Marriott Acquisition of Starwood Gets Final Approve, Will Close on Friday

With Chinese approval of Marriott’s deal for Starwood the last major hurdle has been cleared and closing is expected by the end of the week.

Marriott and Starwood are now able to proceed with closing the transaction and expect the transaction to be completed before the market opens on September 23, pending satisfaction of customary closing requirements.

The deal clearly benefits Marriott Rewards members, who have been seeing improved benefits and will get a treasure trove of top properties at which to use their points. It benefits Starwood general members who earn via hotel spend, since Marriott Reward offers a higher rebate percentage. But there’s been much teeth gnashing among Starwood elites.

Marriott Boca Raton

However Marriott has already made some changes to Marriott Rewards – actual improvements – most of which are lining the program up closer to Starwood.

With some simple decisions Marriott Rewards could become the best all-around hotel loyalty program. It’s unlikely they’ll be better than Hyatt Gold Passport, but they’ll be 10 times as large.

SkyCity Marriott, Hong Kong Airport

They need to offer suite upgrades to Platinums as a real benefit, fix breakfast (providing it at resorts and more brands), and do a good job honoring Starwood lifetime elite benefits and transferring Starpoints to Marriott Rewards at a fair rate.

Now that the deal will close we’ll start to see what changes are actually in store. It should be an adventure of a next couple of years.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Adding the SPG suite language would go a long way towards placating Starwood elites who’ve enjoyed it being written into the program T&Cs. I’d also appreciate Your24 coming to the future MR/SPG program, that’s a great benefit. It’s great when everything is spelled out black and white, and of course individual properties will continue to go above and beyond as they always have 🙂

  2. Hope SPG will give advance notice when they change /end airline point transfers, 5th night free, nights and flights. 🙁

  3. Rrgg:
    Marriott also has 5th night free on redemptions.

    As a former elite with Starwood and currently with Marriott and Hyatt, I welcome the hoped for Starwood Concierge service. It is a model for the industry and I miss it – although Hyatt’s private concierge is also very good.

    Still none of the programs can touch Hyatt in terms of reward bang for the buck. And the have the best seasonal programs if you stay very frequently.

    For me the change is very welcome with so many additional properties to choose and many luxury properties to redeem

  4. Hopefully between now and then, SPG have some kind of promos to transfer points out to partners airlines. Would Alaska be good option to transfer out if I want to fly Cathay biz/first?

  5. I transfer to AA for long haul Cathay, not sure what the current AS award chart looks like. And BA is great for short haul Cathay (transferring from Chase UR).

  6. Merging loyalty programs always seem to have this period of where benefits are improved or satisfactory to everyone. After it is formally combined, it is then slashed to death.


  7. so what’s the story? Is this big change happening next week for changing the SPG program into Marriott’s program, or are they going to keep the two programs separate for a year or so? Not to happy about it. I have a feeling the SPG people are going to get robbed. Hoping for the best though. I have a lot of SPG points being added to my account soon due to a timeshare I purchased and really expected the SPG value for these points.

  8. @David Crane — Is Hyatt GP even still considered a loyalty program after they botched their most recent status-match and gave everyone and their dogs a Diamond status with up to 8 DSUs, causing damage that they scrambled to limit by changing the period of validity of DSUs to their expiration date?

    If you ask me, HGP has become a punch line to a cruel joke 😉

  9. @David – he’s so good at “playing and having mastered the game” (I.e., doing the same stuff as everyone else) that he’s the only MR Gold to ever have a 100% UG success rate

  10. Actually I stay mostly at Hiltons. Love them. Love the free breakfast and the executive club most of the time and just about anything about them. Though am fond of the SPG hotels, and it depends on where I am which hotel I stay in… But it’s hard to turn down a Hilton. I was just in Edinburgh and the Waldorf Astoria there is top notch. But Marriotts are okay. The Aloft hotel in Dallas was nice. The occasional Sheraton is fine and Westins are good hotels.

  11. @Ibotez – what HH level are you? How often do you get suite upgrades? Curious what it’s like for a real, typical HH elite.

  12. I’m only a Gold (thanks to Amex Plat card). I get upgrades but not suites, but executive floor rooms with access to the executive club. I just came back from a trip to the UK; stayed at LHR 1 night, upgraded to Exec King; stayed at Paddington Hilton in London, upgraded to Exec room; stayed at Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh– upgraded room only; back at LHR airport Hilton, upgraded to executive club/room… Free breakfast everywhere except Waldorf (I bought a room w/breakfast since Waldorf’s usually don’t comp breakfast).

    Always free internet everywhere. Almost always get a nicer room unless the hotel is sold out or very full. Love the upgrades from Hilton! The executive club has tons of free food; on this last trip ate several meals there. Limited menu, but great for a light meal. And nice to have complementary wine, beer or whatever….

  13. Also a recent Gold for SPG; am planning to try them out on the next trip. Though not sure they can come close to Hilton. Anyone?

    When I stayed at the Helsinki Airport Hilton a couple years ago, I got a room with a built-in sauna. That was awesome!

  14. @David — Yes, as an “equal opportunity opportunist” I stay Hyatt and Marriott hotels regularly (rarely SPG). especially when the trip is on my dime, when I tend to go for “best value.”

    I have stayed at these great HGP

    Grand Hyatt Erawan Bangkok Award Redeemed
    Jan/9/2016 Posted On -22,500 Points

    Park Hyatt Siem Reap Award Redeemed
    Posted On 1 Night/Upgrade Redeemed

    Grand Hyatt Singapore Award Redeemed
    Posted On -30,000 Points

    Park Hyatt Siem Reap Award Redeemed
    Posted On -15,000 Points

    Manila Casino Award Redeemed
    Posted On -8,000 Points

    Park Hyatt Seoul Award Redeemed
    Posted On -37,500 Points

    Paid out of pocket:
    Grand Hyatt Taipei (2013)
    Park Hyatt Saigon (2013)
    Hyatt Regency McCormick Pl (2014)
    Hyatt Regency Montreal (2014)

    ….and more…

    I have also stayed at the following MR hotels RECENTLY
    JW Marriott BKK (2015) — award
    Ritz-Carlton Georgetown (DC; 2015)
    Renaissance by Marriott BKK (2016) – award
    Courtyard Baltimore Downtown/Inner Harbor
    Washington Marriott Wardman Park (2016)

  15. BTW, I ended up redeeming points at Grand Hyatt Singapore above (Jan 3, 2016) after first trying to redeem points at Hilton Singapore and finding no standard award availability. Every available award was of the “premium” type, meaning unaffordable, so I went for “best value” and redeemed at the Grand Hyatt SIN.

    That’s how completely wedded I am to Hilton as “equal opportunity opportunist”… 😉

  16. @Ibotez – SPG Gold isn’t totally comparable to Hilton Gold (SPG Gold can easily be earned w/10 or 15 nights…Hilton takes 40 for anyone who doesn’t realize they can/should just get the $95 credit card) but it also does have some advantages over HH Gold regardless (guaranteed 4pm check-out excluding resorts/convention centers, which HH doesn’t even offer for Diamonds; 50% points bonus vs. just 25%; 250 Gold bonus points upon check-in, which HH Gold doesn’t get; etc.)

    You probably have the same chance of getting a “better” (non-suite) room upgrade too.

  17. I make HH Diamond with as few as 10 stays or 30 nights or even less, based on spend or base points, making HH the only program that offers status based on the number of nights or stays or on $$ spent.

    An elite perk that’s “guaranteed” is diminished since it usually excludes better options and is thus limited. “Guaranteed” 4 pm checkout greatly diminishes the likelihood of a request for a 6pm checkout being approved — no wonder MR readily agreed to it! Same thing with “guaranteed” number of suite upgrades. However, MR is not likely to “guarantee” suite upgrades because it is a much bigger program and it would folly for them to so. They might do something like providing SNAs, which were so useless SPG began offering their elites other perks as alternatives…

  18. You’re entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts…case closed.

    Most logical people are happy with a 4pm guarantee (as they are with other guaranteed benefits of any program), which of course is often extended. You are in a distinct minority who would prefer to just wing it at the discretion of the hotel.

    Again, you continually miss the concept that just because things are *guaranteed*, doesn’t mean that hotels can’t go above and beyond (which is quite typical IME).

    I’ve never had an SNA expire due to lack of usage, and you’ve never had the chance to use one, so you really offer no expertise in this regard. Not everyone has the same uses for them, so it was quite smart of SPG to offer alternatives.

  19. LOL.

    “You’re entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts…case closed”, then he immediately tries to make an opinion and a well-known fallacy pass for fact 😉

    The fallacy, which he commits almost every time he tries to support a false claim, is as known “ad populum,” and is “a fallacious argument that concludes that a proposition is true because many or most people believe it.” If many believe so, then it must be so.

    Because travel bloggers say that “guaranteed 4pm checkout” is the ultimate perk, then it must be true, even though the purported “guarantee” actually diminishes the perk because it effectively gives properties ammunition — in fact, the license — to deny requests for checkout later than 4pm.

    HGP “guarantees” 4 DSUs/year and then has this spelled out in the T&C:
    — Diamond members will receive the best available room (excluding suites), including Regency Club or Grand Club rooms, at the time of check-in.

    HGP explicitly excludes complimentary suite upgrades for their Diamond members. “Most logical people” would see that the combined effect of the two rules is to limit how many suite upgrades Hyatt properties give away each year which thus effectively diminishes the value HGP suite upgrades as a perk!

    Lastly, loyalty perks are “guaranteed” until a program wants to exercise this clause or one just like it in their T&C: “Hyatt Gold Passport (use another program name here) may change the program rules, conditions, benefits, or awards pertaining to the program at any time without notice. ”


  20. You are truly helpless, and entitled to your own outlier, asinine beliefs…most of “us” are a bit more rational fortunately.

  21. Address the logic rather throwing around demonstrable fallacies. Ad populum arguments are a well known recourse for people who are unable to defend a claim.

    “If many believe so, then it must be so”

    Nowhere is that notion more fallacious (or fellatio-us) than in travel blogosphere, where demonstrable falsehoods concocted by one quickly achieves dogma status as it is mindlessly repeated again and again by others and their followers in the echo chamber. The concept of the primacy of “guaranteeing” perks, which actually limits them, is a vivid example…

  22. Should we hurry up and transfer our SPG points to airline miles? That is my main purpose for collecting SPG points, to convert them to miles at 1.25. They can’t take away that opportunity without notice, right?

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