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One very important sweet spot in the miles and points world is to be found within the bowels of the Etihad Guest loyalty program, and the sweet spot centers around the fact that Etihad is an American Airlines partner airline (you can use Etihad Guest miles to book American Airlines awards) and the fact that Etihad uses a very generous award chart for American Airlines redemptions.
In this post I’m going to show how you can use a current Etihad promotion, a Marriott Bonvoy benefit and a current Marriott Bonvoy points sale to generate cheap Etihad Guest Miles which you can then use to book great value American Airlines premium cabin awards.
Etihad’s American Airlines Award Chart
This is what Etihad’s award chart looks like for redemptions on American Airlines:
A close look will show you that there are some great award redemptions on offer here (assuming you can find availability on American Airlines) and examples include…
- North America – Europe 50,000 miles/100,000 miles (one-way/roundtrip)
- North America – South America 50,000 miles/100,000 miles
- North America – Japan 50,000 miles/100,000 miles
- North America – Hong Kong 55,000 miles/110,000 miles
- North America – Australia/New Zealand 62,500 miles/125,000 miles
- North America – Europe 62,500 miles/125,000 miles (one-way/roundtrip)
- North America – South America 62,500 miles/125,000 miles
- North America – Japan 62,500 miles/125,000 miles
- North America – Hong Kong 67,500 miles/135,000 miles
- North America – Australia/New Zealand 72,500 miles/145,000 miles
The reason why these prices look so good is that Ethiad is effectively using the American Airlines award chart that was in place before the huge American Airlines AAdvantage devaluation which hit a few years ago.
The Etihad Hotels Promotion
Etihad partners with a number of hotel loyalty programs and the points that you earn with those hotel loyalty programs can be converted over to Etihad Guest Miles.
Right now Etihad is offering a 20% bonus when you convert select hotel currencies to Etihad guest miles and, although I’m going to concentrate on Marriott Bonvoy in this post, here are the transfer ratios for all the hotel programs included in this promotion (excluding the 20% bonus):
- Le Club Accor: 2,000 points = 1,000 Etihad Guest Miles
- Hilton Honors: 10,000 points = 1,000 Etihad Guest Miles
- IHG Rewards: 5,000 points = 1,000 Etihad Guest Miles
- World of Hyatt: 2,500 points = 1,000 Etihad Guest Miles
- Radisson Rewards: 10,000 points = 1,000 Etihad Guest Miles
- Shangri-La: 1,000 points = 1,000 Etihad Guest Miles
- Marriott Bonvoy: 3,000 points = 1,000 Etihad Guest Miles
This promotion is running through 31 October 2019 and full details can be found on the promotion page (link)
Marriott Bonvoy Transfer Benefit
One of the very good aspects of the old Starwood Preferred Guest loyalty program that Marriott took onboard when SPG was folded into Marriott Rewards (now Marriott Bonvoy) was the benefit that allows its loyalty program members to transfer points over to numerous airline partners and allows them to earn a bonus on the transfer too.
In the case of Etihad Guest, Marriott Bonvoy points convert to Etihad Miles in a 3:1 ratio (as already shown above) but Bonvoy members also get an extra 5,000 bonus miles for every 60,000 Bonvoy Points transferred.
This added bonus is key to getting the maximum value out of what I’m about to show you in this post.
Using The Etihad Promotion & Marriott Transfer Benefit
Under normal circumstances, 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy Points would transfer over to 25,000 Etihad Guest Miles (courtesy of the 3:1 transfer ratio combined with the 5,000 bonus miles) but while the Etihad transfer promotion is running the conversion ratio drops to 60,000:30,000 or 2:1.
I value Marriott Bonvoy points at 0.6 cents each (which is more or less in line with a lot of other people’s valuation) so as every 2 Marriott Bonvoy points convert to 1 Etihad Guest mile, this current promotion effectively allows you to generate Etihad Guest Miles at just 1.2 cents each.
Assuming a value of 1.2 cents for each Etihad Guest Mile here’s what the American Airlines awards I mentioned earlier would effectively cost:
- North America – Europe – $600/$1,200 (one-way/roundtrip)
- North America – South America – $600/$1,200
- North America – Japan – $600/$1,200
- North America – China/Hong Kong – $660/$1,320
- North America – Australia/New Zealand – $750/$1,500
- North America – Europe – $750/$1,500 (one-way/roundtrip)
- North America – South America – $750/$1,500
- North America – Japan – $750/$1,500
- North America – China/Hong Kong – $810/$1,620
- North America – Australia/New Zealand – $870/$1,740
I doubt anyone would argue that those aren’t staggeringly great value awards…but a little caution is required.
Firstly, American Airlines premium cabin awards are notoriously hard to find so don’t assume that you’ll be able to book whatever Business Class/First Class flights you want with incredible ease. Patience and a lot of flexibility will be required.
Secondly, Marriott only offers a 5,000 miles bonus of transfers of 60,000 points or on transfers in multiples of 60,000 points up to 240,000 points per day – do not assume that a transfer of 80,000 points, for example, will earn you a bonus greater than 5,000 miles.
Using The Etihad Promotion & Marriott Bonvoy Points Sale
If you don’t have enough Marriott Bonvoy Points in your account to make a worthwhile transfer to Etihad Guest the current Bonvoy Points sale may be of help.
With 2 Bonvoy Points currently transferring over to 1 Etihad Guest Mile and with Marriott offering a 5,000 miles bonus on transfers of 60,000 points, this sale can be used to generate Etihad Miles from 1.75 cents each.
Using points purchased in this sale to generate Etihad Guest Miles is clearly a more expensive proposition than converting existing Marriott Bonvoy points, and the fact that you can only buy up to 100,000 Bonvoy Points in a year is a hindrance too…but this sale can still be useful if you need to top up a Bonvoy account before you convert them to Etihad Guest miles.
If you’re a few thousand points short of being able to transfer Bonvoy Points to Etihad Guest in a multiple of 60,000, buying points in this sale may make a lot of sense.
Assuming you’re not overvaluing your Marriott Bonvoy Points balance the value that’s on offer here is pretty obvious to see, but care is needed before you rush off to generate some cheap Etihad Guest Miles.
Please don’t convert any Bonvoy Points to Etihad Guest Miles before you’ve decided what American Airlines awards you’d like to book and before you’ve found awards that you can book right away – do not generate Etihad Guest Miles in the hope that you’ll be able to use them economically as that’s far from guaranteed.
If you think things through, work out the math and make sure awards are available before you book, you can really score some fantastic deals using the offer, benefit, and promotion discussed above.