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I’ve cried wolf before, and I am perfectly happy to have been proved wrong when Marriott announced that it would continue to offer direct airline mile conversions at the same attractive rate currently available through Starwood Preferred Guest. But, lately, I’ve been becoming more nervous about the most attractive element of Marriott Rewards as it currently stands: its Hotel + Air Travel Packages.
As a reminder, this is the award chart for Marriott’s Travel Packages.
The top right-hand corner is where you should be looking, as it offers the highest value.
For 270,000 Marriott points (equivalent to 90,000 Starpoints), you can receive 120,000 Alaska miles (or Avios if you refuse to listen to Joe and myself banging on about the high value of Alaska miles…) and a seven-night stay in a Category 1-5 hotel.
Why am I crying wolf again?
First of all, Marriott made an unannounced, no notice change to SPG’s Best Rate Guarantee policy. Not even remotely the same thing, I admit… but unquestionably demonstrating Marriott’s willingness to make changes overnight when the impact is negative for customers.
But, ultimately, my concern comes down to simple mathematics. Since Marriott announced that 60,000 Marriott points will continue to convert to 25,000 miles, we now have a reference point to work with. To receive 120,000 Alaska miles / Avios / AA or Virgin miles, etc. therefore as a direct conversion, you would require 288,000 Marriott points (actually you can’t receive exactly 120,000 miles without making incredibly sub-optimal conversions, so I’ve used the ratio of 60 Marriott points = 25 miles)
I admit that maybe, just maybe, Marriott might decide to reward large points balances with 18,000 free points (288K – 270K) and a free seven-night hotel stay.
But I believe that it is far more likely that the best Travel Packages are due for a devaluation. After all, Marriott did hint that it wanted to rationalise its Travel Package offer; it does have other less lucrative Travel Package partners (Turkish, Singapore, ANA, Flying Blue, etc.) where you only receive 85,000 miles:
What do I think might happen?
I believe that some form of miles + hotel stay combination will continue to exist. I believe that the most logical pricing of a travel package would involve:
- Receiving fewer miles than if you convert all of those points directly to miles
- Receiving free hotel nights at a discount to the regular price using points
If we take 270,000 Marriott points as our baseline, we could convert those to 112,500 miles (270K times 25 / 60). So we ought to expect to receive fewer miles than that.
A week at a Category 1-5 hotel – which should become Category 4 under the new programme since both cost 25,000 points per night – would cost 150,000 Marriott points. So I wouldn’t be remotely surprised to see something like this for our basic 270K point Travel Package:
- 75,000 miles – equivalent to 180,000 Marriott points if converted directly to miles
- Those leftover 90,000 Marriott points would be getting us a seven-night hotel stay that would otherwise cost 150,000 points if booked directly using points, a 40% discount
What do I recommend?
Let me make something 100% clear. I have no contact with Marriott and have no idea what they are planning. But I do know that a Marriott Travel Packages devaluation can easily be justified, whilst still remaining a highly attractive reward option.
So, if you do have 90,000 Starpoints or 270,000 Marriott points, perhaps you should consider calling Marriott Rewards to book a Travel Package whilst you can. After all, you will receive:
- 120,000 Alaska (or other airline) Miles
- A certificate valid for one week in a Category 1-5 hotel. This certificate will be valid for one year, and can usually be extended for a second year
Perhaps I have more Alaska miles than I need. But I am still contemplating a final Travel Package whilst these lucrative amounts still exist…
Are you willing to risk hanging on to those Marriott points / Starpoints? Can you think of a better use of them than the First Class experience that 120,000 Alaska miles will come close to getting you?