I feel compelled to issue a reality check based on the overwhelming pitch by bloggers for Starwood Preferred Guest being the primary program to consider when transferring hotel points for the US Airways points-to-miles 50% bonus from March 11-31, 2012.
Several travel blogs over the past 24 hours have discussed the US Airways hotel points transfer bonus promotion and most of the commentary suggests no other hotel program is worth considering besides SPG to get the best miles value from your hotel points.
Personally, the only hotel programs that give you a decent value when transferring is Starwood Preferred Guest. For every 20,000 SPG points you can get 37,500 US Airways points – which is pretty awesome! – Deals We Like
Through March 31st, US Airways is giving a 50% bonus when you transfer miles from a hotel program partner into Dividend Miles. They have a bunch of hotel partners, but the only one worth considering here is Starwood. – Online Travel Review
The best transfer bonus here would be with Starwood Preferred Guest. SPG points transfer at a 1:1 ratio to US Airways Dividend Miles, and for every 20,000 points you transfer you get a 5,000 point bonus. That means transferring 20,000 SPG points would earn you 37,500 Dividend Miles during this promotion. That means you’re basically earning 1.875 US Airways Dividend Miles per SPG point, which is an amazing transfer ratio. – One Mile at a Time
One of the biggest opportunities here is to transfer Starwood points, because this promotion stacks on top of the existing 5,000 mile bonus Starwood adds to each 20,000 point transfer to US Airways. So 20,000 Starpoints = 25,000 US Airways miles + this 50% promotion = 37,500 miles. – The Points Guy
The obvious way to leverage this is with Starwood points, 20,000 points normally yield 25,000 miles but with this offer would yield 37,500 miles. – View from the Wing
At first, I was super excited since US Airways has many hotel partners, but then reality quickly came rushing back in as I remember that the transfer ratios from most of the partners are pretty crummy. The best play for many people who have large Membership Rewards balances will be to convert American Express Membership Rewards to Starwood Preferred Guest points at a ratio of 2 Membership Reward points: 1 SPG point. – Mommy Points
Reality Check on SPG
My reality check for these bloggers is to point out that Starwood Preferred Guest does not have the best points-to-miles exchange rate among hotel loyalty programs when comparing programs based on the rate points are earned for hotel stays.
The competitive advantage of SPG is its high earning rate of 1 point per dollar for everyday spend on the SPG American Express card. That is a competitive advantage over other hotel loyalty program credit cards. But that advantage is not the same as having the best points-to-miles exchange rate for hotel loyalty programs.
Unless your earning is primarily from credit card spend outside hotel stays, then SPG is not the hotel program with the best points-to-miles transfer rate for this US Airways 50% bonus. I might also argue that SPG points are one of the most valuable points for hotel stays with competitive advantages over Club Carlson, Marriott Rewards, Hyatt Gold Passport and Wyndham Rewards for the ability to save lots of money with Cash & Points and 5th night free award stays using Starpoints. Marriott matches 5th night free, but doesn’t have Cash & Points option. Club Carlson has Cash & Points option, but not as good as SPG and there is no Club Carlson discount for extended reward stays. Therefore, SPG hotel points are the points I would hold and spend hotel points in the other leading points-to-miles hotel transfer programs if you have a choice of hotel points to transfer.
Comparison of hotel program points-to-US Airways miles exchange rates
In this post I show how different hotel programs match up when hotel spend is correlated to points earned and the points-to-miles transfer to US Airways.
The tables below do not include the 50% US Airways bonus miles. These are simply tables to show how programs match up at specific levels of hotel spend when all the points earned are transferred into airline miles.
Marriott Rewards, Club Carlson and Wyndham Rewards match or exceed the SPG points-to-miles transfer rate in most cases for people who earn their points primarily through hotel stays and hotel spend.
In January/February I published several hotel points-to-miles exchange rate tables. I never got around to publishing US Airways. This is probably a better situation to post the tables when readers are more engaged to see the comparison as it involves an actual transfer promotion with US Airways.
The tables below assume hotel loyalty members are staying at hotel brands with the best earning rate. For example, Marriott Residence Inn and TownePlace Suites earn only 5 points/$1 and the table is based on 10 points/$1. Wyndham Rewards only has one brand Hawthorn Suites earning less than 10 points/$1.
I have deleted HHonors from the table due to US Airways being the worst exchange rate of any airline in HHonors and HHonors having the worst points-to-miles exchange rate of any hotel loyalty program. Even a 50% bonus doesn’t make it worthwhile to transfer HHonors points to US Airways miles.
Note: these tables are not based on the US Airways 50% bonus miles promotion.
This table shows that a member without elite status or credit card consideration will get the best points-to-miles exchange rate with Wyndham Rewards. After $7,000 in hotel spend the Wyndham Rewards member will have earned 70,000 points, enough points for 28,000 US Airways miles.
SPG member will have earned only 14,000 points for 14,000 miles.
Wyndham Rewards has the best points-to-miles exchange rate when comparing the rate of earning points per dollar in hotel spend. 2.5 points = 1 mile in Wyndham Rewards. That is a fixed rate regardless of the number of points transferred.
The disadvantage for Wyndham Rewards is the program does not offer elite status for bonus points. SPG Gold or Platinum earns 50% bonus points, Marriott Platinum earns 50% elite member bonus points and Club Carlson Concierge earns 75% elite bonus points. These programs improve ranking and Wyndham drops as elite bonus points are factored. Hyatt Gold Passport offers the same 25% miles bonus at transfers of 50,000 points that SPG offers at 20,000 points. Hyatt Diamond members see a comparative drop as the 30% bonus points in Gold Passport are exceeded by higher elite bonuses in Club Carlson, SPG and Marriott Rewards.
Note: Hyatt Gold Passport ends its partnership with US Airways on March 15, 2012.
Club Carlson’s high points-to-miles exchange rate combined with the highest elite bonus points at 75% for Concierge members means this is the fastest earning program for US Airways miles from hotel stays.
Club Carlson’s disadvantage is the lack of a credit card, but a recently inked deal with US Bank should bring a Club Carlson cobranded Visa card to the market by the end of 2012.
Wyndham Rewards still offers a better rate of earning US Airways miles than SPG for most members (under 75 nights/year) when not considering the credit card or hotel promotions. SPG will likely have better points earning promotions than Wyndham.
Marriott Rewards Platinum members still earn miles faster than SPG members based on hotel spend and assuming the Marriott Rewards member is not staying at Residence Inn or TownePlace Suites where the points earning rate is 50% of other Marriott hotel brands.
Marriott Rewards and Club Carlson still rank high in this comparison factoring in credit card spend for hotel stays. Wyndham Rewards credit card keeps that program in the running for one of the best points-to-miles exchange rates.
Bottom line is that while SPG has a great credit card for earning Starpoints, the actual exchange rates for points-to-miles transfers favor several other hotel loyalty programs over SPG for the hotel guest not spending tens of thousands of dollars on the SPG American Express credit card.
Transfer Hotel Points between member accounts
Another consideration for the US Airways hotel points promotion for 50% bonus miles is the option to transfer points between member accounts to increase your balance to a more favorable exchange rate level.
The ability to transfer points between two member accounts is probably the most useful strategy for bigger value hotel rewards. The transfer of points has the most variability in rules across hotel programs.
Club Carlson: free transfer of unlimited points through Member Services.
Hilton HHonors: member may receive unlimited points. Sender pays $25 fee per 10,000 points.
Hyatt Gold Passport: free transfer of minimum points needed for reward redemption between any two members.
IHG Priority Club Rewards: maximum 50,000 points receivable per member account. Sender pays $5.00 per 1,000 points.
Marriott Rewards: free transfer of minimum points needed for reward redemption between spouses/domestic partner members.
Starwood Preferred Guest: free transfer between members with same residential address for at least 30 days. SVO Vacation members may transfer points between accounts regardless of address.
Club Carlson has the most liberal policy for point transfers. A member can transfer points to any member free of charge with no maximum limit. Hyatt and Marriott allow one member to transfer the minimum points needed for a reward stay to another member with no fee, but Marriott limits this to spouses/partners. Starwood allows unlimited point transfers to members at same address. Priority Clubis more restrictive with both transfer fees and recipient points limit.
Marriott Air + Hotel Packages
One of the best reward values to combine with this US Airways 50% bonus miles for hotel points transfer is the Marriott Rewards Air + Hotel Packages.
200,000 Marriott Rewards points can be redeemed for 7 nights at a category 5 hotel and 50,000 miles (remember reward categories change March 15, 2012). This package will result in 75,000 miles and 7 nights at a category 5 hotel after the US Airways 50% bonus.
At the upper end of miles is 270,000 points for 120,000 miles and 7 nights at a category 5 hotel. Higher category hotel packages are available but 120,000 miles is the highest miles transfer.
At 270,000 Marriott Rewards points the Vacation Package miles increases from 75,000 US Airways miles for 200,000 points to 180,000 miles after the 50% bonus. Plus you have 7 nights at a Marriott Rewards hotel. You receive 105,000 more US Airways miles for 70,000 more Marriott Rewards points with the higher miles travel package.
Now that is a great Marriott Rewards points-to-miles exchange rate!
Reality check for all you SPG spenders.