Amidst a series of recent devaluations, Marriott Bonvoy points had always held a baseline value.
No matter how many points per night a hotel requires, you can always transfer Bonvoy to airline miles at a fixed ratio of 3:1, with a bonus of 5,000 airline miles thrown in if you transfer at least 60,000 points.
Recently, Marriott Bonvoy ended the 5,000-mile airline bonus whenever you transfer at least 60,000 points for three airlines: American Airlines AAdvantage, Avianca LifeMiles, and Delta SkyMiles. Soon, a fourth partner will also be subject to the same devaluation: Korean Air SKYPASS.
Marriott Ends 5,000-Mile Transfer Bonus for Select Airlines
On top of the regular transfer ratio of 3:1, Marriott usually throws in a 5,000 mile bonus if you transfer at least 60,000 points, making the optimal transfer ratio 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points = 25,000 airline miles. Effectively, that brings the transfer ratio to 2.4:1 if you transfer in chunks of 60,000 points.
As of October 31, 2022, Marriott Bonvoy no longer provides a transfer bonus of 5,000 airline miles for mileage transfers to American Airlines AAdvantage, Avianca LifeMiles, and Delta SkyMiles.
Furthermore, as of November 30, 2022, Marriott Bonvoy will be ending the transfer bonus of 5,000 miles for points conversions to a fourth loyalty program: Korean Air SKYPASS.
This one is particularly impactful if you’ve been aiming to fly Korean Air First Class, as SKYPASS miles via Marriott Bonvoy conversions was one of the few remaining ways to book this aspirational experience using points.
These changes result in an effective transfer ratio of 3:1 at all times to American Airlines AAdvantage, Avianca LifeMiles, Delta Skymiles, and Korean Air SKYPASS, which is a clear devaluation of the program if you’ve been meaning to convert Bonvoy points to one of these three airline programs.
Marriott appears to have only ommunicated this change to select members via email, and only to those who have made transfers to the affected frequent flyer programs in the past.
There’s no landing page explaining these changes and the page on the Marriott website about transferring points to frequent flyer miles makes no mention of the upcoming changes to Korean Air SKYPASS points transfers.
Death by a Thousand Cuts
This 5,000-mile transfer bonus had stuck around as long as the old Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) days, and these changes mark the first time that Marriott Bonvoy is devaluing this feature since the merger took place in 2018. This sets a bad precedent going forward, as we’re now led to think about which other frequent flyer programs’ conversion bonuses may be at risk.
As mentioned earlier, we’ve long considered Marriott Bonvoy points to have a stable baseline value despite continuous year-over-year devaluations in hotel redemption prices. That’s because no matter how much the cost increases to book hotel nights, we can always transfer points to airline frequent flyer programs at a somewhat respectable value.
In this respect, Marriott’s removal of the transfer bonus from select airlines follows the trend of their multi-year long-term trend of “death by a thousand cuts” in terms of devaluing the loyalty program.
In financial terms, the affected airline programs were likely costing Marriott the most to supply. It’s also possible the frequent flyer program wants Marriott to discourage these transfers to possibly increase their mileage sales or other forms of revenue.
Of the three major US airlines, United MileagePlus is the only frequent flyer program not impacted, keeping in mind too that Marriott and United also have a special partnership in place that gives you a 10% bonus when converting hotel points to United.
The Best Ways to Earn Affected Airline Miles
Thankfully, this round of Marriott’s devaluations is relatively minor in the grand scheme of things, as most of the affected loyalty programs are more easily earned through other means.
The best way to earn American Airlines AAdvantage miles is by way of RBC Avion, which transfers to AAdvantage at a ratio of 1 Avion = 0.7 AAdvantage miles. However, American Airlines AAdvantage only has one bank transfer program in the US, Bilt, which is a niche program that makes it difficult to rack up points quickly. This makes Marriott Bonvoy’s removal of the transfer bonus more painful.
To earn Delta SkyMiles, Canadian-issued America Express Membership Rewards points can be converted at a ratio of 1:0.75, while Amex US MR points can be converted at a 1:1 ratio.
Avianca LifeMiles are comparatively the easiest to earn, and can be transferred from three of the major US bank programs – Amex US MR, Citi ThankYou, and Capital One – at a 1:1 ratio, often with transfer bonuses in play. Plus, the program routinely allows you to buy miles for as low as 1.2 cents per mile (USD).
Unfortunately, Korean Air SKYPASS is the most impacted program by the removal of the 5,000-mile bonus, as there aren’t many other good ways to rack up SKYPASS miles besides flying with Korean Air or SkyTeam airlines and crediting your flights there.
Marriott Bonvoy has removed the 5,000-mile transfer bonus for mileage transfers to American Airlines AAdvantage, Avianca LifeMiles, and Delta SkyMiles as of October 31, 2022, and will be doing so for Korean Air SKYPASS as of November 30, 2022.
If you planned to transfer your Marriott Bonvoy points to Korean Air SKYPASS, it’s best to take advantage before November 30 to get the optimal transfer ratio of 2.4:1 as long as you transfer in increments of 60,000 points.
Long-term, Marriott Bonvoy’s baseline value is shakier than ever before, and this development sets a poor precedent as we move into 2023 when hotel redemptions are going fully dynamic.