Marriott Travel Package Arbitrage


In a post written over a year ago about the Marriott SPG merger (Investing in change: Marriott / SPG / Ritz new program opportunities) I wrote the following about Marriott Travel Packages: “there’s a chance that having an active 5 or 7 Night Stay certificate in-hand will be a big win.”

My thinking was that the merger would open up the ability to use the Marriott stay certificates at Starwood properties. I also thought that there was an outside chance (far outside) that the hotel category system would go away and that the certificates would temporarily be available to book any hotel.

Now that we know more about how the programs are coming together in August, many readers have asked me what to do now.  Is it worth investing in Marriott Travel packages before the programs merge in August?  If you have a travel package stay certificate, should you upgrade it to a higher category, or downgrade it to a lower category before August?

Travel Package Background

First, a little background.  Marriott Travel packages offer a great way to convert hotel points to airline miles at a favorable rate.  Below you’ll see one of several current (pre-August) travel packages.  Focus on just the right-most column, since that’s where you’ll find the best deals.  There, you’ll see that you can purchase a Category 1-5 7 Night package for 270,000 Marriott points (90K SPG), and you’ll get 120,000 miles.  Incidentally, you also get a 7 night certificate good at any Category 1-5 property.  But, the key value for many of us is the ability to transfer SPG points to miles at a great rate: 90K Starpoints to 120K airline miles.  If you transfer to United, you get even more miles (132K).

You don’t need to have actual travel in mind when purchasing a travel package.  You immediately get the miles and you get a 7 night certificate loaded to your account.  The certificate is good for a year, but can be extended another year simply by calling and asking.  It can also be extended by a year by calling Marriott Rewards to upgrade or downgrade the package to another category (you pay the difference in the package price if upgrading, or you get back the difference if downgrading).

What happens to travel packages in August?

In August, anyone with active stay certificates will then be able to use them across the Marriott / SPG portfolio.  That is a potentially big win since, in my opinion, SPG has more desirable mid-tier properties.  We don’t yet know exactly how the current categories will map to new categories, but we have been told that the goal is to base the mapping on the number of points required for a stay.  For example, category 5 Marriott hotels in the current award chart cost 25,000 points per night.  In the new award chart, category 4 hotels cost 25,000 points per night.  So, it’s safe to assume that category 1-5 certificates will become category 1-4 certificates in August.  Since Marriott has said that more properties will go down in price than up, this means that the category 1-5 certificate should have the same or better value in August then it does today.  Not all categories map perfectly 1 to 1 though, so there are some risks and opportunities with keeping a certificate until August.  More on that below.

What about buying new Travel Packages?  Should we buy now or later?  In a conversation with VP of Marriott Rewards, Bob Behrens, I was told that Travel Packages will still be available in the combined program and they’ll offer similar value. He also told me that he hopes to reduce complexity.  Currently there are four different packages.  The package you choose depends upon which airline miles you want.  In the current system, the United package offers the most miles.  And packages 1 and 3, which cover most mainstream airlines, offer the standard number of miles (up to 120K).  Packages 2 (a collection of foreign airlines), and package 4 (JetBlue), though, offer relatively poor value.  Bob is hoping to chop this down to one or two packages.  On the plus side, this means that a number of foreign programs (JAL, Asiana, Korean Air, etc.) will then be a much better deal in August than they are today.  On the negative side, this may mean that United will no longer offer more miles than other programs.

A look at how the stay certificates may map from old to new

The following chart shows by best guess of how Marriott will map old stay certificates to new in August.  Most of the categories are predictable because they are one to one mappings, or close enough.  Current categories 6 and 8 are less certain, though, so the chart below shows two possible mappings for each.  For example, the chart shows what happens if old Category 6 maps to New Category 4 or to New Category 5.

Cells shaded red indicate that your Stay Certificate will lose value in the new system, and cells shaded green indicate that your certificate will gain value.

The only “sure win” in the chart above is in Old Category 9 which is very likely to map to New Category 6.  In this case, your certificate will go from being able to book 45K per night rooms to 50K per night rooms for a maximum added value of 30K points if you book a 7 night stay (5th night is always free, so this is calculated as 5K x 6 = 30K).  On the other hand, by the same reasoning, Marriott will probably place many current category 9 hotels into new category 6 and so they’ll all cost 50K per night in the new system.  In other words, despite the numbers above, you won’t really gain anything at all other than locking in today’s award prices.  Worse, it’s my opinion that the best current Marriott category 9 hotels are the most likely to be re-categorized upwards in the new system.  If you’re eying a great category 9 property right now, you’re better off booking it before August because it’s likely that it will jump to 60,000 points per night in the new program.  In other words, this “sure win” isn’t likely to be a win at all.

Category 6 certificates are interesting because their current value falls exactly in the middle between new categories 4 and 5.  If Marriott maps category 6 certificates to New Category 4, then we lose (unless most category 6 properties also map to New Category 4).  If they map them to Category 5, then we win… unless most category 6 properties also map to New Category 5.  My best guess is that holding onto a Category 6 certificate will be a small win.

Category 8 certificates have the most likely upside.  Marriott may generously map old Category 8 to new Category 6.  The downside is that they may instead map to New Category 5 (which is the same mapping that I predict for Category 7 certificates).  If that happens, you may have essentially lost 30K points (the difference in price between Category 7 and 8 certificates).  My bet, though, is that if they do map old Category 8 to New Category 5, they’ll make you whole by giving you 30,000 points.  Overall, in my opinion, Category 8 appears to be the only category worth investing in today in the hopes that it will be more valuable in August.

Ritz Tier 4-5 have the potential to offer a huge win, but only when category 8 is introduced in 2019.  Given that category 8 won’t exist when the mappings happen, it seems unlikely to me that the travel package will be mapped to this not-yet-existent category.  Personally, I wouldn’t risk it.


If you already have a stay certificate from buying a Travel Package in the past, then consider rolling the dice and upgrading or downgrading it to Category 8.  Of course, if you are upgrading, you’ll need to have enough points in your account to cover the difference in package prices.  You must talk to the Marriott Rewards department to upgrade or downgrade a package. General Marriott customer service agents won’t know how and may even tell you that it can’t be done.  I called on Wednesday and successfully upgraded my category 5 certificate to category 8, but the process did involve very long hold times.

If you are trying to decide whether to buy a package now or wait until August:

Buy now if:

  • You need the miles right away, or
  • You want United miles (the new packages might not offer as much value for United miles)

Wait until August if:

  • You want to get miles in any of the following programs: Aeroflot, Air China, Air France/KLM, Alitalia, ANA, Asia Miles, Asiana Airlines, Avianca-TACA LifeMiles, China Eastern, Emirates, Etihad Airways, Japan Airlines, Jet Airways, Korean Air SKYPASS, LAN, Lufthansa Miles & More, Multiplus, Qantas, Qatar Airways, Saudia Airlines, Singapore Airlines, South African Airways Voyager, TAP Air Portugal, Turkish Airlines

Before you buy

In my opinion, the potential upside of category 8 packages is not enough to warrant buying now if you aren’t in the market for exchanging points for airline miles.  Also consider the fact that if you buy now, you’ll have fewer points available for the outstanding award night values that are likely to appear in August (see: The huge wins in Marriott’s announcement).  That said, if you already have a stay certificate and you have enough points to do so, I do think that upgrading to category 8 makes sense just in case it pays off.  Keep in mind, though, that there is some risk that you’ll lose the equivalent of 30K points if things don’t play out as we hope.

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Justin J

You nailed it. Thanks, this is the reason I booked a cat 9. I wanted the closest thing to a “sure win”.

[…] FrequentMiler 分析新舊表格後(參考他做的比較圖)認為最有可能提升價值是舊制的 Category 6 提升到新制的 Category 5,還有舊制的 Category 8 提升到新制的 Category 6。 […]

[…] Marriott Travel Package Arbitrage […]


I want a catagory 6 (old levels) for JW Marriott Phu Quoc so I don’t really know what I should get with all these changes 🙁
Have 70k SPG (into 210k Marriott) so will need to transfer 60k AMEX MR points (half my stash) to get the 300k travel package.


Was rather annoyed when it went from Cat5 to Cat 6 🙁


Should I be getting the cat 6 TP to ensure I can still get JW Marriott Phu Quoc ????

[…] costly. I often end up staying at condos to save money. However, last month after reading the Marriott Travel Package Arbitrage article written by Greg the FrequentMiler, I decided to redeem 360,000 Marriott points for a […]


Hey Greg, I need to upgrade my category 6 certificate to category 7 since the hotel I want to redeem is category 7. I found availability at the hotel for 7 nights and was able to place the reservation on hold. In order to upgrade the certificate I need additional 30K points which I currently don’t have in my account but will be posted to account by end of the month once my credit card statement closes. If I don’t upgrade the certificate before to August 1st and tag it to my reservation will I potentially need more than 30K points? Trying to figure out if I should just transfer 30K from ultimate rewards or wait till my credit card statement closes. Thanks

Roderick Martim

Since the new award chart has been announced, can you please update this information as I’d still like to know if there are advantages to buying a travel package before August 1st. Thanks

Nick Reyes

Unfortunately, we still don’t know how these certs will be converted with regard to the new chart. The new 7-night packages aren’t as good of a deal. See:

Also, see Greg’s Travel Package Advice:

The short story is that buying a travel package before August is loaded with advantages. You’ll surely get tons more value out of airline miles than you could ever get out of Marriott points, so it definitely makes sense to do one unless you already have more miles than you need and you intend to try to use all of your points to book the Cat 8 properties at Cat 7 pricing in 2018.

ED Liu

The new travel packages just announced at the end of June are significantly more expensive than current ones. Do you know if I hold a 7 night cat 6 hotel, will I be able to use it after August for the new chart of Cat 6 hotel?

Nick Reyes

Current Cat 6 = 30K per night
New Cat 6 = 50K per night

Highly doubtful that will be considered equal.

As Greg showed in the chart here, the most likely outcomes are that your current Cat 6 will, which today works at properties that charge 30K per night (that’s the current Cat 6 price), will either be valid at:

New Cat 4 (25K per night)
New Cat 5 (35K per night)

We don’t know which or if it’s possible that the certificates will just get converted to points instead. (See:

But, again, I’d put the likelihood at almost zero that your certificate will gain 20K per night in value.

Berkeley Mom

If I want to book a travel certificate for a 7night stay at the St. Regis in NYC for Sept, What travel package should I purchase before August? Since the most points they will charge before 2019 will be 60K points/night can I get away with purchasing a cat 7 (based on new chart)?, or will I need a travel certificate that is equivalent to Tier 4-5?

Nick Reyes

Unfortunately, we don’t yet know. I suspect we’ll just have to gamble.

You may also see this:

Cindy J

I have enough Marriott points to buy the Category 8 package to convert to UA and 7 nights at a hotel. Do you think I would be able to book the St, Regis Bora Bora (now a Cat 7 SPG hotel) with a Category 8 certificate after August? Would you do it this way or just use SPG points to book in August?


Greg- So, based on all the info out there, what would you do if you had tons and tons of Starpoints? Would you buy the Travel packages now and if so, which ones? Thank you!

Nick Reyes

Yes, you should buy a Travel Package or two now. Which one depends on which miles you want. We don’t know how the certs will be treated, so it’s hard to say which level to get apart from studying this post.

You might want to check this out in terms of airlines:

[…] This article from US site Frequent Miler runs through the various ‘should I book now?’ s….  I couldn’t write a better analysis of the situation if I tried, so I recommend you read this article if you are unsure about what to do.  It is difficult to disagree with the thesis that the current Category 1-5 package will only be bookable at Category 1-4 hotels from August. […]

[…] Greg of Frequent Miler […]

Ben O.

There’s two important considerations missing here, I think:

1. Most obvious, what if the cost of these equivalent packages go up? It’s very possible they may charge, let’s say 300,000 points for a cat 1-4 certificate in the new program, right? Did Marriott/SPG address this and I just missed it?

2. I know this info came out after you wrote this post, but the SPG rep on FT said that any existing certificates would be converted to an equivalent amount of points. That’s less important to me since I assume they’ll be generous in their conversions if they do pull this bait and switch (which is exactly what it would be for most people, who don’t live and breathe this stuff like readers here), but still worth considering.

For my own uses, I just bought 30,000 SPG points last night to top up for a cat 8 cert. Now I just need to decide what airline to use. LifeMiles is tempting, but seems like a loss not to get at least 120,000 points. May get more than 85,000 in August, but they also could raise the price of the cat 8 cert and put it out of my reach.


Thanks, Greg! Super helpful. Maybe you are the one to help me pull the trigger on a package. 🙂

I’m looking at booking a package for JW Parq Vancouver (current CAT 8) for late July 2019- so just outside the 50 week window. Do you think it would be wise to buy the package and book the stay in June and then call to change it to July? That way if they do ramp up that hotel’s redemption value, I’ll still lock in what I paid for?

Nick Taj

Would appreciate your thoughts…
I have the Ritz 1-3 7-night certificate. If I upgrade to the Ritz 4-5 certificate, what are the chances i’ll be able to use it at the St. Regis properties? I understand that those may be category 8 and not implemented until 2/2019…but assuming timing isn’t an issue, would the highest certificate allow redemption at the category 8 properties or will there eventually be a higher tier certificate?

[…] a new corresponding category or converted to the new program some other way. There’s a great post over at Frequent Miler discussing different options and the opportunity for holders to potentially receive added […]


In the wait till August tips…you do not include Alaska? Will Alaska still be a transfer partner for the Air + Hotel packages?


Am hoping that cat 6 cert will be mapped to new cat 5 and can be used on some cat 8 properties which are mapped to new cat 5 🙂 Wishful thinking.

What SPG representative said on Flyertalk is quite different from you. Any update inside?

“Floater certificates, including outstanding Marriott Travel Packages, will be cancelled and converted to equivalent points, credited to the member’s account for future redemption.”

[…] the award chart in flux, I can’t make any good determinations at the moment. Here is some speculation about whether to book now or […]

package debate

hey Greg- If I don’t have any specific redemption in mind but I do have a feeling that once Aug comes along the value of the packages will go down. what would you say is the best/ most valuable package to purchase now? the cat 8 (120K spg) or the cat 5 (90K spg) ?

[…] By now we have learned a lot of the coming changes to the Marriott Rewards program in August, and many have been planning ahead to make the best decisions based on the coming changes. Frequent Miler has written a useful post on Marriott’s popular redemption option – Flight and Hotel Travel Package. Due to the change in category definitions and the inclusions of SPG properties, which are currently not bookable using travel package, it may be a good idea to redeem for the 7-night certificate now. Check out their great analysis on this topic. […]


Dumb question – if the 5th night is always free, wouldn’t we get anything back for that free night? We’d only need to use 6/7 nights


Still a bit confused. Can I use a 7 night Marriott package with miles to book spg Westin Maui from July 30 to aug 5? Or do I have to wait until August?

Nick Reyes

You have to wait until August. Right now, the programs are still separate.


I don’t see Alaska on the list, are they not going to be a part of this going forward?

[…] Marriott Travel Package Arbitrage. – These travel packages that offer a week hotel stay and airline miles for a very affordable amount of Marriott points. Greg offers some pros and cons for buying a new package or upgrading an existing package. […]


Hi Greg / Nick. Thanks for the post! Do you know perhaps if I redeemed for a 7 night certificate for later use, do you get the elite night credits straight away i.e for this year requal, but I could use them next year? Thanks guys

[…] Greg of Frequent Miler […]

Are the 7 night Marriott packages with United miles still available?…
As of an hour ago the package / transfer page is ‘in maintenance’

Is this anything to worry about?

Lisa W

Hi Greg,
Thanks for the write up. I want to redeem the current Cat 8 package and use the hotel portion on a Marriott hotel that is currently going for 40K pts per night. If they map it o Cat 6, I would have left 60K pts on the table by redeeming now, correct? If they map it to Cat 5, then I would have to top up 30K to get the same hotel. Does it mean I should redeem the hotel portion now? If they do map Cat 8 to the new Cat 6, do you think I will get credited 60K pts?


I have about 25k SPG points now, how would you use it before August? Lots of information around, a little confused on what to do! It took me forever to accumulate that.

Nick Reyes

This is kind of like saying I have $500 in my pocket, how should I spend it? It really kind of depends on what you want. 🙂

Since you get the same effective transfer ratio to airlines in the new program, I wouldn’t be in any hurry to transfer. If you find a hotel booking that works for you, great. You probably don’t need to rush anything. Wait until the new charts come out and see if you have any opportunity to redeem for a location and property that makes more sense now or will make more sense later.


Thanks 🙂


IMO the real risk is a change to the ability to modify these packages by adding or subtracting points.


Is it possible to ask Marriott whether all the details of the new system will be announced before August, so that we still have time to buy at the old rates or wait for the new rates ?

Nick Reyes

As I recall, Bob told us that they would put out the preview that came out this week first and that there would be a full list of the categories and hotels within about a month of the launch event if I remember correctly. We don’t know whether or not travel packages will be released in advance.

Dave Shen

Would you recomend doing this with 5 night packages aswell?


I’m about to purchase a cat 5 pkg since I have just accumulated the amount needed in SPG points. This might be a dumb question, but am I right that it takes another 90K to upgrade to a cat. 8 cert?


Any guess in which Spg categories currently will become the NEW Marriott category 4? I only have 270k points for the travel package .also you mentioned ANA and Asiana for the air transfer portion of 120k miles . What are the sweet spots for both ANA and Asiana? I thought they have high fuel charges. Thanks


Great discussion. I am sitting on a small pile of SPG points (~110,000). I was planning on transferring to American to use for international flights, as it seems that I do this more with American points than others. Right now I don’t think I’ll be staying in any one place for more than 4 days. Would you say the package is more compelling than the extra 25% bonus American is offering right now for transfers?


Transferring to AA is a total waste, AA are so easy to accumulate. Of course the travel packages are a better deal. The math is obvious. Basically a free 7 nights plus slightly more miles.


Thank you. I appreciate your answer. Since for me the hotel stay would likely have been a throw away it seemed like it was roughly six of one or half dozen of the other. I supposed trading the certificate for points tips it slightly in favor of the certificate. My concern with Alaska miles is that when I have tried using them the for booking seats on Cathay Pacific (I see the seats with the British online site, and also bookable on American) have not been bookable on the Alaska site.


You *must* call in to book Cathay Pacific (and LAN) flights with Alaska Miles.


I’m pretty sure Marriott or Starwood Lurker on FT already said that existing certificates will be assigned a point value for use.


Will it still be 7 nights or will they give you a bucket of points to use for any amount of nights?




Hi Greg, do you think there’s a higher chance that a Cat 1-5 certificate will simply remain a Cat 1-5 certificate after August (as opposed to level-setting to a Cat 4 based on points as you’re calculating above)? The Points Guy FAQ suggests the former, and there’s some more evidence of that with the annual night certificates for the credit cards level-setting to 35K points (i.e., a new Cat 5).

Nick Reyes

In reference specifically to the annual night certificates from credit cards, Bob told us that the free night certificates from the existing Marriott Rewards Premier cards will map to a similar point value in the new system (i.e 25,000 points). The current SPG business and personal cards will come with the new benefit of a certificate for properties up to 35K starting in August and the Marriott Rewards Premier Plus card that launches later this week will also come with a 35K certificate. The new SPG Luxe card will come with a 50k certificate. Since they are already juggling multiple point values, I think the old Marriott cards will still come with a 25k certificate and thus it’ll be a category 1 to 4.

In terms of travel packages, as Greg notes, we understood the travel packages will likely work the same way and thus a current Cat 1 to 5 cert would become category 1 to 4. Marriott isn’t downgrading your certificate. Right now a category 5 costs 25,000 points per night. Starting in August, a category 4 will cost 25,000 points per night. It’s the same thing with a new category name. Obviously, some properties may change in category (as they do every year), but I wouldn’t expect wild changes from that specific category. Since a category 1 to 5 seven night certificate is valid at properties that charge up to 25,000 points now, I can’t see Marriott adding another 60,000 points in value by allowing you to use it for 7 nights at a 35000 point property next year. If I’m wrong, awesome for those with a certificate, but I don’t see any reason to think that’s likely.


Extending the logic further, if I have a category-7 certificate for 7 nights, can I use them at cat 8 hotels, which will be available for cat 7 pricing until 2019?

Nick Reyes

No. Again, don’t get hung up on the category names. Think about the pricing. Currently, a Category 7 hotel costs 35,000 points per night. In the new chart, Category 6 costs 60,000 points per night. Your current Cat 7 cert is not going to work at a “new” Cat 7 hotel. It’s (likely) going to work at a Cat 5 hotel as that will be the new category for hotels that charge 35,000 points per night (as shown in Greg’s chart in the post).

The only other possibility I can imagine is the idea that has been floated that they *may* instead give you back enough points to book 7 nights at 35K (210K since the 5th night is free) instead of converting you to a new “up to 35K” certificate.

I put the liklihood of it becoming a new Cat 7 as infinitely close to zero. I’d love to be wrong, but I highly doubt that will happen.

Again, we expect that these certificates will likely be the same as the new credit card certificates, which are valid “up to” a certain number of points. So if you theoretically had one valid up to 60K points per night, yes, I think you would be able to use it at Cat 8 hotels until the Cat 8 pricing comes out in 2019 (at which point you won’t be able to use it at Cat 7 hotels during peak pricing since peak pricing will be higher than 60K). But I don’t know which certificate that would be as none of the current certs are valid at 60K properties (since that isn’t a current level in the chart). And that’s what this post is about, really.


Yes, I realize my mistake. Thanks for pointing out. For a category 8 hotel which is pricing at 60K per night, I suppose I will need to have a Ritz Tier 4-5 certificate equivalent to 70K points right now. Is that correct?

Nick Reyes

That seems like a reasonable guess if you want to gamble on it. However, I wouldn’t. More on why at the bottom.

Again, we just don’t know for sure. Will they just give you back the points for the hotel portion? If they do, it doesn’t really matter which category you book as you’ll end up with the hotel portion of the points back.

Are they going to be generous and move people in between up a category? I guess that won’t matter at the top since Tier 1-3 is equivalent to a “new” category at 50K per night – so that one *probably* won’t go up to 60K.

Are they going to match you to a “standard” price but then make it valid up to peak pricing? i.e. Match a current Cat 1-5 to the new Cat 4 (“standard” 25K a night), but make it valid for up to 30K per night since that’s the new peak pricing for that category?

Are they going to give a refund on the overage if you have a Tier 4-5 since those properties cost 70K and the top of the chart for half of this year will be 60K — or will they just give you an “up to 70K” certificate that will be valid at Category 7 peak and Category 8 off-peak in 2019?

Are they going to continue to let people upgrade and downgrate certificates as they have in the past?

These are all relevant questions to figuring out which one is the best one to book — unfortunately, Marriott hasn’t been willing to answer them yet.

The reason I wouldn’t get a Tier 4-5 is this: if you want 7 nights at a top-tier property based on the 2018 pricing, that’ll be 360K points (6 x 60K since the 5th night is free). A Tier 4-5 package is 540K points. You’d be paying 180K Marriott Rewards for 120K airline miles. I don’t love that trade. It’s not horrible…but let’s say a Tier 1-5 gets converted to “up to 25K/night”. That 7-night stay would be 150K normally (6 x 25K). The package is 270K. You’re effectively paying 120K Marriott points for 120K airline miles. That’s a much better trade.

Personally, I redeemed for a current Cat 6. Those properties are now 30K/night. I’m hopeful that we’ll get *some* measure of notice about what will happen to the certs and I can upgrade/downgrade hopefully at that time. In the meantime, I doubt they’ll downgrade it to 25K per night, so my bet is that it will do one of the following:

-Maintain 30K per night value (Valid at Cat 4 peak / Cat 5 off-peak)
-Move up to 35K per night value (valid at Cat 5 standard)
-Get refunded 30K x 6 = 180K and I’ll have made 120K Marriott for 120K airline miles

I’m rooting for option 3 so I can then use those 180K towards 60K nights at the top tier joints. We’ll see. I’ve still got enough points set aside for a week at 60K just in case.

That’s as much as I know — the rest is guesswork at the moment.


I am not sure I fully follow:-

Tier 4-5 costs 60K/70K per night. Why will that certificate be converted to 25K/night when we expect category 6 to convert to 30K/nt? By the same logic I would expect Tier 4-5 to convert to 70K points.

I currently have a cat 1-5 7-night certificate and am unable to find a good use of it. If I put in 180K MR points, then it converts to a Tier 4-5 certificate. Based on your options, in Aug, it should:
1. Maintain up to 70K value, good for cat 8 pricing OR
2. Move up to 85K value – I doubt it OR
3. Get refunded 70K x 6 = 420K MR points (net of 180K upgrade costs results in 240K additional points)

Compared to 180K points for cat 6 certificates – there is arbitrage here:
1. From cat 6 (30K/nt) to cat 9 (45K/nt) Marriott requires incremental 5K points and hence additional 30K for the upgrading the travel packages per category
2. Same is maintained from cat 9 (45K/nt) to Tier 1-3 (max 50K/nt for Tier 3)
3. However from Tier 3 (50K/nt) to Tier 4-5 (70K/nt for Tier 5) it increases by 20K/nt yet only asks for 30K in upgrading the travel packages instead of 60K.

If I do not upgrade the cat 1-5 certificate and not use it, I will have to use 360K MR points for the 7 night stay at category 8 (60K/nt). So in effect I will save 180K MR points and still have a similar outcome as your 3 options – risk is the same?

Nick Reyes

Confusion here is partially my fault and partially that you have the upgrade cost incorrect. I mis-spoke near the end of my comment — I meant to compare to a Cat 1-5 certificate. A Cat 1-5 (not tier) costs 270K. Seven nights in Cat 5 = 150K. So you’re paying:

270K for the cert – 150K (normal cost of 7 nights at Cat 5) =
120K Marriott points for 120K airline miles

A tier 4-5 cert costs 540K points total. In the best case scenario, that certificate will work at the same properties you could otherwise book for 60K per night starting in August. 7 nights of that would be 360K. So you’re paying:

540K total Marriott – 360K (cost of 7 nights @ top tier in August) = 180K Marriott points for 120K miles.

*If* the certificate gets an “up to 70K” value, you could theoretically use it at peak pricing and get up to 420K points in “value” out of it if you wait until 2019 to book and book a place that is charging 70K based on peak/off-peak pricing, but you’re not really gaining much since all of those places will be 60K per night if you book by the end of this year. Even if you end up using it in a 70K-per-night situation, you’re getting 420K in value in terms of Marriott points — and still paying a net 120K for the airline miles. The only exception here is if Marriott decides to cash in the certs and give you 420K points for your 7-night certificate — in which case you could (theretically) book 7 nights at a top-tier 60K property by the end of this year and come out with 120K airline miles and 60K Marriott points. I peg that as highly unlikely.

*Key point*: You don’t have the numbers right for upgrade cost. Your cost to upgrade from Cat 1-5 to Tier 4-5 will be 270K, not 180K. You pay the difference in cost between the certificate you have and the one you want. Most of the way up the chart, that difference is 30K per category, but you’ll see that the difference in cost between Tier 1-3 and Tier 4-5 is 120K points (it jumps from 420K to 540K for the 7-night & 120K miles packages). So if you want to upgrade your current Cat 1-5 to a Tier 4-5, you’ll pay 540K – 270K = 270K.

If you upgrade to the Tier 4-5 certificate, don’t forget that there are *four* possible outcomes (your 3 plus one more):

1. Maintain up to 70K value, good for **2018** Cat 8 pricing (or off-peak if you wait until 2019 to book) OR
2. Move up to 85K value – I doubt it (<--me, too) OR 3. Get refunded 70K x 6 = 420K MR points (net cost of 270K to upgrade gets you *270K* points over Cat 1-5) 4. **See the red area in the chart on this page. Maybe your certificate only gets mapped to Cat 7 for "up to 60K" per night and you effectively lost 60K (which is the scenario I'm noting -- you're paying an effective 180K for 120K airline miles rather than 120K:120K with Cat 1-5). The "win" for you is really just in option #2, which is the least likely, and it's only a win if you wait to book until some properties cost 85K and you're able to find 7 nights of space near the end of the schedule for "standard" 85K pricing. If you get scenario #1, you're still only going to get 60K per night out of it if you book before early 2019. You'll only get 70K per night in value if you wait until 2019 peak/off-peaking pricing, in which case you can't book any properties that you couldn't have booked in 2018 at a value of 60K per night. The only real "win" with #1 is if you don't intend to travel until 2020 (so you can't book until 2019) and you want to stay at a Cat 8 off-peak -- in which case, you're counting on the certificates continuing to be extendable for another year, which is likely but not a guarantee. So #1 isn't much of a win in my opinion. Scenario 3 isn't a win because you're paying 120K Marriott for 120K airline either way -- you're just typing up more Marriott points than you need to right now if scenario 3 happens. Better to keep your 270K upgrade points in your pocket as you could instead use those to book 5 nights at a 60K property when the new pricing takes effect (since 5th night is free). No sense in typing them up in the certificate if this is the outcome. Scenario 4 is an obvious loss. Again, you're better off keeping your upgrade cost points and booking at 60K per night. All that said, if you can't find a use for your Cat 1-5 certificate, I guess you'll want to upgrade it to something higher -- whatever category has a property you'd find reasonable for 7 nights. If the onlt places you'd consider staying for 7 nights are the top-tier places, go ahead and convert for a Tier 4-5. However... Here's what I would do instead of using 270K to upgrade: 1) Spend 30K to upgrade Cat 1-5 to Cat 6 since there is likely to be a small win here if they give you an "up to" certificate and it gives you access to more properties. 2) Use 240K to book 5 nights in a top-tier (Cat7/8) property before the pricing goes up. You'll only end up getting 5 nights in a top-tier property rather than seven, but you'll also get seven nights in a mid-tier property. I think that's a better deal than spending 270K for what ampunts to 2 extra nights in that kind of property. Add to that the fact that it will probably be significantly easier to find 5 consecutive nights of availability in the top-tier properties than 7 (not easy necessarily -- easiER). I'm not functioning on full sleep, but I think that all makes sense, no?


Nick, I really appreciate your response. Thank you for the to-and-fro.

Yes, I got the upgrade wrong – calculated for initial categories and then just skimmed the last one (sheepish grin). The outcome you describe makes sense. I do not see a point of upgrading to Tier 4-5 at all now. As you suggested I will consider upgrading the certificate to cat 6.

I was able to find 7 nights in a top-tier hotel where i wanted to stay during the time I wanted to. Will probably do 60k points for 5 nights now.

Thanks you!!


Greg, thanks for the post. I have 7 night cert Cat 5 which I plan to upgrade to Cat 8 to use at Wailea Marriott Cat 8 in Feb 2019. Concerned about the new flex point system in 2019 as Feb is busy month in Hawaii. If I upgrade to Cat 8 now and book and apply cert to hotel reservation now, would this safeguard against future possible rise in points needed once new award charts come out. I am also thinking if points happen to be less, I could also downgrade my cert and get points back? Any thoughts if my plan makes sense? Thanks


Great info Greg

Christine B

I called in January and had my 7-night package extended a year. Doubting I will actually use it before it expires early January. You mentioned that upgrading or downgrading categories extends the expiration date. Has anyone tried to extend by upgrade and package that had already had a courtesy 1-year extension?

I’m also wondering if redemption of the 7-night package counts toward elite stay nights for status and/or lifetime status?


do you think this extension method will still work after Aug?


When would you recommend upgrading the package? Now or wait until later this summer (before August)?

Tim Smith

Nice. United usually runs a bonus in October/November when transferring hotel points which netted me 157K UA miles last year so I’m waiting on that possibility. Even if it’s equal to other airlines Now the extra 25K Miles is pretty good.