As many of you know, Marriott purchased SPG a while back and now members of both loyalty programs can transfer points back and forth instantly. The current transfer ratio is 1 SPG to 3 Marriott Rewards, which opens up some very interesting arbitrage opportunities that I have written about in the past.
One thing I did not cover was how to take advantage of these transfers when it comes to hotel redemptions, so today we will look at a real-world example of how I decided to book a Marriott property over an SPG property. But first, let’s look at how you transfer points between the two programs.
How to Transfer
I am assuming in this example that you already linked your SPG and Marriott accounts. If you haven’t and need help, leave a note in the comments section and I’ll write another post about it.
Assuming you are linked, the transfer of points is very simple.
Your first step is to log into your SPG account, click on your name and choose Account Overview. I’m sure there’s a way to do it from your Marriott Account but I find the SPG account to be more straight forward.
From there, you will be taken to a page that will allow you to transfer your points.
Click on the Transfer Starpoints to Marriott Rewards link and you will be taken to a page that will allow you to transfer from SPG to Marriott and Marriott to SPG.
If you are transferring from SPG to Marriott, you are presented with a simple calculator that shows you how many Marriott Reward points you are entitled to a that 1:3 transfer ratio.
If you go the other way (Marriott to SPG), you will be taken to your linked Marriott account and you can start the transfer the other way.
Click the Marriott Rewards + SPG link that I’ve highlighted in the picture above and you will be presented with another calculator but this time at a 3:1 ratio (Marriott to SPG).
It’s as simple as that but that still begs the question … when should I use SPG points over Marriott and vice versa? Remember, we’re talking hotel stays here.
Both SPG and Marriott have their hotels split into categories to determine how many points are required to book a free night at the property. As you would expect, the hotel’s amenities, decor, reputation, and location are all taken into account when the categories are set.
Hotels away from the city centre or hotels in cities that are not frequented by business or leisure travelers are going to be a lower tier than a hotel in Times Square.
Let’s look at each hotel’s chart to see if we can determine the sweet spots in the chart. I’ll give you a hint .. keep the transfer ratios in mind.
SPG has 7 categories of hotels and the points required vary depending on if you are staying on a weeknight or a weekend.
As you can see, SPG properties can range from as little as 2,000 to as much as 35,000 SPG points per night.
Marriott has 9 categories and the points can vary depending on if your hotel is considered a PointSavers Reward Hotel. The PointSavers hotels change each month but can be found at http://www.marriott.com/rewards/marriottRewardsPointSavers.mi
Let’s ignore the PointSavers hotels because you can’t accurately predict which hotels will be considered a PointSaver. Keeping that in mind, we can see that the range for Marriott hotel redemptions ranges from 7,500 – 45,000 Marriott Reward points.
Remember the Transfer Ratio?
Now, if we take into consideration that you can transfer SPG over to Marriott at a 1:3 ratio, the chart for Marriott changes dramatically.
Remember, SPG has 7 categories and Marriott has 9 but SPG properties tend to be nicer, in my opinion, so let’s try to normalize these charts. Below is a chart that is using the SPG Equivalent pricing for the Marriott Hotels so we can compare apples to apples. As you can see, I have ignored Category 1 and 2 for Marriott so that we can compare across categories. You can see my methodology makes sense if you look at Category 6 where the hotels are equivalent in pricing.
So what can we see in this chart? Well, what I see is that if you are staying in a lower tiered category hotel, you are better off at an SPG property. If you are staying at the highest end hotels, you are much better off in a Marriott property.
Look at the highest tiers of each chain. Category 9 for Marriott (15,000 SPG equivalent) and Category 7 for SPG (35,000 SPG). You could literally save 20,000 SPG points per night if you stayed in the highest end Marriott property over an SPG property.
On the flip side, if you wanted to stay in a lower tiered hotel, you are much better off at an SPG property than a Marriott.
I actually went through this same dilemma when I was booking a hotel in San Francisco. Let’s take a look at the pricing, keeping in mind my criteria of a nice hotel in the Union Square area.
Drew Macomber of Travel Is Free has an excellent resource for hotels where all of a chain’s hotels are plotted in Google Maps and color coded to their category. This saves a tremendous amount of time as the hotel sites can be cumbersome to navigate. If you haven’t checked out Travel Is Free, I would highly recommend it.
As you can see, if you want a hotel in downtown San Francisco, you are looking at Category 6 and 7 hotels, which would run between 25,000 – 35,000 SPG points.
As expected, if you want to stay in the Union Square area of San Francisco, you are looking at the high end of the category spectrum. Here we can see that the Marriotts in the area are in Category 8 and 9, which would run between 13,333 – 15,000 SPG points … a MUCH lower rate than the SPG properties.
To me, this is a no-brainer so I ended up booking a higher end Marriott property for my trip to San Francisco. In the end, it cost me 40,000 SPG, which converted over to 120,000 Marriott Rewards which was good for 3 nights in a Category 8 property.
The Marriott/SPG merger has brought forward some amazing redemption options that you should take advantage of before the programs fully merge in 2018.
If you are staying at a higher end property, look to Marriott for a redemption, whereas if you are staying in a lower category hotel, SPG is your best bet.