MR/SPG as all know, merging the biggest one with the best program and seeing what happens – Hyatt is small so their WOH destruction impacts fewer people, and of course HH is mediocrity defined as a loyalty program (it’s really just a rebate program at this point) so the interest isn’t there.

  11. @Jason Brandt Lewis: Many, many thanks for this comparison chart. Though I applied yesterday for the Marriott business card I’ll use it only to get the points … I see no value in doing anything other than the $3k spend after what you wrote. And after only one more night at SPG (next week) I will hit gold.

  12. Another point as to the longevity of the cards. The Chase contract with Marriott runs through 2018. The Amex contract with Starwood runs through 2020.

  13. I missed the Marriott 100k promotion. Should I wait for that to come around again or do you think that was a one-time deal?

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