I receive compensation for content and many links on this blog. You don’t have to use these links, but I am grateful to you if you do. American Express, Citibank, Chase, Capital One and other banks are advertising partners of this site. Any opinions expressed in this post are my own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by my advertising partners. I do not write about all credit cards that are available -- instead focusing on miles, points, and cash back (and currencies that can be converted into the same).
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