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Man oh Man has this been a cray cray day for the world wide web of points bloggers. After weeks of speculation: was it going to be IHG, Wyndham, or no deal at all. No one even muttered what ultimately became the final sussed out deal. An albatross of a corporate merger/takeover: The holy grail of hotel points, Starwood, has been engulfed by the hotel leviathan, Marriott, creating the single largest hotel company in the world with more than 1.1 million rooms across the globe.
I love me some Marriott
I’ll be honest with you. I’m a Marriott apologist, so this deal actually put a huge smile on my face. I like JW Marriotts, Autograph Collection, and Ritz Carltons. Look, they don’t give you the acute personal staff ratios of Aman or Peninsula, but I like them and they aren’t egregiously priced like the aforementioned chains. The club levels are great, the availability for points is outstanding, and you can almost always find a Marriott. And what’s even more attractive is the ample ability to earn Marriott points. Sure, they aren’t as valuable as Starpoints, but unless you manufacture spend on a Starwood Amex, make an overt effort to find Starwood hotels outside of big cities, or happen to always end up with the bankroll or business leniency to choose Starwood, it’s hard to earn those points compared to Marriott, Hilton, or IHG. Also, why those brands points are so significantly less valuable. Simple supply and demand. The whining heard round the internet is loud right now.
Bloggers love Starwood.
Who wouldn’t right? The redemption values are unreal compared to other brands ( except maybe Hyatt) and if you happen to manufacture spend ( which a lot of bloggers do), carry large Starwood balances, or travel to areas that are populated with Starwood branded hotels you garner some incredible redemption values. I, do not. So,I never really enjoy the Starwood benefits ( even tho I’m gold from Amex Plat) and from time to time I end up in a Starwood property like The Nines, but that’s few and far between. I don’t really accumulate enough Starpoints to create incredible opportunities. I do, however, create a lot of Marriott opportunities. Not only does Chase make incredible card offers ranging from 50k to 140k per card, but my family also owns several Marriott timeshares. Timeshares credit bulk points every year that you bank a property. These points add up in mass quantity over time.
Bloggers, as a whole, are fearful that the brand will be devalued.
Of course it will, but bloggers are also in a rarified air. Many of us churn cards, manufacture spend, live in hotels, or do crazy mattress runs just to inflate our status and earn points just so we can redeem at low rates and receive incredible perks. To the broader audience out there, it’s much better to have streamlined earning opportunities and redemption opps. Arne Sorenson, CEO of Marriott, said that he wasn’t going to eliminate brands. I’m not sure why that would even make sense except in very specific instances, but he clarified it nonetheless. Perhaps some properties won’t be avail for points, but on an overall outlook, there will be far more properties, in far more locations, for loyalists to choose from.
Look, does this eliminate some competition from the marketplace? Sure. But realistically, I’d say that IHG, Wyndham, and Hilton were in more competition with Marriott than Starwood. Marriott was the third largest chain in the world behind Hilton and IHG. Starwood was 7th. Starwood always had a hip, cool, exclusive factor that was only beginning to pop up within the Marriott chain…i.e. Autograph Collection and Edition hotels. Marriott is a bread and butter, uniform brand that is ubiquitous amongst any corporate traveler’s points portfolio. It’s the hotel version of going to Mcdonald’s – the fish filet is gonna taste the same wherever you are, and a standard Marriott room feels the same whether you are in South Dakota or South China. Marriott has fish filet and it has filet mignon. Starwood just adds to that complexity, and adds character and depth to the brand.
The main competition that Starwood brought to the market was the points program.
Regardless of who purchased them, the points program was going to get devalued….by how much? We shall soon find out. There is no way that Marriott is going to continue the Starwood program in its current shape. Yes, it sucks if you’ve earned loads of Starpoints, but my guess is that Marriott will create an exchange system valuing current Starpoints at a premium to Marriott and a vesting date that all points will be converted. Even as the points devalue, the vast amount of properties from affordable to special occasion/super splurge increase. There will be far more options to redeem the new co-branded Marriott Rewards and also to earn.
Will the benefits of top tier status at Starwood devalue? Probably.
But let’s be honest, it was ridiculously easy to achieve. 25 stays? 50 nights? There are also tons of platinum challenges that you can qualify for, and gold is a perk of Amex Platinum. It’s so easy because the brand is so small comparatively. For true road warriors, spending 50 nights on the road is pretty much January to mid March. But most road warriors aren’t staying in 5 star hotels. They’re in Residence Inn, Holiday Inn, Hyatt House, or maybe Element – something nice but cheap. There just aren’t many Four Points or Elements out there in comparison to Marriott, Hilton, IHG offerings.
There are additional benefits that are truly incredible once you hit 75 nights, including Your24 – 24 hour hotel room occupancy. Yes, you check in at 7pm and you don’t have to leave til 7pm the following day. These are perks not enjoyed by any other brand in the business. Instead of concentrating on all the attrition from the merger in terms of benefits, maybe some of these will be adopted by Marriott. A sort of Starpoint devaluation Marriott perk appreciation. ( I can dream right?) We just don’t know, that’s the point.
Anyways. There are plenty of people that are dogging the deal. But, Me and Miles are optimistic.
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