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

The American Airlines promotion offering a 20% bonus on transfers from Starwood Preferred Guest is still running until August 7th.   Partly inspired by this deal, and partly by my article yesterday on the value of a Hilton HHonors point, I wanted to consider if it ever makes sense to transfer hotel points to airlines.

Hotel logo

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

Club Carlson – 70,000 points = 7,000 Avios

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

Hyatt Gold Passport – 30,000 points = 12,000 Avios

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

Le Club Accorhotels – 16,000 points (for €320 voucher) = 8,000 Avios into BA or 16,000 Avios into Iberia Plus

Marriott Rewards – 45,000 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 generally better leaving large stashes of hotel points where they are. Assuming you value Avios points at 1p each, you don’t 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 American Express 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. My recent series of articles on expiry dates covered the current rules for each hotel scheme – see our ‘Hotel Promos’ page for links.

The other thing to remember is that the hotel chains convert to many airlines, often over 20.  Perhaps you will get more value converting to another scheme?  I have converted SPG points to Lufthansa Miles & More in the past, because I love the Lufthansa First Class service but their miles are hard to earn in the UK.

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 once 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 to reach the target they need for a hotel room is a better deal than a handful of Avios.

(Want to earn more hotel points?  To see our complete list of promotions from 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.)

Bookable from 2pm-ish: new list of 5,000 point per night IHG PointBreaks (inc HI T5!)
How to pre-order your BA duty free for at-seat delivery (and earn Avios!)
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Comments

  1. Just a reminder raffles, the site linked to (http://www.flyingabroad.co.uk/points-converter) provides a nice and easy (well I think so!) way to check how much you get when transferring across . I tried to capture bonues too, where possible.

  2. One thing to consider is that it is often possible to get approaching 20% back on cash bookings through online cash back and points etc, especially if you don’t have / are willing to give up status benefits by booking through a third party (e.g. hotels.com).

    In the Accor example €320 is currently worth about £230, but taking off 20% brings it down to £184 – not so much more than the 1p/Avios valuation if exchanged via Iberia. I have a stash that I’m keeping as Accor points at the moment but will convert if I don’t happen to find myself booking an Accor stay before they expire. It isn’t worth going out of my way to stay at one of their properties to use them.

  3. Raffles, helpful info as always. I’d be interested in an article about the best way to ‘store’ Amex MR points if about to close an MR account but not yet sure where to best use the points. Of course, it may be best to keep some sort of MR account open…

    • No real options. Your only options on the personal cards are Platinum, Green and Gold. Green has a £60 fee plus I think they charge you £23 for Membership Rewards on top, so not a huge saving.

      • Hi Rob, what about the Platinum/Gold AmEx credit cards to which you refer in your “Avios Promos” section?

        • Most agents will insist you cancel these at the same time as you cancel your Gold / Platinum charge card. You are NOT meant to hold the credit card independently. If you get an agent who doesn’t understand the rules, you may be able to get away with keeping the credit card open – some readers have managed this. It is hardly a strategy I can widely recommend though!

          • Also if you managed to keep the credit cards then your MR account would still be opened, therefore won’t be eligible for any bonus on MR-related cards after 6 months.

      • Hmm, that’s what I thought. Thanks Rob.

  4. Coincidentally I have done this today as it is a good way to sweep up orphan miles.

    I had 2508 in SPG and trf’d the balance to Etihad.

    Both my wife and I recently got the MBNA bonuses for taking out the CC, but I came to the conclusion that with the recent revaluation on Etihad I will be unlikely to be able to redeem for J or F. So I trf’d the small balance from SPG and that tipped me over the threshold to get £250 Sainsbury’s vouchers. Otherwise I could have only got £200 (obviously I could have started spending again on the Etihad card, but want to shut them down asap)

  5. Very helpful info as usual, I’m just considering doing this, but concerned about how long it takes for the conversion to happen? Does it differ between the hotel chains?

    • It varies. It can also vary by chain, because some only transfer once every 3 days / week / fortnight etc, so it depends on how near you are to the next cut-off.