Marriott and Starwood Hotels Are Merging

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The surprise news this month is the merger of Marriott and Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide. Members of both rewards programs–Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest–are wondering what it will mean for them. Details are scarce, with both programs promising to release more information soon. Let’s take a look at what we know right now.

What Does It Mean?

There will be more rooms to book. The newly combined company’s room inventory tops 1.1 million, with 5,500 hotels in 100 countries. This is good news for loyalty program members because they’ll have more options for booking free stays and earning points.

Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) is generally a more lucrative program than Marriott Rewards. The strength of SPG may well have been part of the draw for Marriott when considering the merger.

One great aspect of SPG that members are hoping will remain intact is its partnerships with over 30 airline partners. You can transfer your SPG points to them and book travel around the world, without blackout dates. The transfer rate is an equitable 1:1 ratio for most airlines. The program’s elite members also get free room upgrades and late checkouts.

Starwood has 11 brands in its portfolio
Starwood has 11 brands in its portfolio

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More to Come

Each programs’ award points are valued differently, so bringing the programs together would mean finding a conversion ratio for transferring SPG points into Marriott points. We’ll have to wait to see how it will work out, and how it will affect redeeming points for rooms and airfare. The merger still needs to be authorized by government regulators, so there’s more news to come on that front in the future.

As a side note, you can earn a 75,000 point sign-up bonus with the SPG credit card from American Express. That can be transferred to an airline partner, and it should be enough to book a domestic award flight.