Marriott offers a good Marriott Rewards points-to-airline miles transfer option if you have a boatload of points and want to take to the air in conjunction with a 7-night hotel reward stay. The hotel nights and air miles come together in one award, yet the miles portion is deposited into your frequent flyer account for whatever purpose you choose.
The basic Marriott Rewards Hotel + Air package is a 7-night hotel stay reward at the normal redemption rate for participating Category 1-8 hotels. The deal has lesser value for Category 1-4 hotels since the Hotel + Air Reward tables lump Category 1-5 hotels together in the same points level.
The high value of Marriott Rewards Hotel + Air packages comes with the airline miles included in the reward. Basically miles are available at an even exchange of 1 Marriott Rewards point = 1 airline mile with 14 airlines if you have a sufficiently high level of points to take advantage of the opportunity.
Participating Airlines at 10 Marriott Rewards points = 10 airline miles:
2. Air Canada,
3. Alaska Airlines,
4. American Airlines,
5. British Airways,
6. Continental Airlines,
7. Delta Air Lines,
8. Frontier Airlines,
9. Hawaiian Airlines,
11. United Airlines,
12. US Airways,
13. Varig Brasil,
14. Virgin Atlantic
The Marriott Rewards Hotel + Air Package reward starts at 200,000 points. You need to be a Marriott Rewards high roller with a large number of points to ante in to this game. 200,000 points can exchange into a 7-night, Category 5 hotel reward (150,000 points value) + 50,000 airline miles. Basically the miles are an even exchange for points with the airlines listed above.
This exchange for United Mileage Plus and Continental OnePass members is even better than Starwood Preferred Guest. SPG exchanges at a reduced rate of 2 points = 1 mile for these two airline partners (20,000 Starpoints = 12,500 miles after bonus), whereas most airlines exchange at rate of 1:1 or 25,000 miles for 20,000 Starpoints.
Marriott Rewards has additional international airline partners that exchange at a lower rate for these Hotel + Air package rewards.
Participating Airlines with exchange rate around 10 Marriott Rewards points = 7 airline miles:
1. Air Berlin,
2. Air China,
3. Air France/KLM,
6. Asiana Airlines,
7. Cathay Pacific,
8. China Southern,
10. Japan Airlines,
11. Jet Airways,
13. Lufthansa/Miles & More,
15. Singapore Airlines,
16. TAP Air Portugal
Singapore Airlines is another SPG airline partner (SPG link to airline partners list) that has a lower exchange rate of 2 Starpoints per KrisFlyer mile. On the other hand, LAN has a 1 Starpoint = 2 LAN kilometers and SPG offers the better exchange rate for LAN airline.
Southwest Airlines exchange rate is 1,500 Marriott Rewards points = 1 Southwest credit. Southwest in not an SPG airline partner.
Starwood Nights and Flights
SPG offers the Nights and Flights award at 60,000 Starpoints for 5 nights at a Category 3 hotel + 50,000 miles.
70,000 Starpoints will get 5 nights at a Category 4 hotel + 50,000 miles. Only airlines with a 1:1 exchange rate are available.
Normally a SPG member can exchange 20,000 points for 25,000 airline miles. The Nights and Flights award is an even better exchange for points-to-miles.
SPG 5-night award for a Category 3 hotel is regularly 28,000 points using 5th Night Free award.
SPG 5-night award for a Category 4 hotel is regularly 40,000 points using 5th Night Free award.
Nights and Flights Category 3 award gives 50,000 miles for an additional 32,000 points over the hotel award component. Regularly a member would only receive 37,000 miles for 32,000 Starpoints.
(20,000 Starpoints = 25,000 airline miles) + (12,000 Starpoints = 12,000 airline miles) = 37,000 miles
50,000 airline miles only costs 32,000 points when using a Category 3 Nights and Flights award rather than the usual 40,000 points when exchanging points-to-miles. Nights and Flights for a Category 3 Hotel award gives the member a 20% savings on points-to-miles exchange in addition to the 5th night free 20% savings on the hotel award.
The savings are even better with a Category 4 Nights and Flights award at 70,000 points. In this case 50,000 miles are only 30,000 points based on the regular 5th night free 40,000 points for a Category 4 hotel. 50,000 miles for 30,000 Starpoints is a 25% discount on the regular points-to-miles exchange rate where 40,000 Starpoints = 50,000 miles.
The advantage of SPG Nights and Flights is the lower relative cost in points for these awards. In my opinion, it is easier to accumulate 60,000 Starpoints than 200,000 Marriott Rewards points, but earning potential is relative to elite status, hotel stays, promotion participation, and credit card earnings. A Platinum member in Marriott Rewards can probably earn 200,000 Marriott points more quickly than 60,000 Starpoints as an SPG member with no elite status or Starwood American Express card.
Credit card earnings probably favor Starwood American Express at 1 point/$1 compared to Marriott Visa 1 point/$1 for most non-travel purchases and 2 points per $1 for dining, airlines, and rental cars.
The main limitation to the SPG Nights and Flights package is availability only for Category 3 and Category 4 hotels. The exclusion of Category 5 hotels for Nights and Flights awards severely restricts hotel choice in locations like Mexico resorts, San Francisco, New York, London, and Paris. Marriott Rewards has a distinct advantage with the inclusion of all hotel categories, including the highest Marriott Rewards level Category 8 for Hotel + Air rewards.
Note to SPG
Starwood Preferred Guest should seriously consider expanding the Nights and Flights offer for higher category hotels to improve the total package options. I think this would be a relatively simple and meaningful program enhancement for SPG to implement.
Starwood Preferred Guest
New Members Offer for Instant SPG Gold Elite through February 2011 (normally requires 10 hotel stays or 25 nights in a calendar year), plus 1,000 bonus points per night through March 31, 2010.