I’m absolutely convinced that there is one use of Marriott points that is by far the best. The value of miles is always greater than hotel points, but in this case, you really don’t even have to choose… you get both.
7 nights + ~120,000 miles.
The way this works is that you redeem your Marriott points for a 7 night stay and you get as much 120,000 miles transferred to the airline of your choosing.
You can choose different amounts to transfer to miles, but I recommend the highest quantity. This is one thing that will determine the price in Marriott points.
You can also choose different category Marriott hotels to stay at, and that is the other thing that determines the price.
The airline most people go with is American Miles.
One of the most valuable set of miles for redemptions, and maybe the best for first class travel.
Read the Best Use of American Airlines Miles.
I’d also recommend Alaska Miles.
They have some of the same cheap redemptions as American but allow 2 stopovers on a roundtrip (or 1 on a oneway). You can also use Alaska miles for Emirates first class (the shower in the sky) for 90,000 to 100,000 miles.
The problem with Alaska is that you can’t use miles to fly on multiple airlines on a single oneway.
Read the Best Use of Alaska Airlines Miles.
Third, I’d recommend United.
You get 10% more miles and they have some amazing redemption opportunities with the stopovers and all. Prices are higher for premium cabin, but like everything, it has its pros and cons.
Here are the redemption rates for United
Southwest Companion Pass?
I don’t know what to think of this. First, I don’t know why you wouldn’t earn the the Southwest Companion Pass like the rest of us, with the 2 Southwest cards. Although it’s an interesting thought.
The cool thing is that Marriott would transfer 120,000 points to Southwest and they would all qualify for the Southwest Companion Pass, which only needs 110,000 points. In other words, from the moment the miles go into your account, you’d have the rest of the year, and all of the next calendar year, where a companion flies with you for free on every flight. You use your points to book a flight and they get a ticket only for the price of taxes (which in the USA is only $5.60).
Let’s say you want to vacation in the Caribbean and you’re booking months ahead of time. Book the hotel and the points go to Southwest and give you a Companion Pass. Then you could book your flights for super cheap. Really, a roundtrip to anywhere in the Caribbean (if booking ahead) could be 20,000 points for the both of you. You’d still have 100,000 points to fly around on.
It’s just interesting to forfeit earning 120,000 Alaska Miles or something for Southwest Points which you can already earn from the Southwest cards which regularly have a 50,000 point bonus. But if the Marriott bonuses are right, it could be a great redemption.
Why it’s a good deal?
Miles are [almost] always more valuable than hotel points. Good ones at least are way more valuable.
A flight to Asia could cost 35,000 miles and a hotel in Bali could cost a similar amount of miles. But what’s crazy is that all flights to Bali (from the US) will be at $1,000 at the lowest time. And from smaller cities it could be $1,600 at the cheapest.
But a hotel in Bali could be $5 at a cheapo hotel, and $100 for a 5 star hotel. The money you’d actually save by using those points for a 5 star hotel in Bali is like $100 a night, at most. And the money you’d save on a flight could be at least $1,600.
That’s a long way of saying that this is an option to transfer a large chunk of Marriott Points to a large chunk of more valuable miles. Marriott points are ordinarily worth a very little amount and requires large sums of points. This requires an ever larger amount of Marriott points but the value is greater.
In this case let’s break down how much you’d pay for 7 nights (considering 5th night is free) with the 120,000 to 132,000 mile option. (With Marriott, when you book 5 nights, the 5 night is free.)
In other words, I’m going to give the standard award cost of 7 nights, vs the price of the “Hotel & Air Package”:
- Category 1 = 45,000 points vs. 270,000 points
- Category 2 = 60,000 points vs. 270,000 points
- Category 3 = 90,000 points vs. 270,000 points
- Category 4 = 120,000 points vs. 270,000 points
- Category 5 = 150,000 points vs. 270,000 points
- Category 6 = 180,000 points vs. 300,000 points
- Category 7 = 210,000 points vs 330,000 points
- Category 8 = 240,000 points vs. 360,000 points
- Category 9 = 270,000 points vs. 390,000 points
- Tier 1 = 180,000 points vs. 420,000 points
- Tier 2 = 240,000 points vs.420,000 points
- Tier 3 = 300,000 points vs. 420,000 points
- Tier 4 = 360,000 points vs. 540,000 points
- Tier 5 = 420,000 points vs. 540,000 points
Let’s be clear about what we’re talking about.
The first example is a Marriott category 1. If I just went to Marriott.com, checked Rewards and booked a hotel for 7 nights, it would cost me 45,000 points. But if I wanted to book the same hotel via the “Hotel & Air Package” it would get me 7 nights but it would also give 120,000 miles. But the package would cost 270,000 points.
In this case I’m paying an extra 225,000 Marriott points, to gain 120,000 miles (or 132,000 United miles).
Another [better] example is a category 5 hotel, which would normally cost 150,000 points. But under the package, it would cost 270,000 points. Paying 120,000 extra Marriott points to get 120,000 miles.
How much do miles normally cost?
This goes back to the value thing. I value miles a lot more. But the problem is that hotels normally give terrible transfer rates. Marriott gives the following rates for transferring to miles:
Here’s the United transfer rates:
Here’s the transfer rate for American, Alaskan and others:
Actually not as bad as I predicted, especially with United since they’re now special partners.
At best, with United the transfer rate is 112,000 Marriott points to get 50,000 miles. That’s a transfer rate of 2.24 to 1 mile.
With American, at best the rate is 140,000 Marriott points to get 50,000 miles. That’s a transfer rate of 2.8 to 1 mile.
Vs the Package rates
But when you do a package, for some reason the rates get better. You not only get 7 nights, but you get 120,000 miles. In fact, even when we calculate these transfer rates without considering the amount going towards 7 nights, the rates are better.
Let’s take a category 5 for 270,000 points and let’s get 132,000 United miles. That’s a transfer rate of 2.04 Marriott points to get 1 United mile.
Or with American/Alaska, you get 120,000 miles for the same price. That’s a transfer rate of 2.25 Marriott points to get 1 mile.
Both of these rates are better than just transferring to miles!
Best Redemption Rate
Which category hotel?
Notice that category 1 to 5 hotels are all 1 price. So if you’re paying up to a category 5… you might as well get a category 5 hotel. There’s often a big different in quality.
The sweet spots are Category 5 – 9 hotels, depending on your bankroll and tastes. I personally think the sweet spot is a category 5, 6 or 7. Really the sweet spot is 5, but sometimes there is not a great category 5, but there will be a great category 6 or 7.
I’m not really interested in the category 5 hotels in Thailand, except the Renaissance Bangkok where most people wouldn’t want to spend a week. On the other end Marriott’s Phuket Beach Club goes for $300 a night, and it’s a category 7. Worth 60,000 points to be somewhere a lot nicer given that it’s a 7 night stay.
Same in the Caribbean, there are lots of great Marriott hotels, but they tend to be closer to 9. And you don’t want to spend 7 days in a suburb of San Juan.
The important thing here is: Don’t waste your package on a category 1… I’d cry. Hopefully that’s clear in the section of regular price vs package price. The bottom categories would otherwise be really cheap. You need to do a category 5 or higher.
Category 5s are best
And yet, here I am suggestion that you don’t go higher than a category 5… except to get the right hotel.
So back to the how many miles do you earn per Marriott point, let me put it this way. And I’ll only do American Airlines. Here is the rate of Marriott points spent to earn 1 AA mile for each category:
- Category 1-5 = 2.25 miles per point
- Category 6 = 2.5
- Category 7 = 2.75
- Category 8 = 3
- Category 9 = 3.25
- Tier 1-3 = 3.5
- Tier 4-5 = 4.5
Yes, the quality of the hotel does go up. But so does the cost! The thing that changes as price goes up is that the miles earned stays the same.
Therefore Category 5 hotels are the sweet spot. After all, turning Marriott points to AA miles at a 2.25 to 1 rate is great.
I’m really only concerned about the last column where you get 120,000 miles. This is where you get the most value per point as well.
Finding the right hotel
Of course, this is all ideal until you actually find a hotel you’d love to spend 7 nights in. Life is too short to stay some place crappy for a week just because it’s a good deal. Please, make sure it’s a right fit. If it means going for a category 6, 7, or 8… do it. If it means going with a different chain, go with a different chain.
But if you already wanted to go to Cancun anyways and saw the JW Marriott was a good fit, this could be a great opportunity.
My first suggestion is to use Marriott.com, typing in your destination, and just check the box “Use Rewards points”. Find a hotel based on where you’re already looking.
Another way is to use the Complete Map of Marriott Rewards Hotels. This map is sorted by category types. Still double check prices and availability on Marriott.com, but this could help you brainstorm if you’re flexible.
Earning enough Marriott Points
This is indeed the tough part. But there are free transfers to spouses!
The Marriott card is currently 80,000 points, which is as high as it gets. However, I don’t recommend the card at all except for this purpose. Which means, unless you already have 190,000 points, or can get it, don’t bother with the 80,000 point Marriott card.
It really only gives 1 night at a top hotel and 2 nights at a mid tier hotel. Compare that to other cards which give at least 2 nights at top hotels.
The Ritz Carlton card doesn’t currently have a bonus, but it has been as high as 140,000 points. You can still get the card with your Marriott number. There is some debate on whether or not the card is worth it as it has a $395 annual fee but gives $300 annual travel credit. So you can make your money back, plus some.
But if you got the 140,000 points Ritz Carlton card (if it comes back) and then later got the 80,000 Marriott card, you’d have 220,000 points, only 50,000 points away.
So is it worth it to get the cards?
If the Ritz Carlton 140k came back around, yes. I’d get that first and then wait for another Marriott 80k (otherwise I don’t wanna get stuck with a Marriott card). Then idk, maybe the business one which also has an 80k? That’s 300,000 points, enough for my category 6, which is more realistic.
It’s a lot of cards but think about this…
How long would it normally take you to get a week at a nice hotel plus 120,000 points? Well, it would take at least two cards (normally) to get 120,000 miles. It could take 5 cards to get that many Alaska Miles. So right there it’s a good deal.
And it’s not easy to get 7 nights of hotel stays, especially at a Marriott. So the Hyatt card gives two nights. Hilton cards would give maybe 2 nights at mid tiers. IHG would give two nights at a mid-tier.
All that to say, yes it is worth it if you have a Marriott redemption in mind, and you can earn the points at a reasonable rate. There are many fantastic Marriott hotels in the world.
Combining points with spouses
Wanted to add that you can transfer points to spouses. Here’s what the T&C say:
Immediately prior to Reward Redemption, a Member may authorize the transfer of the necessary number of Points into the Rewards Program account of his/her legal spouse or domestic partner, in order to qualify for a specific Reward.
Has to be in 1,000 increments… which is normal. “For a specific award”, and apparently “only the necessary number of Points needed”, on the other hand, seems odd.
Transfer and booking can be done by calling.
This is pretty great if you can both get the 140,000 point Ritz Card, or if you only need 80k to top off.
Marriott is one of the most popular hotel chains for business travel, by a lot. It has a long history and a big network of nice hotels. There are tons and tons of people who have this kind of Marriott bank roll just from business travel, many in a single year of business travel.
For those of you who already have 300,000 Marriott points, trust me, this is the best deal for anyone who would be taking a 7 night vacation anyways.
Warning against Chase Transfers
It’s not ever worth transferring into Marriott rewards from Chase. Not for the Marriott Hotel & Air Package, and not for regular redemption.
You can already transfer 1:1 to airlines, why waste the other 200k to 500k on Marriott stays. And why transfer at a 2.25:1 to 4.5:1 rate, when you can transfer at a 1:1 rate! That would be insane.
To put this extra clear, 270,000 points (the minimum amount we’re talking about) is worth $3,240 worth of travel on Chase’s Ultimate Rewards booking site. 540,000 points is worth $6,480 on Chase’s travel booking site. So if you transferred out the 120,000 miles you’d get first, you still have $2,000 to $5,500 worth of points going only towards Marriott bookings. Which is insane. If you had the option to pocket $5,500 cash or book a Ritz Carlton for a week… Take the cash! Everytime. After all there are very few hotels worth $785 a night. You could probably book many of the Ritz Carltons for $200 a night on a sale.
If you transfer from Chase to Marriott, regardless of the redemption type, you’re throwing money down the toilet. Don’t do it. The only way you should be earning Marriott points is from your business or the Marriott card.
Even topping up the extra 50,000 points… think about it. You’d transfer 50,000 Chase points to get a 2.25:1 to 4.5:1 transfer rate.
Down the toilet, imo.
Pay a little more Marriott Points and get 120,000 miles? Yes please! It’s a no brainer really. The problem for most people is getting enough Marriott points.
For those of you who already have the points or are confident in getting the points easily, this is by far the best use of Marriott points, in my opinion. Assuming you actually will use 7 nights, go with the Hotel & Air Package by calling Marriott Rewards and booking over the phone.