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.
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.
(Thanks to James)