Breathe a deep sigh of relief people… Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest have started to work together, and the news isn’t bad.
In fact, SPG members with lots of Starpoints are suddenly faced with a number of interesting options. SPG has always been known as the best hotel programme for converting hotel points into airline miles. 20,000 Starpoints would convert into 25,000 miles (and still do), with the occasional bonus offer from specific airlines.
So, the natural leap is to look at Marriott’s Hotel + Air Travel Packages. Most Avios / Flying Club collectors will then look at this chart:
Most people – especially those conditioned to convert their Starpoints into miles/Avios – jump straight to the top right hand corner of the chart. To obtain 270,000 Marriott points, you need to convert 90,000 Starpoints. This will get you 120,000 miles and 7 free nights at a Category 1-5 hotel.
As Starpoints, those 90,000 would get you 110,000 miles. (although more likely than not you would just convert 80,000 (4 chunks of 20K) to obtain 100,000 miles).
The result is obvious… more miles and seven free nights for the same number of Starpoints!
Now, in a future post I’ll get more advanced, because there are surely better options than just converting Starpoints into airline miles, right? After all, conventional wisdom says that hotel points are best spent on hotel stays (and airline miles on award flights or upgrades).
But for now, here are the basics about Marriott Hotel + Air Travel Packages.
- They cannot be booked online – you have to call.
- You don’t have to book the hotel at the time – you are provided with a certificate valid for seven nights at a Category 1-5 hotel. This certificate is valid for 12 months but can usually be extended by another 12 months by contacting Marriott Rewards customer service.
- You don’t need to book flights in combination with your hotel stay. You simply get miles in your airline account to use as you please.
- If you want to spend less than seven nights at any given hotel, you cannot split the nights across different stays. Any excess is therefore lost. The only exception is when an entire week is not available as a free night award – you are allowed paid nights in between your seven free nights.
- There is no advantage to booking anything other than a Category 1-5 Travel Package, unless you know your hotel and are 100% sure that your plans are firm. This is because you are allowed to call later and pay the extra points necessary to upgrade your certificate to a higher category of hotel. The reverse (downgrading your certificate and receiving a point refund) doesn’t apply.
- Airlines occasionally offer hotel point conversion bonuses. For example, British Airways Executive Club regularly offers a conversion bonus. It makes sense to book a Marriott Rewards Travel Package during one of these promotions as any bonus will definitely be added on top.
If you are a devoted Avios collector with a sizable balance of Starpoints (who also tends to convert those Starpoints into Avios during promo bonus periods), you might want to book a Travel Package sooner rather than later, if only because Marriott Rewards offers a separate chart for a number of airlines.
Those 270,000 Marriott points / 90,000 Starpoints suddenly become 85,000 miles (instead of 120,000). If there is an avalanche of SPG members converting Starpoints into Marriott points into Avios Travel Packages, it would be a simple “enhancement” to move British Airways and Iberia from one chart to the other…
And while I’m showing Travel Package charts, I should mention the special United Airlines chart, which has an additional 10% bonus.
Very few Europeans I suspect are big fans of United Airlines Mileage Plus and those that were might have been turned off by the substantial award chart devaluation of 2013/4. But it is worth mentioning – especially to those who are losing their MBNA Diamond Club credit cards in a few days – that MBNA in the UK offers a Mileage Plus credit card (no sign-up bonus at present however). An SPG Platinum will also find that their newly-minted Marriott Platinum status also offers them United Mileage Plus Silver status – not good enough for lounge access, etc. but better than nothing if you occasionally fly United Airlines…
In a future post, I’ll discuss whether there are better options available to SPG members with large balances.