In terms of their loyalty programs, hotels and airlines have a natural opportunity to form partnerships for the benefit of their members.
Travellers who fly frequently will also need a place to stay along their trips, so we often see hotel loyalty programs and frequent flyer programs working together to offer accelerated points earning, reciprocal status benefits, and the ability to transfer points from hotels to airlines.
I often receive questions from readers about whether or not these hotel-to-airline transfers constitute a good deal. That’s especially true given the fact that the frequent flyer programs routinely put on promotions to encourage folks to transfer more hotel points over, such as the current Aeroplan 30–35% bonus when converting your hotel points into Aeroplan miles, which is valid until April 22, 2019.
The Aeroplan 30–35% Bonus
The public offer is a 30% bonus, whereas a significant number of Aeroplan members (including me) were targeted with a 35% promotion as well.
Under this specific promotion, the amount of miles you’ll earn depends on which hotel program you’re converting from. You’ll receive the 30–35% bonus on top of the below transfer ratios from each participating hotel program:
Marriott Bonvoy: 3 Bonvoy points = 1 Aeroplan mile
For every 60,000 Bonvoy points converted, you get an extra 5,000 Aeroplan miles, so it’s optimal to convert points in chunks of 60,000
IHG Rewards Club: 5 IHG Rewards points = 1 Aeroplan mile (minimum of 10,000 points must be converted)
Hilton Honors: 10 Hilton points = 1 Aeroplan mile (minimum of 10,000 points must be converted)
Radisson Rewards: 10,000 Radisson points = 1,000 Aeroplan miles
You’ll also get an additional 30% bonus, for a total bonus of 60–65%
Best Western Rewards: 5 Best Western Rewards points = 1 Aeroplan mile
Wyndham Rewards: 5 Wyndham points = 1 Aeroplan mile (minimum of 6,000 points must be converted)
Coast Rewards: 1 Coast point = 1 Aeroplan mile (minimum of 1,000 points must be converted)
Choice Privileges: 5 Choice points = 1 Aeroplan mile
Le Club AccorHotels: 2 Accor points = 1 Aeroplan mile (minimum of 4,000 points must be converted)
Shangri-La Golden Circle: 1 Golden Circle point = 1 Aeroplan mile (minimum of 2,500 points must be converted)
Should you be taking advantage of this opportunity to convert your hotel points into Aeroplan? And in general, is it a good deal to leverage conversion bonus events like these?
The answer depends on your exact circumstances, and in particular, there are several questions you need to be asking…
How Much Do You Value Hotel Points vs. Airline Miles?
When determining whether or not a promotion like this is a good deal for you, the most basic criterion is by comparing the relative worth of the hotel points you have against the airline miles you would earn from the conversion bonus.
Let’s consider the value proposition of transferring Marriott Bonvoy points to Aeroplan under this promotion. First off, remember that Marriott Bonvoy already gives you an extra 25% bonus when you transfer 60,000 Bonvoy points to any airline. Therefore, transferring in multiples of 60,000 Bonvoy points would be the optimal way to take advantage of this promotion.
Starting with 60,000 Bonvoy points, once you calculate the 3:1 ratio, throw in the 25% bonus on Marriott Bonvoy’s end, and then tack on the 30–35% bonus on Aeroplan’s end, you’ll be left with a total of 32,500 to 33,750 Aeroplan miles.
So the question is, how much do you value 60,000 Bonvoy points versus 32,500–33,750 Aeroplan miles? This is something that only you can decide, since it pertains to your specific travel patterns and upcoming travel plans.
For example, if you stay with Marriott frequently and enjoy redeeming your Bonvoy points for hotels, then you’re going to be giving up one night at a very nice Category 7 hotel, two nights at a decent Category 4 hotel, or up to five nights at a lower-tier Category 2 hotel by transferring those 60,000 Bonvoy points away.
If we assume you aren’t using those 32,500–33,750 Aeroplan miles for a larger redemption, that’s enough for a long-haul round-trip within North America, or a one-way flight to Europe in economy.
Would you rather have the possibilities for free hotel nights or a simple Aeroplan redemption? For me, I’d probably value the free nights more, since I could see myself getting $600+ in value out of those 60,000 points, whereas it’d be tougher for me to do the same with the smaller quantity of Aeroplan miles I’d receive.
However, things might look a little different if we imagine that we’re just short of having enough Aeroplan miles for a bigger redemption, like a complex Mini-RTW trip in business class, or a First Class redemption on a nice carrier like Lufthansa or ANA.
That’s certainly going to be a special trip, and if we’ve found all the available flights and urgently need the miles in our accounts to be able to secure the seats, then it might make perfect sense to transfer in the 60,000 Bonvoy points and use the 33,750 miles to make up the difference.
In this scenario, the value you’re deriving from the Aeroplan miles is much higher than the previous case, since you have a specific high-value redemption in mind that outweighs the value you’d get from the free nights, even if you do in fact stay with Marriott quite often. Therefore, you might as well take advantage of the generous 30–35% conversion bonus while it’s being offered.
We can tweak the assumptions even further: many travellers don’t find too much value in hotel loyalty programs, instead opting to stay at cheaper local hotels or Airbnbs along their travels.
These individuals might not see much value in keeping the Bonvoy points around for the hotel nights; instead, an extra chunk of Aeroplan miles might be useful for them to plan their next long weekend getaway. In that case, it would make a lot of sense to transfer the points over during one of these regular conversion bonuses as well.
The Other Hotel Loyalty Programs
Looking beyond Marriott Bonvoy, another hotel program in which some of you might be invested would be Best Western Rewards. The MBNA Best Western credit card has a signup bonus of 20,000 Best Western Rewards points, which could be converted into 4,000 Aeroplan miles ordinarily, or 5,200–5,400 Aeroplan miles during the current conversion bonus.
Would you rather have 20,000 BW Rewards points, or up to 5,400 Aeroplan miles? For me, the clear winner here is to keep your points within Best Western, because 20,000 points can get you a free hotel night at many places around the world that might’ve cost you $100–150 out-of-pocket.
On the other hand, 5,400 Aeroplan miles won’t be enough to do anything on its own, and you’d have to redeem them as part of a larger award to get any value out of them at all, and even then there’s no guarantee you’ll match or exceed the $100–150 in value you’d get from keeping your Best Western Rewards points (in fact, you’ll most likely lose value in the end).
Ultimately, the 5-to-1 conversion ratio is simply too unfavourable to squeeze out much value here.
In my view, the only scenario in which it would make sense to convert your Best Western points would be if you have “orphaned” miles in your account. Say you’re left with 3,000 Best Western points after redeeming for other hotels, which you can’t really redeem for much, and you aren’t planning to earn more points either.
In that case, you might as well convert them into Aeroplan miles, which you’d eventually redeem one day even if you don’t know what they’ll be used for right now, because you probably won’t get any value out of leaving the 3,000 Best Western points as-is.
The same idea applies to any of the other hotel loyalty programs. If you’ve earned a whole bunch of points in, say, Coast Rewards points while you were travelling for work, but you have no intention of staying at Coast hotels for your personal trips (frankly, I’ve never even heard of Coast before this promotion came along), then the value of the Aeroplan miles you’d earn under this promotion would likely be greater for you, so it’d make sense to take advantage of the conversion bonus.
How Easily Can You Earn Hotel Points vs. Airline Miles?
Besides looking at the potential redemption values, the other question to ask when you’re determining whether to convert hotel points into airline miles is the scarcity of each of the currencies involved, or how easily you can earn more of the points on either side of the transaction.
If we compare Marriott Bonvoy to Aeroplan miles, we see that 32,500–33,750 Aeroplan miles are arguably much easier to come by than 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points.
Meanwhile, Aeroplan has a much wider range of earning sources, like the four American Express Membership Rewards cards (chief among which is the Business Platinum Card with 75,000 MR points all on its own), plus TD’s personal and business Aeroplan cards, which currently combine to give you 75,000 Aeroplan miles for no money out-of-pocket.
This is the main reason why I’m not terribly enthusiastic about transferring Bonvoy points over to Aeroplan, even if there’s a 30–35% conversion bonus going on. I know I can earn Aeroplan miles more easily than Bonvoy points, so I’d rather keep the Bonvoy points for what they can be best used for (free hotel nights) and rack up Aeroplan miles through the many other options out there.
Note that this consideration isn’t made in a vacuum, though; as above, if you have no interest in redeeming 60,000 Bonvoy points for hotels, and you’ll still find more value in the 32,500–33,750 Aeroplan miles, then that would still be the optimal course of action for you, even if those Bonvoy points were a little more difficult to earn in the first place.
We can generalize this criterion to the transfer bonuses that other frequent flyer programs have put on as well. When British Airways offered a 30% conversion bonus last month, I was similarly indifferent about it, because Avios are easy for us to earn through the American Express and RBC Avion signup bonuses.
Meanwhile, when United MileagePlus and American Airlines AAdvantage put up hotel conversion bonuses, I tend to take more notice, because there aren’t too many other ways for Canadians to earn those miles, so taking advantage of a transfer bonus is a great way for us to rack up meaningful amounts of miles in those programs.
As far as I’m aware, Alaska Mileage Plan hasn’t offered any conversion bonuses like these in the past. If they ever did, I’d be pretty keen to jump on them – the MBNA Alaska credit card is really the only way for Canadians to earn valuable Alaska miles, so having a nice boost on Marriott Bonvoy transfers would be a welcome development!
What About Transferring MR Select Points?
One last point about MR Select points from the American Express Cobalt Card. Ordinarily, these points can’t be converted into airline miles, but there’s always the backdoor option of converting your MR Select points to Marriott Bonvoy and then converting to Aeroplan. And with the current 30–35% bonus going on, this backdoor option just attracted a little more of the spotlight.
Because of that 25% bonus on converting Bonvoy points in chunks of 60,000, your ideal conversion pathway would be as follows:
50,000 MR Select points = 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points = 32,500–33,750 Aeroplan miles
That works out to be a transfer ratio of 1:0.65 or 1:0.675 from MR Select points to Aeroplan. How good of a deal is that?
Again, we need to compare the relative values of the two currencies to arrive at an answer. I’ve written about the best uses of MR Select points in the past, outlining how their minimum value is 1 cent per point. As a result, those 50,000 MR Select points would be worth $500 at a minimum. Would you be able to beat that with 32,500–33,750 Aeroplan miles (i.e., redeem them for 1.48–1.53+ cents per point)?
If those miles are going to be part of an Aeroplan Mini-RTW, then the answer is almost certainly yes. If you’re redeeming for domestic flights during peak travel season, then there’s a good chance you’ll be able to do so as well. But if you have no certain plans for those Aeroplan miles, then you’ll have to account for that uncertainty when judging the value of transferring your MR Select points in this way.
Ultimately, transferring your Amex Cobalt points to Aeroplan via the Marriott Bonvoy conversion bonus can be a good deal if you have an upcoming redemption in mind, but I wouldn’t recommend doing so only to leave the Aeroplan miles in your account for some unspecified future redemption. You never know how you’ll end up using those miles, whereas keeping those points within your MR Select account is as good as a certain $500 in your pocket.
Frequent flyer programs often put on generous promotions when transferring points over from their hotel partners, although there isn’t a one-size-fits-all rule for whether or not these bonuses represent a good deal. Instead, everyone needs to assess their own situation to decide whether it makes sense to transfer points from hotels to airlines, primarily by judging how much they’d value each currency based on their upcoming travel plans, as well as how easily the points balances could be replaced or replenished based on their earning capacity.
One thing’s for sure – if you do want to convert your hotel points to airlines, then it makes sense to wait for one of these frequent conversion bonus events to come around before pulling the trigger.