How Many People Are Members Of Both Starwood Preferred Guest And Marriott Rewards?

a cartoon character leaning on a question mark

I woke up this morning to a shocking number.  I’m still having trouble believing it.  But, I’m getting a bit ahead of myself.  Let’s set the table.  You remember that Marriott and Starwood officially completed their merger last year, right?

Marriott is a much larger hotel chain than Starwood.  They also have a loyal following from their elite members.  To some degree, that loyalty reaches an irrational pace for some travelers, who believe that no other program holds a candle to Marriott Rewards.  Marriott has a number of great hotels, and Marriott Rewards has a number of solid benefits to their loyalty program.

But, even through the lens of “different strokes for different folks”, I find it hard to argue that they are superior to every other loyalty program.  Specifically, key benefits like guaranteed late checkout and suites for elite members didn’t even come into existence until the merger, and even then begrudgingly in fits and starts.

If the shocking number I heard this morning is true, it might explain a bit of the fanatical commitment some Marriott loyalists have.  It started with a tweet this morning and has developed into a very informative article written by Wandering Aramean.  Lots of good information here, but this is what I focused on:

In the early phases of processing it was expected that the new Marriott Rewards would have 85 million members based on a 16% overlap of customers between the two programs. He revealed in the presentation that the overlap was only 11%, suggesting a nice boost in total program size.

I just about fell off my chair when I read this.  Even though Starwood Preferred Guest is a much smaller program, approximately 90% of Marriott Rewards members don’t even have a Starwood account, according to Thom Kozik.

Reading The Tea Leaves

11% overlap is a shocking number to me.  For many years, I was an SPG loyalist, committing most of my business there.  But, I always had occasional stays at Marriott, Hilton, etc.  When confronted with the elite benefits of Hyatt, I became a convert and now focus more readily on their hotels.  But, I still end up with stays at other chains.

Maybe it’s due to the smaller footprint of Hyatt and SPG, or a key promotion.  Sometimes, like the Freddie Awards a couple of years ago, it was due to the host hotel being a Hilton.

I’ve stayed at my fair share of flea-bitten dog hotels in the name of status.  Any self-respecting points junkie has.  But, an 11% overlap only has two probable correlations I can see:

  1. Marriott Rewards members stay at sub-standard hotels frequently in the name of loyalty.  They don’t pick the best property or location in a given market, they pick the Marriott property with the best location or attributes for their stays.
  2. Marriott Rewards members don’t bother registering for other hotel loyalty programs when they stay at a non-Marriott because they don’t see the value in any other hotel loyalty currency.

Neither is particularly noteworthy in small quantities.  When you start talking tens of millions, it’s pretty darn noteworthy.

The Final Two Pennies

If #2 above is true, then it bodes well for Marriott’s strategy to de-emphasize points earning.  I’ve heard Marriott members talk about some of the redemptions they make with their points, and I’m frequently shocked.  Given the price of some hotels and how many points needed to redeem for a free night, I’ve seen some pretty bad redemptions.  The transfers to airline miles can be pretty painful as well.

Maybe Marriott is on to something here.  If they’ve really been able to train customers they shouldn’t be able to redeem their loyalty points for great value, that’s a big win for them.  And, an indicator of whether Starwood Preferred Guest members will be happy with the future value of the points they’ll be earning for continued loyalty.

The post How Many People Are Members Of Both Starwood Preferred Guest And Marriott Rewards? was published first on Pizza in Motion


  1. Not surprising. Lots of people choose Marriott, Hilton or IHG because they have hotels in Podunk USA for weekly work trips as well as “real hotels” for burning points or when going to major cities or international. No reason to bother with Hyatt or SPG

    1. completely agree. i live and work in PA, and there is a Hampton Inn at almost every single exit of every major highway in this state. and they’re in good shape most of the time.

  2. “Marriott Rewards members stay at sub-standard hotels frequently in the name of loyalty.”

    the tone of the article is painfully condescending (and this is coming from someone who loves both chains equally). This line is possibly true for any of those mattress-running folks in any loyalty program.

    The reason I’ve ignored Hyatt World of Hurt all this time is that it ONLY treats Diamonds like royalty and treats everyone else like kettles purely there to keep their occupancy rates acceptable. The greatness of pre-merger Marriott Rewards is that even their mid-tier elites get concrete benefits.

    1. Henry, you’re mixing relevant issues here. There are plenty of older physical plants in the Marriott system. I’d point to a market like Williamsburg, VA. Plenty of Marriott hotels, I’ve stayed at all of them. I wouldn’t rate any of them above average. The full-service Marriott was de-flagged and didn’t even pick up another major flag, assumedly because ownership didn’t want to invest $$$.

      Better mid-tier benefits don’t make a crappy hotel better. They just make you feel better about staying in a crappy hotel.

      No question I do prefer Hyatt and SPG for their loyalty programs. But, even with that potential bias, the facts are that many of Hyatt’s limited service properties are new construction, much more so than Marriott. That means, on average, those Podunk hotels are likely to be in better shape.

      If Marriott were attracting franchisees for those brands for new construction today, I have no doubt those properties would be of a higher standard.

      I stayed at a brand spanking new Residence Inn recently. The room product was significantly better than any other RI I’ve stayed in. I just don’t run until those properties anywhere nearly as frequently as I do a new limited service Hyatt.

      Every chain has old hotels. Marriott just has more by sheer number and percentage than some of their competitors.

      1. Marriott doesn’t have to be above average in Williamsburg Va. The other hotel options are average Hilton properties and a bunch of dumpy Best Western and independent hotels/motels. No reason to put a sparkling beacon of luxury hotel in a locale like Williamsburg, it isn’t necessary. Marriott knows one thing well, if they can generate high occupancy rates without providing something that costs them money, (free breakfast/lounge access/wifi/etc.) they will. It doesn’t make them evil, it makes them good in business. I am a loyal Marriott Gold elite for the past 5 years. My wife was SPG Gold during the same period. Now that she has dropped to regular SPG member, and I am SPG Gold, it’s great. When I heard of the merger two years back, I was so excited. The idea that great Westin, W, and Sheraton properties would be available to me for award stays and earning was fantastic. Now we can travel to virtually anywhere in the U.S and have a Marriott/SPG property and usually more than one to pick from.

        Hyatt simply doesn’t have enough properties to make me even consider them in my travels.

        1. There’s actually at least one new-build Hampton Inn (last 5 years) in that market and a number of nice independent properties. Nobody said Marriott ever needed to be above average in Williamsburg. I said there are markets where their loyalty members are staying at below average hotels to be loyal to the brand.

          That being said, I think a Marriott property in Wburg should meet the brand standard regardless of what the competition offers. That’s where IHG (back when they were Six Continents) got so far astray and had to cut so many hotels.

  3. Guilty. The only three things that matter to me when I travel for work is location, breakfast, and room-size (in that order). Even worse, I prefer not to stay at any hotel where I have to order breakfast, so that if there’s a flagship Marriott and a nearby Residence Inn, I will choose the Residence Inn every time. I’ve even been known to choose a Fairfield Inn over a flagship hotel.

    When I travel with my family, it’s location, room-size, and breakfast. Again, I strongly prefer a continental breakfast.

    That being said, I’m in the 10% who is part of both Marriott and SPG (and Hilton, IHG, Hyatt, Fairmont, BW, etc.) programs. But the brand that I I’m most loyal to, is Marriott.

    1. Jimmy, thanks for the perspective. Location is usually most important to me, followed closely by room quality. Not concerned with size, nor hotel amenities when traveling for business. I want a quiet HVAC unit and a comfortable bed. A gym with nice equipment is a plus. I’m usually eating breakfast on the run or buying donuts.

      Here’s the question. If the flagship were cheaper than the Fairfield by a couple bucks, would you still choose Fairfield?

      1. I would still choose the Fairfield, especially when traveling with my family. I’ve got three kids under six. It is infinitely easier for me if we’re able to sit down where we want, let the kids try a variety of things without waiting for a server, and generally move around.

        Fairfield is not close to the top of the list, of course. I would pick a Residence Inn, Springhill Suites, or TownPlace Suites before Fairfield (even knowing I get half the points at RI and TP). I might even choose an Embassy Suites, Homewood Suites, Hilton Garden Inn, HI Express, or Candlewood Suites before Fairfield; but all of those places come before the flagship hotels for me.

        The continental breakfast that most frequent travelers eschew is exactly what I’m looking for. I realize the quality of the food pales in comparison to full-service hotels, but at this stage of life, it’s what we need.

        1. Jimmy, thanks for the perspective. Unless there’s a resort property, we’re more likely to stay at something like a Hyatt House where I know we can more easily secure a 2-bedroom hotel room to have a bit more space. Breakfast isn’t my primary driver one way or another. It’s a plus (and I prefer the breakfast at both Hyatt Place and Hyatt House to the other brands they compete against in that segment), but not our primary driver.

          One of the big reasons I prefer Hyatt is the “newness” of HP and HH compared to what Marriott, Hilton and IHG have to offer.

  4. My journey as a frequent stayer started 30 years ago with Marriott. Then I migrated and earned the highest status level with Starwood, Hilton, Hyatt, and now Marriott again. So I have really had the opportunity to experience the treatment of their most loyal guests. I now maintain Platinum Premier (top 3%) with Marriott and Diamond (for 10 more days before I become Globalist) with Hyatt. I can tell you that when converting nights into luxury award stays, none compare to Hyatt. Frankly, I think you get about twice the award value than with any other chain. However, I’m not sure about the World of Hyatt program. I am very disappointed that they have discontinued the important 1,000 point amenity at check-in. But I am also loyal to Marriott because of the wide availability and also because of the number of luxury properties. When you look at the future openings at Marriott, most of them are in the luxury category – J W Marriott and above. Whereas the grown of the other chains seems to be in the mid-price tier.

    1. Diamond Dave, I think Hyatt likely matches Marriott in percentage of upscale properties they’re adding. Hilton and IHG don’t appear to be focusing on the high end right now. I agree on the value of Hyatt at the top of the program, where I think their bottom tier of loyalty is behind the competition.

      That being said, I expect Marriott to make loyalty status harder to achieve in the near future, especially as it relates to SPG qualification (stays v nights).

  5. I’m a SPG Lifetime Platinum — worked hard to get there, and then got comped Hyatt Diamond, Hilton Diamond, etc. I now have Marriott Platinum (for now). Work travel drives where I stay (generally big cities), but leisure travel abroad drives my choices and loyalty. I find Marriotts to be “cookie cutter” – I could be in any city and they look the same, no personality, just OK. With Starwood, there is some personality — I love a great Westin, some Sheraton’s need an overhaul, and Aloft is just not my cup of tea. I have redeemed my SPG points for amazing stays in Sydney, London, etc……

    I always feel that SPG treats their elites the best — upgrades, pre-welcome emails from Managers, etc. Hyatt has treated me well as a Diamond, but I don’t feel anything special so far from Marriott or Hilton (other than a free breakfast — which I never eat).

    I worry SPG elite perks/treatment will morph into the mainstream of Marriott blandness and that I will opt for more Hyatt stays if properties are available…..

    Just my 2 cents from 30 years on the road…..

    1. Susan, I tend to think that there will be more mainstream as the SPG program gets folded into Marriott. I also think there’s a general move to de-emphasize defined perks (points benefits) except for the biggest of spenders.

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