Within the past three years, four of the five world’s largest hotels have been involved in a merger or acquisition. To refresh your memory:
InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) acquired the boutique chain Kimpton Hotels for US$430 million in early 2015.
In 2016, Marriott paid a cool $13.6 billion to secure Starwood. Also that year, AccorHotels had a doubleheader, purchasing both Fairmont Raffles Hotels International (for $2.7 billion) and Onefinestay (for $170 million).
And just in May, Wyndham completed its purchase of La Quinta Hotels with a nearly $2 billion cash deal.
When news of these mergers and acquisitions hits, the first question travel buyers wonder is: “What will this mean for the travel program?” But business travelers? They’re more eager to know: “What will this mean for my loyalty points?”
Today we’ll be addressing the latter question. Bottom line: You’ll still get to earn those free nights and upgrades — at even more properties — but it may take some time for points to fully integrate across merged companies.
Q. Marriott’s acquisition of Starwood was finalized in September 2016. Have the accounts of their loyalty programs merged yet?
A. Right now the two loyalty programs are operating as separate entities. That means Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) accounts each still have their own login, points balance and associated hotels. However, the accounts now can be linked together in order for points to be transferred between the two, meaning travelers can enjoy member perks at 6,000 properties in 122 countries and territories.
Marriott International has developed a conversion rate that brings the value of the points in each program on par with the other, with one Starpoint totaling three Rewards Points and, conversely, three Rewards Points equaling one Starpoint. Points can be transferred instantaneously and be redeemed immediately. And don’t worry: Guests maintain the highest status level across both accounts.
So when will the two loyalty programs actually merge? It was recently announced that these programs will become one in August 2018 — two years after the deal was done.
That’s actually a pretty impressive timeline. In comparison, IHG required three years to integrate Kimpton’s program.
Q. Wait, is that true? IHG and Kimpton’s programs are now one and the same?
A. Yes, they are indeed. As of January 2018, the two programs have combined fully, with Kimpton Karma Rewards becoming a part of the IHG Rewards Club.
For Kimpton members, all their Kimpton Karma points accrued were converted to IHG points as of Dec. 31, 2017, and Kimpton elite members were given comparable elite status in the IHG Rewards Club membership structure. Here’s a glimpse at the new rewards chart, but basically travelers will earn 10 points for every U.S. dollar they spend at a Kimpton property (excluding food and beverage).
And rest assured, Kimpton loyalists, many of the personal touches the boutique offers to members — like its popular “Raid the Bar” perk for a credit toward a beverage in the hotel bar and invitations to exclusive parties — are still available. To see more of the rewards you can receive, click here.
Q. So any word about what’s going to happen with members’ loyalty points now that the Wyndham-La Quinta merger has been finalized?
A. As a just-released press release reveals, the 56 million members in Wyndham Rewards and the more than 13 million members in La Quinta Returns now can link accounts and transfer points between the two programs. There is a one-to-one point transfer between the two programs and a complimentary status match. The move enables members of both programs to take advantage of a wide range of benefits at a combined portfolio of nearly 9,000 hotels around the world.
Q. Hey, what about Hyatt? It acquired the wellness brand Miraval Group in 2017. Can World of Hyatt points be used for stays at Miraval properties?
A. Members can earn and redeem points for stays at the flagship Miraval Resort & Spa in Tucson, Arizona, a five-star property considered to be one of the country’s top wellness resorts with more than 120 wellness activities and classes each week. World of Hyatt loyalty program members can redeem points at Miraval for free nights in a standard room or suite. Members will need 45,000 points per night for a single occupancy room and 75,000 points for a suite.
Meanwhile, registered Miraval guests can earn five base points per each U.S. dollar spent on eligible room rates and incidental charges.
For more information, click here.
Q. When making corporate travel bookings through American Express Global Business Travel’s (GBT) online booking tool, do travelers still earn loyalty points?
A. Yes, absolutely! When travelers book through GBT channels, travelers certainly can and will receive points. Because their loyalty number is tied to the reservation in the GDS, their points automatically will go into their account. The only time this wouldn’t be true is if a traveler selects a best hotel rate that specifically does not include loyalty points.
And on that note, it’s time to book your next work trip, so you can rack up more points!