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Here’s what you should know before transferring Marriott points to airline miles

May 21, 2021
18 min read
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Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information.

What makes the Marriott Bonvoy program more valuable than many other hotel programs isn't just the sheer number of properties you can now book using points but also the wide variety of airline partners to which you can transfer points. Bonvoy members have a whopping 40+ airline transfer partners to choose from, giving you valuable flexibility for your points.

In addition, many offer solid transfer ratios. All but three partners have a 3:1 point-to-mile transfer ratio, plus a 5,000-mile bonus for every 60,000 points transferred from the new program, effectively making the ratio 2.4:1.

The only airlines with worse ratios are JetBlue and Air New Zealand. These carriers have transfer ratios of 6:1 and 200:1, respectively. Meanwhile, the RewardsPlus partnership allows you to transfer Marriott points to United at a 3:1.1 ratio.

But how long do these transfers actually take? Let's find out.

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Mariott Bonvoy transfer times

Hotel point transfers to airlines are generally known to take longer than some other transferable currencies, like American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards and Citi ThankYou Rewards. So we here at TPG wanted to find out just how long it actually takes to move Marriott Rewards points to all partners. To do so, we routinely transfer 3,000 points to each of Marriott's partners and track the time it takes for them to show up.

Your experiences may vary, but here’s what we found:

ProgramTransfer Time
Aegean Airlines3 days
Aer Lingus3 days
Aeroflot20 days
Aeromexico4 days
Air Canada Aeroplan4 days
Air France/KLM3 days
Air New Zealand<24 hours
Alaska4 days
Alitalia7 days
All Nippon Airways (ANA)4 days
American48 hours
Asiana4 days
Avianca<24 hours
British Airways3 days
Cathay Pacific / Asia Miles5 days
Copa3 days
Delta<24 hours
Emirates3 days
Etihad3 days
Frontier Airlines~6 weeks
Hainan8 days
Hawaiian<24 hours
Iberia24 hours
Intermiles7 days
Japan Airlines (JAL)48 hours
JetBlue Airways<24 hours
Korean<48 hours
LATAM (Multiplus)ERROR MESSAGE (see below)
Qantas Airways<48 hours
Qatar Airways3 days
Saudia Airlines5 days
Singapore<48 hours
Southwest<24 hours
Thai*4 days
Turkish Airlines3 days
United3 days
Virgin Atlantic<48 hours
Virgin Australia24 hours

*Effective June 2, 2020, most Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus awards redemptions have been suspended, including all flight redemptions. We don’t recommend transferring your points to Thai at this time.

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Note that the times listed above represent our personal experience and shouldn’t be taken as hard and fast rules. However, others have reported similar timelines when transferring points from Marriott Bonvoy. Your own transfers may be faster or slower, but you can use these times as guidelines when planning your trips.

Unlike the major transferrable points programs, none of the Marriott transfers were instant. To make matters worse, just 14 of them were completed within 48 hours. Some points didn't post until a month or even later. This is a long time to wait, especially if you're booking a last-minute ticket or trying to snag coveted award space in a premium cabin. It's also worth noting that United phone representatives have said they don't start processing the transfer for 72 hours — waiting to see if there's a fraud report — so three days for transfers is the minimum. It might take up to a week.

One interesting note regarding Frontier miles: These posted after roughly six weeks. However, the post date was the day after the transfer was initiated, even though they didn't actually arrive in the account until six weeks later. The six-week timeline is bad enough, but since Frontier miles expire after six months of inactivity, we now only have four and a half months to use them.

However, these delays pale in comparison to the following...

Related: How to keep your points and miles from expiring

Still waiting

We've tried to transfer points to TAP Portugal three separate times and still haven't received any miles. Given the delays, we reached out to Marriott to inquire about this discrepancy, since the program's terms and conditions provide a window of "approximately six weeks" for the miles to arrive. Here's the statement provided to TPG:

"For transfers not posting in a timely manner, we did send the data you cited to our airline partners as usual and are working with them to learn why this is happening."

We also tried transferring points to Vueling Club and those haven't arrived yet either. I personally would stay away from transferring to TAP Portugal and Vueling until the issue is resolved.

Transfer errors

In addition to the above, there was an airline that registered “transfer errors,” meaning the TPG team was not able to successfully move points Our valid, active account for LATAM (Multiplus) received the following error:

We’ve confirmed that LATAM is indeed still a transfer partner, and Marriott provided us with the following statement about the issues we encountered:

"This is the first time it has come to our attention, thank you, and we are working with those airline partners to understand why it is happening and what corrective actions need to be taken."

It's also worth noting that our first transfers to British Airways and South African Airways all resulted in receiving more miles than we expected (2000 and 3500, respectively). However, both carriers posted the correct number when we tried it a second time.

Finally, note that transfers to AeroMexico appear to be at a 3:1 ratio on Marriott's website, but we actually received 1,610 Club Premier points for the 3,000 Marriott points we transferred. Since AeroMexico effectively uses the metric system for its currency (kilometers instead of miles), this actually makes sense since 1 mile = ~1.61 km.

Related: The award traveler’s guide to Marriott Bonvoy

Before transferring Marriott Bonvoy points

The greatest risk when transferring points is that award availability can change while you’re waiting for points to show up in your account. Transfers are irreversible, so in the worst-case scenario, you’ll be stuck with thousands of points in a program you have little use for beyond your originally intended award ticket or hotel night. Here are a few tips for how to avoid that situation:

1. Put your award reservation on hold before transferring

Not all programs allow you to put award tickets on hold, but those that do, make things much easier. For example, Singapore KrisFlyer allows you to hold an award reservation so long as you have 50% of the necessary miles in your account.

2. Choose flights that have more than one available award seat

This is helpful in case someone snags your award seats before your miles show up. Use tools like ExpertFlyer (which is owned by TPG’s parent company, Red Ventures) to determine how many award seats are available on a flight. You can also do a single search for three or four passengers — that way, you can determine precisely how many seats are available.

3. Select uncommon routes

You can improve your chances of finding award space by choosing routes less popular routes or ones originating from non-hubs. Those often have better award availability. One example is a transatlantic flight from Raleigh-Durham to London on American Airlines. For a transpacific flight, check out ANA’s flight from San Jose to Tokyo-Narita.

4. Let availability determine your destination

If your original itinerary is no longer an option because availability has dried up and you have some flexibility, one solution is to choose your destination based on which awards are still bookable. If you want to fly six people in business to Hawaii for Christmas, I’d keep in mind the difficulty of that task and search for other destinations with availability — perhaps finding a diamond in the rough.

If your original flights have disappeared, don’t panic. Keep in mind that award availability changes frequently and can increase dramatically as you get closer to your departure date. Check regularly and be ready to act quickly when seats do open up.

Related: When should I transfer points to airline and hotel partners?

Marriott points a quick to transfer to Iberia (Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

Can you transfer Marriott Bonvoy points to someone else’s account?

According to Marriott's website, for most airline partners, the name on your Marriott Bonvoy account must match the name on the airline frequent flyer program to successfully transfer points. In other words, you typically can't transfer Marriott points directly to someone else's frequent flyer account. However, there's a workaround.

Marriott allows point transfers between Bonvoy accounts. So, if you want to transfer your points to someone else's frequent flyer account, transfer the points to their Bonvoy account first and then they could request the transfer to the airline. The process is fairly straightforward, but there are a few restrictions to be aware of:

  • You don’t need to be related to the person you’re transferring with, nor do you need to share an address. You can transfer points to anyone’s Marriott account, as long as both accounts have been open and in good standing for 30 days (with qualifying activity) or 90 days (without qualifying activity).
  • Each member can transfer up to 100,000 points per calendar year and receive up to 500,000 points per calendar year.
  • You can only move points in 1,000-point increments.
  • You must call Marriott member support at 801-468-4000 to initiate a transfer.

Related: How to transfer Marriott points between accounts

Is there a fee for transferring Marriott Bonvoy points?

There is no fee for transferring Marriott points. That said, like any award booking, you’ll still be responsible for any taxes and fees tacked on by the airline when redeeming your miles.

Related: The best credit cards for paying taxes and fees on award tickets

How to earn Marriott Bonvoy points

You can earn points for paid Marriott hotel stays, with general members earning 10x points per dollar spent and elite members earning up to 17.5x points per dollar. You also have a few strong credit card options for earning Marriott Bonvoy points more quickly.

Here’s a glance at the welcome bonus, annual fee and unique perks of some of the best Marriott credit cards. You can click on the card names to learn more about the benefits they offer or visit this guide for more information.

Credit CardBonusAnnual FeeBonus Value*Unique Perks
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® CardEarn 95,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after you use your new card to make $5,000 in eligible purchases within the first three months of card membership.$650 (see rates and fees)$798Annual award night worth up to 85,000 points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program (certain hotels have resort fees), up to $300 in annual statement credits (up to $25 per month) per calendar year on eligible purchases at restaurants, receive instant Platinum Marriott elite status. Terms apply.
Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® CardEarn 75,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after you use your new card to make $3,000 in eligible purchases within the first three months of card membership.$125 (see rates and fees) $630Annual award night worth up to 35,000 points. Earn a second free night worth up to 35,000 points by spending $60,000 in a calendar year on your card. Complimentary Marriot Bonvoy Gold status
Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit CardEarn 3 Free Night Awards (each night valued up to 50,000 points) after spending $3,000 on purchases in your first three months of account opening.$95$1,260Annual award night worth up to 35,000 points. Immediate Silver status, ability to earn Gold status with $35,000 in annual spending on the card.
Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit CardEarn 30,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in your first three months from account opening.$0$252Marriott Bonvoy Silver status thanks to the 15 elite night credits awarded by the card.

*Bonus value based on TPG valuation and not provided by the issuer

Related: Which Marriott Bonvoy credit card is right for you?

If you're looking for some great values for these transfers, here are a few to consider:

  • Transfer 180,000 Marriott Rewards points to Alaska Mileage Plan to fly one-way from North America to Asia in Cathay Pacific first class (with 5,000 extra Alaska miles leftover from the transfer).
  • Transfer 280,000 Marriott Rewards points to JAL to fly round-trip from New York to Milan in Emirates A380 first class.
  • Transfer 120,000 Marriott Rewards points to Alaska Mileage Plan to fly one-way from North America to South America in LATAM business class (with 5,000 extra Alaska miles leftover from the transfer).

Remember to leverage Marriott's 5,000-mile bonus for every 60,000 points you transfer whenever possible. If you can maximize the bonus by transferring in increments of 60,000 points, your transfer ratio will effectively be 2.4:1.

Take advantage of Marriott's transfer partners to experience Emirates' first-class suite. (Photo by Nicky Kelvin/TPG)

Bottom line

Although Marriott offers more transfer partners than any other program, based on what we saw, it falls far behind when processing transfers in a timely manner. The vast majority of transfers took at least three days to complete. Compare this to Chase, where points to nine of its 13 partner programs (69% for those keeping score at home) post immediately and the other four take up to two days.

Even Capital One, the latest issuer that added transfer partners to its credit card portfolio, has half of its 19 partners process immediately. Put bluntly, the above times are slow in comparison, and Marriott should take steps to address them.

If you have no choice but to transfer points from Marriott, there will always be some risk that award availability will change while you’re waiting for points to show up in your account. Make sure to give yourself plenty of time to account for the sometimes-sluggish process. Always have a back-up plan in case availability for your original itinerary dries up by the time your points arrive. Transfers are irreversible, so in the worst-case scenario, you could be stuck with thousands of miles in a program for which you have little use beyond your original award ticket.

Related guides:

For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Business Card, please click here.

Featured image by (Photo by Andrew Kunesh/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.