The Marriott takeover of Starwood is off to a great start, with generous status match offers and a 1:3 transfer ratio for SPG point transfers to Marriott and Ritz Carlton. I’ve already covered how much value members can get by transferring SPG points to Marriott, but both programs have hotel and airfare packages that are worth looking into. Starwood offers Nights & Flights Awards while Marriott’s has an extensive collection of Hotel + Air packages. Starwood’s is a little simpler while Marriott offers sever different options depending on airline rewards program and number of miles included in the package. So which of these air and hotel packages offers the best value for your points? Below is an overview of what you can expect to get by transferring (or holding onto) your SPG points:
Starwood Nights & Flights Awards
Starwood Nights & Flights awards are simple in that there are just two packages to choose from:
- 60,000 Starpoints = 50,000 miles + 5 nights at a Category 3 SPG hotel
- 70,000 Starpoints = 50,000 miles + 5 nights at a Category 4 SPG hotel
Since Category 3 Starwood hotels require 7,000 points per night, Category 4 hotels require 10,000 points per night, Starwood Nights & Flights awards save you over 50% on award nights. Or you can think of it as getting rewarded with an extra 18,000 – 20,000 miles on top of getting five hotel nights. This actually works out better than transferring miles directly to an airline, even with the 5,000 point transfer bonus:
- Category 3: 60,000 points – 28,000 points for the hotel (5th night free) = spending 32,000 airline miles to get 50,000.
- Category 4: 70,000 points – 40,000 points for the hotel (5th night free) = spending 30,000 airline miles to get 50,000
Marriott Hotel + Air Awards
How do Marriott’s Hotel + Air Awards stack up against Starwood Nights & Flights? That’s kind of like comparing apples and oranges because Marriott’s flight packages include 7 hotel nights and members can choose from a variety of options involving a variety of hotel categories, airline programs, and number of miles. These packages start at 200,000 Marriott points for 7 hotel nights and 25,000 – 55,000 airline miles. The best option for Category 1-5 awards is probably the RewardPlus Hotel + Air package which gives you the following:
- 7 nights at a Category 1 – 5 hotel + 55,000 United MileagePlus miles for 200,000 Marriott points
Free nights at Category 1 – 5 Marriott hotels range from 6,000 – 25,000 points per night. Of course, to get maximum value out of this package you’ll want to book a Category 5 hotel, which normally costs 20,000 – 25,000 Marriott points per night. Booking a Hotel + Air award can be a great way to convert your Marriott points to airline miles at a favorable ratio. However, this depends entirely on how much Category 5 hotels are going for when you want to book them:
- 7 nights at Category 5 hotel at 20,000 points per night = 120,000 points (5th night free)
- 7 nights at Category 5 hotel at 25,000 points per night = 150,000 points (5th night free)
As you can see, Hotel + Air awards may not be such a great idea if you’re booking a Category 5 hotel when it’s going for 20,000 points per night. That’s because you’re trading in 80,000 Marriott points for 55,000 United miles. That may actually be a great ratio if you’ve earned your Marriott points via a credit card sign-up bonus or hotel stays, but not so great if you’re transferring points from your Ultimate Rewards account for this. You could instead transfer 120,000 Ultimate Rewards points to your Marriott account and 55,000 miles to United and end up with the same package.
Meanwhile, redeeming a Hotel + Air award for a Category 5 hotel when award nights are going for 25,000 points is a good value. You’re essentially saving 5,000 points, which works out great if you were thinking of transferring Ultimate Rewards points for a 7-night vacation with Marriott. Another huge plus is that the miles earned from booking a Hotel + Air package count towards the Southwest Companion pass, so that may be useful for some.
What to Do With 60,000 – 70,000 SPG Points?
Now for the big question: What should you do with 60,000 – 70,000 SPG points if all you want to book a vacation package that includes hotel and airfare? Redeeming them for a Starwood Nights & Flights award is an excellent value and you’ll come ahead, period. However, transferring them to Marriott could get you a longer vacation and the ability to redeem miles for a flight with United, which unfortunately isn’t a 1:1 Starwood partner.
United miles are a great currency and with Marriott, you not only get a generous amount of them for your Hotel + Flights package, but in most cases you can redeem these miles more easily than, say, American AAdvantage miles, especially for an international award.
Transferring points reserved for a Starwood Nights & Flights award to Marriott would get you the following:
- 60,000 SPG points = 180,000 Marriott points
- 70,000 SPG points = 210,000 Marriott points
Short of topping off your Marriott account with 20,000 points, you’re not going to be able to book a Hotel + Air package with 60,000 SPG points (which is the amount required for a Category 3 Starwood Night & Flight award). You’ll want to transfer another 7,000 points to end up with a little over 200,000 Marriott points, which is enough for a Category 1-5 Hotel + Air package. This award includes 7 hotel nights and 55,000 United miles. Or you can opt for a different frequent flyer program and get 25,000 – 50,000 miles.
This transfer works out great for several reasons. You get a longer vacation (7 nights as opposed to 5) at a higher category hotel, access to 636 Category 5 Marriott hotels as opposed to 406 SPG Category 4 hotels and 55,000 United miles. SPG points transfer to United miles at a 2:1 ratio, so for that reason alone this transfer works out favorably.
It really comes down to your personal travel preferences and the number of SPG points you have in your account, but transferring SPG points to Marriott for a Hotel + Air package can get you more value than a SPG Nights & Flights award. You’ll not only get more hotel nights and points, but a bigger portfolio of hotels to choose from.
Marriott Rewards is working hard to make Starwood loyalists warm up to the merger. The 1:3 transfer ratio is great for hotel award nights alone, but when you compare hotel and air packages across the two loyalty programs, Marriott’s Hotel + Air packages are a better value for Starwood members looking to put their points to good use.
Are you planning on booking a Hotel + Air package anytime soon? Which loyalty program are you going to book this award with?
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