When Marriott announced their acquisition of Starwood Hotels, most SPG (Starwood Preferred Guest) loyalists were not happy. Where SPG is often regarded as one of (if not the) best loyalty programs, Marriott’s program is usually, at best, considered middle of the road. In the post, “Hey Marriott: Here’s how to keep SPG loyalists loyal,” I argued that Marriott would have to make significant changes and generally bend over backwards to keep SPG enthusiasts from jumping ship.
In general, my biggest problem with the Marriott Rewards program is it is very difficult to get outsized value for your points. Marriott regularly increases hotels’ category designations so as to make award nights more expensive at those properties. And, since Marriott doesn’t really enforce their “no blackout date” policy, Marriott hotels tend to be unavailable for awards during special events that drive up cash prices.
One area where Marriott does shine, though, is their Travel Packages. Travel Packages can provide outsized value from your points, indirectly, by providing valuable airline miles along with a 7 night stay. SPG offers a similar redemption option called “Nights and Flights”. In both cases, you can redeem hotel points for a combination of a free hotel stay plus airline miles. And, in both cases, the airline miles are for you to keep. You do not have to use those airline miles to get to the hotel that was booked as part of the package. Let’s look at each of these packages, in depth. Is this one area where Marriott shines brighter than SPG?
SPG Nights & Flights
SPG has a staggering number of point redemption options. One very good option is their Nights & Flights package. There are two versions of this package:
- Redeem 60,000 Starpoints for 5 nights at a category 3 property plus 50,000 air miles
- Redeem 70,000 Starpoints for 5 nights at a category 4 property plus 50,000 air miles
The usual point prices for 5 night stays, without the Nights & Flights package, are:
- Category 3: 28,000 (Note: SPG offers the 5th Night Free so this is calculated as 7,000 x 4)
- Category 4: 40,000 (Note: SPG offers the 5th Night Free so this is calculated as 10,000 x 4)
And, the usual point price for airline miles is:
- 25,000 airline miles: 20,000 points
- 50,000 airline miles: 40,000 points
So, we can calculate the savings that you get from the Nights & Flights package:
- 5 Nights + 50,000 miles redeemed separately: 28,000 + 40,000 = 68,000
- 5 Nights + 50,000 miles redeemed as a Nights & Flights package: 60,000
- Savings: 6,000 Starpoints
- 5 Nights + 50,000 miles redeemed separately: 40,000 + 40,000 = 80,000
- 5 Nights + 50,000 miles redeemed as a Nights & Flights package: 70,000
- Savings: 10,000 Starpoints
Marriott Travel Packages
Marriott Travel Packages are similar to SPG Nights & Flights. Just as with SPG, you pay points to get a fixed number of nights plus a fixed number of airline miles. Unlike SPG, Marriott Travel Packages are designed for 7 night stays and it’s possible to use points to purchase a Travel Package for any hotel category.
Where SPG Nights & Flights can be thought of as a way to get a discount on a 5 night stay for those planning to transfer SPG points to airline miles, Marriott’s Travel Packages are best thought of as a way to get miles cheaply for those planning to book a 7 night award stay. Let me give an example to be clear:
For 300,000 Marriott Rewards points, you can book a Category 6 Marriott for 7 nights plus you’ll get 120,000 miles (you can pick from quite a few airlines). If you booked the same hotel for 7 nights outside of this package, you would get the 5th night free as a standard benefit, and so you would pay 30K X 6 = 180,000 Marriott Rewards points for 7 nights. In other words, the Flight & Hotel package costs 120,000 points more, but you get 120,000 miles which are arguably much more valuable than 120,000 Marriott points. As a general rule, if you are flush with Marriott points and you are planning a 7 night award stay, you might as well book this package.
Shown above is just one of several redemption tables, all of which can be found here. If you want to redeem for United miles, you’ll earn even more miles (thanks to the United / Marriott partnership called RewardsPlus). Meanwhile, the chart for earning Southwest points is identical to the one shown above. On the other hand, if you want miles in a foreign airline’s program (e.g. Air France, ANA, LAN, Singapore, etc.), or JetBlue or Virgin America, you will earn far fewer miles.
Marriott Travel Package Tips:
- Options that span multiple hotel categories (e.g. Category 1-5, Tier 1-3, Tier 4-5) offer good value only if you book the top category within the range.
- The main benefit of the travel packages is to convert Marriott points to miles at a low rate. Therefore, the best options are those that offer the most miles. If possible, always opt for the package that offers 120,000 miles.
- If you don’t know which hotel you will book, redeem for the cheapest option (Category 1-5). You can always add points later to bump up to a higher category stay.
- Southwest points earned from the Travel Package do count towards the Southwest Companion Pass (which requires 110,000 points to be earned in one calendar year). If you’re flush with Marriott points, this is a great way to earn a companion pass that is good for an unlimited number of flights for the rest of the year in which it is earned and all of the next year.
- Airlines occasionally offer mileage bonuses for miles transferred in from hotel programs. When this happens, you can earn even more miles from the Travel Package (this is true of SPG’s Nights & Flights as well).
SPG Nights & Flights vs. Marriott Travel Packages, head to head
In the post “Convert SPG points to miles? How to play the Marriott merger,” I described SPG category 4 properties and Marriott’s categories 6-8 properties as “mid tier”. If we agree to that comparison, then we can compare the travel packages. We’ll compare the SPG category 4 Nights & Flights package to the Marriott category 7 Travel Package. And, to equate the nights component, we’ll price two SPG packages, and add 3 reward nights to the Marriott package:
- SPG 10 Nights + 100,000 miles costs 140,000 Starpoints
- Marriott 10 Nights + 100,000 miles costs 310,000 + 35,000 x 3 = 415,000 Marriott Rewards points
In other words, for a similar result (10 mid-tier nights + 100,000 airline miles) you would need to pay 3 times as many Marriott points as SPG points. In my Fair Trading Prices, I value SPG points at 2.26 cents each and Marriott points at .56 cents each. In other words, I value SPG points approximately 4 times higher than Marriott points. So, all else being equal (which it’s not, of course, but still…), the Marriott packages offer better value since it is only 3 times as expensive.
In reality, both packages offer good value. If you have the points and actually want to stay at a Marriott category 5 or higher property for 7 nights, or an SPG category 3 or 4 property for 5 nights, then go for it. Keep in mind, though, that standard room awards must be available for your entire stay. In my experience you’ll be much more likely to find that availability with SPG than with Marriott.
Alaska, United, Southwest, ANA…
An important difference between SPG and Marriott’s programs are the airline programs they support. Both directly support popular programs such as Air Canada, American Airlines, Alaska, and Delta. If you want United or Southwest miles, though, you should go with Marriott. If you want miles from Air France, ANA, or Singapore, to name a few, you should go with SPG since Marriott offers far fewer miles with those programs.
My family rarely spends more than 5 nights in one location, so the SPG packages have a significant advantage based on our travel style. If that’s not an issue for you, and you can find award night availability, then the Marriott Travel Packages may offer better value. This is especially true for those seeking Southwest points (which contribute to Companion Pass eligibility) or United miles. If Marriott folds SPG into Marriott Rewards and offers to convert SPG points 1 to 3, or better, to Marriott Rewards, then I’d argue that we’ve at least broken even. Unfortunately, my guess is that Marriott will offer much less than a 1 to 3 conversion (see: Convert SPG points to miles? How to play the Marriott merger). If we learn that the conversion rate is less than 1 to 3, then it would be a great idea to book SPG Nights & Flights packages before its too late (assuming you have the points and can use a 5 night category 3 or 4 stay, of course).
[…] know, my wife and I are expecting our first child in January 2018. In January 2017, I redeemed a Starwood Nights & Flights package. I didn’t have an immediate use for the 5-night package at the time, so I booked out […]
[…] for 7,500 points/nights in small town America visiting family and need a convenient bed to sleep. Marriott Reward Travel Packages/SPG Nights & Flights have interested me though I have no current need for long hotel stays and never pulled the trigger, […]
[…] SPG Nights & Flights vs. Marriott Travel Packages […]
[…] recently wrote up a comparison between Marriott’s Travel Packages and SPG’s Nights & Flights packages. I found that both types of packages offer good value in specific circumstances. One quibble I […]
[…] HT: FrequentMiler […]
[…] Note: there are situations where Ultimate Rewards transfers to Marriott make sense in order to book a Marriott Travel Package. Read more here: SPG Nights & Flights vs. Marriott Travel Packages […]
[…] SPG Nights & Flights vs. Marriott Travel Packages – With these two companies being combined, which travel package program is better and what features will win out? […]
[…] Miler: SPG Nights & Flights vs. Marriott Travel Packages – Great look at two highly valuable programs that SPG and Marriott run where you can turn […]
Marriott has consistently win Freddue awards and other awards as best loyalty program. SPG never close to top program. Bloggers including yourself have acknowledge that SPG being a little chain had to give outsized value on points to offset its small footprint and to be competitive. With that logic, being part of bigger footprint, there is no reason that Marriott needs to offer more but in fact more reason for SPG to offer less. The logic is flawed that Marriott needs to offer more to keep SPG member loyalties. The increased size is better now. Also where can SPG members go? To smaller footprint Hyatt. Lol. Hard to find Hyatts in most locations .
[…] Miler lays out the Marriott Travel Packages and SPG Nights & Flights. Expect the only bright spot of Marriott to be whacked soon, these guys […]
This seems like a great way to parlay Ultimate Rewards into Alaska miles in combo with the long stay at Marriott or Ritz………..
This is a great post for those with expense accounts to ponder. For the average MS fan (your core constituency no?), it’s meaningless. I’m never going to intentionally amass a stack of Marriott points. It just would never beat cashback or UR or another currency
wrong….applying for the ritz carlton card with annual fee waived first year and the Marriott business and personal card with annual fee gets you around 200k Marriott points (plus free night certs, gold status, lounge club, $400 airline incidentals credit and other card perks) husband and wife can do it and combine points for award. Getting companion pass and 120k sw points as well as a weeklong high category hotel stay (think Hawaii) gives much more value than 2% cash back with minimal spend needed.
Unfortunately the Ritz 140K offer has been MIA for quite a while
Since Southwest points earned using a Marriott Travel package do count toward the companion pass, is it possible to book a travel package, get the SW points to earn your companion pass, and then cancel the Marriott hotel reservation and get some of the points back?
It’s been a while since I booked one, but I recall the fine print said you had x months to book the hotel or the points/voucher was worthless.
In short, no, you can’t do that. i.e. rinse-repeat, etc…sorry, no loop-hole for abuse.
You can cancel and get some points back, but not many. The number of points you get back depends on what category you booked and how many miles you got (the more miles you got, I believe the fewer points you would get back when you cancel). I think that the minimum points back is something like 10,000. I believe you would be better off using the travel package to book 2 or 3 nights somewhere than to just cancel and get a few points back.
nope, the hotel stay is a weeklong certificate, it is non-refundable. If you fail to use it as originally planned, you have a limited time to use it at another hotel in the same category. You can get the airline miles to post early this way, so it may be useful to get the SW companion pass a year before your vacation…but they will only let you pay more points for a higher category hotel certificate, and will not downgrade category or refund any points.
You get a year and lots of reports indicate you can get a one year extension — though YMMV. You don’t need to have a reservation when you redeem. They will just put the cert in your account. If you don’t have a use planned when you redeem, get the cat 1-5 certificate. You can always upgrade it for the difference in points but you can’t downgrade. For example, I redeemed a travel package a few months ago to take advantage of a promo. I got the miles but had no use at the time for a hotel for a week so just got the cat 1-5 cert for 270k Marriott points, and the cert immediately went electronically into my account. I later needed a cat 6 for a week, so I booked a points reservation then called Marriott Rewards and they upgraded my cert for the difference between a cat 1-5 package and a cat 6 package (30k) and applied it to my booking. It was simple. Took all of three minutes.
I do not understand this post. It is an awful comparison of the value of the travel packages. No where in the entire post does it cover what you must spend to earn the packages! Marriott points earn at 5X the rate of SPG points, yet their points are NOT 5X less valuable. Not in ANY situation. I do not understand why those loyal to SPG care about this merger. SPG is a pretty limited program compared to Marriott. So few properties, way less lounges and poor breakfast benefit (they make you use your welcome amenity) Here is the proper run down on which packages are a better value based on HOTEL stay spend.
As a Platinum Member at Marriott you earn 15 points per dollar (plus welcome bonuses and 2-3 promos per year)
Marriott Cat 5 Travel Package 270,000 /15 – $18,000 – It will be far less than that if you maximize promos
SPG 5 nights Category 4 – 60,000 points /3 – $20,000 – If you maximize proms you can probably get this down to $13-14K BUT you are at LESS than half the miles and only 5 nights. If you double that you get some extra nights but you are still at less miles and you would have spent up to another $20K!!!
Marriott travel packages BLOW Nights and flights out of the water. Also I cannot see one benefit of SPG Platinum over Marriott Platinum except the late checkout benefit is later. And in my opinion there are always far better options with Marriott than staying in a run-down Sheraton or Westin. W hotels offer limited to no elite benefits and the rooms are ridiculous in my opinion. Welcome to Marriott SPG members! I was SPG Platinum for 2 years before doing Marriotts Taste of Platinum challenge 5 years ago and can’t say I miss a single thing about SPG, especially not their hotels!
Wrong. First, there are limited situations where you’ll find a Cat. 5. you’ll want to stay at. Assume at minimum a Cat. 7 so 270,000 becomes 330,000. Second, it’s a lot easier to work in a 5 night stay than a 7 night stay in one location. Third, who is primarily earning their points from hotel stays? You can get the lowest SPG package for a signup bonus and $30K spend. You can get the lowest 50K travel package for a signup bonus and $130K spend.
Really depends how snobby you are or how critical it is that you get more cents/pt in your psychosis, honestly. With the “latest/last round” of category changes a few cat 5 (Marriott) are now 6s…and have quite nice locations/amenities/lounges, etc. Not sure I’d say you’d HAVE to be in a cat 7. The only time I found I had to book a Cat 7 was in Tokyo, and that’s one of the most expensive cities in the world. Some people feel the ‘need’ to be in some posh place. I see it as you’ll spend most of your time (I’d hope) outside the hotel seeing sites, experiencing culture and dining outside the hotel…and as long as the room is clean, the beds soft and the breakfast free / lounge access, I don’t care that there is a spa or larger pool or bigger gym or massive lobby.
End of the day, it all doesn’t matter if there isn’t a hotel in the location you’re traveling to. And, especially in that respect, SPG fails with the FAR lower quantity of hotel locations. Yes, the hotels are nicer (on average) but as mentioned above, they don’t give you any perks of being an elite. Case-in-point, booking a Westin in Australia and asked as to their amenities, specifically breakfast, and was told “we are a boutique hotel and do not off complimentary breakfast”. WTF? Why am I a top-tier elite again?? Not that JWs don’t do the same thing…BUT they do either offer you breakfast vouchers or (more frequently than spg) have a lounge you can go to.
I, personally, don’t feel the need to faceback/insta/whatever my trip to be the envy of my “friends” I no longer keep in touch with, if it weren’t for fb. So, for me, staying at a luxurious property .vs. a very nice property is of no concern to me. I’d rather have free breakfast to start my day and a hotel in the location I’m traveling to utilize my points and not decide a different city is better b/c I can’t find a Starwood property there.
I think SPG is pumped far more (in the blogs, especially tpg’s) than Marriott b/c the kickbacks(tpg heavily) for paid articles and CC bonuses for sign-ups are quite a bit nicer than Chase gives for the Marriott card. Not every trip I take is in some exotic location and it’s nice to have a cheap Marriott to use them at w/o paying for that unexpected trip for emergency trips for family or unexpected “plans”.
Finally, if you follow the mantra of “only having so many points that you can spend in the next 18-24 months, well, then it only makes sense, for me, to use them for “less than ideal” bookings instead of paying cash for those $100/night stays. For those quick-trips, weekend getaways, etc…it takes stress off from having to think “am I getting 5cpp??”
Interesting that you decided that the reason Cat 7 was the minimum was based on some odd idea that Rob is a snob and your own issues with social media. You’re just using reverse snobbery: “I’m so much better than you because I don’t post on Instagram”. The higher category properties tend to be better located. If I am on vacation, I don’t want to lose an hour of my day, each day, traveling from the suburbs to where the attractions are. And it is harder to book 7 award nights in any desirable location in any program.
Ryan= Marriott CEO Arne. nobody else would be so delusional.
have a stay, Arne, at Le Meridien Chiang Mai/Rai, REP, etc etc etc @ 3000/4000 points as a Plat and try (you can’t find one) to stay at a comparable MAR hotel/experience for less than 25k points (greater than 6x SIX! points). then, come back and post your revised opinion.
nothing like flyover marriott courtyards for 30k points to get SPG PLat’s excited abt the merger. there are so many cat 2-5 bargains with SPG and you have a useful credit card. Mar Chase is 1x regular spend and rated by…. ummm….. EVERYONE as a card to get for the sign up and then clsoe/NEVER use. completely worthless.
and… breakfast, 4pm GUARANTEED checkout is incredibly valuable. have an evening flight with SPG- no worries (and they easily extend Plats to 5pm if not full). staying at MAR… good luck negotiating even a 2pm checkout or begging to only pay 1/2 night for a few hours.
Remember that Ultimate rewards can be transferred to Marriott. Ultimate rewards are easy to get on INK card at staples earns 1500 points for a $300 visa gift card, costing $9. So can get 1500 Marriott points for $9, i.e. 166 points per dollar. That more than makes up for any thought that the SPG package could be better.
Good point, but I disagree with your conclusion. You can also buy 3 $500 Visa gift cards at a mall for $3.95 each. So, you can get 1500 SPG points for $11.85. Sure that’s a little more expensive than Marriott points, but the SPG packages are much cheaper.