How Should I Convert Hotel Points Into Airline Miles?
TPG reader Santohsh sent me a message on Facebook to ask about using Marriott Rewards points:
“I have some Marriott points that I don't plan to use for hotel stays. What are the best options to convert them to airline miles?”
Many hotel loyalty programs give you the option to convert points to airline miles, but you'll generally sacrifice some value in the process. For example, both Club Carlson and Hilton offer a terrible exchange rate of 10:1 with most airlines, while IHG is still a bad deal at 5:1. In general, I don't recommend swapping hotel points for miles unless you need to top up your frequent flyer account to book an award, or if you're certain you'll never use those points for actual hotel stays.
That said, Marriott Rewards provides a few transfer options that make sense. To start with, the exchange rates are tiered, so you get a better return when you transfer larger quantities of points. For example, transfers to American Airlines come with an exchange rate of 5:1 at the lowest tier (10,000 points for 2,000 miles), but that improves to less than 3:1 at the highest tier (140,000 points for 50,000 miles).
Thanks to Marriott's partnership with United Airlines, you can get an even better return on transfers to MileagePlus. At the highest tier, you can exchange 112,000 points for 50,000 miles — that's a rate of nearly 2:1, and is actually a pretty fair trade based on my most recent monthly valuations. You may be able to do even better if you can take advantage of a transfer promotion like the bonus offered earlier this year.
United is also the most rewarding option when you book Marriott's Hotel + Air packages, since you get a 10% mileage bonus. That means you can redeem 200,000 points for 55,000 miles (instead of the normal 50,000) plus a seven-night stay at a Category 1-5 property. You can also exchange more points for miles at roughly 1:1, which is an excellent deal. For example, 270,000 Marriott points will get you 132,000 United miles plus the seven-night stay, so that's a great option if you can make use of the hotel nights.
Aside from United, you might also consider transferring to Southwest, since those points can help you qualify for the Companion Pass. You won't get the same rate that you get for transfers to United, but it's still a good value if you fly Southwest regularly and can put those companion fares to use.
For more on Marriott Rewards and transferring hotel points in general, check out these posts:
- Pool, Share and Transfer Hotel Points to Maximize Rewards
- Can I Transfer Hotel Points to My Spouse's Airline Account?
- Can I Transfer Points Both Ways Between Loyalty Programs?