All the major hotel loyalty programs offer you some way to convert your hotel points into airline miles. While the flexibility to perform a conversion is great, you need to know when you’re getting a good deal or a bad one.
The best deal is with Starwood Preferred Guest points, where you get a conversion ratio of 1:1 with most airlines and if you convert 20,000 SPG points to airline miles, they throw in a bonus 5,000 miles (20,000 SPG = 25,000 miles). The next closest is Hyatt at about 2.5 points to 1 mile, but if you’re loaded up with Marriott, with the exception of United the best you’ll get will be just under 3:1 in most cases.
If you want to convert just a few points to help hit a threshold within a specific airline program you’ll get a horrible conversion ratio with Marriott, but it’s better than not being able to redeem for that free plane ticket. If you’re looking to convert to larger amounts of miles, such as 100,000 or more, you should never do a direct conversion of Marriott Rewards points to airline miles. Instead, you should book a Hotel + Air packages — you’ll pay less. Even if you completely throw away the free seven nights included as the hotel package, you’ll end up with a better deal.
Here’s a scenario a friend of mine threw my way at how he’s looking to use Marriott Rewards spread across his and wife’s accounts:
Mike has 160,000 Marriott Rewards points in his account and his wife, Lisa, has 130,000. Within the next month, they’ll have another 10,000 points, bringing their total to 300,000 points. Their plan for their points is to convert them to Southwest Rapid Rewards points so that they can achieve the companion pass and enjoy unlimited Buy One Get One (BOGO) for two years with Southwest. Earlier in the year, they each picked up the Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card to build their balances with the plan of combining their points into a single account for a redemption.
To obtain the Southwest companion pass, Mike or Lisa would need to convert enough Marriott Rewards to end up with 110,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points. The direct conversion would cost them 140,000 Marriott Rewards per 50,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points and then another 30,000 Marriott Rewards points for an additional 10,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points. All in, they’d spend 310,000 Marriott Rewards points for 110,000 Rapid Rewards points and unlimited BOGO!
The key for them is to do the transfer in January 2016 so they would have the companion pass for all of 2016 and 2017 — which is an amazing deal, except that they could get the companion pass for 270,000 points while also getting seven free nights at a category 1 through 5 Marriott property!
By leveraging the Hotel + Air Package redemption, Mike and Lisa could end up with 120,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points and seven nights at a category 1 through 5 property for 270,000 Marriott Rewards points, saving them 40,000 points! Mike and Lisa have about a week left to figure out where they might want to use their free seven-night certificate (if they decide to use it at all), and once we hit 2016 they’ll contact Marriott to complete the transfer of points and redemption for their Hotel + Air Package.