Yesterday Marriott and Starwood hotels officially linked their reward programs almost immediately after gaining merger approval. Now the largest hotel chain in the world, the two loyalty programs will stand alone for a while, but can be linked together. In linking your accounts, each program will match the other if you have Gold or Platinum status.
Many Marriott elite customers have been a little miffed about the status matching. Their issue with the status match is that Gold Status on Marriott requires 50 nights, where on SPG it only requires 25 nights.
On the surface this is true, but throw us a bone on the SPG side of the equation, our program is getting eliminated in 2018, theirs isn't. Giving us status for a year is little to ask for, and honestly is probably how Marriott is attempting to win us over. Really, I'm not interested in spending 50 nights just to get mid level status. I'm likely going to Hyatt after SPG goes away, Marriott bores me and I don't see them making too many changes to keep me loyal with them.
Lets dive a little deeper though. Marriott Gold status and SPG Gold status are pretty equal in terms of what is being offered to each of their status levels. While SPG Gold may be easier to reach, Starwood properties are also much harder to find. I can throw a stone in any direction and hit a Marriott, they are almost everywhere. Starwood hotels are not everywhere like Marriotts. For a real world example of this, when I search Marriott's website for hotels around Cape Town, it returns 12 hotels. If you search Starwood, you find 1 hotel. Marriott is easier to be loyal to, plain and simple.
Really in the end, it's not going to matter. Come 2018, those of use who love the SPG program will be left without a program. We'll either have to switch to permanently using Marriott, which I won't do, or go to a competing company. In my case, I like the looks of Hyatt. Fingers crossed someone doesn't buy them before that point.