Marriott Changing Airline Transfer Bonuses: Add Another Airline To The Devalued List

Update: Marriott assured that the elimination of the 5,000 mile bonus for transferring points into 20,000 miles, going away October 31, applied only to Delta SkyMiles, American AAdvantage, and Avianca LifeMiles. And that was sort of true.

Those are the only airlines where the transfer bonus was eliminated October 31. Now we learn that November 30 will be the last day of transfer bonuses to Korean Air SkyPass. It wasn’t just a cost cut on mileage transfers with three programs. It’s unclear whether there will be more.

More importantly, I struggle to think of a single change to the Bonvoy program in the past four years that has been positive for members. Sigh.

Original October 17, 2022 post follows:

Marriott adopted the generous Starwood Preferred Guest transfer program for moving points into miles.

  • Starwood traditionally transferred points-to-miles at better than 1:1, by offering a bonus.

  • With most partners transferring 20,000 Starwood points into 20,000 airline miles would yield a 5000 mile bonus.

  • When Marriott defined a Starpoint as worth 3 Marriott Rewards points, they adopted a similar structure. Transferring 60,000 Marriott points into 20,000 airline miles would yield a 5000 mile bonus.

Marriott has myriad airline partners – at 38 it’s way more than bank transfer programs. However their rich transfer structure hasn’t been as useful with Marriott as it was with Starwood, because Marriott co-brands earn less for your spend than the old Starwood Amex did.

We’re now seeing a change to the Marriott points-to-miles transfer bonus. Specifically, the hotel chain informed customers this morning that the bonus would no longer be available on transfers to American AAdvantage, Delta SkyMiles, or Avianca LifeMiles effective October 31. Transferring 60,000 Marriott points will yield only 20,000 AAdvantage miles going forward – not 25,000.

Here’s the message about American:

Change Is in the Air

Beginning October 31, 2022, the 5,000 bonus points-to-miles incentive with American Airlines will end. However, the everyday benefits you’re accustomed to receiving will continue, and you can still convert points to miles on a 3:1 basis.

That is very much a shame, and of course another change with zero benefit to members.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Just another of 100 things to be disappointed or angry about what Marriott did to the once great SPG

  2. During Marriott’s Week of Wonders, could have gotten Marriott points and converted to AA miles for 1.67 CPM. Deal is gone 4 days ago!

  3. I don’t think Marriott has done a single, customer-friendly move since Bonvoy was launched in the spring of 2019.

  4. Honest question:

    For anyone that’s a frequent traveler (50+ nights/year), please explain why you still spend any nights at Marriott. Outside of points burn-off, or 0-3 nights a year because of a unique situation (conference, no other hotel within 10 miles…etc) I don’t understand how they haven’t lost all frequent travelers.

    What makes it even more mind numbing is that they bought SPG specifically for their super-loyal customers. But then they decided to Bonvoy everyone…?

    To anyone on the fence, use this as your chance to get out. Even Hilton is better than Marriott nowadays and that’s saying something!!

  5. @sean, you’re vastly overestimating the number of people who pay attention to the value they’re getting from their loyalty programs. Since the number of hotels within their portfolio has increased dramatically, balances for frequent travelers who simply think of Marriott as their preferred program are going up even though the program is less generous. And the points they get are just “tokens”, they plan a trip and if they have enough tokens for a night or two free, Bonvoy! The price is what the price is.

    If people threw in the towel when they were abused by their loyalty program, Delta would be toast. And yet…

  6. This change to me is the start of a really big deal. The airline transfer put a basic floor on how much Marriott could devalue hotel redemptions – say loosely .6 cents a point (25000/60000 * 1.4 cents). Now the floor has been broken selectively to .47 cents, but you would certainly expect more and more airlines in the same bucket. Over time Marriott can now start to further devalue the hotel redemptions without the airline redemptions providing a limit.

  7. @sean: What’s the alternative? Hyatt simply isn’t an option outside the biggest markets and resorts. Hilton doesn’t (by rule!) provide daily housekeeping, breakfast or suite upgrades. Hilton also gives its top-level elite status to anyone with its credit card. So, why stay with Hilton? IHG is the only brand with a footprint that could compete against Marriott, except most IHG hotels are low-end brands like Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express. And IHG’s customer service is even worse than Marriott. Choice and Wyndham aren’t serious options for business travelers. Radisson? Yeah, that’s a dumpster fire at the moment. That leaves us with Accor, which doesn’t work in the US either.

  8. The glory days are long over as these programs become far less rewarding
    Its gotten so bad that more than half of my nights are starting to go to independents or smaller hotel groups where I just enjoy my stay and give up on the program completely

  9. I also think Delta/SkyMiles is a poor comparison, particularly if you put the pandemic/post-pandemic period aside. Delta was able to devalue Skymiles by delivering a materially better operation, materially better cabins and inflight experience (high maintenance standards, screens/plugs/wifi across the fleet), materially better customer service (in the air, on the ground, and at their call centers, which are based in the US), materially better ancillaries (i.e. SkyClubs, at least compared to non-Polaris and non-Flagship lounges) and materially better benefits out of its co-brand credit cards. United devalued MileagePlus to the point that it’s only marginally better than SkyMiles and AA will get there soon enough.

    Not everyone buys what Delta is selling, to be fair, and both AA and United have closed some of the gaps. And again, some of this went to pot during the pandemic and has not fully recovered. But I think Delta is a rational choice for some despite the SkyMiles race to the bottom – especially those who value operational reliability and customer service more than the value of the SkyPesos rebate.

    Marriott it leveraging its geographic footprint, nothing more. Hotels are no better than the competition (and often worse) and Marriott’s customer service is not good.

  10. On its face this change means nothing to me because I would never transfer Marriott points to airlines – I always need more hotel points. But it’s bad news for all of us because it means fewer people will transfer points out of Marriott, so there will be more points chasing the same number of hotel rooms. Expect more devaluation soon!

  11. ‘Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence.’

    The suits at Marriott have absolutely zero idea what made SPG popular.

    They have NO idea what to do with all the *wood brands they bought, and they have NO idea what made SPG special. It’s like watering down the drinks at (Las Vegas Strip, you know who I’m talking about) a casino and then wondering why the casino crowds thin out.

    Seriously, Marriott could simply hire some SPG members to make these decisions and do better. Marriott is full of clueless execs. Death by a thousand cuts. Incompetence.

  12. 1) The transfer bonus devaluation is a negative – that said, the old SPG card spend to airline transfer method would have been made kind of obsolete with new cards on the market that earn more transferrable points (Amex Gold, Citi Double Cash, Cap One Venture).

    2) In the current program, transfers aren’t that valuable – better to earn and burn on Marriott

    3) To all the people saying “Marriott needs to do” this and that… People have been b****ing and moaning about this merger for years – has it led to any discernible loss in market share or profits for Marriott? Nope. Clearly this cohort of customers matters much less than they think

    4) What’s Marriott’s example – simple – a ton of good hotels. If you need to stay in a city, open up their app, you tend to see a lot of options across price points, style, location, etc. Hilton, you are lucky to see a Conrad, Curio, Waldorf among dozens of Hilton Garden Inn. Hyatt may barely have any hotels in your location. I stay at all three, along with boutique, but Marriott gets its fair share.

  13. “Marriott it leveraging its geographic footprint, nothing more. Hotels are no better than the competition (and often worse) and Marriott’s customer service is not good.”

    @Rational Flyer: That’s because Marriott is no longer a hotel company. Over 70% of its hotels are not managed by Marriott. Marriott is just a reservations system for hotels now. The exception mostly high-end Marriott branded hotels outside the United States.

    It would be like if 100% of Delta’s flights were operated by SkyWest, Republic or Endeavor for Delta.

  14. FNT – You post that often, but that’s not a unique point. Hilton is probably closer to 90%, and Hyatt I think is a majority non-Hyatt managed as well. That’s just how the industry is structured.

  15. @Anthony: No, that’s not true. Hyatt manages a majority. Hilton manages a significant number too. Certainly more than 10%. Pretty sure it’s a majority among full-service brands. Especially outside USA.

  16. As for December 2021, Hilton manages 276 properties branded under Hilton, Conrad, LXR, and Waldorf Astoria. For the same brands, 253 are franchised with almost all of those franchised properties being branded Hilton properties in the Americas (US included). If you exclude franchised Hilton properties in the Americas, there are only 53 full-service Hilton properties across all brands managed by a franchisee or a franchisee’s third-party management company.


  17. FNT – here are the most recent numbers

    234,993 rooms managed out of 1,086,520 rooms (22%)

    569,901 rooms managed/owned out of 1,500,744 (38%)

    156,980 rooms managed out of 290,987

  18. Guess I have to pick which one to transfer to by 10/31. That’s the only reason I have points there.

  19. So what IS the preferred partner program to link with Marriott. I have KLM, Delta, UA, AA, BA as options.

  20. I’ve always hung onto the top Starwood/Marriott cards because, via the 5k bonus, they led to more AA miles via card spend than the comparable Citi cards did for years, and Marriott won further because I did redeem for some hotel stays too. This offing of the 5k bonus probably tips it back to Citi. Once I have lifetime Platinum w Bonvoy next year, I’m probably gone.

  21. Marriott has a big footprint because it amalgamates something like 30+ different brands. There seems to be little consistency among those brands in terms of élite benefits, except that benefits keep being reduced across all of them. In some instances the the differences are so great, that the brands might as well not be part of the same program.

    For top elites, choosing breakfast or a measly number of devalued points is ridiculous. Moreover, Marriott keeps trying to reduce the breakfast benefit. It removed Your24 from the SPG Platinum75 level and made Ambassador all but unattainable except for those who get someone else to pay for their stays. Now this!

    Since reaching Lifetime Titanium (combination of SPG and Marriott nights at the merger), my Marriott stays have dropped to just a handful each year. This reduction in transfer value is another reason to further reduce Marriott points accumulation through stays or credit cards and to transfer beaucoup points before 10/31.

  22. Maybe not a change to the “program” per se but I have already generated at least $500 of incremental value from the Amex Brilliant changes

  23. I just logged in to transfer the last of my Marriott points before this gets any worse. Guess what, their login page and password reset page both seem to be down. I got through to a phone rep pretty promptly and he said password reset was “temporarily unavailable” for him too.

  24. That’s a shame about KE. I’ve actually had situations where the math worked out better to convert UR into marriott in order to transfer to KE (during black-out dates, partners don’t have access). Without the transfer bonus, it would’ve been cheaper to use UR as cash towards a straight-up ticket purchase.

  25. Marriott has myriad airline partners – at 38 it’s way more than bank transfer programs. However their rich transfer structure hasn’t been as useful with Marriott as it was with Starwood, because Marriott co-brands earn less for your spend than the old Starwood Amex did.

    Bingo! Marriott’s ideas people have always considered SPG’s highly favorable transferability of hotel points to miles to be economically boneheaded and rightly so. That is why they gutted the practice right after the merger by devaluing it by 33%, as I presciently wrote on August 3, 2018, over at OMAAT:

    Marriott did not want to have anything to do with SPG’s feature that incentivized members to transfer most of their starpoints to airline miles instead of keeping the revenue in-house by redeeming the points for award stays. However, aware that points transfers to airlines were very popular with SPG loyalists, Marriott approached it cleverly: They left the structure of the transfer of points to airlines essentially unchanged, but disincentivized the practice – effectively crippling it – by limiting the number of points that can be EARNED THROUGH UN-BONUSED spend on their new co-branded CCs to the equivalent of earning 2/3 or 0.67x starpoints (from 1x.) That effectively changed the transfer of points to miles from 1:1 to 1 point for 0.67 mile (while keeping the earning of points on hotel stays the same: 2x on SPG AMEX and 6x on BONVoY’s co-branded cards to incentivize the earning of points through revenue stays at Marriott hotels, which makes great economic sense!).

    The end result is akin to transferring 10,000 (star)points to get only 6,700 miles. One can make up for it somewhat by transferring a large number of points, because the 5K bonus points for transferring points in multiples of 20K is still there. So, if you transfer the equivalent of 100,000K starpoints, you’d get back:

    100,000 * 0.67 + (100,000/20,000) * 5,000 = 92,000

    compared to

    100,000 + (100,000/20,000) * 5,000 = 125,000

    that one got with a 1:1 transfer of starpoints to miles + the 5K bonus for transferring starpoints in multiples of 20K

    The effective devaluation is: (125,000 – 92,000)/100,000 = 0.33

    i.e., a 33% devaluation.

    You can arrive at the 33% with simple subtraction. The SPG AMEX used to earn 1x on un-bonused spend. Under MR, one will be earning 2x in MR points, which is like earning 2/3 or 0.67x in starpoints:

    1x – 0.67x = 0.33x or a 33% devaluation.

    Like I said about 4 years ago, from the git-go Marriott did not care much for SPG’s points-to-miles transfer scheme. It’s now decided to end it once and for all…

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