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

All of the major hotel points currencies allow you to transfer your points into airline miles.  You will often find the airlines encouraging it – every 9-10 months, British Airways offers a 35% transfer bonus when you move hotel points into Avios.  This offer last ran in February so I wouldn’t expect it to return until the end of the year.

Today, 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 if converted

Hilton Honors – 80,000-90,000 points = 8,000-9,000 Avios

IHG Rewards Club – 50,000-60,000 points = 10,000-12,000 Avios

Le Club AccorHotels – 15,000 points (for €300 voucher) = 7,500 Avios into BA or 15,000 Avios into Iberia Plus (always convert your Accor points to Iberia!)

Marriott Rewards – 45,000 points = 12,000 Avios

Melia Rewards – 28,000 points and up = 8,400 Avios

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

World of Hyatt – 30,000 points = 12,000 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 are lucky to get 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 and Hilton Honors, where you can now use as few as 5,000 points for a cash discount on your next booking, 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.  That said, since I did that I have ended up earning additional points in most of those schemes.  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 old series of articles on expiry dates covered the current rules for each hotel scheme – see our ‘Hotel Promos’ page for links.  Starting tomorrow, I will be updating these articles.

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.  Starwood is often the only UK partner for a lot of niche airline programmes and the Starwood Amex the only way to earn their miles via daily spend as a UK resident.

Final thought. You can transfer IHG Rewards Club points to someone else for $5 per 1000, Hilton Honors points for free via the new Points Pooling option 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 for yourself.

(Want to earn more hotel points?  Click here to see our complete list of promotions from the major hotel chains or use the ‘Hotel Promos’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

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Comments

  1. Relaxo says:

    Just to ad- you can transfer SPG points for free even if not at same address by converting to Marriott points first. Transfers to other members are free if you have status.

    • But there are numerical limits.

      • 30k SPG cap and a 50k Marriott cap. Therefore you could transfer 80k points between friends/family members.

  2. SPG points can also be used to book flights on almost all airlines but usually give better value for hotel nights at SPG or Marriott.

    • That deal, SPG Flights, has got more generous because it is $ denominated. See our recent article.

  3. Alex W says:

    I’m hoping I’ll have enough Marriott/SPG points for a travel package in time for the next 35% transfer bonus to BA. Although if Virgin does a bonus I’d prefer that.

  4. Peter K says:

    Sorry for the many part comment.
    1) How long does it take for SPG points to transfer to a new partner? I’ve done it in the past but can’t remember :-/
    2) Does anyone know how easy it is to get availability on SAS? Is the best way to join their scheme and find out?
    3) I tried to use Virgin Miles online to book (SAS) to Copenhagen but it said they don’t fly there. Would I need to ring customer services to do it?
    Many thanks.

    • idrive says:

      yes sure you need to call the Customer Service, they are great! online you can book only Virgin flights

      • Peter K says:

        I rang and there is a “one way agreement” between Virgin and SAS whereby you can earn VS miles from an SAS flight but you cannot redeem VS miles on SAS flights :-(

  5. JamesW says:

    Off Topic:
    Are there a few blogs (probably German) which do a lot on TopBonus (Etihad & Airberlin).
    Cheers.

    • A few. You Have Been Upgraded, Vielfliegertreff (may have spelt that wrong), probably more. All in German, of course.

  6. OT: If you cancel your Hilton Barclaycard, do you settle the remaining balance straight away? How soon do you get your HH points in your HH account as normally it’s once a month which is quite annoying as yow often need them sooner.

    • Account is not closed until you have paid it off. Check rules to see if they still transfer points once you have given notice.

    • You should receive the points at the usual time the next month.

      Closure of the account just means no more new spending. You pay off the remaining balance as usual, which for most of us means in full by direct debit the next month. But if you wanted you could pay the minimum payment and continue accumulating 20% interest per year for several years until it was all paid off.

  7. Nick Burch says:

    OT Just had an email from Amex “Spend £7,000 or more on your British Airways American Express® Premium Plus Card between 1 June and 31 July 2017 and we’ll give you 7,000
    bonus Avios”

    No registration link, email says “No need to register. Just reach for your Card and off you go.”

    No idea how general an offer it is, and if other people have alternate targets?

    • Choons says:

      Hi, I got one, spend GBP3k for 3,000 avios. Maybe I should make them a counter offer rather than it being a one-way thing.

    • I got the same, very much doubt it will be happening! Even if we were spending £7k, which we’re not, much of it would be abroad where I’d be mad to pay the 3% Amex fee.

    • Andrew says:

      I got the same, too. Highly unlikely to spend £7k in the time given (and if I do it’ll be unplanned and so I’ll be a very unhappy camper).

  8. Another buy SPG points promo @ 35% off. Have already bought the max in a previous promotion. Can my mum buy 30k and transfer to me, assuming we live at same address?

  9. Off topic:
    Rob, Could you refer me for Amex Preferred Rewards Gold please?

    Thanks.

    • No problem, will ping you an email once I’ve got the kids in bed!

      • Thanks,

        By the way, what do you think that is easiest way to earn Hilton points? Planning a big redemption but I’m 100.000 points short.

        • Amex Gold / Plat or the Virgin credit cards, transferring the bonus. Amex Plat is 35k if I refer you which is 70k Hilton and you’d get the points as soon as you hit the spending target. Minimal Platinum fees if you cancel quickly.

          • But I suppose spending Amex points on Avios is a better deal, isn’t it?
            Btw, still waiting for the referral :)

          • I did it 2 minutes after you posted that, by coincidence!

  10. Down the back says:

    Hi Rob,
    Slightly OT but saw something on FT today that said Hilton are running a promotion where for 5 stays you get 10k Avios bonus by setting your preference to points and miles. I’ve just done the status match with Hilton to Diamond (not had any stays yet), 1) Does a stay at any Hilton group hotel count ie Hampton Inn etc towards the 8 stays match and 2) Is it better to change points and miles partner from Iberia to BA to get the 10k bonus or leave as IB as better conversion rate ?

    Thanks

    DTB

    • Hi, May ask what do you mean by “IB as better conversion rate”. Is it better to use Iberia than BA?

      • With Accor, yes. You get double what you’d get with BA.

        Hilton ‘points and miles’ – outside of a promo – is 50% more generous credited to Iberia too.