Ultimate Guide to Big Travel With American Express Membership Rewards Points Part 13: Hotels

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Ultimate Guide to Big Travel With American Express Membership Rewards Points Part 13: Hotels

Million Mile SecretsUltimate Guide to Big Travel With American Express Membership Rewards Points Part 13: HotelsMillion Mile Secrets Team

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You get lots of travel flexibility with AMEX Membership Rewards points.  Because if you don’t have set travel plans for a future trip, these transferable points give you travel options when you’re ready to book.

Folks in the miles & points hobby know earning transferable points, like AMEX Membership Rewards points, are the best way to get Big Travel.  

I’ve recently shared how you can use AMEX Membership Rewards points with airline partners for travel to destinations around the world like Africa and South America.

Now I’ll explain how you can use AMEX Membership Rewards points for free stays at hotel transfer partners, including at hotel chains that are not direct partners!

American Express Membership Rewards Points For Hotels
Marriott Is NOT a Direct AMEX Hotel Transfer Partner, but There’s Still a Way to Use Points for Stays at Hotels Like the JW Marriott Mussoorie Walnut Grove Resort & Spa in India!

I’ll show you the best ways to use AMEX Membership Rewards Points for hotels!

The Ultimate Guide to American Express Membership Rewards Points:

American Express Membership Rewards Points for Hotels

Link:   Hotel Hustle Is a Better Way to Search for Hotel Award Nights!

Link:   Save Time Using AwardMapper to Search for Hotel Award Nights

Link:   Travel Smarter With TripAdvisor – Finding the Right Hotel

Admittedly, you’ll generally do better using your AMEX Membership Rewards points with airline partners versus hotel partners.

But for folks looking to save money on hotel stays, transferring points to an AMEX hotel partner might make sense!  Or if you’re looking to take advantage of elite status perks at one of the hotel chains.

American Express Membership Rewards Points For Hotels
Transferring AMEX Membership Rewards Points to Hotel Partners Like Hilton Can Make Sense If It’ll Save You Money

There are 3 direct AMEX hotel transfer partners.  And each one has a different transfer ratio.

 American Express Membership Rewards Hotel Transfer Partners 
HotelTransfer RatioEstimated Transfer Time
Choice Hotels1:1Instant
Hilton1:2Instant
Starwood / Marriott1:1Instant

And now that the Marriott and Starwood merger is complete, you can indirectly transfer AMEX Membership Rewards to Marriott or Ritz-Carlton, at effectively a 1:1 ratio!

If you’re planning to transfer AMEX Membership Rewards points to book an award night, I recommend using AwardMapper or Hotel Hustle to search for rooms you can book with points.

Both of these tools can save you time finding available award nights.  And you can use TripAdvisor as a supplement to these tools to check out reviews & photos from guests who’ve stayed at the hotels before.

Here’s how you can use AMEX Membership Rewards points to get free hotel stays.

1.   Starwood

Link:   AMEX Membership Rewards Points Can Now Transfer to Marriott!

Link:   Link Your Marriott and Starwood Accounts

The transfer ratio from AMEX Membership Rewards points to Starwood is not favorable.  You get 1 Starwood point for every 3 AMEX Membership Rewards points you transfer.

But you can then convert 1 Starwood point to 3 Marriott or Ritz-Carlton points now that the hotel chains are part of the same company.

This means you can directly or indirectly use AMEX Membership Rewards points to book a free night at Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, and Starwood hotels.

American Express Membership Rewards Points For Hotels
With AMEX Membership Rewards Points, You Can Indirectly Get Your Points to Ritz-Carlton, Which Means You Can Book Free Nights at Luxurious Hotels Like The Ritz-Carlton, Tokyo!

Marriott hotels include:

And Starwood hotels include:

Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, and Starwood each use a different award chart.  The number of points you’ll need for a free night depends on the category or tier of the hotel.

For example, the cost of a regular award night at Marriott hotels ranges from 7,500 to 45,000 Marriott points per night.

American Express Membership Rewards Points For Hotels
Marriott Has 9 Categories of Hotels and the Cost of a Free Night Ranges From 7,500 to 45,000 Marriott Points

Ritz-Carlton has 5 tiers of hotels.  And the cost of a free night ranges from 30,000 to 70,000 Ritz-Carlton points.

American Express Membership Rewards Points For Hotels
There Are 5 Tiers of Ritz-Carlton Hotels

Meanwhile, a free night at Starwood hotels costs 2,000 to 35,000 Starwood points per night.

American Express Membership Rewards Points For Hotels
Free Nights at Starwood Hotels Start at 2,000 Starwood Points

Let’s look at an example of hotels in the Caribbean assuming you have 60,000 AMEX Membership Rewards points.

With the different transfer ratios, 60,000 AMEX Membership Rewards points are worth:

  • 20,000 Starwood points
  • 60,000 Marriott or Ritz-Carlton points

Using 60,000 Ritz-Carlton points, you can book a free night at The Ritz-Carlton San Juan, which is a Tier 4 hotel.  The sample night I found would cost ~$550 if you paid cash.

American Express Membership Rewards Points For Hotels
Transferring and Converting 60,000 AMEX Membership Rewards Points Could Get You a Free Night at The Ritz-Carlton San Juan, Which Would Otherwise Cost ~$550

Or you could use 60,000 Marriott points to stay 2 nights at the JW Marriott Hotel Santo Domingo, which is a Category 6 hotel.  Paying cash for 2 nights would cost ~$370.

American Express Membership Rewards Points For Hotels
With 60,000 Marriott Points You Can Stay 2 Nights at the JW Marriott Hotel Santo Domingo

And with 20,000 Starwood points, you can stay at The Westin Los Cabos Resort Villas & Spa, which is a Category 6 hotel.  The same sample night I found would cost ~$350 if you paid cash.

American Express Membership Rewards Points For Hotels
Transferring 60,000 AMEX Membership Rewards Points to Starwood Would Be Enough for a Free Night at The Westin Los Cabos Resort Villas & Spa

So even though the transfer ratio to Starwood is less favorable, free nights at Starwood hotels require fewer points than Marriott or Ritz-Carlton hotels.  And in this previous example, using 60,000 AMEX Membership Rewards points at a Starwood hotel gets you the most savings.

Each case will be different.  So I recommend running the numbers to make sure you’re getting the best deal!

Remember you can also use points to take advantage of special hotel programs like:

American Express Membership Rewards Points For Hotels
Transfer AMEX Membership Rewards Points to Starwood to Book a Stay at Hotels Like the Sheraton Kauai and Take Advantage of the 5th Night Free Perk!

For ideas on using points for free nights at Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, or Starwood hotels, you can check out these previous posts:

And consider there are more ways to use Starwood or Marriott points besides free hotel nights.

For example, you can transfer Starwood points to lots of great airline partners.  And you get a 5,000 mile bonus for every 20,000 Starwood points you transfer!

2.   Hilton

The transfer ratio from AMEX Membership Rewards points to Hilton is 2:3.  This means you’ll get 3 Hilton points for every 2 AMEX Membership Rewards points.

While this might seem like a good ratio, consider free nights at Hilton hotels, especially at the higher end, tend to require a lot of points.

Hilton no longer has an award chart.  But the price of award stays at each hotel should not exceed the previous maximum from the old award chart below.

American Express Membership Rewards Points For Hotels
Even Though Hilton No Longer Publishes an Award Chart, a Free Night at a Hilton Hotel Requires 5,000 to 95,000 Hilton Points

Hilton hotels include:

For example, a free night at the luxurious Conrad Tokyo typically costs 95,000 Hilton points.  So you’d have to transfer ~64,000 AMEX Membership Rewards points to book a free night.  Paying cash for a night would cost ~$450.

American Express Membership Rewards Points For Hotels
A Free Night at the Conrad Tokyo Costs 95,000 Hilton Points, Which Means You Can Transfer ~64,000 AMEX Membership Rewards Points to Hilton to Book

But ~64,000 AMEX Membership Rewards points are easily worth more than $450.  For example, that’s enough to book a round-trip Business Class award flight from the US to Hawaii using Singapore Airlines miles.

Similar to Marriott and Starwood, Hilton gives the 5th night free on award stays.  But only to its elite status members.  This can be a bonus for folks looking to use points for an award stay!

Here are posts about amazing Hilton hotels you can stay at using points:

3.   Choice Hotels

Choice Hotels are usually inexpensive, so you won’t often get a good value using your AMEX Membership Rewards points for a free night.

But you still have the option to transfer points to the hotel partner at a 1:1 ratio.  Free nights at the hotel chain cost between 6,000 and 35,000 Choice points, except in Australia and New Zealand where award nights can cost up to 75,000 Choice points.

Choice Hotels include:

Choice Hotels does NOT publish an award chart.  And the price at a hotel can vary by night.  So you’ll have to search specific hotels and dates to find the cost of an award night.

Enter your destination and desired travel dates and select “Choice Privileges Reward Night”.

American Express Membership Rewards Points For Hotels
Filter by Choice Privileges Reward Night to Find the Cost of an Award Night at a Choice Hotel

For example, I searched for hotels in New York City.

American Express Membership Rewards Points For Hotels
The Search Results Will Show You the Cost of an Award Night at Choice Hotels in Your Travel Destination

A free night at the Cambria Hotel & Suites New York – Chelsea costs 30,000 Choice points.  You’d pay ~$250 out of pocket if you booked the same night.

This means you’re getting less than 1 cent per point in value for you AMEX Membership Rewards points ($250 cost of room night / 30,000 points).  That’s NOT a good deal!

But if you have lots of AMEX Membership Rewards points to spare or can find an award night that gets you good value, transferring points to Choice Hotels might make sense!

For example, you can find good deals using Choice points for free stays at certain destinations in Europe.

I searched for free nights at the Clarion Hotel Sign in Stockholm, Sweden.  An award night costs 10,000 Choice points for a night that would otherwise cost ~$205 if you paid cash.  That’s a good deal!

American Express Membership Rewards Points For Hotels
Transferring AMEX Membership Rewards Points to Choice Hotels for Free Stays Can Make Sense If You’re Visiting Destinations in Europe, Like Sweden!

4.   Pay With Points

You can also use Pay With Points to redeem AMEX Membership Rewards points for hotel stays through the AMEX travel website.

But it’s usually NOT a good deal, because your points are only worth ~0.7 cents each this way.

For example, I found one night at The Godfrey Hotel Chicago, which costs $242 or ~35,000 AMEX Membership Rewards points.

American Express Membership Rewards Points For Hotels
Using ~35,000 AMEX Membership Rewards Points for a $242 Hotel Night Is Not a Good Deal

Some folks might consider using Pay With Points if you find a cheap night that wouldn’t require a lot of points.  Using points means you won’t have any out of pocket expense.

Bottom Line

The AMEX Membership Rewards program has 3 direct hotel transfer partners –  Choice Hotels, Hilton, and Starwood.  But the transfer ratios are different.  You’ll get:

  • 1 Choice point for every 1 AMEX Membership Rewards point
  • 1 Starwood point for every 3 AMEX Membership Rewards points
  • 2 Hilton points for every 3 AMEX Membership Rewards points

And now that the Marriott and Starwood merger is complete, you can indirectly transfer AMEX Membership Rewards to Marriott or Ritz-Carlton, at essentially a 1:1 ratio!

You’ll generally get more value for your AMEX Membership Rewards points by using them with airline partners.

But you could use AMEX Membership Rewards points for free nights at hotels like The Ritz-Carlton San Juan, which can cost ~$550 per night.

Remember, hotel points don’t just have to go toward free nights.  You can transfer Starwood points to terrific airline partners.  Or use Marriott points for a Hotel + Air package!

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Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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Darius— You screwed up this time by using outdated Amex transfer ratios. The current SPG ratio is 2 Amex points for one SPG point; and one-for-one with Hilton. That alters the math.

The ratio I see when logging into my Amex account is 1,000 Amex Points for 333 SPG points (same 3 to 1 ratio Darius mentions).

I see 1,000 Amex Points for 1,500 Hilton Points … which is different than the article notes.