How to convert American Express Membership Rewards and Starwood points to Hilton HHonors at a favorable ratio

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Following up on my post from yesterday about the challenges of converting Chase Ultimate Rewards points into Hilton HHonors points, it’s worth noting that there are economical ways to convert both American Express Membership Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest points to Hilton HHonors. While not everyone values Hilton HHonors points highly, I at least have a new appreciation for them.

American Express Membership Rewards transfers

The Membership Rewards program actually partners with Hilton HHonors, and it’s possible to convert Membership Rewards points to Hilton HHonors points at a 1:1.5 ratio.

Fortunately it’s possible to do better than that by making an indirect transfer instead. Membership Rewards partners with both HawaiianMiles and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. This is significant because both programs allow transfers to Hilton HHonors at a 1:2 ratio. The catch is that Hawaiian only lets “organically” earned miles and miles through credit card spend be transferred to Hilton, while Virgin Atlantic allows all earned points to be transferred.

Membership Rewards points can be transferred to Virgin Atlantic at a 1:1 ratio.

This allows you to basically convert Membership Rewards points into Hilton HHonors points at a 1:2 ratio.

It’s worth noting that Membership Rewards frequently offers a transfer bonus to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, which can make this an even more compelling deal. Back in April, for example, Membership Rewards offered a 25% transfer bonus. That basically translated to a 1:2.5 ratio, which is very good.

I’m kind of Membership Rewards rich and Hilton HHonors poor right now, so I’ll be moving over quite a few points with the next transfer bonus.

Starwood Preferred Guest transfers

Similar to the strategy above, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club is also a partner of Starwood Preferred Guest. The difference is that Starwood offers a 5,000 point bonus for every 20,000 points transferred, meaning you’re basically earning a 25% bonus on transfers. 40,000 Starwood points would get you 50,000 Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles, which would get you 100,000 Hilton HHonors points, a ratio of 1:2.5

There’s something funny to me about being able to convert hotel points to a competing chain at a more or less fair ratio. 😀

Is this really a good transfer ratio?

I’m not actually saying everyone is best off making this transfer and that it’s the best value for everyone. Membership Rewards points are incredibly valuable for premium cabin flight rewards, and Starwood points are incredibly valuable for airline transfers and hotel stays. That being said, when considering the above ratio I do think Hilton points are more valuable than Starwood points when it comes to redeeming for high end hotels.

As I mentioned in my previous post, if you have the American Express Hilton Surpass card you can redeem for an AXON award, which gets you four nights at a category 7 hotel for 145,000 Hilton HHonors points. We’re talking hotels like the Conrad Hong Kong, Conrad Maldives, and Conrad Koh Samui, for example.

At a 1:2.5 ratio, 60,000 SPG points will get you 150,000 Hilton HHonors points, more than enough for a four night category 7 AXON award. That means you’d be spending less than 15,000 SPG points per night for Hilton’s highest category hotels. Starwood charges 30,000+ SPG points per night for their category 7 hotels, so you’re paying less than half the number of points at a Hilton vs. Starwood property.

Again, I’m not saying this works for everyone. SPG points are hugely valuable for redemptions at mid-range hotels. But I think it’s hard to argue with the above numbers for someone that’s chasing an aspirational hotel award.

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Comments

  1. Lucky, do you have any idea why Amex USA has c. 100 transfer partners and Amex Germany or Switzerland ca. 10? (e.g. Amex Switzerland has three airline transfer partners: AF/KL, LH and DL).

  2. Lucky,
    delete this blog post!
    Do not explain ALL of it
    It is like AFWD explaining FDs to the masses
    The lurkers do read your posts, you know.
    At least do not rub it in that you are getting Cat 7 Hilton for half price SPG hotel cost
    Take out the bold formatting at least, please….

  3. agree with ffi, explaining that the convertsion arbitrage opportunities is fine, but no good will come from you shouting about the cat7 HH vs SPG Cat7 costs.

  4. Great post, thanks! I am new to this, and I have mostly AMEX Membership Rewards Points while I usually fly American. I was wondering about getting AMEX MR points to AAdvantage miles…do you know if it’s possible to do

    MR => SPG => AA?

    Thanks for any info or tips you can offer!

  5. The math is a little intense! & that is coming from a tax accountant.

    that being said I have a very different view of HH points.

    I have over 100k points going to Vancouvetr & most of teh hotels are $150-$250 a night this season. But they still want 50,000 points. While Starwood only needs 12,000 – Technically a lower category but I am not so impressed with the Category 7 Whistler Hilton.

    the point is that it always depends on the level of various Hotels & what the pricing is at that time.

  6. I don’t believe Lucky is saying that this should be done across the board but in specific situations. The whole idea is to be knowledgeable about this opportunity so that you don’t go blindly into redeeming hard earned SPG pts.

  7. Don’t forget the transfer times. It’s not instant and it could take several weeks for points to transfer. So it does require some planning in addition to the math.

  8. Do these thoughts have you reconsidering the Hilton Surpass 6x spend categories versus some of the other cards? I was using mine for groceries until the current Freedom 5x quarter…

  9. @IH
    Starwood points are exceptionally valuable for cat 1-5 hotels. Hilton is exceptional value for the very top, as the $150 hotels and $1500 resorts share the same category. You just need to redeem at the upper outliers.

  10. @ flo — I think they’re just a lot more focused on the US market than others, and have a lot more money to invest in partnerships.

    @ FriendlySkies — Grrr, that’s what I get for writing a blog post at an ungodly hour.

    @ gpapadop — AmEx to Virgin is almost instant, while Virgin to Hilton takes about a week, usually, to the best of my knowledge.

    @ UMLawGator — The only way is to transfer to SPG, and you use a lot of value with those points by doing that.

    @ IH — Like I said, Starwood is amazing for high end redemptions, while Hilton is great for mid-range redemptions.

  11. @ Steelsnow — Surprisingly enough, yes, and the Hilton Surpass really is tempting me at their 3x points categories as well when there’s not another card that accrues a bonus.

  12. I just did a Starwood transfer to an airlines and it literally took SEVEN days… the major drawback for SPG.

  13. Just wanted to point out that the 4-night AXON awards are also available with the basic no-annual fee Amex Hilton HHonors card.

  14. Transferring from Hawaiian to Hilton does not always require the miles be earned organically. I’ve read this elsewhere and was a little bit worried after having transferred AMEX and SPG to Hawaiian with the goal of getting them to Hilton. Fortunately for me, the transfer went through. There is a minimum of 5000 miles to transfer from Hawaiian to Hilton. I believe that same minimum exists for Virgin to Hilton

    SPG to Hawaiian = 8 days
    AMEX to Hawaiian = instant to 1 day
    Hawaiian to Hilton = 5 days

  15. @ worldtraveller2 — I agree it’s frustrating, though the good news is that with some programs they points post once a week at the same time, so you can plan around it. For example, AAdvantage transfers happen every Wednesday and American allows a five day hold, so as long as you hold a ticket between Friday and Wednesday, you should be able to hold the space till the points post. The same doesn’t apply with other programs, unfortunately.

  16. I dont have a link but i believe hawaiin t&c’s have a term that says points earned through cc partners such as MR can not be transferred to HH. you may want to confirm

  17. Whoops, there goes the AXON7…soon to be increased or removed from AXON awards in the next round of Hilton enhancements.

  18. Hey lucky,

    Thanks for the great tips. For the Axon nights, do you have to redeem 4 nights in a row? i am planning a trip to HKG in Oct and hotels are crazily expensive. I thought if 15K spg can turn into a night at the conrad is of great value. What’s the best card to get right now for this and which links of yours should I be using? Thanks a lot.

  19. @ Jo — The AXON can only be redeemed for four nights in a row, unfortunately. How many nights are you in HK for? Would impact my answer. 🙂

  20. Thanks, Lucky.

    I will be there for 3 nights total, but 2 separate stays. 2 consecutive nights then 1 more at the end of the trip. Thanks for replying!

  21. @ Jo — The Virgin Atlantic credit card will get you 50,000 Flying Club miles, which gets you 100,000 Hilton points. That’s enough for two nights, and then I’d consider maybe staying at another property for the third night in the other direction.

  22. Great! I will get the Virgin Atlantic card. Do you have a sign-up credit card link for Virgin Atlantic? I can’t seem to find it under Best Credit Card Offers. Also, please email me the link if possible. Thanks so much, Lucky.

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