This is definitely the last of the series; check out part 1 and part 2. So many words. The point is if you’ve got SPG or Marriott points, you can turn them into airline miles, and I’ll tell you how, because I’m awesome.
To recap, SPG and Marriott points are most valuable for staying in SPG/Marriott/Ritz properties. But they’re also useful for flying, because they transfer to 45 fuckin’ airlines, so you can pretty much go somewhere with them, including on fancy pants five-star airlines that there’s no other easy way to get miles for. But SPG/Marriott poiints are sucky in that their cards earn slowly, and have smallish signup bonuses and highish minimum spending requirements, and the points sometimes transfer to airlines with a delay.
I read this post by The Frequent Miler, who is kind of a fucking genius, and my mind was blown when I learned that you could use SPG/Marriott points to book a Marriott Hotel+Air package, and return the hotel part for more points. You end up with a ton o’ miles at an airline.
Less awesome but still possibly worthwhile options are straight up transfers from SPG to airlines, or Marriott to airlines. Or you can use Starpoints to pay for any ticket based on its cash price (not the best deal, but, hey, it’s there).
You can transfer SPG to Marriott at 1 to 3, and vice versa, as you like. I’m going to assume you’ll figure out where to do that (i.e. if you’ve got Marriott points and I’m talking about SPG transfers, you’d first transfer them to SPG, at 3 Marriott to 1 SPG).
Anyway, I’ll try to walk through this confusing shit. Just for my own sake.
Marriott Hotel+Air packages:
Marriott Hotel+Air packages are the best redemptions of SPG or Marriott points besides actually staying at an SPG/Marriott/Ritz. For 270,000 Marriott points (90,000 SPG), you get a pile of airline points, and a 7-night certificate. (You can also trade in fewer points for fewer miles, but the rate worsens dramatically, so I don’t suggest it.) According the Frequent Miler (see point 8), If you don’t want to use the free nights, you can call them and exchange the certificate for 45,000 Marriott points.
If you exchange the certificate, you’ll have spent 225,000 Marriott points (75,000 SPG) for 157,000 United miles until November 30, because United’s having a hotel point transfer promo; in other words, 2.09 United miles for every Starpoint, which is fuckin’ awesome. After November 30, you’ll instead get 132,000 miles (1.76 United miles per Starpoint), which is still pretty hot.
(You get the best value with United, because Marriott has a deal with them called RewardsPlus. You see what they did there? Marriott Rewards + MileagePlus = RewardsPlus. Somebody give that marketing intern a permanent job.)
Oh, you don’t like United? You like Delta, and you want to go on about how great they are and how much United sucks? Fuck off. There are lots of blogs for you. I like United. Eat it.
Lucky for you United haters, “Marriott Hotel+Air Package 1” includes Delta, American, Alaska, and some major international airlines, and with that you get 120,000 miles for your 225,000 Marriott (75,000 SPG), which also ain’t bad (1.6 miles per Starpoint). There’s also packages 2, 3, and 4, which cover JetBlue, Southwest, Virgin America, and a pile of other international airlines, but I haven’t done the math to figure out if it’s a good deal or not. The Frequent Miler says packages 2 and 4 offer lesser value than the others. You know what, you should just go read his whole fucking article, it’s better than this one.
If you traded in your 7-might stay certificate, you can transfer the 45,000 Marriott points you get back for still more points, as I’m about to explain, stop being so fucking impatient. If you’re transferring to United, you’ll do better if you transfer 48,000, or better still 56,000, so if you’re close to either of those, you can spend on an SPG card until you have enough. (Remember one Starpoint equals three Marriott points.)
Transferring points from Starwood or Marriott to an airline
The problem with the Marriott Hotel+Air package is that you need 90,000 Starpoints, which means opening 3-4 cards if you don’t have any Starpoints now, and then you need to spend $16,000 over a year, and maybe you don’t want to do that. But you can still come out ok by doing a straight transfer of points to an airline.
Usually, you’re going to want to transfer on the Starwood side, not the Marriott side, because there’s much more flexibility, and it’s usually a better deal. You’re likely only going to want to transfer from Marriott when you need United, which has a shitty transfer rate from SPG, or you want to fly on an airline to which SPG doesn’t transfer.
When you transfer Starpoints, you’re going to want to try to do it in 20,000 point chunks, because you get an extra 5,000 points when you do that, yielding 1.25 airline miles per Starpoint in most cases.
When you transfer Marriott points, you have to do it in pre-set chunk sizes, and the more you transfer, the better you do:
8,000 Marriott (2,667 SPG) = 2,000 United miles (1 SPG = 0.75 United)
16,000 Marriott (5,333 SPG) = 5,000 United miles (1 SPG = 0.94 United)
24,000 Marriott (8,000 SPG) = 10,000 United miles (1 SPG = 1.25 United)
56,000 Marriott (18,667 SPG) = 25,000 United miles (1 SPG = 1.34 United)
(There’s also a fifth chunk size, but it’s exactly double the fourth one in terms of what you transfer and what you get, so there’s no point to it.)
For most other airlines, you’ll always do better transferring on the SPG side, unless you either a) don’t have the option, or b) find an airline that has a poor transfer ratio from SPG. One airline that jumps out at me is GOL, not that I know what that is or where they go. Like I thought that’s what they shout at Euro soccer matches or something.
Paying for a ticket with SPG Flights
SPG Flights ain’t the best deal, compared to being able to transfer SPG points, but if a ticket is cheap, and you don’t have any other usable points lying around, it’s an option. Each point is worth ~1.3 cents, where the more the ticket costs, the worse you do. TPG explains this well here, so I’m not going to.
Holy shit am I glad to be done with this already. I bet you are too. I swear I am not writing another fucking thing on SPG cards again. Unless I figure out something cool about them, of course.