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How Marriott’s Starwood Overhaul Shakes Out for Members

April 16, 2018
Credit Card Basics, Credit Cards, Rewards Credit Cards, Travel Credit Cards
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After hotel giant Marriott International acquired Starwood Hotels and Resorts in 2016, it was clear that the two loyalty programs would eventually evolve into one. And for a long time, Starwood Preferred Guest members have dreaded that this might devalue the SPG program. Today, Marriott has revealed more details about this streamlined loyalty program, and some of the changes could actually work in SPG members’ favor.

Here are the main changes, according to the hotel company and the banks that issue Marriott-branded cards, Chase and American Express:

  • A unified program: In August, Marriott will combine its loyalty programs — Marriott, Ritz-Carlton and Starwood — into a single platform; however, the program names will remain separate until 2019, according to Marriott. Because the programs will be under one umbrella, a night at any eligible Marriott property will count toward elite status in all these programs.
  • Your SPG points will be tripled: According to NerdWallet valuations, Starwood points are worth 2.3 cents on average. The new, combined format will make SPG points less valuable, but SPG members will now have more of them. In August, Starwood points will be tripled to be more in line with the value of Marriott and Ritz-Carlton points; with this change, they’ll likely be worth about 1 cent each.
  • Transfer partner changes: The new program will have more airline transfer partners; however, it will come with a less-favorable transfer ratio of 3:1, instead of the 1:1 transfer ratio to many airlines that SPG members had before.
  • New elite status levels: Current elite status members in any Marriott-branded program will be moved to the new unified elite status program, which Marriott has outlined on its website.
  • Category changes: In August, Marriott will debut its standard award rates for Category 1-7 hotels. In early 2019, it will publish its new peak, off-peak and Category 8 redemption rates.
  • New cards: American Express will launch a new $450 premium SPG card and make changes to its current SPG cards in August; Chase will launch a $95-annual-fee Marriott credit card on May 3.

Less valuable points from Starwood; more rewards

Here’s how NerdWallet valued the points in the three programs before they were combined: 

  • Starwood points: 2.3 cents
  • Marriott points: 1 cent
  • Ritz-Carlton points: 0.9 cent

As the programs combine, Starwood points will be on par with Marriott and Ritz-Carlton points. In other words, all points will be worth around 1 cent each, on average. That’s an enormous cut in value.

However, these changes won’t likely affect the overall rewards rate of SPG credit cards, because AmEx will increase the number of points earned with every dollar spent on both the existing cards and the new card in August, when these changes take effect.

More airline transfer partners; same bonus

The Starwood Preferred Guest program stood out from other loyalty programs, in part because of its long list of airline transfer partners. For the most part, you could transfer SPG points at a 1:1 ratio to these airline partners. After the August changes, you’ll be able to transfer points at a 1:3 ratio instead (that is, you can trade 3 Marriott or SPG points for 1 airline mile). While that’s a less generous ratio, it’s ultimately not a huge change, since your Starwood points will triple in August.

Marriott also plans to add more airline partners to its loyalty program and the SPG program, according to AmEx.

In August, Marriott members will be able to transfer points to these airlines (originally transfer partners in the SPG program), among others:

  • Virgin Australia
  • Aegean Airlines
  • Air New Zealand

At the same time, SPG members will be able to transfer to these airlines (originally transfer partners in the Marriott program), among others:

  • Qantas
  • JetBlue
  • Turkish Airlines

As before, you can also earn bonuses when transferring these points. For every 60,000 points transferred to miles, Marriott will add a 15,000-point bonus, providing you with a total of 25,000 miles in the airline program of your choice, according to AmEx.

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