American Express have launched a limited time transfer bonus for those wanting to convert Membership Rewards Points into Marriott and Hilton points. The promotion is now LIVE and runs until the end of the month (August 31).
Some members have reported receiving email from Amex about the promotion, but if you did not, log-in to your American Express account and navigate to Frequent Travel Partners section. At the end of the page you will notice that both Hilton and Marriott display the Bonus label as shown below.
Generally speaking, transferring Amex points to hotel loyalty programs is a bad idea. You will do much better by transferring them to one of Amex’ airline partner and redeeming them for long-haul business and first class flights.
So does this bonus offer improve the equation enough to make the transfers worthwhile? Lets find out.
30% bonus points on transfers to Hilton
The standard transfer rate from Amex to Hilton Honors Program is 2:1 (2 Amex points = 1 Hilton points). If you take advantage of this promotion and transfer points, the rate improves to 2:1.3 (2 Amex points = 1.3 Hilton points).
I value Hilton Honors points at about AUD 0.006 per point (6/10th of 1 cent per point) which is substantially less than my valuation of Membership Rewards Points which I value at AUD 0.01 cent (1 cent per point). Put another way, even with a 30% boost, a transfer of 10,000 Membership Rewards Points will yield just 6,500 Hilton points. That is like swapping $100 of Amex points for $39 in Hilton points. Terrible.
As always, there might be circumstances where you could do a little better, but the 30% bonus is nearly not enough to justify transferring points to Hilton.
Transfers from Amex to Hilton start at 2,000 points and go up in increments of 2. There is no cap on the total number of points you can transfer. Transfers are instant but can take up to 1 business day.
50% bonus points on transfers to Marriott
The other offer is for transferring points to Marriott. The standard transfer rate from Amex to Marriott Bonvoy is 3:2 (3 Amex points = 2 Marriott points). With the 50% bonus on offer, the rate improves to 3:3 (3 Amex points = 3 Marriott points).
I value Marriott points at AUD.008 cent per point (8/10th of 1 cent per point). If you take advantage of this promotion and transfer 10,000 points Membership Rewards Points to your Marriott Bonvoy account, you will receive a total of 10,000 Marriott points, which is like swapping a points currency worth $100 for an alternate currency worth about $80 (including the 50% bonus). Not great, but not terrible either as I explain a little later.
Transfers from Amex to Marriott start at 600 points and go up in 300 points increment. There is no cap on the total number of points you can transfer. Transfers are instant but can sometimes take up to 1 business day.
Why it may be ok to transfer points to Marriott
As I said earlier, I am not normally an advocate of transferring Membership Rewards Points to Hotel Loyalty Programs. You maximise the value of those points when you transfer them to the likes of Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific to book long-haul flights in premium cabin.
That said, the travel landscape has rapidly evolved in this post-pandemic era we currently find ourselves in. Hotel Groups across the board are reporting record high occupancies and Cash rates at most 5-star properties are hitting levels never seen before. In that kind of backdrop, it is possible to transfer Amex points to Marriott and obtain excellent value. Let’s take a look at few examples.
To allow for a balanced take, I have picked 3 Marriott properties in Australia and 3 overseas.
Brisbane Marriott Hotel
Let’s start with a property in good old Bris Vegas. The Brisbane Marriott is far from luxurious, in-fact it is quite old and can do with a facelift. However, take a look at the cash rate it commands during holiday travel season.
If you wish to usher in 2024 watching fireworks on the Southbank across from the Brisbane river, the cash rate for an entry level room will set you back AUD 832. Meanwhile, you can book the same room for just 35,000 Marriott points.
With the current 1:1 transfer, you are redeeming $350 worth of Membership Rewards Points for a hotel night that is selling for $832. That’s a value of nearly 2.5c per point which makes this an excellent redemption.
The Ritz Carlton Perth
The Ritz Carlton brand debuted in Australia with the opening of The Ritz Carlton Perth in November 2019. Located at Elizabeth Quay, the property puts hotel guests within steps of numerous retail shops, cafes and restaurants.
Cash rates at The Ritz Carlton Perth seldom drop below $500 per night. Meanwhile, award nights are available from 47,000 Marriott points. As shown in the example above, it is possible to redeem points and get close to 2c per point in value. That’s a decent return if you don’t want to pay nearly $800 for a night at the property.
Sheraton Port Douglas
If you live in any one of the Southern states, Sheraton Port Douglas is perfect to escape the cold weather during winter months. Located 30 minutes North of Cairns, the property offers resort style accommodation which is specially popular with young families.
Cash rates are almost always North of $350 per night at Sheraton Port Douglas, but if you are planning a stay between May and August, expect to pay up to $600+ per night. Award pricing generally range between 33,000 points – 45,000 points per night.
In the example above, redeeming points is a middling proposition. At a shade under 1.5c per point it is not going to bring the house down, that said, if I had a choice between redeeming points and coughing-up $617 cash, I will gladly take the former option.
The Gritti Palace, A Luxury Collection Property Venice
With the AUD currently in the dumps, overseas travel can burn a real hole in the wallet. But it need not necessarily be so. The Gritti Palace in Venice is amongst the most aspirational of properties in the Marriott portfolio. Cash rates at the property during Northern Hemisphere summer months can be extortionate like you can see below.
If you are planning a trip to the City of Canals and Gondolas, you could save truckloads of cash by redeeming points. Unless you are someone who live by the phrase “Money is No Object“, don’t shell-out EUR 1,421 per night (AUD 2,350), instead redeem 90,000 points per night and save the cash for some of the other nicer things in Venice.
In terms of value for money, the redemption in the above example brings home a value of 2.6c per point. That’s a deal I’ll take in my sleep.
The Ritz Carlton Tokyo
Travel to Japan has exploded since the country emerged from Covid-19. Travellers from Australia and much of the wider world have flooded into Japan in recent months. This has resulted in sky-rocketing hotel prices putting 5-star accommodation well outside the reach of many people.
A night at The Ritz Carlton can cost as much as JPY 186,651 (AUD 2,058) making it unaffordable for everyone but the Uberwealthy. But at just 94,000 Marriott points in the example above, the property offers almost 2.2c per point in value making it a fantastic deal.
The St. Regis Maldives
Who hasn’t dreamt of holidaying on an idyllic Maldivian island, lying on a hammock by the beach under a swaying palm tree.
But travel to Maldives can be prohibitively expensive even for the well-to-do. Everything from transport to the islands, food, accommodation and activities costs lots of money. I am talking tens of thousands of dollars.
The St. Regis Maldives is one of those properties where you can pretty much close your eyes and redeem points without ever looking at the cash rates. There aren’t too many hotels where you can make this claim. I was lucky enough to stay at the property last year and whole-heartedly recommend it to anybody with sufficient points.
The cash rate in the example above is USD 1,715 per night (AUD 2,573). As shocking as this may sound, this is actually one of the lowest nightly rates for this property. Entry level accommodation, which is the Garden Facing Pool Villa at The St. Regis Maldives routinely sell for between USD 2,600 – 3,600 per night (AUD 3,900 – 5,400) per night. So as in the example above, redeeming points is almost always offers tremendous value at this property.
Stay for 5, Pay for 4
So far we have solely looked at single night redemptions. Marriott has what’s called Stay for 5, Pay for 4 policy. This essentially means that when you redeem points for 5 successive nights at any Marriott property, you only pay for 4 nights. This is done by discounting the cost of the cheapest night of your stay as you can see below.
Note that this benefit isn’t available if you mix cash and point nights. In other words, you can’t pay cash for 2 nights and redeem points for the other 3 nights, you must have sufficient points to cover the cost of 4 most expensive nights of your stay.
This policy can be so lucrative that when used at high-end properties for 5-night stays, it offers massively outsized value for your points. Take a look at what happens when you redeem points for a 5-night stay at the St. Regis Maldives.
Now admittedly, 372,000 Marriott points is a huge number of points. Although with the current Amex transfer bonus, that can be had for 372,000 Membership Rewards Points which translates into a much more palatable 74,400 points per night.
But cast your eye on the cash value of this stay. At USD 1,715 per night, you are looking at a total price of USD 8,575 (AUD 12,805), meaning you are getting a value of nearly 3.5c per point. Find me a better redemption if you can.
Transferring Amex Membership Rewards Points to Hotel Loyalty Programs should only really be considered when there is a transfer bonus such as the one running this month. Even so, I wouldn’t recommend transferring points to Hilton, just not worth it.
Transfers to Marriott aren’t a slam-dunk either, but with the 50% bonus, the value proposition is significantly better, specially if you are planning a 5-night stay at high end properties where cash rates are very high.
Remember, the bonus is available until the end of the month so there is no need to rush into it. Take your time, go over your travel plans and run your numbers. Only transfer points if there is value in doing so or if you are planning a stay at The St. Regis Maldives. In the latter case, just do it, you can’t go wrong 😉
Do you plan to take advantage of this promotion? Leave a comment below.