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Today I received an excellent question from a long-time Mommy Points reader that I thought was worth answering here since it might be an idea shared by a few of you. The question was about whether it was worth transferring 100,000 Amex Membership Reward points to the Starwood Preferred Guest program in advance of the combining of the SPG and Marriott programs on August 1, 2018. The person who asked the question already has 100,000 Membership Reward points in his account ready to go, but in light of the recent return of the bonus of up to 100,000 Membership Reward points on the Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN that runs until August 8, 2018, this seemed like a great topic to explore.
Transferring SPG points from Amex Membership Rewards
You can transfer Membership Reward points from cards like the Business Platinum® Card, The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card, and Premier Rewards Gold Card at a normal ratio of 1,000 Membership Reward points = 333 Starwood Preferred Guest points. That is not a great ratio, and you now immediately know why this isn’t a more hotly discussed topic. However, let’s not discount this option completely before putting some math behind what that sort of transfer would look like.
Transferring 100,000 Amex Membership Reward points would give you 33,300 SPG points. This is the same as 99,900 Marriott Reward points. That’s not a terrible number of Marriott points, but there are easier ways to get 100,000 Marriott Reward points than losing so many Membership Reward points in the transfer. For example, you could get the new Marriott Rewards Premier Plus credit card that recently launched with a big 100,000 point bonus that can be unlocked with $5,000 in spending on the card within the first three months. Learn more.
But let’s assume that you already know about that offer and you know that you can purchase up to 30,000 SPG points at a 35% discount until May 31, 2018. At that rate, 30,000 SPG points would cost you $682.50. That is a little fewer points than the 33,300 SPG points we are talking about transferring in from Membership Rewards, but it gives you a reference point in terms of the cost to purchase that number of points out of pocket. At that cost per point, 33,300 SPG points would cost you about $757. If you go with that valuation for your points, that means that your 100,000 Amex Membership Reward points are only getting you about $757 worth of value, which isn’t good.
Strategizing to book high-end resorts for fewer points on August 1
However, miles and points math isn’t always straight-forward, and perhaps you still need more Marriott points to book the big trip you want either before the award chart changes on August 1st, or maybe as soon as it changes and some high-end properties become temporarily more affordable on award bookings. As an example, let’s assume that you want to stay at the fantastic St. Regis Princeville in Hawaii. This property is currently 30,000 to 35,000 SPG points per night, but instead of that being 90,000 – 105,000 Marriott Rewards points per night at the current 1:3 ratio, it will actually temporarily drop to just 60,000 Marriott Reward points per night if you lock in a stay from August 1 – early 2019, for as far out as the schedule will allow since the chart will be capped at 60,000 points in 2018.
With the fifth award night free, you would be able to book a five-night stay at this or other high-end St. Regis resorts for 240,000 Marriott points. A five-night stay booked with cash at one of these resorts would probably cost you at least $500 per night for a total of $2,500. At select properties or during peak seasons it can easily cost more than that for a five-night stay. Locking in top-tier St. Regis resorts for 60,000 Marriott points per night is a good deal, but if the points came from Membership Rewards at a ratio of 1,000 Membership Reward points = 333 SPG points, then the deal isn’t quite as sweet. Once you lose about 1/3 of the total in the transfer from Amex to SPG, and gain 3x going from SPG to Marriott Rewards, you are looking at about a 1:1 transfer from Membership Rewards to Marriott Rewards.
I prefer to redeem my Membership Reward points at 1.5 – 2 cents in value per point and it simply not that common to get that much value from a Marriott Reward point, even via some award chart sweet spots. The Points Guy site currently has Marriott Rewards points valued at .9 cents per point, and I’d say that is about right. I think in 98%+ of cases you will be better off using your Membership Reward points in another manner rather than transferring them to SPG and onto Marriott Rewards. I’m sure there is a fringe case out there where it makes sense to make that transfer, but triple check the math and be sure you don’t have a better avenue towards getting the Marriott points you want.
Search for an Amex card with no annual fee rather than make a bad transfer
In the case of the reader who asked this question, they are particularly interested in making this move not only to capitalize on the St. Regis properties that are dropping in award price come August 1st, but also because they want to close the Amex card tied to the 100,000 Membership Reward points. If your primary reason to transfer out your Membership Reward points is because of an annual fee, consider just getting a no annual fee Amex card that earns Membership Reward points such as the Amex EveryDay® Credit Card or The Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card. This will keep your Membership Rewards points safe until you have a better use for them.
Because of the poor transfer ratio, in the vast majority of cases, I do not recommend transferring 100,000 Amex Membership Reward points to SPG and then onto Marriott Rewards. That said, no statement in the miles and points world is absolute, so you should always do the math for your own unique situation.
Have you considered (or made) that sort of transfer? If so, I’d love to hear the thoughts behind your decision-making process!
Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.