Airlines and hotels are seeing the greatest slump in travel sentiment yet due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and this trend doesn’t seem to be stopping, Thus, with the view on short-term travel looking bleak, airlines and hotels have become more creative with policies of enticing travellers to part with their money. One popular way has been to offer bonuses on points sold. These are common all year-round, and I’ve touched on them briefly last year when British Airways held a 50% bonus on its Avios.

Right now, we are seeing unprecedented bonuses across many different airlines and bonuses. For example, I’ve seen Aeroplan, Air Canada’s frequent flier programme, offered a ridiculous 115% bonus on its miles for the first 10 million miles sold, allowing you to buy 1 Aeroplan mile at 1 US cents. This translates to a one-way transatlantic flight at just US$575 excluding surcharges and taxes, which is phenomenal since flights can go up to US$3000 for a one-way flight. 

 

DETAILS OF PROMOTION

Hotels are not letting up either, with many offering discounts off gift cards and bonuses on points. Today, I’ll cover the specifics of what Marriott is offering. With a 60% bonus on points, you can buy Marriott points at 0.78 US cents per point here, all the way to 30 June.

For this promotion, you can buy up to a total of 100,000 Marriott Bonvoy points, pre-bonus. However, you can only buy 50,000 points at one go, so you have to make 2 separate transactions if you want to maximise the promotion.

redeeming marriott bonvoy points

Marriott Bonvoy is the loyalty programme of over 32 hotel brands and 7,000 properties worldwide under the Marriott portfolio. These 32 hotel brands are inclusive of the Starwood portfolio, which has been taken over by Marriott since 2015. 

As of September 2019, Marriott has begun employing an award chart charging ‘Off-Peak, Standard, Peak’ rates that is governed by an algorithm, which Marriott says will be adjusted according to ‘market conditions’. These rates differ according to the 9 different categories of hotels under the Marriott portfolio, as you will see below. 

I am not an active member on Marriott Bonvoy, but friends have told me that they have been generally able to achieve 1-1.2 US cents per point on their hotel stays, albeit before the recent changes.

A casual search done on redemption rates for the JW Marriott Hotel Seoul still does yield positive results though. The JW Marriott Hotel Seoul is a Category 6 Hotel, so an ‘off-peak’ redemption will be at 40,000 points.

The corresponding price for a paid rate including taxes is 450,604 KRW (~365 USD).

Thus, if you seize the opportunity to buy the points during this bonus, you are able to secure the room at 312USD, savings of about 17%. You can achieve greater savings if you redeem a 5-day stay, since Marriott also gives the 5th award night free for redemption stays, savings of another 20%. You will also have various benefits dependent on your status with Marriott. For example, if you are Platinum Elite, you will have a Welcome Gift which most opt for breakfast, executive lounge access and even a generous late checkout at 4pm; all pretty cool benefits! Do bear in mind that you will lose out on earning points though since it’s an award stay.

one cool perk of marriott points...

To extract the best value of your hotel points, I generally recommend using them for your hotel stays. However, Marriott points has an interesting alternative usage that I value, which is that you are able to convert Marriott points to miles with more than 40 airline programmes at a 3:1 ratio. Moreover, if you transfer 60,000 Marriott points at one go, Marriott will top up 5,000 miles to your frequent flier account, netting you a cool 25,000 miles.

Among the >40 airline programmes that Marriott has tied up with, I would definitely lean towards mileage currencies that are exotic to those of us living here in Singapore. You could always transfer to Singapore Airlines Krisflyer, but why would you?

For example, with Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan, you can fly to Japan with Japan Airlines in Business Class for 25,000 miles (US$468), compared to the 47,000 miles Singapore Airlines charges.

Another example would be to convert your Marriott points to the Japanese airlines, ANA and Japan Airlines. ANA and Japan Airlines miles are one of the most elusive, but among the most valuable. 

For example, for a transatlantic flight, a return trip in business on a Star Alliance partner only costs 88,000 ANA miles, while Singapore Airlines charges 72,000 Krisflyer miles for a one-way flight from Frankfurt-JFK. Two downsides to using ANA miles is that they do pass on fuel surcharges, and that you can only redeem return flights, although open jaw itineraries are eligible as well. 

On the other hand, Japan Airlines is well known for the last reasonable way to fly Emirates First Class. Emirates First Class is well known for the onboard bars and showers on their A380s, and with their fancy marketing which feature Hollywood celebrities. 

Emirates First Class (Photo Credit: Emirates)

Did you know you only need 100,000 JAL miles to fly round trip with Emirates First Class for an itinerary below 10,000 miles? That’s 50,000 miles one way, for a ticket easily worth US$10,000!

Admittedly, now may not be the best time to fly Emirates First Class with all the service reductions, but there’s nothing stopping you to fly them in the future, hopefully with the high luxury standards associated with Emirates.

CONCLUSION

Marriott Bonvoy has had its fair share of criticism with the merger process of the Starwood portfolio, but one can’t deny the impressive portfolio of hotels they have globally. The 60% bonus represents a good opportunity to top up on Marriott Bonvoy points, something otherwise difficult to do in Singapore.

As illustrated, the flexibility of Marriott Bonvoy points makes it much more valuable than other hotel points. If there’s a hotel stay you are eyeing, this points bonus will come in handy, but do remember to compare it to the paid rates before booking!


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