Marriott and SPG Merger Guide: How to Maximize Starpoints

Marriott and SPG will roll out their merged program and rewards starting on August 1, 2018. If you have SPG Starpoints, they'll be converted to Marriott Rewards at a 1:3 ratio. We'll cover the optimal strategy on how to use Starpoints if you have a redemption in mind.

1. Plan a stay now

Have a trip planned for 2018 or early 2019? Book your hotels now. Check out the new point redemption chart to see if the properties you're interested in will increase, decrease, or stay the same in value.

New Marriott Rewards Category Chart: https://points-redemption.marriott.com/category-change

For example, if I wanted to book a stay at the JW Marriott in Hong Kong, I would book the nights now since the price will go up by 5,000 points starting on August 1.

On the other hand, if I wanted to stay at the Hong Kong Ocean Park Marriott Hotel, then I would wait until August 1 to book since the new points required will decrease by 5,000 points.

 image via https://points-redemption.marriott.com/category-change

image via https://points-redemption.marriott.com/category-change

2. Buy SPG points (if optimal)

 Need more points to book your stay? SPG is currently running a 35%  off point sale until July 20, 2018.

Buy Starpoints here: https://buy.points.com/marketing/spg/landing_page/#/en-US

SPG Starpoints transfer to Marriott Rewards at a 1:3 ratio. 30,000 Starpoints = 90,000 Marriott Rewards points for $682.50.

Things to consider before buying points:

1) Where do you want to stay?

  • i.e. St. Regis Bora Bora.

2) How many nights do the points get you?

  • i.e. 85k in the new chart (Category 8) BUT Category 8 isn't active until 2019, so you're paying Category 7 rate (60k)

3) How much are you paying for the points?

  • i.e. promo 20k SPG = 60k Marriott is $455 you don't pay tax to buy or use the points (good way to save money in high hotel fee places like Singapore)

4) How much would you pay otherwise?

  • i.e. Google says $1,134 before taxes; plus 5% tourism tax, 4% service charge, 5% VAT... per room / per night. All-in, you're looking at $1,292 / night.

5) Is 4 > 3? Is it material/significant?

  • i.e. Yes, we save $837 per night y doing this (64.8% discount)

You can save a lot of money by buying points strategically. Obviously, if you don't have a redemption in mind or you'll get negative expected value, don't buy points.

3. Consider transferring points to airline partners at a 1:1 rate

For every 20k transferred, SPG adds 5k into the transfer.

  • 20k SPG = 25k airline miles. (1:1 w/ bonus)
  • 19k SPG = 19k airline miles (1:1)

I don't think the airline partner route is optimal unless you have a specific redemption in mind because the Marriott Vacation Packages and airline partners are sticking around.

4. Consider a Marriott Vacation Package

When you book a Marriott Vacation Package, you can receive bonus air miles from airline partners.

View Marriott Vacation Packages here: https://www.marriott.com/rewards/usepoints/morepack.mi

 image via https://www.marriott.com/rewards/usepoints/morepack.mi

image via https://www.marriott.com/rewards/usepoints/morepack.mi

For example, if you buy a Category  1-5 package, with 7 nights + 132,000 miles, it will cost 270,000 Marriott Rewards. 

Why does this matter?

If you transfer 90,000 Starpoints to United, you'll only receive 110,000 miles.

a) Direct via SPG:

  •  = 90k SPG
  •  = United 110k (w/ bonus)

On the other hand, when you transfer 90,000 Starpoints to Marriott Rewards and buy a Vacation Package, you'll receive 132,000 miles AND 7 nights (Category 1-5)

b) Package:

  •  = 90k SPG => 270k Marriott
  •  = 132k United points AND 7 nights (Category 1-5)

The redemption difference in buying a Vacation Package is 22,000 miles AND 7 nights.

Difference:

  • = 22k points + 7 nights
 image via https://www.marriott.com/rewards/usepoints/morepack.mi

image via https://www.marriott.com/rewards/usepoints/morepack.mi

Alternatively, if you pick Hotel + Air Package 1, you'll receive 120,000 miles or Avios. 

When you transfer 90,000 Starpoints to Alaska miles, you'll only receive 110,000 miles. If you use the 90,000 Starpoints to buy a package, you'll receive 120,000 Alaska miles AND 7 nights (Category 1-5).

  • Direct = 110k Alaska miles
  • Package = 120k Alaska miles AND 7 nights (Category 1-5)
  • Difference = 10k miles + 7 nights
 image via https://www.marriott.com/rewards/usepoints/morepack.mi

image via https://www.marriott.com/rewards/usepoints/morepack.mi

Marriott Airline Partners

By choosing a Vacation Package, you have the option to choose your airline partner for miles based on the number of miles offered. Southwest, Alaska, and United are the ideal redemption. Other options are fine if you have a specific trip planned. 

270k Marriott = 7 nights AND...

a) 120k Southwest Airlines

b) 120k Alaska Airlines

c) 132k United Airlines

d) 60k JetBlue 

e) 85k: Aeroflot, Air China, AF/KLM, Alitalia, ANA, Asia Miles, Asiana, LifeMiles, China Eastern, Emirates, Etihad, JAL, Jet Airways, SkyPass, LAN, Lufthansa, Multiplus, Qantas, Qatar, Saudia, Singapore, South Africa, TAP, Turkish

f) 120k: Aeromexico, Air Canada, AA, BA, Copa, Delta, Frontier, GOL, Hawaiin, Iberia, VA

Alaska's partners include:

  • Cathay
  • Emirates
  • Fiji
  • Hainan
  • JAL
  • Korean Air
  • Qantas
  • Singapore

Important: Be aware that booking with Alaska requires legwork. There's a lot of value, but it requires flexibility.

Learn more here: https://www.alaskaair.com/content/mileage-plan/how-to-earn-miles/airline-partners

If you were to pick a Hotels + Air Package, I recommend picking the ones on the far right columns. You're effectively paying 20,000 points for each additional step; one Marriott point per airline mile. 

As a reminder, these are Marriott points and not SPG points. 

Far Right Diff.png

5. What about the certificate nights?

This is the elephant in the room. Marriott has not announced what will happen to the certificate nights when August 1 rolls around. 

 image via  https://www.flyertalk.com/forum/starwood-starwood-preferred-guest/1904261-official- announcement-see-how-our-three-loyalty-programs-will-become-one-august-130.html

image via https://www.flyertalk.com/forum/starwood-starwood-preferred-guest/1904261-official-announcement-see-how-our-three-loyalty-programs-will-become-one-august-130.html

6. Aspirational redemption

If you're someone looking to redeem points at a luxury property, wait until August 1, and before they add the Category 8 listings. The chart is capped off at Category 7 right now, and Category 8 pricing will be in effect starting in 2019. 

 image via image via https://points-redemption.marriott.com/category-change

image via image via https://points-redemption.marriott.com/category-change

This means that there's a small window to book Category 8 hotels at a Category 7 price. 

The same hotel...

  • 8/1/2018 = 60k points
  • 2019 = 70k, 85k, 100k points
  • Likely savings = 25k points
  • Maximum savings = 40k points


Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, vendors or companies, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. 

UGC disclosure: These responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.