When to convert United miles to Marriott points

And, when to convert Ultimate Rewards to Marriott too… 

In one of my recent posts about United and Marriott’s new “RewardsPlus” partnership, I described the ability to convert United miles to Marriott points and I said you should never do so.  Specifically, I wrote:

All MileagePlus Premier members can convert their MileagePlus miles into Marriott Rewards points at a 1:1 ratio, up to 50,000 miles per year.  (Editor’s note: don’t do this!  United miles are worth much more than Marriott points!)

But I was wrong.  As reader RowerN pointed out, there is a situation where it makes sense.  He wrote:

Would it not make sense to transfer United Miles to Marriott at 1 to 1 if you had enough Marriott Points for a 50,000 mile travel package. You transfer over 70,000 United Miles to bump your Marriott TP to the 120,000 level and then with the linked accounts get a 10% bonus on the miles transferred back to Marriott. 70,000 miles United to Marriott then becomes 132,000 Marriott to United. After the 50,000 already in use from the Marriott account and the 70,000 from United you then have a 12,000 United mile surplus.

Let me explain.  Marriott offers 7 night “Flight and Hotel Packages” in which you can redeem Marriott points for a 7 night stay plus up to 120,000 airline miles.  As you can see in the chart below, the cost (in points) for the package depends on what category hotel you book and how many airline miles you want to get:


The way these packages are priced for category 5 and higher hotels is as follows: They charge the same number of points as if you booked the stay directly using points, plus they add on the number of miles you want to get. 

Here’s an example:

If you want to book 7 nights in a category 6 hotel, the normal cost would be 30,000 points per night with the 5th night free.  So, 30K x 6 nights = 180,000 points.  If you want to do the same booking as a travel package, the cost would be 180,000 points + the number of miles you want.  For example, if you pick the 50,000 mile package, the cost would be 180,000 points + 50,000 points = 230,000 points.

The key takeaway, and the thing to remember is this: If you are planning a 7 night award stay at a category 5 or higher property, then the Marriott travel packages are a great way to convert additional Marriott points into airline miles on a one to one basis.  If you have more Marriott points than are needed for the stay, it is almost always a great idea to do a travel package so as to convert those extra points into more valuable airline miles.  In fact, I’d argue that you should always go for the package with the most miles (if you have enough points) because that means converting the maximum number of Marriott points (120K) into miles.

RewardsPlus makes travel packages better

The marriage between United and Marriott (called RewardsPlus) not only adds the ability to convert United miles to Marriott points, but it also gives you a 10% bonus on miles earned from a travel package.  This makes travel packages, in general, more rewarding and it provides a mechanism to get free miles!  Here’s how…

Suppose you are planning a seven night award stay, but you don’t have enough Marriott points to get a travel package.  Thanks to the new 10% bonus, it absolutely makes sense to convert United miles to Marriott points (up to 50K per year) in order to have enough points for the package.  Let’s expand on the example I gave above…

Suppose you have 180,000 Marriott points.  That’s exactly enough for a 7 night stay in a category 6 hotel.  Instead of booking the stay directly, though, you could transfer 50,000 United miles to your Marriott account and then redeem 230,000 Marriott points for a 7 night + 50,000 mile travel package.  Thanks to the new 10% bonus, you would get back 55,000 miles.  That’s a nice little win.

Here’s another example.  Suppose you have enough Marriott points for the 7 night + 50K miles travel package.  If you book that and choose to get United miles, you’ll get 55K miles (thanks to the 10% bump).  Alternatively, you could transfer in 50,000 United miles so as to get the 7 night + 100K miles travel package.  This way you’ll end up with 110,000 miles.

Ultimate Rewards

In the above examples, I showed that it is always a good idea to top off your Marriott account with United miles if you’re planning a 7 night award stay and if you don’t already have enough Marriott points for the top of the line 120K mile travel package.  But what if you don’t have enough United miles or if 50K miles (the most allowed to transfer per year) is not enough to get you to the 120K mile travel package?  In that case, consider using your Ultimate Rewards points.  If you were planning to someday convert your Ultimate Rewards points to United miles anyway, this would be a nice way to get a 10% bonus on the transfer.

Rules to follow

This is all pretty complicated, so I’ll take a stab at condensing this to a set of rules:

  1. Enroll in RewardsPlus!  This is necessary to be able to transfer United miles to Marriott points and to get a 10% bonus on miles from the travel packages.  You can find online enrollment here or here
  2. Always consider booking a travel package if you are planning a 7 night award stay in a category 5 or higher property.
  3. Always try to get the biggest mile package available (120K miles)
  4. Always spend your Marriott points first.  If you have enough Marriott points to cover the 120K mile package, then don’t worry about transferring miles or points into Marriott.  Use your Marriott points.  If your spouse has Marriott points too, then Marriott will let you use points from both accounts for one award. 
  5. Consider buying Marriott points to get enough for the 120K mile travel package.  Marriott sells points for 1.25 cents each, with a 50K per calendar year limit.   
  6. Look next to your United miles (before Ultimate Rewards) to top off your Marriott account to get enough for the 120K mile travel package.  There is a 50K per year limit to these transfers, though.
  7. If you still do not have enough Marriott points to get to the 120K mile travel package, then consider transferring Ultimate Rewards points to Marriott to top off your account.  Never transfer more than are needed to get the targeted travel package.

The benefits of following the above rules are:

  1. Convert Marriott points to more valuable airline miles (+ get a 10% bonus on top).
  2. Get free United miles by converting to Marriott and then back to United with a 10% bonus.
  3. Transfer Ultimate Rewards points to United at a slightly better than 1 to 1 ratio (thanks to the 10% bonus).


Beyond United

Selecting to receive United miles for your travel packages is almost always sensible given how valuable and easy to use those miles are.  However, there may be situations where selecting other types of miles make sense.  Here are two examples:

  1. Sometimes US Airways offers a bonus on miles transferred from hotel programs.  See a recent example of how to take advantage of these promotions here: Convert Ultimate Rewards to US Airways / American miles
  2. You may want to try to get enough Southwest points for a Companion Pass.  See how here: Earning a Southwest Companion Pass With Marriott Vacation Package.


Reader Experiences

Have you ever booked a Marriott Travel Package?  How did it go?  Did I miss any good tricks or details?

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  1. Before one transfers Ultimate Rewards points – recall that one can buy up to 50,000 MR points per year at a net cost of 1.25 cents per point. As I value my UR points at a way higher level than this, I’d max-out that 50,000 limit BEFORE topping off by using UR points.

    Once you count the 10% transfer bonus, those 1.25 cent MR points turn into some of the cheapest MileagePlus miles you’ll ever get!

    • alainsmi & Al: That’s a great point. I’ll update the post accordingly.

      applez: Yes, that is absolutely true.

      Winger: The 10% bonus is a new perk given to anyone who links their Marriott and United accounts together (I gave the URLs to click in the post)

  2. I think the transfer of UR points to Marriott would also be an opportunity to convert the UR points to a non-UR affiliated airline at a 1-1 basis.

  3. Before transferring your United miles, you should maximize on purchasing Marriott points at 1.25 cent per point. You can purchase up to 50000 points per night. You can also have your spouse purchase another 50000 points and transfer them to you.

    Unless you value your United miles at less than 1.25 cent per mile…

  4. Very nicely written analysis. One thing I do not understand-what exactly is the 10% bonus? Is it a limited time bonus for converting Marriott miles to United

  5. Thanks for this post! I’m new to Marriott Rewards and the Travel Packages are new (and somewhat confusing) to me, and I think I have a much better idea of what’s going on now. Two questions – when booking a travel package, is there any obligation to use the miles you get from it towards that travel? Second, have you heard any word on when RewardsPlus benefits like the 10% bonus are going to kick in?

    • Myron: You can use the miles for any purpose whatsoever or just keep them in your account until you have a good way to use them. I think that the 10% bonus kicks in as soon as you have successfully linked your Marriott and United accounts.

  6. One other thing to keep in mind is that Marriott will allow you to pull in points from your spouses account. They will only allow you to do this to book a award.

    • Stephen N: Great point.

      Tyler: No, you won’t get the Marriott points back. You can cancel a specific hotel booking and use the 7 days somewhere/sometime else, but if you ask for points back they’ll only give you a small fraction back.

  7. Are you able to cancel the hotel award and have the Marriott points for the hotel stay redeposited after transferring the miles? If so, you could use this method of getting bonus miles multiple times by recycling your Marriott Points every time you get enough UR points or United miles to make the transfer bonus worth it.

  8. Per the comments thread in the Companion Pass link, it seems that Marriott Air/Hotel package transfer no longer count towards earning a CP…

  9. One quick thing to mention… make sure that the Marriott property you want has 7 consecutive days in a row available for points. You cannot break up the 7 night stay with 4 nights here and 3 nights there.

    • Grant: That’s a good point. Strangely, when I’ve called Marriott to ask them if I could break up the 7 nights, one person was completely adamant that you cannot whereas another person was just as adamant that you can. My guess is that the second was wrong, but I would like to test it out sometime!

  10. Great deal, but staying 7 days at the same hotel is no fun! I can only stay in one place max 4 nights. Any more, I start to get bored and want to go somewhere else.

    • romsdeals & Frugal Man: Yes, that’s true. I though I was clear in the post that I wasn’t necessarily advocating a 7 night Marriott award stay. My point was that if you are going to be doing such a stay anyway, here is how to make the most of it.

  11. Wonder if there are many people would follow the way even if they understand. I personally won’t like a 7 day stay in one place. If sound like you spend $100, you normally get $1 cashback. Now suddenly you find a way to get $2 cashback. Are you going to spend the $100 now (and realize your net spending is $98)?

    So when you value this way, do consider the 120K you have spent on the 7-day reservation.

  12. Thanks for mentioning my blog post about earning a Southwest Companion Pass with the Marriott vacation package. The comments on the page saying it does not works refers to a direct transfer of points NOT purchasing a package and then having the points transferred to Southwest.

  13. This would be very useful if there were a way to collect Marriott points through spending rather than stays. Unfortunately, the co-branded credit card isn’t that generous. Too bad Hilton doesn’t have a similar deal.

    For instance, if you already had 150k Mariott points, you could look at the Marriott credit card bonus as 77K united miles.

  14. Oops, I meant a good way to collect points through spending. As it is, you probably just want to collect UR points.

  15. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that you were wrong about transferring United to Marriott. In fact, people have been doing this for years without the 10% bonus, myself included. And unsuspecting readers think you are the second coming. ROFLMAO. Stop ripping off of FT.

  16. @Frugal Travel Lawyer. What is the difference between a direct transfer of points and points transfered from a travel package? Are they both simply points transfered from Marriott to SWA ?

  17. Do you have to be an elite with United or Marriott to get the new 10% bonus perk given to anyone who links their Marriott and United accounts together? When I went onto the link it was focused on the elite benefit tie-ins. Please advise if you have to be an elite with one of the two programs?

  18. It looks like the 10% bonus has not yet started. The web page says the following:

    Enhanced miles and points benefits coming soon:

    Premier members can convert miles into Marriott Rewards points at a 1:1 ratio
    Enjoy a 20% discount when you convert Marriott Rewards points into MileagePlus miles
    Book the trip of a lifetime and receive 10% more miles when you convert to a Marriott Rewards Travel Package, a bonus of up to 12,000 miles

  19. Is the 10% cap like the 25% is up to 25k miles?
    Also how much time do you have to book the package and how far in advance can you book?
    Also, can you book the fly and hotel to different destinations?
    Finally, what if you need to make changes to the flight or hotel, is this possible?

  20. Helga: No, the 10% bonus isn’t capped. Yes, you can make changes to the hotel. The flight isn’t booked by Marriott. Instead, you are simply given miles that you can use (or not) any way you want to.

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