Can I Use Frequent Flyer Miles to Book a Hotel Stay?
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TPG reader Mei sent me a message on Facebook to ask about transferring points between programs:
“Is there any way to convert American Airlines miles to Marriott Rewards points at a reasonable rate?”
One common challenge for award travelers is figuring out how to redeem points from one loyalty program for travel with another. Airline alliances and other partnerships offer opportunities to book flights with a variety of carriers, and you can commonly use hotel points to book flights by transferring to frequent flyer programs. However, there are relatively few options when it comes to booking hotel rooms with airline miles.
Unfortunately for Mei, there is no straightforward strategy for transferring AAdvantage miles to Marriott. Diners Club used to let members convert certain airline miles back into Diners Club Rewards points (which could then be transferred to hotel partners), but that option disappeared years ago. The rewards exchange Points.com lets you move points and miles between different programs (at a generally terrible rate), but Marriott isn’t one of the site’s hotel partners. There might be some mileage brokers out there who would be willing to swap, but I don’t recommend going that route.
Some airlines do offer transfers to hotel programs. For example, the RewardsPlus partnership allows United elites to transfer miles to Marriott Rewards at 1:1, and you can swap miles from Hawaiian Airlines and Virgin Atlantic for Hilton HHonors points at 2:3. The problem in all these cases is that airline miles tend to be worth more than hotel points, so you’re not getting good value when you exchange them.
On the flip side, converting hotel points to airline miles can be a lucrative option. The most prominent example is Starwood Preferred Guest, which has over 30 airline partners and offers good transfer rates. Beyond that, Marriott’s Hotel + Air packages are a solid deal for anyone looking to book a longer hotel stay, and you can transfer Hyatt (and other) points to Southwest Rapid Rewards to help you earn the Companion Pass.
Keep in mind that you can now transfer Starpoints to Marriott Rewards at an excellent 1:3 ratio. That means you can also transfer Amex Membership Rewards points to Marriott at 1:1, since Amex transfers to SPG at 3:1. Chase Ultimate Rewards also transfer to Marriott at 1:1, so you have plenty of ways to boost your Marriott Rewards account.
The greater lesson here is that it’s important to diversify your travel rewards. Try to accrue points and miles from a few different programs so you have more redemption options, or focus on earning transferable points that you can redeem easily with both airlines and hotels.
Featured image courtesy of the JW Marriott parq Vancouver.