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If you look around on the internet for tips on how to use your Marriott Rewards balance you’ll be hard pushed to find a site that doesn’t suggest you should use your points for a Marriott Rewards Travel package…or a “Flight & Hotel Package” as Marriott calls them. Well, as great as those redemptions can be, I’m going to offer a contrarian view.
What Are Marriott Flight And Hotel Packages?
Marriott Rewards allows you to redeem your points for packages that will give you a certificate for a 7-night stay at a Marriott property as well as miles or points in one of a number of airline loyalty programs.
All the redemption charts can be found by following this link but I’ll take one of the more commonly used charts as an example:
The reason why Marriott Flight and Hotel packages are often cited as a great use of Marriott Rewards points is because, essentially, they allow you to purchase airline miles at a ratio of 1 Marriott Rewards point to 1 airline mile/point…and that’s a very good exchange rate.
Here’s a quick bit of math to show what I mean:
A Marriott Flight & Hotel package that offers 7 nights at a Marriott Category 1 – 5 property & 120,000 miles costs 270,000 Marriott Rewards points (per the chart above).
If you were to book a Marriott Category 5 property for 7 nights as a stand-alone booking it would cost you 25,000 points/night….but you would also get 1 night free (courtesy of Marriott’s 5th night free policy) so you end up with a total cost of 150,000 Marriott Rewards points for the booking.
The Marriott Rewards Award Chart
If 150,000 points buys you 7 nights at a Category 5 property and 270,000 points gets you the same reservation with an added 120,000 airline miles then the airline miles are costing you 120,000 Marriott Rewards points.
Simple…and, as I’ve already said, a very good conversion rate for airline miles.
I Don’t Always Like This Option
Here’s where I go against the general feeling in the miles & points blogosphere and disagree with a few people.
I’m moving away from using my points for Marriott Flight and Hotel redemptions more and more and it has a lot to do with the direction in which airline loyalty programs are going.
Airline miles are getting harder and harder to use economically and, although 120,000 airline miles will technically get you an American Airlines roundtrip Business Class redemption from the continental US to Hawaii, Europe, South American and parts of Asia, have you tried actually booking such an award?
It’s practically impossible.
It’s not often that much better on other airlines….and when you do find availability it usually comes with extortionate surcharges (the kinds you’ll find on BA and Virgin Atlantic).
On top of all that, on some airlines, 120,000 miles won’t get you far at all – like on Delta – so I’ve started to question just how good a redemption these Marriott Flight and Hotel packages actually are.
I’ve also started to consider what I could be doing with 120,000 Marriott rewards points if I wasn’t converting them to airline miles.
The new Ritz-Carlton Langkawi is a Tier 2 property and costs 40,000 points per night….and not at the points saver level. That’s the regular price and a level at which award availability isn’t hard to find.
Ritz-Carlton Langkawi – Image Marriott
120,000 points would buy 3 nights at this great-looking property and, in my opinion, would be a better use of Marriott Rewards points than converting them to airline miles.
I’ve used the Ritz-Carlton Langkawi as an example but there’s any number of other properties where the same example would work very well….or I could make the argument even more compelling.
120,000 Marriott Rewards points is enough for a 5 night stay at a Category 6 property (of which there are lot!) and some of these can be pretty good value.
Take the JW Marriott Bangkok for example…
JW Marriott Bangkok Deluxe King Room – Image Marriott
…or the surprisingly good Courtyard Seoul Namdaemun (reviewed here)…..
Courtyard Seoul Namdaemun
…or the JW Marriott Mexico City:
JW Marriott Mexico City – Image Marriott
Any of those properties (and a lot more like them) would be a very god use of 120,000 Marriott Rewards points and the points would almost certainly be a lot easier to use at these properties than they would be if they were converted to airline miles.
Some will argue that the redemption value you’re getting for your points with an airline redemption can be considerably greater than the value you’d be getting if you simply use the points to book hotel nights….but that’s assuming you can get the redemption in the first place.
Sure, exchanging 120,000 Marriott Rewards points to airline miles that then get you a Business Class fare that would otherwise have cost $3,000+ would be a fantastic use of those points…..but how often are you actually able to do that?
Answer – not very often at all and certainly not as often as was once possible.
Be Careful – You Won’t Always Get A 1:1 Conversion To Airline Miles
Let’s go back to the Ritz-Carlton Langkawi as an example.
As a Tier 2 Ritz Carlton property this costs 40,000 points per night (at the most) so a 7-night stay would cost 240,000 Marriott Rewards points when you include the 5th night free benefit.
A Tier 2 Marriott Flight & Hotel redemption would cost 420,000 points and would get you the same 7 night stay and 120,000 airline miles – you’re now getting 120,000 Airline miles in exchange for 180,000 Marriott Rewards points.
That’s not particularly impressive.
The same situation arises if you book a Category 1 – 4 Marriott property but, as I don’t expect too many people will do that, the Ritz-Carlton example seems a bit more pertinent.
Yes, Marriott Flight and Hotel Packages can be good value and, yes, “buying” airline miles/points at a 1:1 ratio with Marriott Rewards points can be a very good deal….but it’s not a no-brainer.
I’m not for one moment trying to put anyone off from redeeming Marriott Rewards points for Flight & Hotel packages – what I am trying to do is to make sure that readers don’t automatically assume they’re always the best way to use points….because often they’re not.