Marriott and SPG merges and officially links accounts for members

Last Friday, Marriott and Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) finalized their merger and they became the world’s largest hotel company under Marriott International, Inc. As of now, the company mentions they are keeping all of the 30 brands though I wonder what happens in the future. Until 2018, both membership programs of SPG and Marriott would be kept separate as well though they have allowed members in both programs to link their accounts to obtain reciprocal tier membership privileges and allow guests from each side of the program to experience the other side. Having stayed in Marriott properties before and as a frequent member of SPG hotels and resorts, I have a preference for the latter. Naturally, it meant I am more familiar with SPG brands rather than the drab brandings of Marriott. In fact, I only find Ritz-Carlton to be the highlight of the Marriott portfolio of hotel brands.

Marriott SPG Brands
List of Marriott and SPG Brands. Image from Marriott International.

As an SPG Platinum member, I have now been given Marriott Platinum tier which does gives me some nice perks such as:

  • 50% additional bonus points
  • Guaranteed room type
  • Guaranteed room availability when booking within 48-hours
  • Complimentary room upgrade
  • Arrival gift of bonus points, a food & beverage amenity or air miles
  • Complimentary enhanced in-room Internet access
  • Guaranteed 4 p.m. late checkout, subject to availability at resort and convention hotels
  • Guaranteed lounge access and breakfast for two*

The complimentary lounge access and breakfast for 2 only applies to selected brands within the Marriott portfolio though and a slight difference from SPG Platinum who usually gets a choice of breakfast in their welcome amenity. There are also no certainty of suite upgrades for Marriott Platinum members, unlike in SPG where I have chances of getting suites as a Platinum.

For SPG Gold members, they get matched to Marriott Gold which provides the following perks:

  • 25% additional bonus points
  • Guaranteed room type
  • Complimentary room upgrade
  • Complimentary enhanced in-room Internet access
  • Guaranteed 4 p.m. late checkout, subject to availability at resort and convention hotels
  • Guaranteed lounge access and breakfast for two*

Gold members at Marriott does not lose much as the only amenity missing might be the bonus points since the 48-hour room availability is usually a costly perk to guests. It is worth noting Marriott Gold gets members free breakfast while that is usually not available to SPG Gold members.

Marriott SPG Link

In addition to the status matching for members of both programs, members could also transfer points between Marriott Rewards and SPG at a rate of 3 Marriott Points for 1 SPG Points, since SPG points are probably the more valuable of the 2 due to its convertibility to various frequent flyer programs with good bonuses. SPG properties are more desirable in many instances which adds to the allure of SPG as a membership program.

However, stays and points accrual at both programs remain separate. That means SPG members continue to earn SPG points when staying at a Sheraton or a Westin and Marriott members get only Marriott Rewards points if staying at a Marriott hotel. Thus the benefit is now for guests to try out the other side though from my past Marriott stay experience, I am not sure if I would be enticed.

The linking of the 2 membership program does benefit SPG members more since they get to keep the existing perks of SPG until the end of 2017 at the latest and gain a top tier recognition with Marriott and Ritz-Carlton. I believe Marriott did this to ensure it keeps the SPG members as the acquisition cost of SPG certainly takes into account the customer lifetime value of each SPG member. Thus until there is a new merged program, it is in Marriott’s best interest to keep SPG members. Furthermore the convenience of linking the accounts certainly would make me consider trying out some Ritz-Carlton properties though no breakfast would still be included even for Marriott Platinum members…

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