Not Happy With Marriott Post-Merger? The Answer to Your Woes Is Simpler Than You Think

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My personal outlook of the new Marriott program isn’t all that bleak.  There have been a few positive changes after their merger with Starwood.  Some Starwood hotels become much cheaper, and you can book top-notch hotels at a big discount through December 2018, etc.

But there’s plenty to squawk about.  Transferring miles is a little more confusing.  It’s now MUCH harder to open Marriott and Starwood credit cards.  Marriott Gold Elite status isn’t worth nearly as much (no more free breakfast, no lounge access, no guaranteed late checkout).  Not to mention the number of technical issues Marriott has yet to fix, like occasional incorrect elite status listed on member account pages, and flawed migration of previous hotel stays.

So what’s a loyal Marriott customer to do?

The simple solution:   TAKE OFF THE HORSE BLINDERS, MAN.  Look around.  Marriott isn’t the only hotel chain you can reserve for free.

I strongly suggest disgruntled Marriott customers consider diving into Hilton hotels.  Here’s why.

Hilton Has Incredible Hotels All Over the World, Including Super Ritzy Ones in Singapore

Why You Should Consider Switching To Hilton

Hilton hotels are probably the BEST fit for someone previously invested in Marriott.

  • Both hotel chains are gigantic
  • Both hotels can be found in the same areas
  • Both offer super budget hotels as well as mega luxury resorts

Additionally, the points price range for both hotels is roughly the same.  A standard room at a Marriott hotel costs between 7,500 and 85,000 Marriott points per night.  And while Hilton has no award chart, rates at Hilton hotels are between 10,000 and 95,000 points per night.

But here’s a big fat difference.  Hilton points are a million times easier to earn.

Hilton Hotels Cost More Points – But They’re Still Cheaper

Here’s an example.  It takes 85,000 Marriott points to stay at the W Maldives.  And it takes 95,000 Hilton points to stay at the Conrad Maldives.  Both are super highly-rated resorts.

The Conrad Maldives Is On LOTS of Folks’ Hotel Paradise Bucket List

Marriott looks to be the much better deal (by a hefty 10,000 points!)  But it’s not.  That’s because you can earn Hilton points in your sleep.  Here are 3 points that prove it.

Point 1.   Hilton Cards Earn Points WAY Faster Than Marriott Cards for Spending

For example, the Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card earns 6 Marriott points per $1 spent at Marriott & Starwood hotels, and 2 Marriott points per $1 on everything else.

But the comparable Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card earns 12 Hilton points per $1 at Hilton hotels (DOUBLE what the Marriott Premier Plus earns) and 3 Hilton points per $1 on everything else (50% more points than Marriott).  Not to mention 6 Hilton points per $1 at US restaurants, US supermarkets, and US gas stations.

If you only used these cards for non-bonus spending, you would get a free night at a top-notch hotel after spending:

  • $42,500 on the Marriott Premier Plus (85,000 points per night / 2 points per $1)
  • $31,667 on the AMEX Hilton Ascend (95,000 points per night / 3 points per $1)

So which hotel award night is actually cheaper?

Point 2.   Hilton Cards Give You Elite Status to Rack Up Points

With the AMEX Hilton Ascend, you’ll get automatic Gold Elite Status, which gives you an 80% bonus on base points you’ll earn for your hotel stay.  The Marriott Premier Plus gives you automatic Silver Elite Status, which comes with a 10% bonus on base points.

Both Hilton and Marriott offer 10 base points per $1 for your stay.  So with these cards, if you spend $100 for your room, you’ll earn:

  • 1,700 Marriott points ($100 X 10 points per $1 + 10% bonus + 6 points per $1 for using the card)
  • 3,000 Hilton points ($100 X 10 points per $1 + 80% bonus + 12 points per $1 for using the card)

That’s a huge difference!

You’ll Get Lots More Points for Your Spending at Hilton Hotels

Point 3.   Hilton Usually Gives Better Promotions Than Marriott

In addition to the credit cards, Hilton gives folks tons of opportunities to earn bonus points for their hotel stays, much more than Marriott.  A good example is the current double points promotion, which they run almost constantly.

Again, both Marriott and Hilton offer 10 base points per $1 on hotel stays.  But with Hilton’s current promotion, you’ll earn double the base points on your hotel stays (20 points per $1).

So currently, if you have each of the hotel’s cards mentioned above and spend $100 for your room, you’ll earn:

  • 1,700 Marriott points ($100 X 10 points per $1 + 10% bonus + 6 points per $1 for using the card)
  • 4,800 Hilton points ($100 X 10 points per $1 + 80% bonus X 2 for the double points promo + 12 points per $1 for using the card)

As you can see, Hilton is giving away points as fast as they can.  So don’t be discouraged by the amount of points it costs to reserve a free room.

Hilton Credit Cards All Solid Options

Apply Here:   Hilton Honors American Express Card

Apply Here:   Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card

Apply Here:   The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card

If you have a Hilton credit card, you are a ferocious Hilton points earning monster.  ALL of the cards come with large welcome offers.  And because these cards are considered different “products”, you can earn the bonus on them all.

Each card has a unique quality about it.  Here’s a quick reminder of why you should open each card.

Hilton Honors American Express Card

The Hilton Honors American Express Card is the most vanilla of the group.  It comes with 75,000 Hilton bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.  You’ll also get things like:

  • 7X Hilton bonus points per $1 spent at any Hilton portfolio hotel or resort
  • 5X Hilton bonus points per $1 at US restaurants, US supermarkets, and US gas stations
  • 3X Hilton bonus points per $1 spent on everything else
  • Complimentary Hilton Silver status just for having the card
  • Terms & Limitations apply

The best part of this card is that it has NO ANNUAL FEE (See Rates & Fees).  Yet it has better points earning rates and a more useful elite status than you’ll get with the $95 annual fee Marriott Premier Plus!

You can read our review of the Hilton Honors American Express card here.

AMEX Hilton Ascend Card

We’ve already highlighted the power of the Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card.  But there’s way more.

The card comes with 125,000 Hilton points after spending $2,000 in purchases with your new card within the first 3 months of account opening.

100,000 Hilton Points Is Enough for a Free Night at the Pristine Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh

The card comes with a $95 annual fee (See Rates & Fees).  But you’ll get benefits like:

  • 12 Hilton points per $1 spent at a Hilton hotel or resort
  • 6 Hilton points per $1 of eligible purchases at US restaurants, US supermarkets, and US gas stations
  • 3 Hilton points for all other eligible purchases on your card
  • Complimentary Hilton Gold status
  • 1 weekend night after spending $15,000 on purchases in a calendar year
  • Terms & Limitations apply

You’ll also get 10 free airport lounge visits each year once you enroll in your complimentary Priority Pass membership.  Can your $95 annual fee Marriott card do that?  (Hint:  No.)

And don’t forget, Hilton Gold status comes with late checkout and free breakfast at all hotels – the stuff Marriott Gold Status discontinued.

You can read our full review of the Hilton Honors Ascend card here.

AMEX Hilton Small Business Card

The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card is very similar to the AMEX Hilton Ascend card.  You’ll earn 125,000 Hilton bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.

Use the Welcome Bonus for a Stay at The Reach, Key West Resort

This card also has a $95 annual fee (See Rates & Fees).  But you’ll receive:

  • 12 Hilton points per $1 spent at a Hilton hotel or resort
  • 6 Hilton points per $1 on select business & travel purchases (including wireless phone services from US providers, US restaurants, US gas stations, car rentals, and more)
  • 3 Hilton points for all other eligible purchases on your card
  • Complimentary Hilton Gold status
  • 1 weekend night after spending $15,000 on purchases in a calendar year
  • Priority Pass™ Select membership with 10 free visits each year
  • Terms & Limitations apply

With this card, you have the opportunity to earn a 2nd weekend night after spending an additional $45,000 in purchases on your card in the same calendar year.

One of the absolute best features of this card is that it’s a small business card that does NOT appear on your personal credit report.  So it won’t count toward your Chase “5/24” limit!  That’s VERY important for all of us looking to earn lucrative Chase sign-up bonuses again.

Bottom Line

The best deals in travel are always changing.  For many of us, Starwood and Marriott were our favorite hotel chains.  But we’ve seen some devaluation of late.

If you’re unhappy with the route Marriott is going, don’t get mad!  Get Hilton!  They can probably serve your Marriott travel patterns with comparable hotels in similar areas.  And earning Hilton points is SO easy with cards like the Hilton Honors American Express Card,  Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card, and Hilton Honors American Express Business Card.

Let me know your hotel strategy after the Marriott Starwood merger.  Are you content with the changes, or do intend to abandon ship?

For rates and fees of the Hilton Ascend Card, please click here.

For rates and fees of the Hilton Business Card, please click here.

For rates and fees of the Hilton Amex Card, please click here.

Joseph Hostetler is a full-time writer for Million Mile Secrets, covering miles and points tips and tricks, as well as helpful travel-related news and deals.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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1 year ago

Marriott and SPG’s new credit cards are failure. They may cost them a lot of customers. I am very disappointed when they released their Luxury card. They had every opportunity to compete with Hilton. But due to their top management closed mindedness, they blew it. They will realize this more every quarter when it hits their financials.

Nick Summy
2 years ago

I normally don’t complain about credit card referrals on these sites (I realize it’s a business) but was there no referral credit for you to advertise the Aspire card?! Seems off that you wouldn’t even mention a card that gives you top status…

Reply to  Nick Summy
2 years ago

Ya, I noticed that right off as well. Earning points like crazy with Aspire, enjoying Diamond status, and looking forward to an Arizona resort stay soon, where the Aspire counts big time. Just picked up a couple airline tickets for $3,500 and earned another 24,500 points. Bye, bye Marriott!

2 years ago

I have an Ascend card for a few months. Didn’t cancel it. When I applied for an Aspire card, it says I won’t get the sign-up bonus. Do you know why?

Reply to  DW
2 years ago

Hi DW – have you tried calling AMEX to inquire? The terms & conditions do not explicitly restrict folks with the Ascend card from getting the Aspire card, so it seems odd. Calling AMEX might help you get more clarification.

2 years ago

Yep, I canceled quite a few upcoming Marriott reservations, switching them out with Hilton brands. Even booked a Hilton resort in Thailand, where I’ll enjoy Diamond status and lounge access and a free night after four reward nights. Also booked Hilton, Athens for next year, all on points. Points aren’t worth quite as much as Marriott but you tend to get to earn a lot more, as Hilton is always running promotions and bonus points galore.

Reply to  Rick
2 years ago

I’m with you. I’m rethinking my strategy with Marriott as well. I’ve worked hard for Starwood Platinum status over the past few years, but might be time to look toward Hilton moving forward.

2 years ago

Sorry Hilton have very beautiful hotels but the points don’t wort nothing much

Reply to  Macus
2 years ago

Hi Macus – it depends on your travel goals. I know a lot of folks who get Big Travel with Hilton points.

Luis C Santini
2 years ago

As a member who feels that my golden status lost a lot of value, I’ve been looking to Hilton for a while and it kind of surprises me that Hilton didn’t take this opportunity to seduce us better…

David D
2 years ago

I already had the Marriott card and jumped on the SPG Luxury with a 125,000 offer. Now you are making me want to get Some Hilton cards. I like Hiltons better anyway.

2 years ago

Thanks for this advice! I have been shocked at the run around I’ve been getting the last few days just trying to ask 2 simple questions at Marriott C/S-huge wait times, transfers, being hung up on, talking to one rep who honestly sounded like he was on his death bed. Hyatt was wonderful in contrast, but I will try Hilton too.

Tom Stinnette
2 years ago





Reply to  Tom Stinnette
2 years ago

I have to say that I doubt parts of your STORY, big time!
Where do the Marriotts go to church? Why would the manager give you a refund? It was a guest who caused you the problem, not an employee! How did the hotel hurt you??

2 years ago

That’s good …send more fake diamonds to Hilton, as if the lounges aren’t crowded enough. I earned my lifetime status the real way but Hilton doesn’t seem to distinguish! I’m trying to move more business to Hyatt, the only pure loyalty program left!

2 years ago

Great advice. I only stay 35 nights a year, so my I have lost all of my platinum perks. I will definitely be switching to Hilton in the new year

Andrew Conger
2 years ago

I have been a loyal Marriott client for over twenty plus years. I travel almost weekly and am “Platinum Premier Elite”. Since the recent merger, platinum services have plummeted; most notably, the dedicated platinum phone line. I used to be able to call and speak to an associate almost immediately. For the past several months, I’ve had to go through a computer prompt menu as if I were a first time customer. I complained multiple times to no avail. Beyond frustrated, I contacted Hilton. I was a Hilton “Silver” member, but the matched my Marriott status and bumped me to “Diamond”. Needless to say, Hilton appreciates and wants my business. I’ve stayed at multiple Hilton properties the past month. I have treated very well and upgraded multiple times. Hilton has earned my business.

Reply to  Andrew Conger
2 years ago

I am a Hilton Diamond and have been for 3 years. I have found it to be COMPLETELY USELESS. Have made multiple attempts for: early checkin- ALL DENIED, Late Checkout-NEVER ABLE TO GET LATER THAN 1pm, Upgrades-NEVER.
I have a friend who was a front desk supervisor for Hilton (no longer in the hotel business) and she said they were trained to not provide the promised benefits. When I asked a GM why I cannot get late checkout as a diamond I was told because it is not fair to keep the next guest waiting for the room waiting. Unbelievable!!
Definitely need to look elsewhere as Diamond status is useless

2 years ago

Thanks for the article yes I’m one is those Marriott gold customers where gold means nothing! I’m switching to Hilton immediately

Steven M.
2 years ago

“I strongly suggest disgruntled Marriott customers should consider diving into Hilton hotels. Here’s why.”

Sigh, yes. It’s time for me to get the Hilton Ascend card. I’m going to use up my 100K SPG/Marriott points on nice properties this year as my Gold status is now literally worthless. Plus the new card application rules are ridiculous …

Reply to  Steven M.
2 years ago

Starwood has been very good to me in the past. Lately they have not been doing as well. Since the merger, I have not been satisfied with the changes that have been made: the large devaluation of our points is one of the main problems.
I will begin staying at Hiltons and Hyatts if they are available in the areas where we need to stay!

2 years ago

Of course, Hyatt points are still the easiest to earn and far fewer points are required for free night stays at even the nicest Hyatt hotels. My hotel stay plans remain unchanged– it’s either Hyatt or I’m a free agent.

2 years ago

For most of the reasons you stated, I recently switch loyalty to Hilton. The AMEX Hilton Ascend card is a no-brainer for Hilton loyalists, and I’m earning a ton of points on monthly spend. With the Ascend card, I don’t have to spend time figuring out what Hilton property will offer me free breakfast; they all do! I wonder how much time Marriott spent researching what the point offering should be on their new Premier Plus card (6X points). If you hold the Chase Sapphire card in your wallet, it actually earns more value than Marriott’s own card.

Jan Greer
2 years ago

All I care about is “Can I find a hotel that has no bed bug reports?” Unfortunately for some cities the answer is no

Reply to  Jan Greer
2 years ago

**knock on wood** but I stay at 50+ hotels per year and thankfully haven’t come across that issue.

2 years ago

With SPG there have been many opportunities to redeem points for a suite or redeem points for a basic room and upgrade to a suite with a little cash. With Hilton my experience has been that the redemption value plummets as soon as you want to book a non-basic room. And very little opportunity for a cash upgrade.

2 years ago

Quick question to anyone that can answer. If I booked a reservation when I held Platinum elite status, but will not have status by the time my stay arrives, would I retain platinum benefits for that particular stay?

Thanks in advance!

Reply to  John
2 years ago

Only your status the moment you check in matters .

In rare occasion however the hotel system doesn’t update and you will still be recognized as platinum.