A lot of people will tell you not to hoard points and miles, and there are some good points to be made in favor of that argument, but at the same time speculative point hoarding has worked out for me more than once. My wife and I have signed up for Marriott and Starwood cards the past year or two with no firm plans (other than having a few Starwood points lying around for the occasional low-level redemption as needed), but with the merger letting us trade Starwood to Marriott at a 1:3 ratio and with both chains letting spouses transfer points to each other, we had more than enough points pooled for a Marriott flight and hotel package.
I hadn’t done one of these before, so it was a new experience. You have to do it over the phone, but the process was quick and painless and the customer service rep said the points should show up in about three business days. If you’re not familiar with these packages, they give you one week at a category 1-5 Marriott hotel (or more if you’re willing to shell out extra points) plus a bunch of airline miles. In my case, it cost us 270,000 Marriott points (or 90,000 Starwood points) for one week at a Marriott plus 120,000 British Airways Avios. And right now there is a 35% Avios bonus for transfers from hotel points, so assuming everything works out I’ll get 162,000 Avios for my Starriott points. That’s darn near a 1:2 Starwood/Avios ratio, well above the usual transfer rate for Starwood points.
It works out even better for my personal situation since my household has a steady demand for Avios. Specifically, as I’ve mentioned before, we use them for family travel between CLT and MGA, a route where tickets are usually in the $600-900 range (there isn’t a ton of demand for CLT-MGA traffic) but are only 30,000 Avios. Even after taking taxes and fees into account we’ll be getting at least three cents per Starwood point with the transfer to BA.
Yes, AA low-level availability is weak and getting worse but so far we’ve always been able to use Avios on this particular route. Having the flexibility to travel outside of high season helps. And occasionally we need a last-minute redemption, so the lack of close-in booking fees is nice as well.
Ironically, the one-week hotel stay is an afterthought in this transaction. I’ve read that the one-week certificates can be difficult to use, so we’ll play it by ear. I’m doing this deal assuming I won’t get any value from the hotel certificate so if I do it’s a bonus. Apparently at least one of the Marriott chains has rooms (Residence Inn, I think?) which can sleep six people, so I think I’ll go for something like that in an area which can entertain the family for a week.
Obviously, not everybody lives near an AA hub and not everybody has travel needs like mine, so this is very much a YMMV situation. The Marriott packages aren’t for everybody. But you know what might be for everybody? Pooling Hilton points!
One of the nice things about the HHilton Cchanges (besides the dropping of superfluous letters) is that you can now pool your accounts with others:
Beginning in April, Hilton Honors members will be able to combine – or “pool” – their Points with up to 10 friends or family members for free. A total of 11 members can pool their Points for stays in great locations for family reunions, bachelorette parties or any other event that brings people together.
And unlike Starriott, there does not seem to be a requirement that you be married to these 10 individuals or live at the same address. So if you have any family members who have good credit and a willingness to play along (presumably the same people whose Bluebird cards you used once upon a time), you now have a way to get around Citi’s 24-month and Amex’s lifetime Hilton bonus restrictions. Time to start hoarding?