Marriott has finally answered the question that’s been on the minds of the combined 85 million people who belong to the Marriott Rewards (which includes Ritz-Carlton Rewards) and Starwood Preferred Guest loyalty programs: What will happen to my points?
As it finalizes the merger with Starwood Hotels & Resorts (HOT) today, Marriott International (MAR) says it plans to continue operating both programs at least through the next two years, before eventually phasing out SPG.
“Obviously there’s a lot of work to do as it relates to combining the loyalty programs,” said Stephanie Linnartz, Marriott’s Executive Vice President and Global Chief Commercial Officer, in an interview with Travel + Leisure. “But the great thing for consumers is that right out of the gate, they will be able to link their accounts and match their status from day one.”
“The earliest that we would combine the two programs will be 2018. You can imagine all of the complexities involved with the respective partners [for each program],” she said.
Starting today, loyalty members will be able to link their Marriott Rewards and SPG accounts by going to members.marriott.com, where they’ll also be able to transfer points and match their elite status on either platform. Reward points can be redeemed for free stays across the company’s expanded network of 5,700 hotel properties.
Members can also elect to transfer points at a 3-to-1 ratio (three Marriott Rewards points are equal to one SPG Starpoint) between both programs. Points can be redeemed for hotel stays, exclusive experiences, entertainment and sports events, and to purchase merchandise in the company’s online shopping mall.
By linking accounts, guests can book reward stays at an expanded number of properties that were previously not available to members of just one of the loyalty programs. For example, a Marriott Rewards member can now book reward nights in the Maldives, Bora Bora, or Santorini, and a SPG guest can reserve a reward stay in Aruba, Tuscany, or Kruger National Park in South Africa.
With the freshly-inked merger, Marriott is now the world’s largest publicly-traded hospitality company. The global giant manages and operates a vast global portfolio of 30 distinct brands in 110 countries. Marriott had been awaiting approval from Chinese regulators, who finally agreed to the merger earlier this week.
“Marriott’s and Starwood’s guests have shown tremendous loyalty to our brands, and now that we are one company, we are seizing the opportunity to reinforce our loyalty to them,” said Linnartz.
For the time being, Marriott Rewards will continue to partner with J.P. Morgan Chase for its credit card program and SPG will stick with American Express to offer the Starwood Preferred Guest Card.
To celebrate the completion of the deal, Marriott is hosting a Global Travel Day on Friday, Oct. 14th by launching a social media sweepstakes to win one of 30 travel packages. Loyalty members can enter by sharing their dream destination with @MarriottRewards and @SPG on Twitter or Instagram, along with a pin emoji and the #YouAreHere #Sweepstakes hashtags.
Christopher Tkaczyk is the Senior News Editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @ctkaczyk.
This article previously appeared on travelandleisure.com.