Why are Marriott Travel Packages a good deal?

We recently posted a quick deal because availability for the JW Marriott Phu Quoc is wide open for 2018, and we noted that it is a great option for a 7-night Marriott Travel Package. A reader later wrote to ask a question that comes up every now and then: Why are Marriott Travel Packages a good deal? More specifically, they asked:

Why do you say the Marriott Travel Package is a really good deal? Seven nights would be 150,000 points at a Category 5 Marriott and the difference would be 120,000 points. 120K + 150K = 270K. The points/miles add up to the right amount. Why is it a good deal?

Bangkok Marriott Marquis Queen’s Park (a Cat 5 Marriott) Club Lounge Terrace

This question comes around now and then, and for those new to the points & miles world, this can surely be confusing. First, let’s review Marriott Travel Packages and then we’ll get to the heart of why they are known to be such a good deal.

Marriott Travel Packages

We’ve written about Marriott Travel Packages many times before and we have a quick guide about some of the key aspects (See: 12 Things you need to know about Marriott Travel Packages). The nuts and bolts of a package is this: you can trade a number of Marriott points, starting at 200,000 points, for a package that includes a 7-night certificate for a stay at a Marriott hotel and a number of airline miles. The number of airline miles awarded varies a bit depending on the partner you choose, but the sweet spot is the far right column in the chart below. The question above references the top right corner of the chart — where 270,000 Marriott Rewards points will get you a 7-night stay at a Category 1-5 Marriott hotel and 120,000 airline miles in a number of different airline programs.

Note that a similar package with United yields a few more miles (132,000) while those with other airlines can award as few as 85,000 miles. See the various Hotel + Air packages on this page for details. Sometimes, airlines offer a transfer bonus (See: Current point transfer bonuses) where they offer even more miles on points converted from hotel programs, and that sometimes (but not always) includes transfers from these packages.

Key idea #1: Your airline miles and hotel do not need to be redeemed on the same trip

Of key importance: while these look like “package” deals, you by no means need to use your airline miles and hotel stay on the same trip. In fact, you don’t even need to choose the resort when you redeem this package; rather, you get a certificate for a 7-night stay that can be applied to a reservation within a year of the day that you redeem the package. You do have to choose an airline and the miles will be transferred right away (it may take a few days for the transfer to complete), but you can then redeem the miles at your leisure and as you wish.

So if you’ve got a sweet redemption in mind for a flight but there is no Category 5 Marriott at your destination, fear not; just use your certificate separately when you want. This is important in understanding the value of these packages: the airline miles can be used separately (and to a much greater value).

Key idea #2: Not all points & miles are created equal

In a world where all points and miles are worth the same thing, the reader asking today’s question would be right to be confused. After all, the numbers “add up” before we consider the value those quantities represent.

Marriott awards the 5th night free on award stays. A Category 5 Marriott normally costs 25,000 points per night. Therefore, you can normally book a Category 5 Marriott for 7 nights for 150,000 Marriott Rewards points (5th night is free, so 6 nights x 25K = 150K). That math means that in a Marriott Travel Package, you are trading an excess 120,000 Marriott points (270K – 150K for a 7-night Cat 5 stay = 120K excess Marriott points) for 120,000 airline miles with the airlines shown in the packages above. That appears to be equal.

But it isn’t. In most instances, airline miles are much more valuable than hotel points. Think of it this way: if I offered to trade you one ounce of silver for one ounce of gold, would you call it an even trade? Of course not. Just because the quantity is the same doesn’t mean the value is the same.

And you don’t just have to take my word for it — we can look right at Marriott to see that they agree that airline miles are more valuable than their points. If you were to skip the packages above and just convert Marriott points to airline miles, it would cost a lot more than 120,000 Marriott points to get 120,000 airline miles. In fact, if you don’t get a travel package, Marriott would charge you 140,000 points for just 50,000 airline miles in the same airline programs:

Another quick-reference barometer would be considering the rate at which we could transfer from Marriott–>SPG—>Airline miles. Marriott points transfer to SPG at 3:1. Therefore, 120,000 Marriott points equals 40,000 SPG points. SPG points transfer to airlines 1:1 and add a 5,000 mile bonus if you transfer 20,000 at a time. In other words:

120,000 Marriott points = 40,000 SPG points = 50,000 airline miles

That saves you 20,000 Marriott points over transferring directly from Marriott, but you’re still converting 120K Marriott points into just 50K airline miles. With a Travel Package, you’re getting an additional 70,000 airline miles. That’s huge even before we compare dollars and cents.

But let’s compare dollars and cents

If we compare cash value, the differences really start to stand out. Our Reasonable Redemption Value for Marriott points is .72 cents per point. This means that, in general, if you use your points towards hotel stays, you can expect to get around .72 cents per point as compared to the cash cost of the room. Obviously, this can vary wildly depending on where, how, and when you use your points. At some of the Top 5 Cat 5 Marriotts in the world, you can do quite a bit better– but those are the outliers. Most Category 5 Marriotts are going for a value much closer to .72 cents per point.

So if we go by our Reasonable Redemption Value, 120,000 Marriott Rewards points are worth around $864, give or take a bit.

On the other hand, let’s pick one of the airline partners to compare value: Alaska Airlines. 120,000 Alaska Airline miles can be worth quite a bit more than $864. In our Reasonable Redemption Values, we peg (almost) all airline miles on the same standard — the number of miles required for a domestic US round trip economy class award ticket compared to the average cash cost of an economy class ticket in the US. We do that in order to have some sort of fair point of comparison. You can read more about Frequent Miler’s process for that here: Airline Miles are worth 1.4 cents each. A simplified approach to Reasonable Redemption Values. Based on that metric, 120K Alaska Airlines miles are worth about $1,680 — about double the value of the Marriott Rewards points.

However, you can get a lot more value out of international premium-cabin travel. For example, Alaska charges 55,000 miles each way in business class between the United States and Australia.

As you can see above, one of their partners is Fiji Airways. You could fly round trip in business class to Australia with a stopover in Fiji for 110,000 Alaska Airlines miles. That’s worth a heck of a lot more than $864 to most people. Even if we’re really generous and value Marriott Rewards at 1c each, the value of those 120,000 points as Marriott points is $1,200. I’d much rather give up $1,200 in hotel room value to get a “free” round trip business class ticket to Australia and Fiji. And don’t forget, you’ve still got that 7-night Category 5 certificate. Trading 270,000 Marriott points for a 7-night hotel certificate and round trip business class to Australia and Fiji seems like an epic redemption.

And that’s not the only valuable option

That’s just one partner and one example. If you transferred the points to Virgin Atlantic, you could book a round trip first class ticket to Japan on ANA with 120,000 Virgin Atlantic miles. Again, that’s worth a lot more than the valuation of 120,000 Marriott points. Here are the prices for round-trip first class on ANA from Chicago to Tokyo over two random months later this year:

Would I say that you are getting $19,747 in value out of your 120,000 Marriott points by converting them to Virgin Atlantic? Absolutely not. But I think it’s fair to say that you’re doing better than $864 and better than just about any Marriott Rewards redemption I can imagine. Trading 120K Marriott points for 120K airline miles is a no-brainer.

Bottom line

The value in the Marriott Travel Packages is in getting a lot more bang for your buck out of your Marriott Rewards points. There are dozens of airline partners (though some award fewer than 120,000 miles, see the charts here), so the possibilities are endless. Of course, some hotels — like the JW Marriott Phu Quoc — present amazing value at 7 nights for 150K Marriott points. The beauty of a Marriott Travel Package is that you don’t lose that amazing value — the deal is just amplified if you can also get a 1:1 transfer rate from 120K Marriott points to airline miles.

About Nick Reyes

Nick Reyes is a (fairly) regular guy with an animalistic passion for maximizing the value of miles and money to travel the world in comfort and style. There is little in life that he loves more than finding a fantastic deal and helping you shop smarter & harder to achieve your travel dreams.

More articles by Nick Reyes »

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  1. […] Why Are Marriott Travel Packages a Good Deal:  If you’re new to this hobby, you may have stumbled across Marriott Travel Packages and wondered if they are a good use of points or not.  You can get a free 5-7 night certificate plus some airline miles in exchange for your Marriott points.  With all the moving parts, it could be tough to determine if it’s a good use of points. […]

Comments

  1. Great article Nick.

    However, the “math” is really not as straight forward or simple. For example, if two people are traveling then you can only get 2 one-way business class tickets and have to figure out how to get back. Intend to think this is “advanced math”. Most people only buy roundtrip tickets. The key, I guess is to “use your imagination” to unlock the possibilities.

    • Thanks for reading, Vir.

      In my opinion, whether you’re traveling with 2 people total or 5 children and your in-laws, that doesn’t change the math on why these packages are a good deal — you certainly may need more points to get the whole family where you’re going. This is still a great deal on one ticket — maybe you open a business and personal Alaska card and an SPG card to pick up another ticket. Or maybe you don’t want to travel internationally — you could alternatively redeem 120,000 Alaska miles for 4 round trip domestic economy class tickets at the 12.5K level each way with enough left over for two round trip short-haul tickets — still a lot more valuable as miles than as Marriott Rewards points. You could fly two people round trip in economy class to several regions around the world…..a round trip business class ticket to Australia isn’t the only option, nor are Marriott Rewards your only rewards currency option. It’s just a good example as to why the travel packages are a great value.

      As you said — the key is to use your imagination. And in this case, the main idea was to illustrate why the packages are valuable.You can certainly find other valuable uses of your miles as well as it fits your family (or play in 2-player mode and save up for two travel packages! :-).

  2. I have been a Marriott card holder for over 30 years. I average about 250k points per year thanks in large part to my timeshare ownership I only use my points for packages, even when i just need airline points. Here are 4 points that people may or may not know. 1) If you have elite status you can obtain unpublished 5 nite travel packages. 2) You can get the hotel certificate extended for 12 months by calling. Wait as long as you can before tje cert expiration date. 3)Hotel certificates can be upgraded for 5k points per cat per night. If you dont know hat hotel you will be staying at, get a cat 5 cert. 4) If you don’t use your hotel certificate and redeposit it to your account you will take a tremendous hit. A five nite certificate at the cat 5 level, worth 100k pts will get you only 10k credit.

    • Good points! We’ve covered those in the “12 Things you need to know about Marriott Travel Packages” that I linked to in the section about Marriott Travel Packages, but they are excellent points to share again.

      One note: The 5-night packages aren’t for having elite status — those are for timeshare owners. If you see the 12 Things you need to know about Marriott Travel Packages post, there is more info about the 5-night packages. For years, it was pretty easy for anyone to get a 5-night package. Sometime last year, they really clamped down on that and I don’t think I’ve heard a success story from someone who wasn’t a timeshare owner in quite a while now.

  3. Very well written, and easy to follow! I’ve read a lot of posts on these packages, and often the comparisons/explanations get very convoluted and verbose. Your’s was great.

  4. Phu Quoc might be the only decent Cat5 redemption, so you math is a little bit misleading. When you have to spend 7 straight night somewhere, you pretty much have to pick a resort which are more like Cat7 resorts on average. So your package will eventually require more like 330K points. As for me, I am burning mine for 360K in Hawaii at a Cat8.

    • Did you check out the post I linked to about the Top 5 Category 5 Marriotts in the world? I’d love to spend a week at the one in New Brunswick or the one in Bangkok. In the honorable mention category, the AC Hotel Madrid also looks great. That link is in the post.

      Also see this post for a list of 29 locations within the US that provide good value if you’re not interested in traveling abroad:

      http://frequentmiler.boardingarea.com/2017/10/24/best-marriotts-us-spend-free-nights/

      We obviously all have different tastes, so I can’t say for sure that any of those will appeal to you — but I completely disagree that you have to pick a resort that is Cat 7 to find a place where you can enjoy a week’s stay. You certainly CAN book a Cat 7 — and it still provides the same exact value on the airline miles side — but there are a lot of places I’d be happy to stay for 7 nights that are Cat 5 locations. Again, I certainly respect the fact that they might not appeal to you — different strokes for different folks.

      That said, I rarely stay anywhere for 7 nights just because I’m usually traveling to multiple places on a trip. I used a 7-night cert on Phu Quoc, but couldn’t stay for 7 nights. I still got great value out of the package, so that didn’t bother me.

      Which property in Hawaii are you staying at?

      • Thanks for the reply! Perhaps I am spoiled since I have been playing this game for over 10 years and I used to be able to book decent resorts at Cat5 or Cat6. We’re all different with different tastes so if someone would like to spend their precious 7 day vacation in a city like Bangkok for 150,000 points then fine, I guess you could do worse (or a lot better). Somehow at the end of your post even you acknowledged that staying somewhere for 7 days is a stretch.

        BTW, I am using my cert at the Wailea Beach Resort in Maui and regrettably used an extra 90,000 points. My math is the following

        Total package price is 360,000 points
        120,000 SW points (+ comp pass) : 120,000* $0.014 = $1680
        7days Marriott Wailea: 7x$450 = $3150

        Total Value: $4830
        Point value received: $4830/360,000 = 1.3 cents
        If I can buy Marriott points at 0.7 cents each, that would mean roughly a 50% discount compared to cash prices not including the value of the companion pass as that deal is dead already.

        However paying cash I never paid more than $150/night for any hotel as I was always able to find very decent accommodation around the world for that kind of money. For me personally the true value of the 7 day CAT5 certificate is $1050.

        Case in point: Phu Quoc Sea Sense Resort beach resort during spring break for 7 days is $1050 and breakfast is included on booking.com. And if you would like to stay less than 7 days you could do that too.

        I don’t want to sound too negative as there are still values out there using points rather than cash but it’s getting harder and harder to justify the extra effort, compromises and inconveniences to get optimal value out of loyalty programs.

        Closing this very long post I just wanted to say thanks for posting and I still appreciate your work on this blog.

  5. Could you tell me the best route to book NY to ROme fco converint g marriot points. I have to but 4 tickets and looking to go first class. Have 3 years worth of marriot points I’d love to use. Won’t be there long as I’m moving around to Venice and Florence but I can fly into and out of any of the above haven’t booked hotels yet. Heading there end of March.

  6. I actually find some good probabilities for the Cat 5 – some properties with easy access to DC for example. Sante Fe and its surrounding area can be a good 7 days leisure trip.
    The Ren Le Defense in Paris still is a Cat 5.

    SkyCity in HKG is a Cat 6 so you would need to ante up 30K to upgrade it from Cat 5. We used our previous cert there in Jan 2017 before moving to JWM for 5 more nights. The E-bus terminus is just across the big parking lot of Expo and you can take various E-bus to many parts of Hong Kong including the New Territories. There is an S1 bus station for the Tung Chung MTR station or you can take the hotel’s shuttle. Also super convenient to take the green mini bus to various parts of Lantau Island, including the Discovery Bay where there is a very enjoyable ferry ride directly to the Central of Hong Kong Island.
    The SkyCity HKG location looks inconvenient from the surface but in reality it is not.

    My suggestion is to go over the Cat 4, 5 and 6 list on Marriott Reward site and see if you can find something that works for you.

  7. where on the marriott website are these marriott travel packages shown? Searching high and low on the site and do not see them or the award chart you show. I see flights and hotel deals but they do not show the numbers in your column.

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