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Choice Hotels, the loyalty program of budget hotels like Quality Inn and Comfort Suites, recently became a 1:1 transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards. In general, I don’t see huge value in transferring Amex points to hotels and this goes for Choice as well. The main reason being that Choice’s hotels by nature can be had pretty cheaply so spending 6,000 – 75,000 Amex points for a free night doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Granted, they do have a partnership with Preferred and Barcelo hotels that can be a decent value, but those start at 20,000 points a night and since I value my Amex points at about 2 cents a piece, it would mean those hotels would have to be charging $400+ before I felt like I was getting a good value.
However, they just announced a 50% bonus on Amex to Choice transfers, so I thought I’d check out a couple different non-hotel redemption scenarios to see if any made sense vs. transferring to other hotel partners.
Choice points transfer to Southwest – could this be a good way to top-up in order to qualify for a Companion Pass?
1) Choice points transfer to Southwest at 30,000 Choice : 9,000 Southwest ratio. Transferred hotel points currently count as Companion Pass qualifying miles. The Companion Pass is an amazing benefit which I wrote about here.
This means you can get the new Southwest 50,000 point credit card (100,000 if you also get the business card) and then to get the remaining points needed, you could transfer in blocks of 20,000 Amex to Choice and to get 9,000 Southwest points. 9,000 Southwest points = $150 in Wanna Get Away fares, so while 20,000 Amex to me = ~$400, if you value the Companion Pass benefit, this could be a decent option - especially if you are swimming in Amex points.
Verdict: This is a much better option than trying to go through Hilton, which has a transfer ratio of 10,000 -> 1,200 Southwest points, which would require 54,000 Amex points per 9,600 Southwest points.
2) Does it make sense to transfer to Choice at the bonus and then transfer to AA miles to help me top-up for million mile status?
Amex points don’t transfer directly into American Airlines miles. The way most people funnel them is by transferring to Starwood at 1,000 Amex per 333 Starwood points. Starwood points then transfer into American miles at 20,000 Starwood = 25,000 AA.
So to get 100,000 AA miles (transferred miles currently count towards lifetime elite status, but that will change on December 1, 2011) you’d need to transfer 242,000 Amex points to 80,000 Starwood, which then transfer to 100,000 AA miles with the bonus.
However, with this Choice bonus, you would need to transfer 333,000 Amex points to 500,000 Choice, which would then transfer to 100,000 AA.
Verdict: The Starwood transfer route is still a better option.
3) Choice has gift cards- could that make sense with this bonus?
Choice will let you redeem 32,000 points for a $100 gift card (Best Buy, Lowes, Target, etc).
Verdict: 32,000 choice= 22,000 Amex points, which are worth at least $220 with Amex’ own Pay With Points feature which also has many gift cards, so do not transfer for the sake of getting gift cards.
Overall, I’m not racing to transfer my hard-earned Amex points to Choice, but if I were chasing the Southwest Companion Pass, it would definitely be on the table as an option.