Between September 1 and September 30, 2020, you’ll receive an extra 25% bonus when you transfer your MR points to Marriott Bonvoy, resulting in an effective transfer ratio of 2 Amex MR points = 3 Marriott Bonvoy points!
This is a very exciting opportunity to make excellent use of your Amex MR Select points from the Cobalt Card and Business Edge Card in particular, and there are also a variety of new opportunities to access a wider range of frequent flyer programs thanks to Marriott Bonvoy’s 40+ airline partners. Let’s delve into all the details.
25% Transfer Bonus
Ever since the launch of Marriott Bonvoy following the merger of the legacy Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) programs, the transfer ratio from Canadian-issued American Express Membership Rewards has been set at 1:1.2: for every 1,000 MR points transferred, you’d receive 1,200 Marriott Bonvoy points.
With a temporary 25% bonus throughout the month of September, this transfer ratio has been bumped up to an effective 2:3 ratio: 1,000 MR points will earn you 1,500 Marriott Bonvoy points.
The transfer ratio is hard-coded into the American Express online dashboard for the month of September:
Transfers to Marriott Bonvoy typically take two business days to complete. The name and address should match between your Amex MR and Marriott Bonvoy accounts, although keep in mind that Marriott Bonvoy members can send up to 100,000 points per calendar year to another member, and can receive up to 500,000 points per calendar year cumulatively from other members.
Effectively, this represents a return to the more favourable historical transfer ratio between Amex MR and SPG. Prior to 2018, Amex MR points could be transferred to SPG at a ratio of 2:1, and since the equivalency was set at 1 SPG Starpoint = 3 Marriott Bonvoy points when the two programs merged, we’re now getting a small taste of the “good old days” with the 2:3 temporary transfer ratio in place.
Is It a Good Deal to Transfer Amex MR to Marriott Bonvoy?
Converting Amex MR points into Marriott Bonvoy points represents one of the many potential valuable uses, although the value proposition isn’t necessarily the strongest for regular MR points.
That’s because regular MR points can be transferred to airline frequent flyer programs as well (notably Aeroplan or British Airways Avios at a 1:1 ratio), which typically provide better value when redeemed for flights in premium cabins, compared to the average hotel redemption via Marriott Bonvoy. If you’ve already got enough points to cover your flights, though, then transferring to Marriott Bonvoy would certainly be a compelling next-best use case.
However, the most attractive opportunity here is to use your Amex MR Select points, earned from either the Cobalt Card or the Business Edge Card, to convert into Marriott Bonvoy at the elevated 2:3 ratio. That’s because MR Select points cannot be transferred to airlines, and their typical best-case usage is to transfer to Marriott Bonvoy in the first place. Now that the transfer ratio has received a boost, the value of MR Select points has been temporarily elevated as well.
The Amex Cobalt Card is most well-known for its ability to earn 5 MR Select points per dollar spent on food and drinks, including dining, groceries, and food delivery.
With the 25% transfer bonus in place, you can effectively earn 7.5 Marriott Bonvoy points per dollar spent on all purchases in the food and drinks category; since I’d value Marriott Bonvoy points at 0.9 cents per point (CAD), that’s equivalent to a spectacular 6.75% return on your spending, or easily more than that if you redeem your Bonvoy points wisely at a high value.
If you don’t currently hold the Cobalt Card, then you can apply now and benefit from the 5x earning rate in conjunction with the month-long 25% transfer bonus; however, you wouldn’t receive the full signup bonus in time, because the Cobalt Card delivers its bonuses on a monthly basis.
On the other hand, the Amex Business Edge Card might be a better choice to apply for if you’d like to give your Marriott Bonvoy points balance a boost.
As the “base” signup bonus, the Business Edge Card gives you 40,000 MR Select points upon spending $5,000 in the first three months, so if you can complete the minimum spending before September ends, then you’d have at least 46,000 MR Select points (taking into account the additional bonus of 1,000 MR Select points for each of the first 12 months that you spend $3,000) – which would convert into 69,000 Marriott Bonvoy points under the 25% transfer bonus.
Given the fact that a transfer to Marriott Bonvoy is one of the strongest possible uses of MR Select points, the 25% transfer bonus means that there’s been no better time than the present to maximize your spending on the Cobalt Card and sign up for the Business Edge Card if you don’t have it already.
Don’t Forget: Transferring Marriott Bonvoy to Airline Partners
We must also consider the possibility of transferring Marriott Bonvoy points to their 40+ airline partners at the optimal ratio of 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points = 25,000 airline miles.
With the elevated 2:3 transfer ratio from Amex MR, this opens up many more doors in terms of using your Canadian-issued Amex MR points to access a far greater range of frequent flyer programs than usual.
Given that the optimal transfer ratio takes effect in chunks of 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points, the best practice will be to transfer Amex MR points in chunks of 40,000 points. This gives us the following ratio for the month of September:
40,000 Amex MR (Select) points = 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points = 25,000 airline miles
You can review this post for a list of excellent award chart sweet spots that you can “access” with Marriott Bonvoy points, but in general, almost every frequent flyer program worth its salt is a partner of Marriott’s – and can therefore be accessed at an effective ratio of 8:5, as seen above.
As before, MR Select points will be the most compelling transfer candidate if you have any to spare, but even if you’re sitting on regular MR points, the effective transfer ratio of 8:5 is still worth considering if you have your eye on any of the award chart sweet spots out there that might usually be harder to access.
Want to fly ANA First Class round-trip for 120,000 Virgin Atlantic miles? That’ll only be 200,000 Amex MR points, which is lower than both the 210,000 Aeroplan miles under the current program and the 220,000 Aeroplan points under the new program.
Want to book an ANA round-the-world award for 125,000 ANA Mileage Club miles in business class, with eight stopovers and four open-jaws? Same price.
American Express has launched a very exciting 25% transfer bonus from Amex MR to Marriott Bonvoy, which will surely entice many of us to convert our MR points over to the world’s largest hotel loyalty program.
Not only will there be excellent value in redeeming for free hotel nights, but Marriott Bonvoy’s 40+ airline transfer partners also greatly expand the possibilities for redeeming MR and MR Select points towards amazing flight experiences as well.
I’m sure we’ll all be putting in every effort to maximize the 5x multiplier on our Cobalt Cards this month, and if you haven’t signed up for a Business Edge Card yet, there’s no better time than the present!