Buy miles indirectly through SPG and Marriott

SPG (Starwood Preferred Guest) often offers their points at a discount (click here to find current rates), but even when they sell them for the standard price of 3.5 cents each, they can be a great way to save on buying airline miles or Marriott Rewards points.  Details below.

Buy Marriott Rewards points for 1.17 cents each

Marriott usually sells their points for 1.25 cents each.  Since SPG points transfer to Marriott at a rate of 1 to 3, you’re always better off buying SPG points if you need Marriott points.  At the usual price of 3.5 cents per SPG point, that comes to 1.17 cents per Marriott point — a slightly better deal than buying from Marriott directly.

Airline Miles

SPG points transfer to many airline mile programs at a rate of 20,000 SPG to 25,000 airline miles.  Thanks to that generous transfer ratio, by buying SPG points for 3.5 cents each, you can buy airline miles for 2.8 cents each.

For a complete list of SPG airline transfer partners, see: SPG Transfer Partners.

Airline Miles via Marriott

Marriott Rewards offers a couple ways to convert points to miles: direct conversion, and through flight & hotel packages.  Via direct conversion, they offer the following transfer rates (found here):

  • 56,000 Marriott points –> 25,000 United miles
  • 70,000 Marriott points –> 25,000 miles in a variety of programs: Aeromexico, Aeroplan (Air Canada), Alaska, American Airlines, British Airways, Copa Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, GOL/Varig, Hawaiian Airlines, Iberia Airlines, Southwest, Virgin Atlantic

And via flight & hotel packages, they offer the following transfer rates (found here):

  • 270,000 Marriott points –> 132,000 United miles (plus a 7 night category 1-5 certificate)
  • 270,000 Marriott points –> 120,000 miles in a variety of programs: Aeromexico, Air Canada*, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, British Airways, Copa Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, GOL/Varig, Hawaiian Airlines, Iberia Airlines, Southwest, Virgin Atlantic (plus a 7 night category 1-5 certificate)

If we buy Marriott points for 1.17 cents each as shown above, then we can indirectly purchase miles at the following rates:

  • Buy 25,000 United miles for 2.6 cents per mile
  • Buy 25,000 miles in a variety of programs for 3.28 cents each (there’s not much point to doing this since buying SPG points and transferring 20K points to 25K airline miles is cheaper)
  • Buy 132,000 United miles for 2.39 cents per mile
  • Buy 120,000 miles in a variety of programs for 2.63 cents per mile

The biggest obstacle to buying miles through flight & hotel packages is that you need 270,000 Marriott Rewards points to make it happen, and SPG limits point purchases to 30,000 points per person (90,000 Marriott Rewards).  There are ways around this, but they’re outside the scope of this post.

Note that the price per mile shown above does not account for the fact that you’ll also get a certificate good for 7 nights in a Marriott category 1-5 hotel.  You can return that certificate for 45,000 Marriott points (15,000 SPG) to make the price per mile effectively lower.

For more details about Marriott flight & hotel packages (also known as travel packages), see: 12 things you need to know about Marriott Travel Packages.

Should You Buy?

In general, I don’t recommend buying points or miles unless you have a specific award in mind for which you need extra points.  Buying SPG points can be a great way to quickly get enough SPG or Marriott points for discounted hotel nights.  Top tier Marriott hotels (such as the St. Pancras London) cost 45,000 points per night for a standard room.  At 1.17 cents per point, you can get those rooms for $525.  That’s hardly cheap, but it may represent a discount at some extremely high end hotels. Better bets may be found at lower end hotels.  Category 2 and Category 3 (off season) hotels go for 10,000 points per night.  Buy purchasing points, it’s possible to stay in these hotels for $117 per night.  Again, that’s not necessarily cheap, but it may be a discount off certain properties.

Buying SPG/Marriott points can also be a good way to get the extra airline miles you need to top off an award.

Save More

You can save more money by clicking through a portal to buy the SPG points. TopCashBack currently offers 2.5% cash back when buying SPG points.

By clicking through TopCashBack for 2.5% back, you will get more SPG points for less money (after the TopCashBack rebate).  In the end, your cost will be:

  • SPG Points: 3.4125 cents each
  • Marriott Points (transferred from SPG 1 to 3): 1.1375 cents each
  • Airline Miles (transferred from SPG 20,000 to 25,000): 2.73 cents each

If for some reason you don’t want to bother with portals, you can always use our affiliate link instead (with our thanks!): Click here to buy SPG points (affiliate link).

Earn 2X SPG Points with the purchase

Pay with your SPG card in order to earn 2X rewards for the purchase. This has been confirmed to work, but it might require selecting Credit Card Type “SPG American Express” rather than just “American Express” as shown below:

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