Maximizing Marriott’s Hotel + Air Packages

Nov 17, 2015

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You can often score significant discounts by booking a flight and hotel together. However, many travel providers also allow you to redeem points or miles for these packages. While these aren’t always a great deal, they can definitely provide some solid value when you use them properly. Hot on the heels of yesterday’s Starwood merger announcement, TPG Senior Points & Miles Contributor Nick Ewen takes a look at Marriott Rewards’ Hotel + Air Packages.

Marriott Featured
Marriott’s Hotel + Air packages can be a terrific value


Earlier this month, I took a look at Starwood’s Nights & Flights packages, which let you book an award stay at a discount when you transfer points to an airline partner. With a concept similar to SPG’s, Marriott’s Hotel + Air packages allow you to redeem points for a seven-night stay in a Marriott or Ritz-Carlton property and then receive anywhere from 25,000-132,000 airline points or miles to cover your travel. These packages represent significant point savings when compared to booking a hotel and transferring Marriott points to an airline separately, though the exact number of points you’ll need depends on two key factors:

  • The category of your desired hotel
  • How many airline points or miles you want

It doesn’t help that there are actually five different award charts for this particular redemption, so figuring out the best option can be a bit tricky. The above link has all of the details, but I’ll also break it down by popular program below.

Before getting into that, here’s a quick chart that summarizes the range of Marriott Rewards points required for these redemptions:

Rewards Category/Tier

Number of points required

(Seven nights + airline points/miles)

Category 1-5

200,000 – 270,000 points

Category 6

230,000 – 300,000 points

Category 7

260,000 – 330,000 points

Category 8

290,000 – 360,000 points

Category 9

320,000 – 390,000 points

Tier 1-3 (Ritz-Carlton)

350,000 – 420,000 points

Tier 4-5

470,000 – 540,000 points

Here’s what a standard seven-night stay would cost you across all categories in the Marriott and Ritz-Carlton portfolio (note that this includes the fifth night free benefit, so a seven-night stay is really the cost per night x six nights):

Rewards Category/Tier

Number of points (seven-night PointSavers stay)

Number of points (seven-night standard stay)

Category 1



Category 2



Category 3



Category 4



Category 5



Category 6



Category 7



Category 8



Category 9



Tier 1



Tier 2



Tier 3



Tier 4



Tier 5



So how do you decide whether these redemptions are worthwhile? As a general rule of thumb, I recommend the following formula:

Total Package Price – Standard Redemption Cost = Cost (in Marriott Rewards points) of purchasing the airline points/miles.

The additional Marriott Rewards points above the standard cost for a seven-night award stay are basically being used to purchase the corresponding number of airline miles. You’ll need to answer a simple question: is it worth spending the extra Marriott Rewards points to get the airline points/miles, or should I just redeem the points for the seven-night stay and keep the rest for future redemptions? In other words, when are the airline points or miles I receive worth more than the additional Marriott points required?

As you’ll see, there are times when it makes sense to pull the trigger and other times when you should stick with a standard award stay and ignore these Hotel + Air packages — and it all depends on how you value both Marriott Rewards points and your chosen airline’s currency. For the purposes of my analysis, I will use TPG’s most recent valuations to calculate when it makes sense to book these packages for each of the 16 airlines he includes on the list.

For example, he pegs Marriott Rewards points at 0.7 cents apiece and United miles at 1.5 cents apiece. Your break-even point is thus when you can convert 2.14 Marriott points to 1 United mile. If a package gives you a more favorable ratio, it’s a good deal. If it doesn’t, you should stay away.

Jonathan and his fian
An airline like Alaska, with its high-valued miles, is a much better option for these packages than other carriers.

My Calculations

When it comes to an analysis like this, my mind immediately jumps to Microsoft Excel. The program has so many built-in formulas and data validation functions, so it can allow you to easily identify when a Hotel + Air package makes sense to book. I went ahead and created a spreadsheet with all of this data condensed into a single page. The file can be accessed here, and it’s very simple to use:

  1. Open up the spreadsheet
  2. Select your airline from the yellow drop-down box (you can use either the standard or PointSavers tab, depending on your redemption)

Again, we’re looking for instances where the additional airline points or miles you receive are worth more than the additional Marriott points needed for the package.

Let’s take a closer look at the five award charts and use the data from the spreadsheet to see when it makes sense to book a Hotel + Air package with Marriott Rewards.

RewardsPlus Hotel + Air Package

Back in 2013, Marriott and United joined forced to launch the RewardsPlus partnership. This gave travelers a variety of additional perks, including reciprocal elite benefits and a 20% discount when converting Marriott Rewards points to United MileagePlus miles. It also offered a 10% bonus on flight and hotel travel packages. When you book a Hotel + Air package with Marriott and choose to receive United miles instead of the other 39 airline partners’ currencies, you’d actually get 10% more miles.

There are actually four different award thresholds for each category listed above. When you redeem more Marriott Rewards points, you’ll get more United MileagePlus miles. Here’s a matrix that breaks down the different options:

Marriott Hotel + Air United

As I said above, with any of these packages, you must look at the additional Marriott points required and identify if it’s worth converting those extra points to United miles. When you select United from the drop-down menu in the Excel spreadsheet, you’ll notice something interesting: Hotel + Air packages are almost always a good deal with United. The only exception comes at the very low ends of the spectrum. If you are booking a Category 1 or Tier 1 property, you’ll only come out ahead if you are in the two rightmost columns. In addition, Category 2 packages only make sense if you’re in the three rightmost columns.

Hotel + Air Package 1: Standard programs

United is actually a special case in this analysis, since the RewardsPlus program offers a 10% mileage bonus for booking these packages and getting MileagePlus miles. The first large group of airlines that award the same number of miles are what I think of as the “standard” airlines, including:

  • Air Canada
  • Alaska
  • American
  • British Airways
  • Delta
  • Frontier
  • Virgin Atlantic

These seven carriers covered in TPG’s valuations are joined in this category by more under-the-radar programs like Aeromexico and GOL/Varig, but all of them give you the same number of miles for these packages: 50,000, 70,000, 100,000 or 120,000 (depending on which option you select).

Despite the consistency, the value of each currency still plays a large role in determining whether these packages are good deals. For example, TPG pegs Alaska miles a 2 cents apiece as a result of terrific redemptions like Emirates first class. As a result, booking a package and earning Alaska miles is (like with United) almost always a great deal.

Compare those results to Frontier. With EarlyReturns miles valued at just 1.1 cents apiece, there are many more instances where it simply doesn’t make sense to book a Hotel + Air package.

Ultimate Rewards points can be transferred to partners such as Hyatt to unlock valuable redemptions like the Park Hyatt Sydney.
If you choose Singapore as your airline, you’ll be well on your way to a Suites Class redemption!

Hotel + Air Package 2

The second set of airlines are what I like to consider “unique” carriers. These are more off the beaten path but still include some big names that show up in TPG’s valuations:

  • Air France/KLM
  • ANA
  • Avianca-TACA
  • Lufthansa Miles & More
  • Singapore Airlines

Unfortunately, these airlines fall into their own category because the corresponding packages offer fewer points or miles: 35,000, 50,000, 70,000 or 85,000 (again, depending on which option you select). As a general rule of thumb, you’ll find that most Category 1-3 and Tier 1 redemptions don’t fall into that sweet spot, but most higher categories do.

Southwest Airlines teams up with the Kidd Kraddick foundation to fly chronically and terminally ill children and their families to Disney World for an all-expenses paid vacation. The annual Kidd's Kids event was started by Kidd Kraddick who passed away in 2013. / Stephen M. Keller, 2014
Southwest not only gives you Rapid Rewards points with Marriott’s Hotel + Air packages, but the points also count toward the Companion Pass.

Hotel + Air Package 3

The next award chart actually applies to a single airline: Southwest. I’m honestly not sure why that is, since the point accrual matches the “standard” group exactly: you’d earn 50,000, 70,000, 100,000 or 120,000 Rapid Rewards points through these packages (again, depending on which option you select). Southwest does have a revenue-based frequent flyer program, but it recently muddied the waters with a “program update” that now varies award ticket prices based on date, destination, time, demand and other factors. My colleague Jason Steele found that point values range from 1.2 to 1.9 cents apiece, so be sure to adjust your calculations accordingly when deciding to book one of these packages.

However, one of the really appealing aspects of booking a Hotel + Air package with Southwest as your designated airline is the fact that the Rapid Rewards points do count toward Companion Pass qualification. In fact, TPG did this very thing last year to visit the JW Marriott Cannes and snag a companion pass for his parents. A seven-night hotel stay and a companion pass sounds like a great deal to me! Just try to time when the points hit your account so you can hopefully earn the companion pass for almost two years.

Even ignoring the Companion Pass angle, these packages with Southwest tend to have some solid value, again as long as you stay away from Category 1-2 and Tier 1 properties.

This could be a great opportunity to fly JetBlue's Mint business class...and earn elite status in the meantime!
Though it’s pricey, you could put your TrueBlue points from a Hotel + Air package toward a cross-country flight in JetBlue’s Mint class.

Hotel + Air Package 4

The final chart applies to another two airlines with revenue-based frequent flyer programs: JetBlue and Virgin America. Unfortunately, they both provide the lowest number of miles for these packages: 25,000, 35,000, 50,000 or 60,000 points. Incredibly, when you select JetBlue in my spreadsheet, you’ll see that these package options are never a good deal (though I did use 1.2 cents as the value per point, when they can get up to 1.4 cents apiece).

However, Virgin America has a slightly better outcome, though still relatively poor compared to the rest of the airlines, as you should avoid Categories 1-3 and Tiers 1-2 entirely.

How to Book

Unfortunately, these Hotel + Air packages can only be booked by calling Marriott Rewards at 1-800-321-7396. However, you don’t need to have all of the points in your account when you call, as Marriott allows you to make award reservations even when you are short on points. This is especially important given that Marriott is one of the few Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partners that doesn’t process transfers immediately. Just be aware that you won’t receive any actual airline miles until you do have the required point balance to confirm the package.

There are also a few additional items to consider:

  • You must stay exactly seven nights; any unused nights will be forfeited.
  • The airline transfers are nonrefundable and may take up to six weeks to appear in your account.

Boosting Your Marriott Rewards Account Balance

If these packages are appealing to you, there are several ways to quickly rack up Marriott points. For starters, consider signing up for the Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card, which is currently offering a sign-up bonus of 75,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in your first three months.

In addition, Marriott is a 1:1 transfer partner of Ultimate Rewards, so you can transfer points from cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and the Ink Plus Business Card directly to your Marriott Rewards account. This may not be the maximum value you can extract out of Ultimate Rewards, but it can still be a great option if you want to quickly earn enough points for one of these packages.

The Pier One Sydney Harbour normally requires 40,000 points per night, but if you don't have enough to cover the reservation, don't let that stop you!
A seven-night hotel stay in Sydney becomes even better when you also have enough miles to get there.

Bottom Line

Marriott’s Hotel + Air packages can be a great option for those of you with large stashes of Marriott Rewards points. However, be sure to crunch the numbers before deciding which package makes the most sense (or whether to pull the trigger at all!). Generally speaking, you won’t get as much value out of Category 1-2 and Tier 1 properties, but there are some terrific deals to be had at the higher-end locations. When you factor in the plethora of ways to redeem the miles you’d receive, these packages can open up a world of travel.

Have any of you booked a Hotel + Air package with Marriott in the past?


Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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