Why Marriott Travel Packages are a great use of Marriott or SPG points – but what happens after August?

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Ever since Marriott acquired Starwood Hotels & Resorts, we have spent a lot more time talking about Marriott Travel Packages than we did previously.

Today I wanted to go back to basics for the benefits of readers who have seen our comments on these but were not clear why we were so keen.  I will also look at what happens to these rewards following the full merger of the Marriott and Starwood loyalty schemes in August.

What is a Marriott Travel Package?

Marriott Travel Packages allow you to redeem large quantities of Marriott Rewards points for 7 nights in a Marriott hotel plus a large pile of airline miles.

Historically I had never focused on them much because of the sheer volume of Marriott points needed.  Because you couldn’t easily earn Marriott Rewards via credit card spending or Amex Membership Rewards transfers, it meant that very few UK residents would find them useful.

This changed with the acquisition of Starwood.  For the last 18 months it has been fairly easy to build up a large pile of Marriott Rewards points:

You can boost your existing Marriott Rewards stash by transferring across any Starwood points, or by converting any Amex Membership Rewards points to Starwood (at 2:1) and then onto Marriott (as 1:3)

You can earn 3 Marriott Rewards points per £1 by getting the Starwood American Express card (my SPG Amex review) and transferring the SPG points you earn to Marriott

You can earn 30,000 Marriott Rewards points via the sign-up bonus on the Starwood American Express card (my SPG Amex review)

You can earn 30,000 Marriott Rewards points via the sign-up bonus on the American Express Preferred Rewards Gold card (my Amex Gold review) which is free for the first year

You can earn 45,000 Marriott Rewards points via the sign-up bonus on the American Express Platinum card (my Amex Platinum review)

How does a Marriott Travel Package work?

This page of the Marriott website outlines all you need to know.  There are different deals for different airlines.  In this article I am looking at British Airways and Virgin Atlantic.

Here is the British Airways and Virgin Atlantic conversion chart.  Remember that you need to divide these numbers by three to get to the relevant number of Starwood points needed, given the 3:1 conversion rate (click to enlarge):

As you can see, 270,000 Marriott Rewards points (90,000 Starwood points) will get you 7 nights in a Marriott Group Category 1-5 hotel AND 120,000 Avios points.

This is a very attractive deal.

At present, if you convert 90,000 Starwood points to British Airways or Virgin you will receive 110,000 Avios points or Flying Club miles.

If you move those 90,000 Starwood points to Marriott Rewards and redeem for this travel package, you will receive 120,000 miles AND 7 nights in a Marriott Category 1-5 hotel!

If you want a more luxurious hotel, you can use you more points.  Let’s take the JW Marriott in Venice which I have visited for a short break three times now and which I reviewed here.

That is a Category 9 hotel, not surprisingly given the €400+ per night cost.  If you have 130,000 Starwood Preferred Guest points, they would convert into 390,000 Marriott points.  That would get you:

7 nights at the JW Marriott in Venice, worth at least £2,500

and

120,000 Avios points or Virgin Flying Club miles

You are getting around 2.5p of value per Starwood point in this case.

The only downside of these packages if that you may not want to stay for a week in the same hotel.  Even if you do, there is no guarantee that reward nights will be available for a seven night block.  The Marriott call centre can book stays with a mix of paid and free nights, for example an 8 night stay which had 3 free nights, 1 paid night in the middle due to no reward availability and then 4 free nights on the end.

To be clear – the miles are dropped into your airline account. You do NOT need to use them for a redemption linked to your stay. You can spend the miles as you please.

Now that you can convert into Marriott Travel Packages, there is NO reason at all to transfer large volumes of Starwood points into Avios or Virgin miles via Starwood Preferred Guest.

You can learn more about Marriott Travel Packages here.

Marriott Travel Packages explained

What will change in August 2018 when the two schemes merge?

There are two elements to this:

What will happen to travel package pricing if you haven’t already redeemed?

What will happen to your existing package if you have already redeemed but not booked the hotel part?

The good news is that Marriott has confirmed that Travel Packages will continue.  The even better news is that, with the addition of the Starwood portfolio, there will be a lot of additional redemption options.  This includes the many Starwood beach resorts in the Algarve and Middle East.

From August, the existing 14 reward categories (nine for Marriott plus the five The Ritz-Carlton tiers) will be collapsed to seven.  Category 8 will be added in January 2019.

With just seven reward categories from August, there will be some changes to Travel Package pricing.  It would be hard for Marriott to devalue the packages by much, because the pricing will always be capped by the individual cost of booking seven hotel nights plus redeeming for airline miles.  Marriott also sees these packages as a great way of locking in members, forcing them to continue staying with the chain to build up enough points to get one.

However, this is what we don’t know:

what the exact pricing will be

which hotels will be in which category

if all airlines will convert at the same rate or, as of now, some are at a higher rate.  At present, a Travel Package gives you more Avios than Lufthansa Miles & More miles for example.  If this was to be equalised, someone who is after Miles & More would do better to wait whilst an Avios collector wouldn’t care.  Of course, perhaps they are equalised somewhere in the middle – so Avios collectors could be worse off.

This means that it is impossible to say with certainty whether redeeming now is a good idea or not, especially if you have a particular hotel in mind.

All we can hope is that Marriott publishes the pricing and hotel category lists in advance of the switch to allow us to make an informed choice.

If you already have a Travel Package redeemed but not booked, you have another dilemma.  Should you lock in your hotel now?

It is not clear how the existing nine categories (14 when you include The Ritz-Carlton tiers) will map across to the new seven reward categories.   It can’t be a ‘1 to 1’ mapping.

If you are targeting a hotel which is currently in the Starwood portfolio and not the Marriott one, you have no choice but to wait until August when the schemes merge.

This article from US site Frequent Miler runs through the various ‘should I book now?’ scenarios.  I couldn’t write a better analysis of the situation if I tried, so I recommend you read this article if you are unsure about what to do.  It is difficult to disagree with the thesis that the current Category 1-5 package will only be bookable at Category 1-4 hotels from August.

(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.)

Bits: BA drops Calgary for the Winter, ebookers discount code, new Charles Tyrwhitt / Avios offer
Bits: new Hertz and Hyatt Amex cashback deals, new Hyatt promo, Marriott Platinum welcome gifts from August
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Comments

  1. Robert says:

    Is it worth noting that, while the “90,000 Starwood = 110,000 miles OR 120,000 miles + 7 nights hotel” comaprison is a no-brainer, if you got your Starwood points through AMEX MR then the other option is a straight 180,000 miles (for MR-to-Avios).

    In which case, is 7 nights in a hotel worth 60,000 avios? (probably in cash value, but it’s down to what you want/need to do).

    • Genghis says:

      If wait till bonus on, most likely.
      Worst case scenario is all Marriotts are from MR (in reality won’t be)
      So 180k MR = 180k avios direct
      Or 180k MR = 162k avios + 7 nights.
      Most people would be happy to forgo 18k avios for 7 nights

      • Robert says:

        How do you convert the 120k avios voucher to 162k avios? Is the 120k voucher treated as “Marriott Rewards” for the purpose of the 35% transfer bonus offer?

      • Genghis says:

        Yes. I did it last year

        • How does this work?

        • Genghis says:
        • the real harry1 says:

          I thought we established that there’s no better way to go MR points—>Avios than direct? Even with bonuses from hotel schemes.

          Eg 180,000 MR points—> 90,000 Starpoints —> 270,000 Marriott Rewards —>35% bonus when converting to Avios on promotion —> theoretical 130,179 Avios (I think!). Worse than going direct MR—>Avios.

          Or option to choose if you go for a package: 270,000 Marriott Rewards —>7 night package + 162,000 Avios when you apply 35% promotion to the 120,000 miles voucher from Marriott & convert to Avios. Going for package is still worse (for Avios) than going direct but as Genghis says, you effectively get 7 nights package for 18,000 Avios.

          Isn’t the real benefit in converting this way to miles schemes other than Avios?

        • Yes – but as you are never going to get enough purely from cards, these were really examples of how to top up if you are getting close.

        • Genghis says:

          “but as you are never going to get enough purely from cards”.
          Mine’s all from card accumulation. Earned 100k SPGs since late last year.

        • You’re right, modest churning of a Gold / Plat and SPG across a couple over a year would get you to 270k I suppose.

  2. Rachael says:

    Surely you could use your voucher and if there is a better deal later cancel. I booked a Dubai apartment at category 7 which changed after booking to 8 but they didn’t request more points.

  3. John Tickner says:

    One other issue I encountered is that the call centres are not familiar with these packages.

    It took a number of calls and about an hour on the phone to get the correct package booked which was originally just done as a straight redemption – so do watch how many miles are deducted !

    • Rachael says:

      Usually you have a 1-5 or 7 etc certificate and you just say I want to use my 1-5 etc voucher for the place chosen and they use it. I have never had a problem.

      • Matthew says:

        Same here. Just book a reward stay online and then phone at a later date to apply the free nights certificate from the travel package. Was done in a few mins when I did it last.

        • Peter K says:

          I found that the USA phone number staff had no clue but that those on the UK number (hidden away on the website) were great.

  4. Another key point is that up to the end of July the seven night hotel package will still benefit from the free breakfast/lounge access if you have Amex Platinum, which will disappear under the new model.

    • Mariusz says:

      Yes. Considering resorts redemptions it’s less of value post Aug.

  5. Simon says:

    If i book a Hilton rewards night for my wife using my points, will she still get free breakfast as I am a SPG/Marriott Gold ?

    • Peter K says:

      Um, no as you need to be Hilton Gold. If you are Hilton Gold then maybe. Technically no but it depends on the hotel. If you put her as the second name on the booking it might go better.

      • Genghis says:

        On Hilton I’ve booked nights for someone else and they received all Diamond benefits

  6. the real harry1 says:

    Can the SPG points just sit there in the Starwood points a/c ad infinitum?

    • New Card says:

      12 months expiry period, I believe.
      Not sure how this will pan out when they all get converted to new Starriott points from 1 August – presumably a new expiry policy will prevail.

      • the real harry1 says:

        thanks – and are there canny ways to keep the points alive? Would sending over 1000 MR points once a year do it?

  7. the real harry1 says:

    With my SPG Amex a/c, are the Starpoints earned transferred automatically to Starpoints a/c? When? Or do I have to trigger it? How?

    • lev441 says:

      They are transfered automatically from the Amex SPG to the starpoints account once a month similar to the BAPP to BAEC

      • the real harry1 says:

        thanks, thought as much, been a while since I had SPG Amex

        • lev441 says:

          It’s a good card. I now put my day-to-day spend through the card, after originally getting it for a quick churn. Double starpoints for three months are also helping towards my travel package!

        • jason says:

          lev441 says: “Double starpoints for three months are also helping towards my travel package!”

          How do you get double starpoints? I am still in my 3 months period since getting Amex SPG

        • Genghis says:

          Threaten to cancel and they might make you an offer

        • jason says:

          Genghis, you are funny/aggressive…I am in my first 3 months since getting the card. Certainly, I would not threaten to leave at this stage (still working to get the sign up bonus)
          🙂

        • Genghis says:

          🙂 I’m just letting you know how to get the offer. I’ve had the offer after only holding the card what, a week or so. Be a bit cheeky on the phone and ask for it.

        • Genghis says:

          Actually, might have been 3 weeks or so, after points have posted.

        • Lev441 says:

          @jason – exactly what Genghis said – be cheeky on the phone and ask for it.. I did it after a month with no luck.. after 2 months I got it!

        • Interesting! I’ll give this a try tomorrow. I spend around £25k a month on my SPG Amex. If they give me double points I’ll be over the moon!!!!

    • lev441 says:

      @ian – Good luck. Let us know how you get on

      • It worked! Double points for 3 months! Happy Happy Days!!!

        • Genghis says:

          Were you a cheeky chappy on the blower? 🙂

        • Haha yes I was. Thanks for the info on this everyone, I’m a very happy boy! Although BA downgrading my 777 First flight to an A321 business is a bit of a kick in the balls!

        • Wow awesome news!!!! What did you say to the rep? Please advice as I’m about to try lol

        • the real harry1 says:

          This is where you need to be dead pleasant, jokey, a new mate – yet not afraid to say you’ll keep the card if you get this generous offer (that you heard about online), cancel it reluctantly if not (as it is one card too many & you didn’t realise there was an annual fee £75).

          Just being nice on the phone gets you a long way – I guess the agents have to deal with so many snotty so-and-sos that you will strike them as an OK bloke & they have a lot of discretion.

  8. SoloFlyer says:

    I heard somewhere that Marriott is planning on releasing a list of all hotels and their categories this month. Do we have any confirmation of this yet?

  9. Hi all,

    Sorry REALLY confused by this.

    So basically.

    If I use the SPG card and spend £100,000 I will get 300,000 SPG points that can transfer to 300,000 Marriot Points.

    From there I could book 7 nights in a category 6 hotel.

    I would then be given transferred 120,000 AVIOS points which I could use towards a flight on BA?

    This seems like a no-brainer as at the minute I’m using my points for overpriced hotels on Avios/BA..

    Thanks,
    Rob

    • Close…

      If you spent £100k on your SPG card you will earn 100k SPG points which you can then transfer to Marriott points at 1:3 giving you 300k Marriott points.

    • Genghis says:

      The only trouble was finding a Marriott you actually want to spend 7 nights in. With SPG coming along, will hopefully open more options.

    • New Card says:

      £100k on SPG card = 100k SPG points = 300k MR points.

      But essentially, yes.

      • And you also get the 120,000 AVIOS on top of the 7 night stay?

        • Genghis says:

          Yes, so you convert the 300k Marriott points in your example to a 7 nights in a category 6 hotel and 120k avios if you transfer today. If you wait and transfer when there’s a BA 35% bonus on, you’ll get 162k avios.

        • New Card says:

          Although the travel package pricing and benefits may change by the time the next 35% offer comes around…

        • Genghis says:

          Very true – but principles still apply I think

    • Nick M says:

      Yes (except you’d get 100k SPG = 300k Marriott)

      The only downside as mentioned in the article is that you have to use them for 7 consecutive nights (or mixed with a few paid nights in the middle) – you can’t use (eg) 3 nights in one hotel and then a couple of weekend breaks elsewhere…

  10. Robert Haynes says:

    Thanks for all the help.

    Isn’t it a no brainer to do this and get 7 nights at a marriot for sacrificing only 30k AVIOS. Rather than 150k from spending on a BA platinum and earning 150k AVIOS?

    Where can I find availability for Marriott reward nights?

    Rob

    • Genghis says:

      I wouldn’t necessary say it’s a no brainer. However, I’m going all in for SPG points at the moment and gambling that something good comes from the changes (i.e. a hotel I actually want to stay at). Current availability (for Marriott only) is viewed on the Marriott website. Just search for the hotel you want and if 7 nights consecutive reward availability, you can call them up to book and apply the package.

      • Jimbob says:

        Yep, all my spending and churning going towards SPG points atm,hopefully with the cap in top hotels grades between August and December, combined with a travel package, and should get good value from my points

      • Polly says:

        Why not have both, as we don’t know what spg will do from Jan 1st. We are putting as much as we can on spg atm, until the new marriot card arrives. And hope we have time for one more churn mid dec, do a 1k spend in a couple of days, and hope we get them into spg in time. Aiming for a HNL MVP.
        Kicking ourselves we didn’t really understand it before now…so have def missed out on an odd 7 night run in Asia.

    • Tick the ‘use points’ box on marriott.com and you’re sorted ….

      • Mariusz says:

        According to SPG employee on FT.

        Floater certificates, including outstanding Marriott Travel Packages, will be cancelled and converted to equivalent points, credited to the member’s account for future redemption.

        Meaning no auto-converting into new categories?
        This could mean devaluation?

        • the real harry1 says:

          Always detested floaters 🙂

        • Genghis says:

          “Equivalent points”? What does that mean?

          At worst, 45k for full refunding of expired 1-5 package?

          At best, cat 1-5, 25k x 7 = 175k? Potential opportunity if we see a decent BA bonus over the next few months.

  11. the real harry1 says:

    I’m thinking it might be a good idea to stash 90K+ Starpoints and keep them alive for a couple of years until I can use the 7 night package. Or get 2 lol

    No stranger to keeping points alive, I kept my original 100K Virgin miles alive (corporate Amex getting cancelled when I left, had to transfer them somewhere or lose them) since 1999 without having a use for them! Up a fair bit in the last couple of years… 🙂

    Spoiler alert ***danger! stash! devaluation! earn & burn!*** yadda yadda

  12. I am looking to trigger a travel package before 1 Aug for a Domes of Elounda stay in Easter 2019 (cat 9 for 7 nights + 120k Avios = 390k Marriott.

    Pretty sure Domes will increase post 1Aug and will more than offset lack of 35% Avios bonus if redeeming now (plus uncertainty generally on how this all might work post 1 Aug)

    Problem is no bookings (cash or points) are possible yet for domes in 2019. Any idea when this availability normally comes online? Am I missing a trick by not waiting to do this until after Aug?

    • New Card says:

      Sitting in Domes currently and I would say this is an excellent plan. I have also failed to find 2019 availability yet – would happily come back next year and have looked!

  13. Canuck says:

    I actually redeemed on of these on Monday. Took a few times as the agents kept forwarding me to the wrong people who thought I needed Marriott Vacations to redeem. In the end, I managed to get an USA agent who asked if I wanted the 5 night or 7 night? I sheepishly requested 5 night, knowing I’m not allowed it. He tried many ways to get it to work thinking the system was at fault but eventually he forced it through. Lucky I supposed. YMMV. Was happy with the 7 nighter but the 5 night with Avios is perfect for me.

  14. thehornets says:

    I’m still struggling to see the amazing value here.
    A Marriott Cat 8 for 5 nights comes at a cost of 160,000 Marriott points (5th night free/32k points night)
    A Marriott Cat 8 for 7 nights costs 240,000 Marriott points (I get my 5th night free, 34k per night)
    A Marriott Cat 8 for 7 nights as a package w/ 50,000 air miles comes at a cost of 290,000 Marriott points (34k per night + 50,000 exchanged for air miles)

    Am I right in suggesting that the value play is that you are paying more for your room but exchanging Marriott points (worth <0.5p) 1:1 for air miles which are normally worth ~1p each?

    Sorry if being dumb.

    • Jimbob says:

      The value with the travel packages is at the 120k mile binus, not the 50k miles

      • the real harry1 says:

        Jimbob’s right – get 7 days hotel package for 18,000 Avios

      • Melvin says:

        How is that any different? 70,000 more Marriott points only yields 70,000 more Avois. The rate is the same as the 50,000 extra Marriott points used to get the original 50,000 Avois?

        • Genghis says:

          IMO Marriotts have a book value of 0.5p. Avios a book value of 1p. I think turning 0.5p into 1p is a good deal.

        • Marriott points are worth 0.5p (you can do better but not often, I admit I am getting nearer 0.75p in Venice in August) whilst Avios should get you 1p at the very worst.

    • Alex W says:

      By using the travel package instead of a normal hotel redemption, you’re essentially paying 1 Marriott point per airline mile. Or 1 point for 1.35 miles if there’s a 35% bonus. Even without a bonus that’s an excellent swap.

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