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Uber's loyalty deal with Starwood Hotels could boost global growth

Uber's loyalty deal with Starwood Hotels could boost global growth

Uber hopes to attract Starwood customers through the program

A new partnership between Uber and Starwood Hotels will let hotel customers earn rewards through the Uber app.

A new partnership between Uber and Starwood Hotels will let hotel customers earn rewards through the Uber app.

Uber likes to promote its service as an easy way to get from point A to point B with a smartphone. Now the company wants to reward you for making one of those points a hotel.

The ride-hailing service is teaming up with Starwood Hotels & Resorts to boost the use of its app among the well-traveled crowd. Through the partnership, members of Starwood's guest loyalty program can link their accounts with Uber accounts and earn Starwood credits whenever they take an Uber ride. They'll earn more credits if they take the ride while staying in one of the hotel company's 1,200 properties in 100 countries.

The arrangement goes into effect Wednesday, marking Uber's first partnership of this sort with a hotel operator.

Starwood, one of the world's largest hotel companies, operates brands including W, St. Regis, Westin and Le Meridien. Given its international reach, the partnership could help to expose Uber's app and expand its use across the world. Starwood's hotels are located in more than 70 percent of the markets where Uber operates.

The partnership will make the Uber experience better for riders, said Jonathan DiOrio, head of travel partnerships for Uber.

Financial terms of the partnership were not disclosed, though the investment each company has made is "non-trivial," DiOrio said.

For Uber users, taking part requires a couple of steps. First, participants must be members of Starwood's preferred guest loyalty program; enrollment can be done online for free. And participants have to stay in a Starwood hotel this calendar year before the rewards start to kick in.

Users can link their Uber and Starwood accounts at SPG.com/Uber. The linking works for both iOS and Android.

Uber riders will earn 1 Starwood point for every dollar they spend with the Uber app. If the ride is taken during a hotel stay, riders will earn between two and four points per Uber dollar spent, depending on what kind of loyalty account they have.

Starwood points -- for people who rack up thousands of them -- can be redeemed for free nights at hotels, and other discounts and rewards.

Uber already has partnerships with other companies like Spotify, to let people create custom playlists for their rides, and American Express, for membership rewards. But the Starwood deal is the first partnership of its kind for Uber, DiOrio said.

To kick off it off, Uber is hotel-ifying a fleet of its cars this coming Saturday in five cities: San Francisco, Mexico City, New York, London and Dubai. Users who link their Starwood and Uber accounts in those cities will be able to request, say, a special car inspired by the W hotel chain.

What does that mean? Uber describes it thusly: "A blend of iconic design and contemporary luxury will immerse riders in an extraordinary experience featuring LED mood lighting, music inspired by W, and a Bliss Spa travel pack."

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

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