Looking for a fantastic travel hack opportunity? Like free hotel stays? Enjoy frequent flier miles? Want the option of choosing both?
Well, thanks to the Marriott-Starwood merger, you now have an enormous travel hacking opportunity. You can take out rewards cards for both chains, earn the bonus offer from both cards, and consolidate all those points into one account.
You can cash these combined points in for free hotel stays. Or transfer them over to a participating airline to earn up to 1.25 miles for every point you transfer.
But hurry, as this opportunity may expire as soon as the end of 2017.
How To Take Advantage of This Travel Hack
Link Your Accounts
First, make sure you have joined both the loyalty programs for Marriott and Starwood. Then link your accounts.
Now you can earn points in one program and then transfer them to the other. For any transfer, three (3) Marriott Rewards points will equal one (1) SPG Starpoint, and vice versa.
Take Out Rewards Credit Cards
Both the Chase Marriott Rewards Premier Visa and the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express offer new cardholders generous welcome bonuses.
And new cardholders will not have to pay annual fees for the first year.
The Marriott credit card allows you to earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Plus, you can earn an additional 7,500 bonus points by adding an authorized user in the first 3 months.
Let's be conservative and assume you will earn a total of 87,500 bonus points and only 3,000 regular points from your initial $3,000 spend. That is a total of 90,500 points.
Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card allows you to earn 25,000 bonus Starpoints® after you use your Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. On top of that, we will assume you will only earn 3,000 Starpoints from that initial spend. This will give you a total of 28,000 Starpoints.
FYI, we have assumed all your spending is worth 1 point per $1. Obviously, if you spend your money on qualifying hotel stays, your spend will get you more points. But for the sake of convenience, this is a good metric.
Combine Your Points
Now all you need to do is combine the points from the two programs.
You can elect either:
- 174,500 Marriott Rewards Points; or
- 58,167 Starpoints.
Using Your Combined Points
You've spent $6,000. So what will you get out of it?
Well, now comes the fun part. You get to use your combined points for hotel stays. Or as airline frequent flyer miles.
If you choose to stay at a Marriott hotel, you can cash in your 174,500 points and get 5 nights free at a Category 8 hotel (i.e., one that is really nice). (For more details on redeeming points and hotel categories, click here.)
With Starwood, your 58,167 StarPoints can be used for hotel rooms as well.
StarPoints Required for a One-Night Stay
- Category 1: 2,000 - 3,000 points
- Category 2: 3,000 - 4,000 points
- Category 3: 7,000 points
- Category 4: 10,000 points
- Category 5: 12,000 - 16,000 points
- Category 6: 20,000 - 25,000 points
- Category 7: 30,000 - 35,000 points
But, even better, you can turn those points into airline miles. And get a bonus out of it.
A great feature of the SPG rewards program is that you can transfer points to more than 30 airline programs. And you get 5,000 bonus Starpoints when you transfer 20,000 points to a frequent flyer program.
Most transfers, including those to Delta, are 1:1. And since you get 5,000 bonus points for every 20,000 Starpoints you transfer to a frequent flyer program, 20,000 points turns into 25,000 miles.
For the sake or argument, let's just say you spend an additional $1,833 to get to 60,000 Starpoints. At this point you have invested a total of $7,833.
Now you have the opportunity to transfer those points to Delta for 75,000 Skymiles. Or you can get 75,000 frequent flyer miles with other affiliated airlines like Air France and Virgin Atlantic.
(If you do not spend the extra money, your $6,000 spend will get you 68,167 miles.)
Enjoy Your Vacation Thanks to Travel Hacking
The best part of all this is that your regular spending can earn you some subsidized vacation time. Which is what travel hacking is all about.
And, of course, this works even better if some of that regular spending was at a qualifying Marriott or Starwood hotel, so you can earn more than 1 point per $1 spent.
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