The case against buying travel packages (even if you want airline miles)

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I’ve written repeatedly recently about the value in buying Marriott travel packages before August 18th.  Yesterday, Nick joked with me that we’ve argued in favor of purchasing bottom-tier travel packages, mid-tier packages, and top-tier packages.  “The only side left is to argue against buying Marriott travel packages at all.”

And, actually, there’s a very good reason to argue exactly that… even if you’re primarily interested in airline miles.

If you buy a category 1-5 travel package this week in exchange for 120,000 airline miles, you’ll get more miles per point than you would transferring SPG Starpoints to miles at a rate of 20K points to 25K miles.  Remember that Starpoints convert to rewards points 1 to 3, so paying 270K rewards points for a travel package is equivalent to paying 90K Starpoints.  Converting 20K Starpoints to 25K miles gives you a transfer rate of 1 to 1.25.  Converting 90K Starpoints to 120K miles gives you a transfer rate of 1 to 1.33 miles.  This is a better transfer rate even if you throw away your stay certificate (but please don’t do that).

So, why would I argue against buying travel packages?  In the new program, beginning Saturday 8/18/18, the ability to convert points to miles will stay the same as today’s SPG transfer: 20K Starpoints = 60K rewards points = 25K airline miles.  While that transfer ratio isn’t as good as today’s travel package ratio, it isn’t much worse.  And it has a huge advantage… you can keep your points until you know which miles you need.

Shown above, Korean Air first class

The power of keeping transferable points in a transferable form hit like a brick yesterday when we learned that Chase will drop Korean Airlines as a transfer partner as of August 25, 2018.  When that happens, guess which common transferable points program will be best for getting the Korean Airlines miles you need?  Yep: Marriott.  Currently Marriott offers an unfavorable transfer to Korean Airlines (unless you go through SPG), but in the new program they’ll offer the same transfer ratio to all supported airlines: 60K rewards points to 25K miles (plus 10% extra if you convert to United miles).

Marriott transfer partners as of 8/18/2018

If you’ve already spent your points on travel packages (like I have), I wouldn’t feel bad about it.  You did get a great deal.  But if you haven’t yet bought a package, consider the power of keeping your points transferable for when you need them.  There’s no way to know today which airline miles will serve you best in the future.  Keeping your points as points is a great way to stay flexible and get the best value flight awards that match your needs at the time you need them.

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