Flexible currencies like American Express Membership Rewards Points and Starwood points are my favourite type of points currency. Their complexity makes it difficult for most people to take full advantage which leaves people like us with the best redemptions.

I want to talk about about the opportunities that exist as a result of Marriott’s acquisition of SPG. As a quick recap:

  • American Express Membership Rewards points convert into SPG points at a 2:1 ratio.
  • SPG points convert to Marriott Rewards points at a 1:3 ratio.

This means that every 180,000 Amex Points converts to 90,000 SPG points which converts in 270,000 Marriott points.

Marriott Flight and Hotel Packages

We prize SPG points because they convert 20,000:25,000 into most airline programs for a ratio of 1:1.25. With the Marriott Trip packages, this ratio can increase to 1:1.33 AND you get a week’s worth of hotels thanks to Marriott Flight and Hotel packages.

Example

If you had 90,000 SPG points, you’d earn 110,000 airline points by converting directly through the Aeroplan program.

If instead you used the Hotel + Air package, you’d earn 120,000 airline points and a week’s worth of hotels.

Even if you didn’t use the hotel nights, you’d be ahead by 10,000 points.

When you convert these packages, Marriott will deposit the miles into your frequent flyer account and deposit a certificate for 7 nights into your Marriott account. You can upgrade from a Category 5 hotel to higher categories so you should always redeem at the minimum category.

You don’t need to use your miles and nights at the same time.

The Virgin Atlantic sweet spot

Virgin Atlantic offers very attractive redemptions on ANA if your city is served by a direct flight. Business class from Canada is only 90,000 points compared to 150,000 points on Aeroplan. First class is only 110,000 points compared to 210,000 for Aeroplan.

Let’s look at what this means for different redemptions you can do.

Scenario 1: Single person return flight

A single person can book a return Aeroplan ticket for 150,000 to Japan. If you instead wanted to book using Virgin Atlantic Miles, you’d need 75,000 SPG points or 150,000 American Express points.

If you’re flush with SPG points, this can be worthwhile. Otherwise, it’s better to just convert your American Express points instantly into Aeroplan.

Scenario 2: Return flights for two

Now what if instead you wanted to plan a trip for two? It’d cost you 300,000 Amex MR points or 300,000 Aeroplan points.

If you instead booked using Virgin Atlantic miles, it’d cost you 180,000 points.

Working backwards, we know we can get 120,000 points from a Marriott Trip package so we’d need 90,000 SPG points or 180,000 MR points.

We’re then need an additional 60,000 Virgin Atlantic points. That’d require 50,000 SPG points. or 100,000 MR points.

In comparison to Aeroplan, you’d spend 20,000 fewer points and get a week’s worth of hotels.

Booking

Virgin Atlantic receives the same space as Star Alliance award partners. You can search for availability using Aeroplan, United or ExpertFlyer.

Once you’ve found a flight that you want, you will need to call into Virgin Atlantic to redeem your miles for the flights. As noted above, these redemptions are most useful if ANA has a direct flight from your departure city. Unlike Aeroplan, Virgin Atlantic charges per segment.

Getting the points

SPG and Amex MR points are readily available through credit card signup bonuses. I’ve listed some of the most attractive offers below.

SPG

SPG Personal

Get 20,000 SPG points as your signup bonus when you spend $1,500 within three months.

Business_Platinum_Card

Business Platinum

Get 75,000 MR points (enough for a one way business class flight to Asia) when you spend $5,000 within three months.

cobalt_card

Cobalt

Earn 2,500 points a month when you spend $500 of more. This card has the best bonus category spend of 5 points per dollar for groceries and restaurants.

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