My Marriott Dilemma - Running with Miles
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My Marriott Dilemma

Written by Dustin

With Marriott’s Program changes coming in August, I am stuck on how I should redeem my points! What would you do?

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably seen the upcoming changes to the Marriott/SPG program. The largest question mark, in my mind, is the upcoming devaluation to the Marriott Flights and Nights packages. I think the Flights and Nights packages are a great way to redeem your Marriott points. With uncertainty of what will happen, leads me to my Marriott dilemma.

My Marriott Dilemma

A few months ago, I wrote about my recent credit card application spree. In that round, I opened the Marriott Business Rewards Credit Card. It bypassed the 5/24 rule and with it’s 75,000 point bonus, it would push my Marriott point totals over 220,000 points, which gives me a few options for the Flights and Nights Packages.

Preemptive Transfers:

I always try to have a plan for my points. Programs will devalue so not having a plan puts you in a potentially bad spot. Which should tell you, I really dislike preemptively transferring my points.

When I planned on the Marriott Flights and Nights program, I had a few options in my head, but nothing that was solid. But, as changes are coming in a couple of months, this is definitely accelerating my plans and will force me to make a decision.

I think my current options are to sit on my points and wait to see what happens, or I can move my points to a program and hope that there is a positive for me after the update. Now, I would move my points to a program I would use, so I would find use for them.

The next question is if I were to preemptively move my points, which program do I decide on?

Airline Options:

As with everything in this game, your decisions should be made for what works best for you.

The Flights and Nights packages come with many options for airlines, but realistically I am only going to use a few of these programs. Which ones are on my list?

Before the changes to the Flying Blue program, they would have been on my list. I am not really impressed with the updates to the website and it seems like they took the Delta model of pricing, but made it worse. It doesn’t really have any reason or logic behind it. I think their website has become less user friendly since their update as well.

The program I think that is leading the way, right now, is United.

By redeeming 220,000 Marriott Points, I can have 77,000 United miles. Those 77,000 miles will be good for 2 one ways to Europe, or a few domestic flights. Not to mention, if I could take advantage of the Excursionist Perk with international roundtrip tickets.

Also, keeping the miles from expiring would be very easy. I would just buy a gift card from their MXP app and BOOM, the clock resets.

The other option that is in the running and I am sure many of you will not agree, is Delta. Yes, you read that correctly.

My little airport has 3 airlines that fly from it: Delta, American Airlines, and United (seasonally). I typically use my Delta miles to reposition to New York, so this would give me many flights to New York.

Even with Delta’s lack of award chart, there are positives I find with the program. Their miles do not expire and their award sales can be pretty solid at times. Delta’s most recent award sale was 32,000 miles roundtrip to Europe. Their program definitely is not perfect and you aren’t going to extract some inflated 37 cents per point using them.

For my travel, they actually work out well.

Thinking About the Certificate:

Currently, you can electively turn in your free night certificate for 45,000 Marriott points, which under the new program will equal 15,000 airline miles.

There have been rumblings that Marriott is going to cancel and issue points for unused Marriott certificates from the Flights and Night packages. I prefer airline miles to hotel points, so for me this could actually work out well.

One thought being floated around is that Marriott will just give everyone 45,000 Marriott points and cancel their unused Marriott certificates. I actually think this would be a terrible move by Marriott. Many people want to use that certificate for a week at a hotel.

If Marriott were to cancel those certificates and interchange them for points, what could that point exchange be?

The Point Exchange

Now, I am only going to take a look at the category 1-5 for this breakdown.

Let’s take a look at Marriott’s upcoming award chart:

This part is speculative, but these are the thoughts that run through my head.

If Marriott only gave 45,000 Marriott points, that would only be enough for a week at a category 1 hotel. Keep in mind it would be good for 6 nights, but you do receive the 5th night free benefit, which would make it a week. That would really make many people mad since that would yield one night at a category 5.

On the flip side, I think there is no way Marriott gives people 210,000 Marriott points for a standard category 5 hotel in exchange for their unused certificates.

I think a reasonable compromise would be to fall between the category 3 and 4 hotels, let’s say 20,000 points per night.

While I am still not convinced they would do this, I think 120,000 Marriott points would be a fairly good compromise. Not only would this give you more options for hotels, this could also turn into 50,000 airline miles. Which I personally would be happy with.

Take it One Step Further:

I currently have a 222,646 Marriott points and that means I am only ~48,000 Marriott points away from redeeming for more airline miles.  I could move 48,000 Membership Reward points and have 48,000 Marriott points.

If I were to redeem for United, those extra 48,000 points with give me 55,000 United miles. Which would be pretty solid since it would be basically transferring at a rate greater than 1:1

This would also give me 50,000 extra Delta miles. Not to mention I wouldn’t need to pay that stupid excise tax to move my Membership Reward Points to Delta.

The question I keep coming back too is, should I move my Membership Points to Marriott and redeem them without having a plan in place?

Now I have some upcoming travel this fall, but nothing is set yet.

Factoring in the Unused Certificate:

This piece of the puzzle that will need to be speculated until Marriott confirms their plans. I am sure they are waiting on this. If they plan to destroy this, I am sure they will see a lot of redemptions before August 1.

On the low end I would expect to have 15,000 extra airline miles, if Marriott gave 45,000 points for the unused certificate. If they were to go with my thought, I would receive 50,000 airline miles. And if for some reason they actually went full on category 5 equivalent, I would have an extra 85,000 airline miles. Which would be great, but don’t count on it.

This could mean, by my math and assumption, my unused certificate will give me anywhere between 15,000 to 85,000 airline miles. Quite the range, huh?

My Point Return:

United Return:

If I were to redeem 220,000 Marriott points for the United category 1 -5 package, I will have 77,000 miles to start, with the potential of 15,000 additional miles. I’m thinking it will be closer to 50,000 miles, but we will see.

Which would mean I would have 92,000 to 127,000 United miles for 220,000 Marriott Points. This would be a ratio of 1.73 Marriott points to 1 United mile or 2.39 Marriott points to 1 United Mile.

If I were to move my Membership Reward point to redeem 270,000 Marriott Points for a United package, I would have 132,000 United miles. Add on 15,000 to 50,000 miles for the unused certificates.

This would mean I would have anywhere between 147,000 to 182,000 United Miles. My ratio would be 1.83 Marriott points to 1 United miles or 1.48 Marriott points to 1 United mile.

That would be quite a nice haul of points for 270,000 Marriott points, in my opinion.

Delta Return:

The Delta packages are very similar to the United package, except it does’t have the extra 10% bonus transfer.

Redeeming 220,000 Marriott points for a Delta package, would give me 70,000 Delta miles with possibly 15,000 to 50,000 additional miles. This would breakdown to a ratio of 2.58 Marriott points to 1 Delta mile or 1.83 Marriott points to 1 Delta mile.

If I chose redeemed 270,000 Marriott points for a Delta package, I’d have 120,00 Delta miles plus the 15,000 to 50,000 Delta miles. This would give me a ratio of   2 Marriott points to 1 Delta miles or 1.58 Marriott points to 1 Delta mile.

This would also save me money on the excise tax from American Express.

Thoughts:

While I am not a fan of moving point without a plan, there is good value for me in these programs. Considering the fact Marriott is going to give points in exchange for unused certificates could be beneficial for me.

The biggest question mark is do I transfer my Membership Reward points to Marriott, or just redeem the 220,00 Marriott points I have? On top of that, which program should I choose? Delta is my main carrier, but United offers me more miles and I could still find a use for them as well.

While there is currently a 10% bonus when you transfer to United, this could be pulled before August 1st as well.

I’m sure I am not alone in speculating how to redeem my Marriott points for a Flights and Night package before August 1st.

Do you plan to use your Marriott points for a Flights and Nights package?

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About the author

Dustin

After completing 6 years of pharmacy school, I finally had the time to travel. I started investigating ways to travel for less and when I redeemed my first award flight for my honeymoon, I knew I was hooked! Fast forward a couple of years and places I had never dreamed of visiting like Budapest, Honolulu, Bermuda and many other places where all within my reach, and for little to no money out of my pocket. Now, I have collected well over a million points and miles, and try to help people travel for less on their wallet.

10 Comments

  • You could also purchase $16,000 SPG during the promo to top off your redemption. This would cost $364, which to me is cheaper than spending at minimum $480 of MR.

    • Trebol took my words exactly. I have the exact same issue…problem is no redemption in mind, it would be to get some Alaska miles. I hate buying points though, so if you have a spg card, you could buy a ton of giftcards at $11 per 1k…..thoughts?

      • Please explain for me what you mean by a 1K gift card gor$11. I’m left brained so I’d appreciate step by step instructions!
        Thanks!

  • >Do you plan to use your Marriott points for a Flights and Nights package?

    In a word: no.

    I value flexibility, and locking my flexible Marriott points into a single air currency and an inflexible certificate without very specific plans for either isn’t my idea of a great deal.

    If I had a solid plan for the miles or certificate, I’d certainly consider it. I did a vacation package last year right before SWA finally disallowed CP-earning through hotel transfers, and I did so without a plan for the certificate. I was fine with this, because even if I’d thrown the certificate away I would have been getting what I considered to be solid value for 90k Starpoints: 120k RR points and a companion pass.

    I can tell you one thing for sure: I would absolutely not redeem for anything less than the 120k mile package, and even then certainly not for Skymiles. Nor would I transfer MR to complete a package. If you really want to get a package, I’d buy enough Starpoints to get 270k Marriott points for a 120k/132k package.

    But to be honest, from what you write I don’t think it makes sense for you to be going after this.

  • The way this makes sense to me is: you do not care about Marriott points going forward, you expect a major devaluation after 8/1, and those positioning flights are overpriced due to the lack of competition (where you’re getting 2-3 cents/mile redemptions). Since it looks like those 3 fit, then I’d go for it in your situation. However, by buying the SPG points to get up to the 120K mile packages (as Trebol says), you’re adding on to the deal. Let me show you:

    Every Marriott point is 1 mile when you’re upgrading the packages, as you move up the range. If you buy SPG points at 2.3 cents each, you’re paying .77 cents for each airline mile. That’s a price that every points hacker in the world would pay. So if it makes sense to convert at 70K, it makes more sense to convert the 120K. Positioning flights are like toilet paper: if there comes a time you don’t need them, you have far greater problems. 🙂 So you might as well grab the points when they are cheap.

    As for myself, I put my cert on a reservation today, and I’m sitting on the points for 2 more. I’m tempted to hedge by being in every position (1 reserved cert, 1 floater cert, 1 pile of points able to convert), but for now I’m hoping to get enough advance notice to make an informed choice.

  • Are you saying Marriott is going to take a valid 1 week hotel cert and cancel it Aug 1 and turn it into points or you’re just guessing?

    I have a trip I’m doing and I can’t figure out if I should do the nights and flights or not. Westin Rusutsu is 20,000 SPG a night based on more than 4 nights. I have a little over 90k SPG so I was going to book the points and cash for 10,000 SPG per night plus $180/night for a total of 50,000 SPG and $1,050 with tax and fees.

    Now that I’ve seen the new nights and flights on Marriott, which sucks, I want to redeem my SPG now for the package. The Westin Rusutsu is considered a Cat 7 so according to the current chart I just need to do a min of 260,000 for a Cat 7 cert and 55k UA miles. I’m thinking I’ll at least go to the next package for 280k to get 77k UA miles and a week at a Cat 7. 90,000 SPG being 270,000 I can get 3,000 more SPG pretty quickly.

    So the question is can I do this? Rusutsu isn’t a Marriott Cat 7 yet right, but it will be Aug 1 so will my cert I get now work? If so it seems to be a no-brainer to me. Instead of 5 nights we stay for 7 nights and I pick up 77,000 miles and UA ha biz class one-way for 45,000 to CTS.

    Any help would be appreciated if this makes sense and people think this will work. Thanks!

    • Hey Sho’nuff,

      It is still unclear what Marriott plans to do with the unused Marriott certificates. Buzz is they will give equal points. The question is how many points would they give.

      If you have a particular redemption in mind (which it seems you do), you’re definitely wanting to book the flights and night package before August 1. When you call in to redeem, you can book your hotel right there. If you have your certificate attached to a reservation before August 1, you’ll be good to go. If not you risk missing out on that redemption.

      Thanks for reading! I appreciate it!

      • The Westin Rusutsu isn’t able to be booked on Marriott points yet though, right, it’s still only SPG? That’s my dilemma.

        • Hey Sho’nuff,

          I misread your comment! Yeah that is quite the dilemma. You are right, you won’t be able to book that until after August 1. I am hoping Marriott gives a little more information on what will happen to unused certificates after August 1.

          I would hold until later in July. You could gamble, purchase the category 7 for Marriott and hope Marriott honors that for your trip. I bet we hear something in the next couple of weeks. They won’t want to completely blind side people.

          I know that doesn’t really help, but until Marriott gives more info, you would have to make an assumption as this point. Which is never good

  • I like your idea a lot.
    I’d have 1.1M Marriott points, which will be devalued significantly after SPG conversion. Do you have any other suggestions to uphold its value?

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