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When Marriott acquired Starwood, it created lots of opportunities for folks to take advantage of both programs. But it also made finding the best deal a little more confusing.
Million Mile Secret Agent Steve commented:
With the Marriott-Starwood merger which would be better – using 10,000 Starwood points for a hotel or 25,000 Marriott points for a hotel in the same area?
Let’s take a look at these hotels. And figure out how to find the best deal for you.
Not All Hotel Points Are Created Equal
Not all points have the same value. Because every hotel chain has a different award chart. For example, Hyatt only charges 30,000 Hyatt points for their top-tier hotels. But Hilton requires a whopping 95,000 Hilton points to book their most expensive hotels!
When you’re deciding which hotel to book make sure you’re comparing apples to apples.
Since the Marriott-Starwood merger, you can transfer Marriott points to Starwood at a 3:1 ratio. So 10,000 Starwood points are worth 30,000 Marriott points. That makes the Marriott hotel a better deal for only 25,000 points, right?
Not so fast! If you only have a small number of points left in your account, there usually isn’t much you can do with them. And there are other things to consider when deciding which hotel is the best deal.
What Can You Do With the Extra Points?
You can only transfer points between Marriott and Starwood in 1,000-point increments. So, unless Steve has an extra 1,000 Marriott points in his account, he would have to transfer 9,000 Starwood points for his Marriott stay (9,000 Starwood points X 3 = 27,000 Marriott points).
The points difference between the hotels is 1,000 to 2,000 Starwood points. With 2,000 Starwood points, you could book a weekend night at a Category 1 hotel. But Starwood Category 1 hotels are few and far between. So it might not be as useful as it seems.
Check Hotel Reviews and Consider Other Costs
Other factors can have a much bigger impact on the quality of your trip than the amount of points you spend.
1. Check TripAdvisor Reviews
When the points difference between 2 hotels is minimal, check TripAdvisor and other sites to compare reviews. What others say about a hotel is sometimes more important to look at than the rating. Because what one person values might be very different from what you value.
If folks on TripAdvisor are complaining about the small portion sizes at the hotel restaurant is that important to you? Not if you don’t plan on eating there or are a light eater. 😉 But if folks are complaining about the staff or poor housekeeping service, that probably will impact your decision.
2. Does the Hotel Have Freebies?
Consider any freebies or perks you’ll get.
If you have elite status, what does it get you? Does either hotel have an executive lounge? If it’s a Marriott hotel, Gold elite status will get you lounge access. But this is not the case with Starwood hotels!
Does the hotel offer free breakfast, or appetizers and drinks in the evening, regardless of elite status? That alone would be worth more than 1,000 Starwood points! And could save you a lot of money, especially on longer stays.
Are you traveling with family? Does the hotel have a pool, fitness center, or other amenity that would make your stay more fun or comfortable?
Does either hotel offer complimentary shuttle service? Lots of small factors could have a big impact on the quality of your stay!
3. Hidden Fees & Extra Costs
It’s a bummer to use points for what you thought was a free night, only to be hit with fees you weren’t expecting. Some hotels will charge extra fees even for stays booked with points.
It doesn’t make sense to save a few points only to discover lots of extra fees!
Are You Trying to Earn Elite Status?
So if you’re trying to earn Gold elite status, Starwood is the faster option. Plus your status will instantly match with Marriott!
Can You Book A PointSavers Award or Other Discounted Rate?
Some Marriott hotels offer PointSavers awards, which means you can book a hotel for 1 Category less than normal. So you could book a Category 5 at the Category 4 rate of 20,000 Marriott points per night (instead of 25,000). And Starwood has discounted weekend awards for Category 1 & Category 2 hotels.
If you have a longer stay planned, both Marriott & Starwood will give you the 5th night free on award stays! And if you book 10 award nights, you’ll get both the 5th & 10th nights free!
Note: The Starwood 5th night free benefit on award stays does NOT apply to Category 1 or Category 2 hotels.
Stock up on Marriott or Starwood Points!
Earning the sign-up bonus on one of the Marriott or Starwood credit cards is the easiest way to get more points. The current bonuses are:
- Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card – 80,000 Marriott points after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
- Marriott Premier Rewards Business Card – 80,000 Marriott points after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
- Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express – 25,000 Starwood points after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
- Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express – 25,000 Starwood points after spending $5,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
Note: There is also a 120,000 Marriott point offer for the Marriott personal card. But it is a little different than a traditional sign-up bonus. So make sure it’s the best deal for your situation before being tempted by the big number.
You can also transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Marriott at a 1:1 ratio. And AMEX Membership Rewards points transfer to Starwood at a 3:1 ratio. But I don’t recommend this because it’s usually not the best deal.
The Marriott-Starwood merger gives folks plenty to think about when it comes to booking award stays. Because there are lots of opportunities for great deals. And you can move your points in ways you couldn’t before.
When the points difference between a Starwood or Marriott hotel isn’t significant, consider:
- TripAdvisor reviews
- Freebies & perks
- Hidden fees & extra costs
- If you’re trying to earn elite status
- If you can get a discounted rate
I hope this helps! Have fun on your trip, Steve!