The merger of the two companies has created the world’s largest hotel operator with more than 6,000 properties globally. For now, it will continue to offer two loyalty programs, so here’s how to get the most out of both of them.
1. Link your accounts to match status and transfer points.
If you’re a member of both programs, link your accounts. Your status will be matched, and you’ll be able to transfer points between programs at a 3:1 ratio—that is, three Marriott Rewards points for every one SPG Starpoint. If you’re Starwood Platinum, you’ll immediately become Marriott Platinum (which normally requires 75 nights). More important, Marriott’s RewardsPlus program will also qualify you for Silver Elite status on United Airlines.
2. Pick which account you’ll accrue points in.
Even if you’re elite in both programs, you can only credit nights to either Marriott Rewards or SPG, which is an important consideration if you’re tempted to try out your newfound elite status.
3. Look at both points currencies to find the best value.
You can transfer points between the programs for free as many times as you’d like. When redeeming points for free nights, Marriott Rewards has nine categories of hotels, while SPG has seven. Since SPG has fewer categories, it’s hard to match them up evenly, but, in general, Starwood offers better value at lower-end hotels and Marriott offers the better value for top-tier properties. When looking at com- parable Marriott and Starwood properties, choose the one that has the best conversion value.
4. Buy a vacation package to get a hotel stay and airline miles.
Marriott has hotel-and-air packages that include seven nights of hotel accommodation and also a deposit of airline miles into your frequent-flier account. Marriott has an arrangement with United in which you get more miles versus other airlines, and United miles can be extremely valuable—especially for international first- and business-class awards. For example, for 250,000 Marriott Rewards points (or 83,333 SPG Starpoints), you can stay for seven nights at the Lisbon Marriott Hotel and also get 110,000 United miles
5. Convert your SPG Starpoints into airline miles.
SPG has 36 airline partners that allow you to turn your points into miles, and you’ll earn an extra 5,000 points for every 20,000 transferred. Which partner is the best? It all depends, but I recommend looking into the frequentflier programs of foreign airlines. I recently got huge value from first-class redemptions on Korean Air and Singapore Airlines.
6. Cash in your Starpoints for SPG Moments.
SPG Moments are experiences that are offered via auction or fixed price and give great access to concerts, sports, and special events. Some of my best redemptions using SPG points have been at Madison Square Garden, where SPG has a luxury box that offers mid-court or mid-rink seats with VIP service, including full meals plus beer and wine. One of my best uses of points was taking my dad to see his favorite team, the New York Knicks. For 45,000 SPG points we got VIP box seats with a retail value in the thousands.
This story originally appeared in Travel + Leisure.