Got Points? Want Miles?

Got Points? Want Miles?

Some frequent guests earn plenty of hotel points with hotel spending, promotion bonuses, and credit cards. Some guests prefer airline miles. When your mom wants to see her grandkids, you need a handful of plane tickets, not hotel rooms.

Several hotel programs allow members to exchange hotel points to airline miles. The exchange rates vary between programs and depend on the specific airline and the amount of points being converted to miles. Hyatt Gold Passport adds 5,000 bonus miles with 50,000 point transfers. Marriott Rewards exchange rate improves incrementally up to 125,000 points-to-miles transfers.

Starwood Preferred Guest adds 25 percent bonus miles with each 20,000 points transfer. Hilton HHonors and IHG Priority Club Rewards have set rates, regardless of points transferred.

Variability in points-to-miles exchange rates between hotel programs and for different airlines within a single program is seen in a comparison of American, Delta and United. A common denominator of $7,000 in hotel spend was used and HHonors Points & Points earning for Hilton. Elite status and promotion bonuses may increase points earned, but are not considered here.

American Airlines
* Marriott (70,000 points) = 25,000 miles
* Hilton (105,000 points) = 15,000 miles
* Hyatt (35,000 points) = 14,000 miles
* IHG Priority Club (70,000 points) = 14,000 miles
* SPG (14,000 points) = 14,000 miles
United Airlines
* Marriott = 25,000 miles
* Hyatt = 14,000 miles
* IHG Priority Club = 14,000 miles
* Hilton = 10,000 miles
* SPG = 7,000 miles
Delta Air Lines
* Marriott = 25,000 miles
* Hyatt = 14,000 miles
* IHG Priority Club = 14,000 miles
* SPG = 14,000 miles
* Hilton = 10,000 miles

Marriott Rewards generally offers the best points-to-miles exchange rates of the major hotel chains. These airlines are a small sample of the dozens of airlines available for points-to-miles with each hotel chain.

In the big picture, a 25,000 mile free domestic airline ticket may not be a great return on $7,000 hotel spend with Marriott, however, upgrade British Airways World Traveller Plus roundtrip to Club World business class for 25,000 miles and you find good value ROI.

Marriott and SPG — Hotel plus Miles Rewards

Marriott Rewards Hotel + Air packages offer members the option to combine a seven-night hotel stay with frequent flyer miles. Miles are deposited into your frequent flyer account for whatever purpose you choose. The points-to-miles exchange rate is 1 point = 1 mile with most major North American airlines, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic. Miles for other international airlines exchange 30 percent lower.

Hotel + Air rewards start at 200,000 points for seven nights in a category 5 hotel (150,000 points value) + 50,000 airline miles. The hotel stay is priced at the normal redemption rate for participating category 5-8 hotels. The deal has lesser value for category 1-4 hotels requiring the same points as category 5 hotels.

Hotel + Air Rewards are one of the best value rewards available with hotel points. Points can be redeemed for up to 120,000 air miles. You need to be a Marriott Rewards high roller with a large number of points to ante up, but you hit the jackpot if you can afford this game.
Hotel + Air Reward tables can be found at http://www.insideflyer.com/link/?2085

Starwood Nights & Flights

SPG offers Nights & Flights, but restricts these hotel plus miles rewards to category 3 and 4 hotels.

Redeem 60,000 points for a five-night stay in a category 3 hotel plus 50,000 miles. Category 4 hotels cost 70,000 points. Only airlines with a 1:1 SPG points exchange rate are available for Nights & Flights awards. Visit http://www.insideflyer.com/link/?2086

SPG members normally exchange 40,000 points for 50,000 miles with most airlines. Nights & Flights awards offer a better exchange rate. Fifth Night Free awards for SPG category 3 hotels are 28,000 points. Nights & Flights is only 32,000 additional points and adds 50,000 miles to your hotel stay. Category 4 Nights & Flights awards are only 30,000 extra points for 50,000 miles.

The exclusion of higher category hotels limits Nights & Flights award usability for locations like New York, London and Paris where most Starwood Hotels are higher than category 4.

Marriott Rewards has a distinct advantage with Hotel + Air rewards allowing all hotel categories, including the highest Marriott Rewards category 8 hotels. Starwood Preferred Guest should seriously consider expanding the Nights & Flights offer to higher category hotels. Other hotel chains should examine the hotel plus miles option as incentive rewards for big spenders.

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