Earning Airline Miles for a Hotel Stay — Reader Mistake Story

Apr 18, 2017

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.      

One of the things I love most about being The Points Guy is getting to hear stories from readers about all the positive ways award travel has affected their lives. That being said, while I love hearing about your successes, I think there’s also a lot we can learn by sharing our mistakes, and I’m calling on readers to send in your most egregious and woeful travel failures.

From time to time I’ll pick one that catches my eye and post it for everybody to enjoy (and commiserate with). If you’re interested, email your story to info@thepointsguy.com, and put “Reader Mistake Story” in the subject line. Include details of exactly how things went wrong, and (where applicable) how you made them right. Please offer any wisdom you gained from the experience, and explain what precautions the rest of us can take to avoid the same pitfalls. If we publish your story, I’ll send you a gift to help jump-start your next adventure (or make up for any blunders from the last one).

Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Joachim, who left a lot of rewards on the table during a recent trip. Here’s what he had to say:

You
Joachim opted to earn American Airlines miles instead of Marriott Rewards points for his hotel stays.

I recently enjoyed a paid stay at the Ritz-Carlton in Aruba, which included both award travel successes and failures. After my trip, I noticed my American Airlines AAdvantage account had been credited with several thousand miles. That seemed like good news until I started investigating where those miles had come from.

It turns out that a couple years ago (before the Marriott-Starwood merger), I selected American Airlines miles as my earning preference. That means instead of earning 10 Marriott Rewards points per dollar, I was earning just 2 AAdvantage miles per dollar spent on Marriott stays. While it’s not the end of the world, I figure that I missed out on almost 10,000 AAdvantage miles during my Aruba trip alone by not crediting the stay to Marriott.

The base rate for my room was $4,418, which came to 8,836 AAdvantage miles credited to my account. If I had credited the stay to Marriott instead, I would have earned 44,180 base points. Since you can transfer Marriott points to Starwood Preferred Guest at a 3:1 ratio, that stay would have earned me the equivalent of 14,727 Starpoints, which in turn transfer 1:1 to American Airlines. I could have earned at least 5,891 more miles by going that route.

That total would be even higher if I took advantage of the SPG transfer bonus, which gets you an extra 5,000 miles when you transfer 20,000 points. In that scenario, each Starpoint is worth 1.25 miles, so I would have ended up with the equivalent of 18,409 miles, or 9,573 more than I actually got. Of course, Starpoints would give me the flexibility to transfer to other airline partners as well, not just American.

On the bright side, I saved around $800 on my stay by using the Citi Prestige Card to get the fourth night free. I also flew my family to Aruba using 80,000 TrueBlue points, most of which were earned from the Virgin America points match by way of a Starwood transfer of just 40,000 points. We also got $200 worth of free bags and saved about $30 on in-flight purchases after getting the JetBlue Plus Card at the last minute.

Despite the error, it was a successful trip, and I hope this will help your other readers from making a similar mistake.

Many hotel loyalty programs allow you to earn airline miles instead of points, but it’s rarely a good idea. You’ll earn far fewer miles for each dollar spent, and that disparity in earning rates means opting for miles is generally a losing proposition. As Joachim points out, Marriott offers just 2 AAdvantage miles per dollar spent, which are worth much less than 10 Marriott points based on my latest valuations.

If you’d rather have miles in the end, you may still be better off earning hotel points and then transferring to your frequent flyer program of choice. In this example, banking points to Marriott nets around 65% more AAdvantage miles per dollar spent, and nearly 110% more if you can take advantage of the SPG transfer bonus. Even without the Starwood partnership, you could get a better (or at least equal) rate by transferring directly from Marriott Rewards to American or another airline.

There are a few exceptions. For example, Marriott allows members to earn Southwest Rapid Rewards at a flat rate of 600 points per qualifying stay. That’s a solid option if you score a cheap rate (under around $95) for a single night. Make sure you know how points and miles are awarded for each stay, and set your earning preferences accordingly.

You
You’ll usually get better value by transferring Marriott points to airlines (either directly or via Starwood Preferred Guest).

I appreciate this story, and I hope it can help other readers avoid making the same mistake. To thank Joachim for sharing his experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending him a $200 Visa gift card to enjoy on his travels.

I’d like to do the same for you! If you’ve ever arrived at the airport without ID, booked a hotel room in the wrong city, missed out on a credit card sign-up bonus or made another memorable travel or rewards mistake, I want to hear about it. Please indulge me and the whole TPG team by sending us your own stories (see instructions above). I look forward to hearing from you, and until then, I wish you a safe and mistake-free journey!

Featured image courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton Aruba.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,650

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within your first year of account opening.
  • Earn 2X points on dining including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. Plus, earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.
Regular APR
15.99%-22.99% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.