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?
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.
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.