A significant part of this hobby is discovering “sweet spots” in different reward programs. Unlike the United States, which only has a 1:0.25 AMEX Membership Rewards to SPG conversion ratio, Canada is fortunate to have a 1:0.5 conversion ratio. For example, if you converted 140,000 Membership Rewards points into SPG points, you would get 70,000 SPG points.
Since SPG and Marriott are currently in the process of merging programs, SPG allows you to convert your points in Marriott points at a 1:3 ratio. This means that 70,000 SPG points would convert into 210,000 Marriott points. Marriott points are not all that valuable at lower amounts, but once you have 270,000 Marriott points, you can redeem for Marriott’s Travel Packages program. Under this program, by redeeming 270K, you’ll get 120,000 frequent flyer miles in a significant number of programs (including particularly valuable miles like Alaska Airlines, with 120,000 giving you a round-trip business class ticket on Cathay Pacific to Australia), and you’ll get 7 nights at a category 1-5 Marriott hotel.
Since Marriott and United have a partnership, you could convert 270,000 Marriott points into 132,000 United miles and a 7 night category 1-5 stay. While you get more miles in this case, I think there are more valuable transfer partners at the 120,000 points level, including Alaska Airlines and Aeroplan.
There’s a good amount of flexibility with this program. Since Marriott is simply depositing the 120K frequent flyer miles in whatever program you’ve chosen, you don’t need to use those miles specifically for the trip in which you’re using your 7 night hotel stay. The hotel stay works as a 7 night certificate valid for one year from the redemption date. Further, while the bottom-tier redemption level is for a category 1-5 Marriott hotel, you can redeem the points difference to upgrade to a higher category at a later date. For example, if you decided you want to stay at a category 6 hotel, you could redeem an additional 30,000 Marriott points to upgrade your certificate.
Anecdotal reports suggest that you can extend the validity beyond one year if you are having trouble using the certificate, but this is not guaranteed.
How do I get 270,000 Marriott Points?
First, remember that you can transfer Marriott points between anybody (e.g. family) for free if you are a Marriott Gold member ($10 if not). You get Gold status for free if you have an American Express Platinum card.
This is the credit card churning process I would follow to quickly get 270,000 points – if you are struggling to do this yourself, have a family member do part or the whole of it and share the points to top up.
- Get the SPG Personal and SPG Business American Express cards. The personal card gets you 20,000 SPG points after spending $1,500 in three months, and the business card does the same. It appears these cards will no longer be available come November 2017, so this is one of your last chances to get these cards.
Since SPG convert 1:3 into Marriott, this will give you 120/270K.
- Get the Chase Canada Marriott Visa (free for the first year, no foreign exchange fee). You get 50,000 Marriott points after your first purchase. I believe this credit card will no longer be available in the coming weeks. It appears that most Chase Canada accounts (e.g. Amazon and Marriott) are being sold to Scotiabank, so it’s very likely these are the final days for the Marriott Visa in Canada. You are now at 170/270K.
- Finally, you should get the American Express Platinum Business card. This gives you 75,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $5,000 in three months. You can sign-up as a sole-proprietor using your name as the business name without any business income (AMEX is happy to approve!). If you are having problems meeting minimum spend limits, you can currently use the Paytm app for free in Canada to quickly meet minimum spend amounts. You can then transfer 67,000 Membership Rewards points to SPG at a 1:0.5 ratio, giving you 33,500 SPG points with some leftover MR points (which you can then convert 1:1 into Aeroplan or British Airways Avios). Once you convert 33,500 SPG points into Marriott points, you’ll now have slightly over 270,000 Marriott Rewards points to use for the hotel and points travel package!
Examples of Great Trips
Here are some great trip ideas:
You could spend one week (free!) at the Fullerton Marriott near Disneyland in California, and book a family of four using 100,000 Aeroplan points (25,000 points per person round-trip) from Canada to Disneyland. This hotel regularly goes for around 175USD/night, which means you’d be getting around $1600CAD in free hotels for your Disneyland trip, on top of free flights. Further, if you get free Marriott Gold status through American Express, you’ll get free breakfast during your hotel stay.
Castle in Wales
You could spend a romantic week at the St. Pierre Marriott in Wales, which is located inside a beautiful castle, surrounding by lovely gardens. Converting your 120,000 points into Aeroplan, you’d also have enough points for two round-trip tickets in economy to get there from Canada.
Week in Madrid
Similar to above, you could fly two people to Madrid using Aeroplan on a round-trip economy ticket using 120,000 Aeroplan miles and spend a week at the AC Hotel Carlton in Madrid for free.
If you redeem 120,000 points on Alaska Airlines, you can fly one person in business class on a round-trip ticket from Canada or the United States to Sydney, Australia (with a free stop in Hong Kong if you wish) and stay a week at the Courtyard Sydney-North Ryde. Choosing a random date in September this hotel sells for 303AUD a night, which means your one week stay could easily be valued at over $2,000CAD!
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