One of the biggest headlines of the travel industry is the upcoming merger between Marriott and SPG. There are a lot of unanswered questions, but based on other loyalty program mergers I think it is safe to make a few assumptions and explain my strategy.
Devaluation: Every year, every hotel chain, adjusts their redemption rates. Generally, nicer properties become harder to afford with points and some less popular properties become easier to afford. It is fair to assume with the addition of the SPG brand there will be several adjustments to the redemption rates. Specifically, I could see Ritz Carlton and St. Regis properties becoming increasingly expensive to redeem points. On the flip side, with the addition of SPG, it should be easier to book mid-level properties and there should be very few category changes at that price point.
Status: I’m going to assume that the new program will maintain Marriott’s current tier’s of status. Silver, Gold, Platinum. However, I think it is safe to assume that the number of nights needed to qualify may increase by a few nights. Marriott will have to dilute its Platinum member base when bringing in SPG Elites. It is possible that they will introduce a new system for status with 4 levels, but I doubt this will be the case. I think it is also safe to assume that Marriott will match SPG level status’ one to one.
Points: The value of points is going to change when Marriott and SPG merge, thats a given. What is unknown is how Marriott will incorporate SPG points into its current system. Since SPG points are more “valuable” than Marriott points, I think Marriott may have to match SPG points 1.25:1, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they are incorporated 1:1.
I am also very interested to see what happens to the various transfer partners associated with each program. SPG has so many incredible airline transfer partners, I would love to see this tradition continue with a combined program.
Credit Cards: This merger opens up a big possibility of an Marriott American Express card. We saw this with the US Airways / AA merger. I am assuming that current SPG cardholders will be converted to a Marriott American Express. I personally prefer American Express to Chase, so I am hoping this is the case.
My Strategy: As a Marriott elite I will continue to stay at Marriott’s and build my status for this calendar year. If there was a date for the merger to be finalized I would consider staying at SPG properties to increase my SPG points. I am waiting for an increased signup bonus for the SPG Amex credit card before I open one, but do plan on opening an SGP Amex before the merger with hopes of a Marriott Amex in the future. I am excited to see what the future holds with the merger, but imagine Marriott and SPG elites should see a fairly consistent product in the future.
The only worry I have is for SPG elites with large stockpiles of SPG points. I worry the points will transfer into the existing Marriott program 1:1 which would be a hit considering SPG points are currently significantly more valuable than Marriott points. I am excited to see the updated list of transfer partners for the new combined Marriott program. I hope Marriott points become more valuable through the merger.