Should Casual Travelers Be Worried About Marriott Buying Starwood?

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4 million Marriott points.

A business traveller had wandered over to a travel event being held at the Marriott Rennaissance M in Dupont circle last week and was asking about the best use of his 4 million Marriott points. Typically he’ll spend a million or more on a 4-5 night premium room redemption somewhere in the US for his family. Ouch.

In contrast, I spent a little over 100,000 Starwood points this year. Two nights in a suite on Las Ramblas, Barcelona. Multiple free nights out in Virginia wine country. Subsidized stays (cash & points) in Macao, Bangkok, Italy, etc. And best of all, an upcoming trip to the all-inclusive Al Maha resort.

As a top Starwood elite (25 stays) I frequently get upgraded to suites, free breakfast and club access, guaranteed 4PM late checkout etc. The business traveller I was talking to with 100+ nights said he usually got a “decent” room. Ouch again.

So this is why I’m depressed and worried about the news that Starwood has been bought by Marriott. It remains to be seen — I could be on the verge of losing the best value redemption options as well as some of the best elite benefits. Or Marriott could learn from Starwood and my business traveler friend will find himself getting much better treatment as an elite and his points going alot farther.

I had posted something about my despair and a non-traveling friend asked if this was something they should also be worried about. How will it effect someone who only stays a dozen hotel nights or so a year? Without knowing the details of how the two programs will combine, I’m guessing it probably won’t make a big difference.

The entry level elite status for either isn’t spectacular. But because more hotels in more locations will be under the same program it might be easier to earn it.

So depending on how the their combined loyalty program looks, the real impact will be whether its easier or harder to redeem points. Starwood made it easy for someone with even a handful of points or the Starwood credit card to get a free night (starting at 3,000 points), Marriott not so much.

And it’s still early days, so no need to rush and get the Starwood credit card or try to book hotels in anticipation yet.

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