When the ever changing hotel loyalty world in which we live in makes you give in and cry, live and let fly. There's an old joke in the airline industry about becoming a millionaire. Start with a billion and open an airline, you'll soon be a millionaire. A common problem many points and miles collectors face is having their hard earned balances spread across many programs. Converting some hotel points to airline programs can be like starting with a billion and ending up with less than a million, other's can be the ticket to your next vacation. Hotel points are unique because unlike the mafia style nature of airline miles "once in, there's no going out" you can move them relatively freely to a wide variety of airlines and other programs. Here are the thoughts that should be going through your head; complete with a fancy chart showing the relative exchange values of each hotel point program to an airline mile. Yes, one is the best.
Points Are About To Expire or Devalue...
Your hotel points are about to expire and you have no vacations booked. If you love the program you bank your hotel points with and do have thoughts on a future vacation using those points; there's no immediate panic. You could always credit some miles to the program to keep them fresh and safe from expiry. On the other hand if you have no vacations booked, the hotel program is going to devalue, you've switched your hotel loyalty or your points are nearing expiry, transferring to an airline can be a saving grace. With most programs you will get less than the equivalent in airline miles but may still manage to extract more value and "cents per mile".
I Have Too Many Or Need More Airline Miles.
One of our great readers I will affectionately call "Mo' has too many hotel points. He's switched his loyalty away from IHG to a different group and has the eurozone bank balance in points lying around from his old hotel stays. Just before Etihad devalued on July 8th "Mo" transferred quite a few IHG points into the Etihad program allowing him to book the Etihad first class apartment for 55,000 miles one way! Not bad! For some, paying for a nice hotel is a far more reasonable expense than ever paying out of pocket for a product like the first class apartment. If you have extra points lying around and can find a decent transfer ratio, why not pay for both using points? Recently Starwood and Aeroplan partnered to offer a bonus for large point transfers. The opportunity presented Starwood points holders transferring 150,000 points to the airline a 40,000 point bonus creating 190,000 Aeroplan miles, enough for two round trip international flat bed business class tickets! Taking advantage of limited time offers like this can be extremely lucrative. If only Mo's flight was still only 55,000 miles today!
I Don't Like staying with The Hotel Chain...
There's business travel and personal travel. Corporations have agreements and preferred vendors and sometimes business travelers have absolutely no say in where they stay. Intelligently they collect the points, suss out options for using the points toward a future vacation and occasionally find they have absolutely no interest in using the points. I'm a boutique hotel guy myself ; ) In the event of a situation like this even though you are likely getting less theoretical value, the personal value to you may be exponentially higher using them on an airline. I personally would not be too keen to fly around the world and stay in a Best Western chain. I've seen plenty of them. As such I'd be tremendously more happy with airline miles, even if I might be losing out.
The "D" Word, Devaluation.
Perhaps the most obvious reason to transfer points is dreaded devaluation. In the example above "Mo's" points weren't devaluing in IHG, they were about to devalue in another program. By moving IHG points over he was able to top off in time to get a last great value out of his Etihad miles. Whether it's your hotel program or favorite airline that's destined for the plunge, plan ahead and consider a transfer. As a matter of warning, hotel points don't convert into airline miles nearly as quickly as credit card points and can take up to four weeks to post. Be sure to give yourself the lead time to not transfer points into a wasteland!
This is such a personal topic. As with many things there is no absolute answer. I simply wish to set your frame of mind to make intelligent decisions leading to wonderful travel experiences. Sleeping on a plane or sleeping in a beautiful hotel, it's all travel and it's all great. I live for it.
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