Transferring hotel points to airline miles … when is it worth it?

The British Airways promotion offering a 25% bonus on conversions from hotel schemes into Avios is still running for another two weeks. Triggered by this, reader James emailed me to ask whether I thought it was, in general, worth converting hotel points into airline miles.

The numbers in this article do not reflect the current 25% bonus. However, in general, a 25 per cent bonus is not enough – for any promotion – to make a bad deal a great deal. 50 per cent, yes. 25 per cent is rarely a game changer. This bonus does not change my opinion.

Hotel logo

In general, hotel points are best redeemed for hotel stays. Let’s look at the points needed for a top category redemption, say £250 a night:

Club Carlson – 50,000 points = 5,000 Avios

Hilton HHonors – 80,000 points = 8,000 Avios

Hyatt Gold Passport – 22,000 points = 5,500 Avios

IHG Reward Club – 50,000 points = 10,000 Avios

LeClub Accorhotels – 16,000 points (for €320 voucher) = 8,000 Avios

Marriott Rewards – 40,000 points = 12,000 Avios

Melia Rewards – 28,000 points (and rises) = 4,200 Avios (but 14,000 Miles & More!)

Starwood Preferred Guest – 30,000 points = 35,000 Avios

Apart from Starwood, who have a very good conversion ratio, you are clearly better leaving large stashes of hotel points where they are. Assuming you value Avios points at 1p each, you don’t even get to 50% of the value of the equivalent hotel room, and often a lot worse.

Of course, personal choice also plays a part. You generally get the best value from hotel points in expensive big cities like London or New York. If your travels take you more to Lyon or Newcastle then your hotel points may be worth less to you. If you also find yourself just a few Avios short of an award, transferring from a hotel programme may be a better deal than buying Avios from BA at 1.6p.

If you only have a small amount of hotel points, it is a different game. Apart from IHG Rewards Club, which runs regular sales of rooms at 5,000 points per night (up to 95% off!), small balances can be of little use.

A couple of years ago I tidied up some of my small hotel balances by converting a lot to Avios, often topping up first from Amex Membership Rewards, and didn’t regret it. If you will never earn enough for a free room, you might as well convert.

Expiry dates can also be an issue and can prompt a transfer. Some schemes do expire your miles (Hilton, Starwood) although others (Hyatt, Marriott, IHG) either do not at all or do not actually impose their published expiry rules.

The other thing to remember is that the hotel chains convert to many airlines, often over 20. You may get a 25 per cent bonus via Avios at the moment, but perhaps topping off another account may be more useful?

If you had a huge volume of hotel points, you may be able to get enough points from scratch in, say, the American Airlines programme for a tax-free UK to US redemption. I wrote recently how I used SPG points to book 4 business class seats on Emirates from Dubai to London. Avios are not always the answer.

Final thought. You can transfer IHG Rewards Club points to someone else for $5 per 1000, Hilton points for $25 per 10,000 and SPG points for free if you share an address. Perhaps a transfer to someone who can use a larger total for a hotel room is a better deal than Avios, even with the bonus.

(To see our complete list of all current hotel promotions for the major chains, click here to visit our ‘Hotel Promos’ page or use the link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

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Comments

  1. I hope nobody is just jumping in hesd first and converting SPG to svios because of the current bonus. In many cases they would generally get better value from the standard AA conversion, particularly if they already have arounf 40k miles from the AA credit card and/or their goals are complex multi-sector itineraries.

  2. I rarely earn enough SPG points to get a free night but used to make very good use of the points+cash option. Earlier this year they hiked up hugely the points and the cash elements and in my opinion no longer represent very good value so I decided with the 25% bonus to convert my points to Avios. I also topped up my Emirates account with some on my points in order to have enough for a redemption.

    • Odd that you say you rarely earn enough points for an SPG redemption. Of any program, I think you can earn SPG redemptions the quickest (excluding sign-up bonuses etc.), i.e. £1,500 credit card spend gives you 1,500 points, enough for a points+cash redemption (of course having the AMEX SPG card helps…).

      Where else can you spend so little to earn a redemption? With a reasonable earning rate on an Amex at 1.5 Avios/£1, you need to spend £3,000 to earn a one-way RFS redemption, and still have to pay £17.50 on top. Of course savvy people like us know that you only need to spend at most £1,875 at Tesco to transfer the same number of Avios. Use the Amex and you only need to spent £1,324! But that is restrictive spending, and the Avios could take 3 months to reach your account.

      • I think you’re right, the SPG Amex is key – I had it for a year fee-free and with a sign-up bonus, but didn’t fancy paying another annual fee (on top of the £450 Platinum fee) so cancelled it after the free year. But perhaps it does pay for itself. It’s a shame the MR conversion isn’t 1:1 so I could just stick to using my Platinum.

    • I used to find the SPG points conversion to emirates to be very handy as a means of upgrading an economy sector to Biz class with all the added perks it brings, including chauffeur drive. But Emirates have quietly changed the scheme such that if you book a Skywards Saver fare you cannot use points to upgrade the flight until time of check in, subject to availability and therefore miss out on the chauffeur. You can still upgrade as normal the Skywards Flex ticket which usually costs roughly another 50% (and you do get a lot more points), but it’s another reduction in this schemes generosity which makes using other airlines worth a look, especially with all the Avios that come in from reading HFP every day.

      • Agree – that was a real blow when they changed that – I’m now thinking of just cashing in my EK points for a one way ticket to Dubai in economy and combining with a First Avios ticket with QF – now they are in bed with EK you get the chauffeur drive and access to the EK first lounge in DXB, which is superb.

  3. “If you only have a small amount of hotel points, it is a different game. … small balances can be of little use.”

    Actually, small balances are still generally of better use in the hotel loyalty scheme than in a transfer and one has little choice in the matter. I don’t know all the hotel minimum redemption and conversion values, but I can give the following as examples (in the form of “Program” | minimum points for redemption | minimum points for transfer):

    Club Carlson | 5,000+cash or 9,000 | 2,000
    Hilton HHonors | 7,000 | 10,000
    IHG Rewards Club | 5,000-sale or 10,000 | 10,000
    SPG Starpoints | 1,500+cash or 2,000 | 2,500 (status & airline dependent)

    As you can see, for all except Club Carlson, if your small balance isn’t enough points for a redemption, you certainly don’t have enough for a transfer, and a redemption offers better value as indicated by this article. So if you can’t even get the best value for your points, you don’t have enough to get anything!

    In the case of Club Carlson, however, while not shown as a redemption option on their website, I’ve heard it is possible to transfer points to another member (can anyone confirm?), which as pointed out, could be a more worthwhile route as you retain points value within the program.

    And just to add, while possible to transfer points online from one SPG member to another who share an address, both accounts need to be active and the address must have been the same for at least 30 days.

    • Oops, edit – minimum HHonors redemption is 7,500 points.

    • Yes, I believe Carlson still lets you transfer points if you call, not sure if addresses need to match now. They clamped down a bit, you could do it online and transfer to literally anyone.

  4. A nice BA 30% Avios off deal to Bermuda launched on BA Exec Offers:

    https://www.britishairways.com/travel/ba18.jsp/bermuda-avios-offer/public/en_gb

    Unlike what it says about having to do the hotel too, it can be done separately if you want, so essentially 30% avios off the flight if your not interested in the hotel.

    Hopefully BA will continue to do more of these types of redemption reductions, as it maximises the Avios value further.

  5. Also remember that at Club Carlson, one of the best redemptions are actually with small number of points (5000+cash or 10.000 + cash), since you get almost 50% of your points back on the cash part of the booking (50k points and 5kpoints+cash are usually good redemptions, but the middle csot redemptions are not).

  6. We have transferred ours to BA., as these will give us the flexibility to book an UC into BC, we are currently in EC. I just need the points to post in BA. I have been waiting for them to go across and having palpitations every time I check to see if BC is still available for the three of us for August school hols. My previous redemptions have all taken three days to transfer, I’m currently on day 4 of waiting with the latest batch. I am relying on the bonus to go on too.