In the Marriott-SPG Merger, Who Gets the Points?

Our points earning strategy has been focused largely on hotels, of late; domestic airfare has never been a better bargain than it is right now, and we’ve been able to maximize value at low level redemption properties near the national parks – these offer a great value for relatively few points.

While much conjecture and advice has been circulated already in regard to Marriott International’s buyout of Starwood, it took us a while to decide how to allocate our Starwood points for the best value — but we have finally reached a conclusion! For those not closely following, Starwood Hotels and Resorts, which include Sheraton, Westin, Aloft, W Hotels, Element among others, was purchased last year by Marriott International. At the moment, and probably until sometime in late 2017, you can freely transfer points to and from your Marriott and SPG accounts in a 3 to 1 ratio, where 3 Marriott points equal 1 SPG point. However, in 2017 or early 2018, all SPG points will automatically become Marriott points. However, until that time you can still earn and transfer both SPG and Marriott points — and therein lies the question. What is the advantage of hanging onto one’s SPG points, instead of rolling them into Marriott points immediately?

We feel that consolidation is always a shame, as having fewer and larger hotel chains generally means less competition and less desire to court frequent travelers — though its been a trend of late in the hotel and airline industries, so, we’ll have to go along for the ride. While this may not be the most popular move on in the blogosphere, we have decided to roll our SPG points into our Marriott points account without delay, for these compelling reasons:

1) Number of properties.

SPG has 884 properties in the U.S. and Canada, while Marriott has 3,828 —more properties means more chances for redemption. Further, from our research and experience, it is much more likely to find one or two Marriott properties near parks in the U.S. and Canada.

2) Location, location, location.

Not only does Marriottoffer an abundance of properties,  but many are proximal to national parks. The current transfer rate of 3 Marriott points for 1 Starwood point offers good values on low level redemption in places with good access to parks, and where cash prices are generally well over $100 a night. Notable Marriott properties include:

3) We don’t need the SPG airline mile transfer.

SPG offers an easy 1 to 1 ratio transfer of SPG points to a series of airline partners. When transferring 20,000 points or more, SPG gives you a 20% bonus on transferred points. Even if we weren’t flush with airline miles, domestic travel has never been cheaper — so unless there’s a really good advantage in using points, (as with Delta domestic awards fare sales, United short-haul 7,500 redemptions, AA Reduced Mileage Awards, or the Southwest Companion Pass), we’re most likely to pay cash and focus our points earning on hotels. Due to the increased popularity of domestic travel, hotels are only going up in price, and thus offering a greater redemption value on points. Plus, when redeeming hotel points, you aren’t charged the local hotel and sales taxes which can often be another $20-$30 a night!

4) A seven-day Marriott stay earns a Southwest Companion Pass.

This is the easiest way to get the Southwest Companion Pass, a buy one-get one free year-long pass from Southwest; you simply book one of the seven-day hotel + air packageswith Marriott (note that you’ll need to call Marriott bookings [1-800-321-7396] to score this deal) This is a great deal where you can book a seven day consecutive hotel stay on points and get up to 120,000 bonus airline miles for free! Check out the details and different Marriott points pricing levels here. After finding the level of hotel you wish to book, select Southwest as your airline redemption partner, and you’ll receive up to 120,000 Southwest points. At publication, these count as elite miles toward the 110,000 needed for the Companion Pass, enough to qualify with a bit to spare. You can earn this immediately, or wait until Jan 1, 2017 for the pass to be good through Dec 31, 2018. HOWEVER, knowing how deals die and how awesome this deal is, we’d give it 50/50 odds of living until Jan 1. You may want to jump now, though we’re going to wait it out and hope the deal still lives on in the new year.