Here’s what you should know before transferring Marriott points to airline miles
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What makes the Marriott Bonvoy programme more valuable than many other hotel programmes isn’t just the sheer number of properties you can now book using points, but also the wide variety of airline partners to which you can transfer points. Bonvoy members have a whopping 43 airline transfer partners to choose from, giving you valuable flexibility for your points.
In addition, many offer solid transfer ratios. All but three of the partners have a 3:1 point-to-mile transfer ratio, plus a 5,000-mile bonus for every 60,000 points transferred from the new programme, effectively making the ratio 2.4:1.
The only airlines with worse ratios are JetBlue and Air New Zealand. These carriers have transfer ratios of 6:1 and 200:1, respectively. Meanwhile, the RewardsPlus partnership allows you to transfer Marriott points to United at a 3:1.1 ratio.
But how long do these transfers actually take? Let’s find out.
Mariott Bonvoy transfer times
Hotel point transfers to airlines are generally known to take longer than some other transferable currencies, like American Express Membership Rewards. So we here at TPG wanted to find out just how long it actually takes to move Marriott Rewards points to all partners. To do so, we routinely transfer 3,000 points to each of Marriott’s partners and track the time it takes for them to show up.
When we thought that some might have been delayed due to the pandemic, we conducted a test in June 2020. Your experiences may vary, but here’s what we found:
|Aegean Airlines||3 days|
|Aeroplan / Air Canada||4 days|
|Air China||ERROR MESSAGE (see below)|
|Air France/KLM||3 days|
|Air New Zealand||<24 hours|
|All Nippon Airways (ANA)||4 days|
|British Airways||3 days|
|Cathay Pacific / Asia Miles||5 days|
|China Eastern||~7 weeks|
|China Southern||STILL WAITING|
|Frontier Airlines||~6 weeks
|Japan Airlines (JAL)||48 hours|
|Jet Airways||7 days|
|JetBlue Airways||<24 hours|
|LATAM (Multiplus)||ERROR MESSAGE (see below)|
|Qantas Airways||<48 hours|
|Qatar Airways||3 days|
|Saudia Airlines||5 days|
|South African||3 days|
|TAP Portugal||STILL WAITING|
|Turkish Airlines||3 days|
|Virgin Atlantic||<48 hours|
|Virgin Australia||24 hours|
*Effective 2 June 2020, most Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus awards redemptions have been suspended, including all flight redemptions. We don’t recommend transferring your points to Thai at this time.
Note that the times listed above represent our personal experience, and shouldn’t be taken as hard and fast rules. However, others have reported similar timelines when transferring points from Marriott Bonvoy. Your own transfers may be faster or slower, but you can use these times as guidelines when planning your trips.
Unlike the major transferrable points programmes, none of the Marriott transfers were instant. To make matters worse, just 14 of them were completed within 48 hours. Some points didn’t post until a month or even later. This is a long time to wait, especially if you’re booking a last-minute ticket or trying to snag coveted award space in a premium cabin.
One interesting note regarding Frontier miles: these posted after roughly six weeks. However, the post date was the day after the transfer was initiated, even though they didn’t actually arrive in the account until six weeks later. The six-week timeline is bad enough, but since Frontier miles expire after six months of inactivity, we now only have four and a half months to use them.
However, these delays pale in comparison to the following…
As of 12 June, we are still waiting on the points to arrive in our China Southern and TAP Portugal accounts. This was after trying three separate transfers (one in February 2019, one in September 2019 and one in June 2020). Given the delays, we reached out to Marriott to inquire about this discrepancy, since the programme’s terms and conditions provide a window of “approximately six weeks” for the miles to arrive. Here’s the statement provided to TPG:
“For transfers not posting in a timely manner, we did send the data you cited to our airline partners as usual and are working with them to learn why this is happening.”
I personally would stay away from transferring to China Southern and TAP Portugal until the issue is resolved.
In addition to the above, there were two airlines that registered “transfer errors,” meaning the TPG team was not able to successfully move points to these programmes. Our valid, active accounts for Air China and LATAM (Multiplus) received the following error:
We’ve confirmed that both of these airlines are indeed still Marriott partners, and Marriott provided us with the following statement about the issues we encountered:
“This is the first time it has come to our attention, thank you, and we are working with those airline partners to understand why it is happening and what corrective actions need to be taken.“
It’s also worth noting that our first transfers to British Airways and South African Airways all resulted in receiving more miles than we expected (2,000 and 3,500, respectively). However, both carriers posted the correct number when we tried it a second time.
Finally, note that transfers to AeroMexico appear to be at a 3:1 ratio on Marriott’s website, but we actually received 1,610 Club Premier points for the 3,000 Marriott points we transferred. Since AeroMexico effectively uses the metric system for its currency (kilometers instead of miles), this actually makes sense, since 1 mile = ~1.61 km.
Before transferring Marriott Bonvoy points
The greatest risk when transferring points is that award availability can change while you’re waiting for points to show up in your account. Transfers are irreversible, so in the worst-case scenario, you’ll be stuck with thousands of points in a programme you have little use for beyond your originally-intended award ticket or hotel night. Here are a few tips for how to avoid that situation:
1. Put your award reservation on hold prior to transferring. Not all programmes allow you to put award tickets on hold, but those that do, make things much easier. For example, Singapore KrisFlyer allows you to hold an award reservation so long as you have 50% of the necessary miles in your account.
2. Choose flights that have more than one available award seat. This is helpful in case someone snags your award seats before your miles show up. Use tools like ExpertFlyer (which is owned by TPG’s parent company, Red Ventures) to find out how many award seats are available on a flight. You can also do a single search for three or four passengers — that way, you can determine precisely how many seats are available.
3. Select uncommon routes. You can improve your chances of finding award space by choosing routes that are less popular or originate from non-hubs Those often have better award availability. One example is a transatlantic flight from Raleigh-Durham to London on American Airlines. For a transpacific flight, check out ANA’s flight from San Jose to Tokyo-Narita.
4. Let availability determine your destination. If your original itinerary is no longer an option because availability has dried up and you have some flexibility, one solution is to choose your destination based on which awards are still bookable. If you want to fly six people in business to Hawaii for Christmas, I’d keep in mind the difficulty of that task and search for other destinations with availability — perhaps finding a diamond in the rough.
If your original flights have disappeared, don’t panic. Keep in mind that award availability changes frequently and can increase dramatically as you get closer to your departure date. Check regularly and be ready to act quickly when seats do open up.
Can you transfer Marriott Bonvoy points to someone else’s account?
According to Marriott’s website, for most airline partners, the name on your Marriott Bonvoy account must match the name on the airline frequent flyer programme in order to successfully transfer points. In other words, you typically can’t transfer Marriott points directly to someone else’s frequent flyer account. However, there’s a workaround.
Marriott allows point transfers between Bonvoy accounts. So, if you want to transfer your points to someone else’s frequent flyer account, transfer the points to their Bonvoy account first and then they could request the transfer to the airline. The process is fairly straightforward, but there are a few restrictions to be aware of:
- You don’t need to be related to the person you’re transferring with, nor do you need to share an address. You can transfer points to anyone’s Marriott account, as long as both accounts have been open and in good standing for 30 days (with qualifying activity) or 90 days (without qualifying activity).
- Each member can transfer up to 100,000 points per calendar year, and receive up to 500,000 points per calendar year.
- You can only move points in 1,000-point increments.
- You must call Marriott member support at 801-468-4000 in order to initiate a transfer.
Is there a fee for transferring Marriott Bonvoy points?
There is no fee for transferring Marriott points. That said, like any award booking, you’ll still be responsible for any taxes and fees tacked on by the airline when redeeming your miles.
How to earn Marriott Bonvoy points
You can earn points for paid Marriott hotel stays, with general members earning 10x points per dollar spent and elite members earning up to 17.5x points per dollar. You also have a credit card option for earning Marriott Bonvoy points more quickly.
The Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card currently comes with a welcome bonus of 20,000 Bonvoy points after spending £3,000 in the first six months of cardmembership. With the card, you’ll earn 2 points for every pound spent on the card and 6 points per pound spent at Marriott properties. There’s a £75 annual fee with the card.
If you’re looking for some great values for these transfers, here are a few to consider:
- Transfer 180,000 Marriott Rewards points to Alaska Mileage Plan to fly one-way from North America to Asia in Cathay Pacific first class (with 5,000 extra Alaska miles leftover from the transfer).
- Transfer 280,000 Marriott Rewards points to JAL to fly round-trip from New York to Milan in Emirates A380 first class.
- Transfer 120,000 Marriott Rewards points to Alaska Mileage Plan to fly one-way from North America to South America in LATAM business class (with 5,000 extra Alaska miles leftover from the transfer).
Remember to leverage Marriott’s 5,000-mile bonus for every 60,000 points you transfer whenever possible. If you’re able to maximize the bonus by transferring in increments of 60,000 points, your transfer ratio will effectively be 2.4:1.
Although Marriott offers more transfer partners than any other programme, based on what we saw, it falls far behind when it comes to processing transfers in a timely manner. The vast majority of transfers took at least three days to complete.
If you have no choice but to transfer points from Marriott, there will always be some risk that award availability will change while you’re waiting for points to show up in your account. Make sure to give yourself plenty of time to account for the sometimes-sluggish process. Always have a back-up plan in case availability for your original itinerary dries up by the time your points arrive. Transfers are irreversible, so in the worst-case scenario, you could be stuck with thousands of miles in a programme for which you have little use beyond your original award ticket.
Featured image by Nicky Kelvin/TPG.
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