When the Marriott/Starwood merger closed last Friday, the frequent traveler world was surprised with a same-day linkage of the two loyalty programs, immediate reciprocal elite memberships, and the ability to shift points between the two programs freely, at a 1 Starpoint = 3 Marriott Rewards point ratio. At ManAboutWorld Magazine, we immediately started looking for the unlikely benefits that the linking created.
Starwood Gold Elite members (who only needed 10 stays or 25 nights to qualify) got the biggest bonus, since Marriott Rewards Gold (which requires 50 nights) offers benefits more closely aligned with SPG platinum, notably free breakfast and lounge access at most Marriott hotels. Elite qualification nights are not shared or transferable currently, so you'll need to be careful not to split your nights in a way that jeopardizes your status.
The combination of the Marriott/Starwood programs created some unexpected bonuses for elite members. And some newly minted ways to instantly become Marriott Rewards Gold -- like spending $30,000 on the SPG Amex card in a year. Even better, are these seven clever ways to get or leverage your new status for significant travel benefits.
1. If you have an American Express Platinum Card, you're now gold with Marriott.
Platinum Amex Cardholders get awesome benefits, including SPG Gold Elite membership. Which gives you Marriott Rewards Gold, which is even more valuable: it includes free breakfast and lounge access at most Marriott hotels -- a benefit you only get at the Platinum level with SPG.
2. If you're a Delta Skymiles Diamond or Platinum Member, you're now gold with Marriott.
Like American Express Platinum card holders, you're also entitled to automatic SPG Gold Elite through the Crossover Rewards program. Once you register, your SPG Gold status gets you Marriott Rewards Gold.
3. If you're a Platinum SPG member, you're now silver with United MileagePlus
RewardsPlus, a Marriott/United Airlines partnership offers Marriott Platinum Elites a United MileagePlus silver elite. Once your SPG and MR accounts are linked, you can apply for the benefit with United based on your Marriott Platinum status.
4. If you're a Marriott Rewards Platinum Member, you're now silver on Delta
SPG Crossover Rewards grants Delta Skymiles Silver membership, Once your Marriott Rewards and SPG accounts are linked, you can link your SPG and Delta accounts.
5. If you're United Mileage Plus Gold Elite member, you're gold with Starwood.
RewardsPlus grants Marriott Rewards Gold to United MileagePlus Gold members. And that of course, gets you SPG Gold once your Marriott and Starwood accounts are linked.
6. Transfer 90,000 Starpoints into 132,000 United Mileage Plus points.
Almost every SPG airline partner offers a 1:1 point transfer ratio. But the united ratio was 1:2, requiring twice as many starpoints. But transfer 90,000 Starpoints into 270,000 Marriott Rewards points, and redeem for a RewardsPlus vacation package. Those 90,000 Starpoints become 132,000 MileagePlus miles, and a free 7-night Marriott Category 1-5 hotel stay. (Same offer with 7 nights at a Category 9 hotel is 130,000 Starpoints; 180,000 Starpoints at Tier 5 Ritz-Carlton). A similar Travel Package offer is available for 60,000-120,000 miles on the following carriers: Aeroflot, Aeromexico, Alaska Airlines, AirBerlin, Air Canada, Air China, Air France/KLM, Alitalia, American Airlines, ANA, Asia Miles, Asiana Airlines, Avianca-TACA, British Airways, China Eastern, China Southern, Copa Airlines, Delta Airlines, Emirates, Etihad Airways, Frontier Airlines, GOL/Varig, Hawaiian Airlines, Iberia Airlines, Japan Airlines, Jet Airways, Jet Blue, Korean Air, LAN, Lufthansa, Multiplus, Qantas, Qatar Airways, Saudia Airlines, Singapore Airlines, South African Airways Voyager, Southwest Airlines, TAP Air Portugal, Turkish Airlines,Virgin America. Virgin Atlantic
7. Double Your Credit Card Enrollment Bonuses
You likely already have one or the other. But you should have both, earn the enrollment bonuses, and freely transfer points between the programs. Currently, you can earn 25,000 Starpoints for getting the Amex Card, and 87,500 Marriott Rewards points for their visa card. Once you've earned the Marriott bonus, switch your everyday, non-Marriott spending to the SPG American Express card, since the 1 Starpoint per $1 is worth three times as much as the 1 MR point per $1 from the Marriott Rewards card.
Photo Credit: Marriott Rewwards