Do Marriott’s Changes Hurt SPG Loyalists?

It has been more than a year since the marriage of Marriott and Starwood was finally approved and it’s fair to question where we stand. I was amongst the people who may have gotten a bit too excited when Marriott and SPG rolled out some customer-friendly changes pretty much immediately. Plenty of exciting things must be on the horizon, right?

Mergers of this size take time, many systems need to be integrated.  The red tape involved is almost unfathomable. One of the best stats to illustrate this is a number Maya Liebman, CIO of American Airlines has referred to in the past. When US Airways and American Airlines merged, they had over 700 instances where two systems would need to merge. Now that a year’s worth of water has passed under the Marriott/SPG bridge, what do we know that we didn’t last year? Not much.

Will Marriott and SPG become one loyalty program? If so, when? When will a stay at a Marriott hotel count towards status with SPG, or vice versa?

These are all good questions.  I think it’s fair to assume we would have received some answers by now. I’m especially surprised there’s been no news at all on a timeline of when the two chains will consider the sum total of a customer’s business at both chains when evaluating what elite status level they’ve earned.

The vexing part here is that figuring that out shouldn’t be hard.  Follow me for just a minute. Marriott and SPG have the plumbing to link your accounts and status match. That means they have a subset of customers who they have verified which accounts match which.  Running database queries on that combined list isn’t hard. What happens next might be difficult.

At that point, you’d have two numbers. Edward Pizzarello had 10 nights at Marriott properties last year and 45 nights at Starwood properties (not real numbers, but let’s go with it). Now, someone needs to tell the computer that this customer is at the 50-night elite level. Maybe that’s a complicated process. Maybe there’s some opportunity for some fraud/mistakes if a manual upgrade process is in place.

But, isn’t it worth it to try putting something in place?

Hotel Danieli, Venice, Starwood Hotel, SPG
Hotel Danieli, Venice. One of My Favorite SPG Hotels

What About Lifetime Status?

Starwood Preferred Guest has a fairly rewarding lifetime status program.  Marriott’s top-tier status isn’t as rewarding and is harder to attend. So far, Marriott has been dead silent on what will happen with SPG customers who have already earned lifetime status. Marriott did roll out some improvements to their program that matched SPG. They appeared to do so begrudgingly.  Is that an indication of how Marriott will handle lifetime status?

Are There Any Current Indicators?

Have there been any instances recently that would point to Marriott’s intentions? Not really. Uber and SPG killed their partnership yesterday. But, that could be as much an indication of Uber’s growth in other areas as it could be of a shift in Marriott’s strategy on partnerships.

I had something of a bad experience at a SPG property last week. I tweeted about it and got a direct message from SPG telling me the property would follow up with me.  When the property hadn’t responded after a day or so, I replied back to SPG on Twitter letting them know I never heard back. A week later, no reply from the hotel or SPG.  That’s a bit atypical from my normal SPG experience.

Earlier this year, Marriott rolled out their own version of SPG Moments with some pretty cool offers. It was an example of Marriott mimicking the SPG way of doing things.

These are a few small examples in an otherwise big picture. The problem is that there really aren’t any other indicators of what to expect in the future.

The Final Two Pennies

There are a number of ways I could have titled this post?  “Is Marriott Breaking Starwood Preferred Guest?”  or “Is Marriott Preparing To Make SPG Better?”. Maybe I’m revealing a bias by assuming silence and a few small downsides represent long-term negative outlook.  Some smart folks I know are still extolling the virtues of what SPG Platinum status can get you, betting that things will still be rosy in 2018.  I’m certainly open to being wrong here.  I just don’t see any clear indicators of improvement after a somewhat promising start.

It’s been a year.  I can’t help but ask, “What’s next?”


  1. Counsellor says

    It would be nice for those who do not have lifetime status if there were a way to combine stays at both chains toward earning annual elite status. However, I have LT Plat in Marriott and LT Gold in Starwood, so because of the linking I have Plat status and perqs in both programs.

    I’m a bit more interested in what’s going to happen with the credit cards. As I understand it, I can use the SPG AMEX to pay charges in Marriott properties and get bonus Starpoints that equate to (and can be converted to) 3 Marriott Rewards points each — a much better deal than the 5 points per dollar you earn when using the Chase Marriott VISA to pay the bill. Will all the business go to the SPG AMEX, or will Chase increase the bonus for using the Chase VISA on stays?

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