This short-term transfer trick makes your Amex Membership Rewards points more valuable
Marriott Bonvoy is your ticket to earning miles in many overseas frequent flyer programs.
What we'll be covering
Looking to get the most out of your American Express Membership Rewards (MR) points? There’s a new offer on the table that’s worth looking into. And it’s one that allows you to indirectly transfer your points from Amex into frequent flyer programs not normally available direct from Membership Rewards.
Curious? It all starts with a generous bonus on points conversions to Marriott Bonvoy – a hotel loyalty program.
Normally, Amex uses a 3:2 rate on these transfers. That is, three MR points equal two Marriott Points. But from now until 31 August 2023, these conversions come with a solid 50% bonus. That pushes the total conversion rate to 3:3, or more clearly, 1:1.
Sure, that’s handy if you were planning to book a hotel stay using points. But because Marriott Points can then be converted onwards into frequent flyer points, there’s an interesting twist.
By transferring your Amex points to Marriott, and subsequently converting those Marriott points into frequent flyer points, your Amex points can take on a new life elsewhere.
Under the normal 3:2 conversion rate from Amex to Bonvoy, this ‘Marriott detour’ wouldn’t usually make sense. But while the rate is 1:1, it’s almost as good as transferring points directly to Amex’s own airline partners. Here’s what you need to know about this short-time deal, and what you can do with those Amex points once they’ve appeared in your Marriott Bonvoy account.
What’s the transfer bonus from Amex Membership Rewards to Marriott Bonvoy?
With a 50% bonus on points conversions from Membership Rewards to Marriott Bonvoy until 31 August 2023, there’s plenty of time to consider your options.
This bonus effectively elevates the default 3:2 conversion rate to 1:1. Accordingly, transferring 60,000 Membership Rewards points to Marriott Bonvoy currently fetches 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points.
Just note, the extra points gained from the transfer bonus aren’t indicated on the American Express website. (Converting 60,000 points suggests you’ll receive the usual 40,000 Marriott Points). But on the transfer page, you can confirm the details and dates of the transfer offer for yourself.
Thanks to the 50% boost, any amount you transfer comes with a respectable increase. And onwards from Marriott Bonvoy, you can earn a second transfer bonus as well…
Earn another transfer bonus from Marriott Bonvoy itself
Of the major hotel loyalty programs, points in Marriott Bonvoy are among the more flexible. Not only can they be used towards accommodation, but they can also be transferred into airline frequent flyer points at a reasonable rate.
Many other chains use far less generous rates for those conversions. But with Marriott, these onward conversions generally adopt a 3:1 rate from Marriott Bonvoy itself. On the surface, that’s 30,000 Marriott Points = 10,000 airline frequent flyer points. (And with the Amex transfer bonus, 30,000 Membership Rewards points currently equal 30,000 Marriott Points).
But when you convert 60,000 Marriott Points across to most airline programs, Marriott also kicks in a further 5,000 frequent flyer points (or ‘miles’). Rather than only getting 20,000 frequent flyer points out of your 60,000 Marriott Points, you actually get 25,000 frequent flyer points.
Long story short, by transferring your Membership Rewards points to Marriott and then onward elsewhere, 60,000 Membership Rewards can unlock 25,000 frequent flyer points across a broad range of international programs that you couldn’t otherwise access direct from Amex.
Of course, the best option on paper is still to convert Amex MR points directly to one of Amex’s own partner airlines, where conversions are available at a 2:1 rate. That gives 30,000 frequent flyer points from the same 60,000 MR points. (Note the upcoming changes for direct conversions from Amex to KrisFlyer and Skywards).
But while the ‘Marriott detour’ comes with a small haircut in number (25,000, versus 30,000 from the same starting balance), it comes with significantly more flexibility. And of course, the ability to send your points to programs not directly available through Membership Rewards itself.
And here’s another trick. Marriott Bonvoy offers a more generous bonus on bulk transfers to United than for its other airline partners. When also factoring in the bonus on transfers from Amex to Marriott, this puts those transfers on-par with other, direct airline transfers from Amex. Details below.
From Marriott Bonvoy, where can you transfer your points?
Once you’ve transferred Amex Membership Rewards points across to Marriott Bonvoy, you’re then free to transfer your points onwards to any of Marriott’s own airline partners.
As you can see from the table below, Marriott has a significant stable of points program partnerships. When we say flexibility, we really do mean flexibility!
|Program name||Alliance||Marriott Bonvoy |
|12,000 Marriott Points|
|60,000 Marriott Points^|
|AEGEAN Miles+Bonus||Star Alliance||3:1||4,000 miles||25,000 miles|
|Aer Lingus AerClub||–||3:1||4,000 Avios||25,000 Avios|
|Aeromexico Club Premier||SkyTeam||3:1||4,000 Premier Points||25,000 Premier Points|
|Air Canada Aeroplan||Star Alliance||3:1||4,000 points||25,000 points|
|Air France/KLM Flying Blue||SkyTeam||3:1||4,000 Miles||25,000 Miles|
|Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan||oneworld||3:1||4,000 miles||25,000 miles|
|American Airlines AAdvantage||oneworld||3:1||4,000 miles||20,000 miles|
|ANA Mileage Club||Star Alliance||3:1||4,000 Miles||25,000 Miles|
|Asiana Airlines’ Asiana Club||Star Alliance||3:1||4,000 Miles||25,000 Miles|
|Avianca LifeMiles||Star Alliance||3:1||4,000 miles||20,000 miles|
|British Airways Executive Club||oneworld||3:1||4,000 Avios||25,000 Avios|
|Copa Airlines ConnectMiles||Star Alliance||3:1||4,000 Miles||25,000 Miles|
|Delta SkyMiles||SkyTeam||3:1||4,000 miles||20,000 Miles|
|Frontier Miles||–||3:1||4,000 Miles||25,000 Miles|
|Hainan Airlines Fortune Wings Club||–||3:1||4,000 miles||25,000 miles|
|Hawaiian Airlines’ HawaiianMiles||–||3:1||4,000 miles||25,000 miles|
|Iberia Plus||oneworld||3:1||4,000 Avios||25,000 Avios|
|InterMiles||–||3:1||4,000 miles||25,000 miles|
|Japan Airlines (JAL) Mileage Bank||oneworld||3:1||4,000 miles||25,000 miles|
|Korean Air SKYPASS||SkyTeam||3:1||4,000 miles||20,000 miles|
|LATAM Pass||–||3:1||4,000 miles||25,000 miles|
|Qantas Frequent Flyer*||oneworld||3:1||4,000 Points||25,000 Points|
|Saudia ALFURSAN||SkyTeam||3:1||4,000 Miles||25,000 Miles|
|Southwest Rapid Rewards||–||3:1||4,000 points||25,000 points|
|TAP Air Portugal Miles&Go||Star Alliance||3:1||4,000 miles||25,000 miles|
|Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles||Star Alliance||3:1||4,000 Miles||25,000 Miles|
|United MileagePlus||Star Alliance||3:1||4,000 miles||30,000 miles|
|Vueling Club||–||3:1||4,000 Avios||25,000 Avios|
*In Australia, only American Express Membership Rewards Ascent Premium members can directly convert points to Qantas. This Marriott detour makes indirect transfers to Qantas possible for all other members, too. Ascent Premium members still get the best rate by converting direct from MR (2:1).
As you can see, by transferring your points from Membership Rewards to Marriott, you can get your points into programs not otherwise available directly from American Express. And given the bonus on transfers from Amex to Marriott right now, those rewards are exceptionally good.
Do note, we haven’t listed airlines in the table above that are also direct transfer partners of Membership Rewards. That’s because the 2:1 direct transfer rate used by Amex on those conversions provides more value than this Marriott trick. While that 2:1 rate remains in place when converting from MR to KrisFlyer and Skywards, it’s also better to make those conversions directly from Amex – at least, until early October.
But for the programs you can’t access directly from American Express, shipping your points via Marriott is still a solid game plan.
Why would you convert Amex points to these international programs?
The many frequent flyer programs available directly through Membership Rewards certainly provide a great deal of flexibility year-round. But with access to all the extra programs above – and at a respectable transfer rate – that flexibility climbs to a whole new level.
Not only that, but by being strategic with those Amex transfers, you could save yourself some serious points.
Say you wanted to fly from Sydney to Seoul in Business Class with Star Alliance member Asiana Airlines. One option – the simple, traditional option – would be to convert your Membership Rewards points directly into KrisFlyer miles at a 2:1 rate.
From KrisFlyer, you could then book a one-way ticket in Asiana Business Class for 104,000 KrisFlyer miles. (There’s also a modest amount payable in taxes and fees). Of course, given the current 2:1 transfer rate from Membership Rewards to KrisFlyer, this booking ultimately costs you 208,000 Membership Rewards points at current levels.
But the same flight can be booked using United miles too, as United is a Star Alliance airline as well. And in fact, for the same seat on that same flight, United only charges 60,500 miles. That’s significantly lower than KrisFlyer’s 104,000 miles. (As it happens, you’ll also save around $50 in carrier charges, too).
So what does it take to get 60,500 United miles from Membership Rewards?
- Convert 121,500 Membership Rewards points into Marriott Points at the current 1:1 rate. This provides 121,500 Marriott Points.
- From there, convert 121,500 Marriott Points into 60,500 United miles. That gets you 40,500 base United miles, plus 2 x 10,000-mile bonuses – one for each chunk of 60,000 Marriott Points (20,000 United miles) converted. Combined, that’s exactly 60,500 United miles. As noted above, transfers to most other airlines would only fetch 5,000 bonus miles per 60,000 Marriott points converted. But Marriott is more generous with United.
So what’s the saving?
We don’t deny the ‘Marriott method’ can be complex to get your head around. And that being the case, it’s not for everybody.
But in the example above, that Business Class seat could cost you 208,000 Membership Rewards points through KrisFlyer – or a much lower 121,500 Membership Rewards points via Marriott and United.
That’s a saving of over 86,000 Membership Rewards points on this one-way booking alone. Just think of what else you could do with those leftover points, with the world’s largest frequent flyer programs at your disposal?
Of course, with so many options, we can’t dive into every single one. And as we always say, make sure there’s availability on the flight you want before you transfer your points anywhere.
But when you do have a redemption in mind, it really pays to do a few calculations and see how you could get the best value out of your booking. Especially while the Marriott transfer bonus is on the cards. And especially given direct conversions from Amex to KrisFlyer will become less generous from early October.
This is a true ‘points hack’ – and it’s only available for a limited time. So if you’re planning to travel and are also sitting on a bounty of Membership Rewards points, a few strategic clicks and sums can seriously send your points flying.
Just be aware that transfers onwards from Marriott Bonvoy are capped at 240,000 Marriott Points per day. That’s by no means prohibitive – but if you’re planning a sizeable frequent flyer redemption, you may need to convert your Marriott Points over several days to get all the miles you need into your frequent flyer account.
It’s also worth pointing out that Amex is running a similar 30% bonus on transfers from Membership Rewards to Hilton Honors. But as Hilton uses far less generous frequent flyer conversion rates with its own airline partners, it’s a move best-kept for when you’re booking accommodation using those points instead.
And in fact, if Hilton points are your goal, you’re better off converting from Amex to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. And then from Flying Club onwards to Hilton Honors. That’s because transfers from Amex to both Hilton Honors and Flying Club use a 2:1 rate. But Flying Club points can be converted into Hilton Honors points at a 1=1.5 ratio. When your points come from Amex, doing that dance is like having a year-round 50% bonus at your disposal.
As one last tip, there’s also a 50% transfer bonus currently available from CBA Awards to Marriott Bonvoy. But given the base rate from CBA to Bonvoy is 3:1, it’s not quite the sweet spot as with Amex. But still, it’s an option to keep in mind, if you have piles of points stacked in different places.
Have you found any great-value opportunities for booking flights when transferring your Membership Rewards via Marriott Bonvoy? Share your best hacks as a comment below!
Feature image courtesy of American Express.
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