The news that Marriott was purchasing Starwood Hotels was not positive news for those in the points community because it meant a good program, SPG, would likely be destroyed by combining it with a large company, Marriott, that already has a poor rewards program. SPG points are widely considered to be the most valuable points currency, while Marriott points are an afterthought for most people. How the points would transfer between the programs was a primary question for anyone that takes their loyalty programs seriously.
Marriott has had plenty of time to hear the negative comments from loyal Starwood customers, and the acquisition process has been so drawn out that I was very curious to see what the final decision would be. It was just confirmed overnight that the transfer ratio from SPG to Marriott points would be 1 SPG point to 3 Marriott points. Furthermore, points can be reciprocally transferred, meaning you can transfer your Marriott to SPG at 3:1 (rare would be the reason to do so, as I’ll explain below).
Is a SPG to Marriott Transfer Ratio of 1:3 A Good Ratio?
In my opinion, I would say it absolutely is. Of course there will be plenty of people that disagree (mostly the hardcore SPG fans/Marriott haters), but in my opinion this transfer ratio between SPG and Marriott is more than fair. And really, that’s all we could have hoped for.
The high end of the chart (i.e. luxury properties) are usually the rewards that people care about most, so I’ll compare those first. Starwood’s redemption rate for their top tier (Category 7) is 30,000 – 35,000 points (a select few properties are double that amount). Marriott is also a bit complicated – they have a separate chart for Marriott hotels and Ritz Carlton hotels. Marriott hotels top out at 45,000 points for Category 9 and Ritz Carlton Tier 5 properties are 70,000 points.
If you have SPG points and enjoy redeeming at top tier properties, the 30,000 points you would normally use for a Category 7 would now transfer to 90,000 Marriott points. That’s enough for two nights at the best Marriott properties and you’ll have points left over if you redeem at the most expensive Ritz Carlton properties.
On the low end things are less exciting, but still better than I initially expected when I heard about the acquisition. If you transfer your SPG points to Marriott to redeem for lower tier properties, you’ll be left with somewhere between about 20% to 33% more points than you would need to use for an equivalent SPG property. For example, one would expect an SPG category 4 hotel to be roughly equivalent to a Marriott category 5 (both mid-category redemptions on their respective rewards charts). A category 4 SPG property costs 10,000 SPG points, and that would transfer to 30,000 Marriott points. A category 5 Marriott hotel costs 25,000 Marriott points. The extra 5,000 points can be looked at as a 20% bonus.
Potential Strategy for Transfers
I thought there was something I’m missing, because Marriott is usually pretty terrible when it comes to their rewards program. It seems Marriott is really making an effort as they likely don’t want to lose the loyalty of current SPG-loyal customers. I had already burned quite a few SPG points on recent redemptions, my honeymoon included, in anticipation of a bad transfer ratio, but still have just under 100K SPG points left. With this news I think I may hang on to the rest for now, because 300K Marriott points could be quite useful when considering their Flight & Hotel Packages.
Remember that Marriott’s Flight & Hotel packages offer 7 nights in a Marriott hotel in addition to airline miles, and there are plenty of ways to get great value out of them. Take, for example, the Southwest packages. I could easily get the Southwest Companion Pass and 7 nights in a hotel for those same 100K SPG points. Not too shabby!
Additional strategies could exist as well. If there happens to be another transfer bonus between Amex and SPG (there have been several in the past) then there may even be a play there for good value from your Membership Rewards points.
I don’t think there are very many cases in which it would be better to transfer your Marriott points to SPG, except to top up your account for a particular award. A couple of cases where you might consider it:
- You are just a few thousand points away from your SPG reward and have some “orphaned” Marriott points that are otherwise useless to you. Transferring your Marriott points into SPG points could help you book a particular reward.
- You REALLY need some airline miles that only SPG can help you get. For example, Alaska Airlines or American Airline miles. You can now transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards > Marriott > SPG > AA/Alaska/dozens of other airlines.
Remember that SPG transfers to many airlines includes a bonus when you transfer 20,000 miles. For example, your ideal transfer would be something like 60,000 Chase/Marriott points > 20,000 SPG points > 25,000 airline miles. It’s not a very good ratio to book an award flight outright, but it’s definitely worth looking into if you’re short on airline miles and have plenty of Ultimate Rewards laying around.
The many possibilities are intriguing!