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There’s plenty of excitement and anxiety over the announcement about the new combined Marriott and SPG loyalty program. One of the most valuable aspects of the SPG program — and in some regards the Marriott program — has been the ability to transfer hotel points to a wide variety of airline partners at exceptional transfer ratios.
On Monday, Marriott announced both the transfer partners and the transfer ratios for the new program, with changes set to begin in August. Let’s take a look at the changes and see where things will stand come summer.
Watch David Flueck, SVP of Global Loyalty for Marriott International, answer TPG’s questions about the combined program:
Current and New Partners
Here is a list of the current Marriott and SPG airline transfer partners. Remember that the ratios on these partners vary widely, with SPG transferring to most at 1:1 — and even better with a 5,000 mile bonus for every 20,000 points transferred — and Marriott transferring all over the board anywhere from 10:1 to 2.24:1 in set blocks of points. While you can obviously move SPG and Marriott points between the two programs, because of the varying ratios, I have listed them separately below:
|Current SPG Transfer Partners||Current Marriott Transfer Partners|
|Aegean Airlines||Aeroflot Bonus Program|
|Aeromexico Club Premier||Aeromexico Club Premier|
|Aeroplan/Air Canada||Aeroplan / Air Canada|
|Air China Companion||Air China Companion|
|Air New Zealand & Air Points||Air France/KLM Flying Blue|
|Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan||Air New Zealand & Air Points|
|Alitalia MilleMiglia||Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan|
|All Nippon Mileage Club||Alitalia Millemiglia|
|American Airlines AAdvantage||All Nippon Mileage Club|
|Asia Miles||American Airlines AAdvantage|
|Asiana Airlines||Asiana Airlines|
|British Airways Executive Club||Avianca Lifemiles|
|China Eastern Airlines||British Airways Executive Club|
|Delta Air Lines SkyMiles||Cathay Pacific / Asia Miles|
|Emirates Skywards||China Eastern Airlines|
|Etihad Airways||COPA Milesconnect|
|Flying Blue||Delta Air Lines SkyMiles|
|Gol Smiles||Emirates Skywards|
|Hainan Airlines||Etihad Airways|
|Hawaiian Airlines||Frontier Airlines|
|Iberia Plus||Gol Smiles|
|Japan Airlines Mileage Bank||Hawaiian Airlines|
|Jet Airways||Iberia Plus|
|Korean Air Skypass||Japan Airlines Mileage Bank|
|Lufthansa Miles and More||JetBlue TrueBlue|
|Qatar Airways||Korean Skypass|
|Saudia Alfursan||LATAM Pass|
|Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer||Lufthansa Miles & More|
|Thai Airways RoyalOrchidPlus||Qantas Airways|
|United Mileage Plus||Qatar Airways|
|Velocity Frequent Flyer||Saudia Alfursan Airlines|
|Virgin Atlantic Flying Club||Singapore Airlines Krisflyer|
|South African Airways Voyager|
|Southwest Rapid Rewards|
|Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles|
|United Mileage Plus|
The great news is that come August, the new program will add to the above transfer partners. In addition to all current airline partners, here are the new partners which currently aren’t available to transfer directly from SPG:
- China Southern*
- El Al
- South African
- TAP Portugal
*China Southern and LATAM have previously been available to transfer with SPG and will once again be available in the new program.
And here are the new partners that will be available starting in August which are currently not available for transfers directly from Marriott:
- China Southern
- El Al
- Virgin Australia
Overall, El Al and China Southern are the two new programs that are currently not available through either SPG or Marriott transfers. That makes for a total of 45 airline transfer partners in the new program.
New Transfer Ratios
There’s also excellent news on the new transfer ratios: things will essentially remain the same or get better. Remember that beginning in August, all points from Marriott, SPG and Ritz-Carlton will be combined into a single loyalty account. Your Marriott point balance will remain the same, and SPG points will be converted and combined at the same 1:3 rate available today.
With that in mind, 42 of the combined 45 transfer partners will have a 3-to-1 point-to-mile transfer ratio in the new program, with a 5,000 mile bonus given for every 60,000 points transferred from the new program. That’s effectively the same as today’s 1-to-1 SPG transfer ratio, with a 5,000 mile bonus for every 20,000 points transferred. The only exception to that are JetBlue, Air New Zealand, and El Al, who will have different transfer ratios that are yet to be determined by Marriott.
So if you maximize the transfer bonus and get the 5,000 bonus miles, the transfer ratio of new program will effectively be 2.4:1. Let’s look at a table of each airline partner and see if the changes will be a devaluation or a valuation compared to the current best way to transfer Marriott or SPG points to each airline program.
To take an example of how I’m analyzing this, you can currently only transfer Marriott points to Aeroflot, and not from SPG. At the best transfer rate, the transfer ratio from Marriott to Aeroflot is currently 4:1 based on this chart:
Since you’ll be able to transfer your combined points at a 3:1 ratio to Aeroflot with a 5,000 mile bonus for every 60,000 points transferred in the new program, the maximum transfer ratio will be a much better 2.4:1. This represents a 60% improvement against the current 4:1 Marriott ratio.
With that example in mind, here’s a list of the current best transfer ratios from either SPG or Marriott compared to what the new transfer ratio will be in August, assuming you always maximize the transfer bonus. In this table, if Marriott is the best or only way currently available to transfer to an airline program, I used the best available ratio from the current Marriott charts.
|PROGRAM||Current Best Transfer Ratio (Today’s Marriott Points)||August Best Transfer Ratio||
|Aeroflot Bonus Program||4:1||2.4:1||60%|
|Aeroplan / Air Canada||2.4:1||2.4:1||–|
|Air New Zealand||195:3||TBA||TBA|
|All Nippon Airways||2.4:1||2.4:1||–|
|Cathay Pacific / Asia Miles||2.4:1||2.4:1||–|
|Japan Airlines (JAL)||2.4:1||2.4:1||–|
|Turkish Airlines – Miles & Smiles||4:1||2.4:1||60%|
*Both GOL and United are currently 2:1 SPG transfer partners, making transfers from Marriott the current best available path to move points to these programs.
With United being the sole exception, no currencies are being devalued from a transfer perspective and 11 receive a valuation increase from 14%-60%. We’ll have to wait on Air New Zealand and JetBlue’s transfer ratios to be announced to see where they fall. The true value of these appreciations is, of course, dependent upon how you earn points in August compared to how you’re earning points today.
One of the most frustrating parts of the existing SPG transfer program is the slow transfer times. SPG transfers can take days and sometimes even weeks to go through, which can make it tricky to book fleeting award space.
So how long will it take to transfer points in the new program? Marriott has told us that transfer times in the new program will more closely resemble the transfer times in the current Marriott Rewards program. With that in mind, we’ve done some testing with a sampling of the current Marriott Rewards transfer partners. Here are the results thus far:
|British Airways||<24 hours|
|Singapore Airlines||6 days|
|Virgin Atlantic||<24 hours|
Some of these results are significantly better than the current SPG times — British Airways took four days for points to arrive in our last round of SPG testing in March, while points from the Marriott Rewards program took less than 24 hours in this set of tests. Other results were worse — Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer points already took 4 days to arrive via SPG, and it was up to 6 days in these tests. So we’ll have to see if transfer times end up better or worse overall in the new program.
Here are the positives: no airline partners lost, the 5,000 mile transfer bonus remains, most partners maintain the same transfer ratio and current partners which are only available through Marriott gain value with the new transfer ratio (sans JetBlue whose ratio we don’t know yet and United). This is about the best situation we could have hoped for when the merger was announced.
My worst fears about the Marriott/SPG merger have been alleviated with today’s announcement. I’m extremely happy — and honestly surprised — that the executives behind the new program held or increased the value of transferring to airline partners. This is a positive sign the new program did its homework and listened to what customers valued most in the current SPG program. Hopefully it continues to translate into all aspects of the combined program as we move into 2019.
This story has been updated to clarify that the new program will launch in August, but a specific start date in August has not yet been confirmed.