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Flexible points like AMEX Membership Rewards are one of the best tools in the miles and points hobby, because you can make your points work around your travel plans, instead of making your travel plans work around your points. You can transfer American Express Membership Rewards points from cards like The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Business Platinum® Card from American Express to 17 airlines and 3 hotel partners to book award flights or nights for nearly free.
But you’ll almost always get a better value by moving your points to airlines. That said, there are some situations where transferring points to AMEX hotel partners makes sense and offers a nice savings over paying cash.
Let’s have a look at each of the AMEX hotel partners and when it’s a good idea to transfer points.
Get Free Stays With AMEX Hotel Partners
There are a total of 3 AMEX hotel partners you can transfer your American Express Membership Rewards points to:
- Choice Hotels
- Marriott / Starwood
This may not sound like a lot, but each of these hotel chains represents many different brands (currently a total of 56 brands!). So there’s no shortage of options, whether you prefer luxury stays or more budget-friendly accommodations – nearly anywhere in the world you decide to travel.
1. Choice Hotels
Often overlooked, Choice Hotels is actually one of the largest chains in the world, with locations just about anywhere you can imagine. So you’ll be able to find places to redeem your points without much difficulty. Down to even the smallest towns, there is often a location nearby of one of Choice Hotels’ 12 brands.
Here are examples of brands you might recognize:
- Comfort Inn
- Comfort Suites
- MainStay Suites
- Quality Inn
- Sleep Inn
While these hotels may not always represent the most exciting and memorable stays of your life, I think that Choice Hotels offer a really great ratio of value and comfort. Plus they offer free breakfast in most of their hotels (with the exception of the upscale brands and the extended stays).
You can transfer AMEX Membership Rewards points to Choice Hotels at a 1:1 ratio
In general, the value of these points is pretty low, especially because many Choice locations are inexpensive. But there are diamonds in the rough among this hotel chain.
Each hotel sets its own award prices, so the value offered can vary significantly from location to location. You can view the award cost under each hotel’s individual location page on the choicehotels.com website.
These award prices can vary by season. Many locations, however, maintain the same award price year round.
You’ll find most hotels get a value between 0.5 and 1 cent per Choice Hotels point, which isn’t a great use of your AMEX Membership Rewards points. Don’t assume anything with this program though – check each hotel individually. You never know when you’ll find a good deal!
Is It Worth Transferring AMEX Membership Rewards Points to Choice Hotels?
With point values being set by each individual hotel, there are opportunities for good value (and many bad deals, too). This is why I have to say transfers to Choice Hotels might be worth it in very specific circumstances. Check each individual hotel and only transfer the points you need to cover that stay. Folks often get excellent value in typically expensive locations like Europe (particularly Scandinavia).
Otherwise Choice Hotels are usually inexpensive (under $100 per night). So I would usually recommend just paying for these rooms instead of burning valuable points on award nights here.
With beautiful hotels all over the world, there are plenty of great ways to enjoy points at Hilton. I particularly love the Waldorf Astoria brand because they absorb the local culture of each location and share it with their guests.
There are also affordable options like the Hilton Garden Inn or Embassy Suites that bridge the gap between value and comfort. Hilton offers a total of 14 brands to choose from.
AMEX Membership Rewards points transfer to Hilton at a 1:2 ratio
Most people get excited when they see you can transfer AMEX Membership Rewards points to Hilton at a 1:2 ratio. But unfortunately, it isn’t quite as exciting as it looks.
Hilton points are worth, on average, ~0.5 cents each. So even earning “double” the Hilton points for your single AMEX Membership Rewards point still doesn’t take you as far as you would hope.
Hilton does offer a 5th night free award perk, which is useful for getting more value from your points. You’ll need Silver elite status or higher to qualify for this benefit, but if you have cards like The Platinum Card from American Express, Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card, or The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card, you’ll get complimentary Hilton Gold elite status. In fact, any of the AMEX Hilton cards qualify you for the 5th night free!
Is It Worth Transferring AMEX Membership Rewards Points to Hilton?
Despite the higher transfer ratio, it can be tricky to get outsized value by transferring AMEX points to Hilton. For the most part, Hilton’s award pricing seems to be closely tied to their cash price. This isn’t a bad thing, but it means that you won’t find abnormally great deals as often as with programs like Hyatt.
Folks who travel with Hilton frequently will do better paying for inexpensive stays with cards like the Hilton Honors American Express Ascend card, which earns 12X Hilton points per $1 at Hilton and 6X Hilton points per $1 at US restaurants, US supermarkets, and US gas stations. Plus, you earn 3X Hilton points per $1 on everything else.
3. Marriott / Starwood
With the Marriott-Starwood merger finally complete, Marriott’s brand portfolio is massive. It now covers 29 brands that are available on every corner of the globe and is the largest hotel chain in the world by number of rooms (over 1.2 million worldwide).
Many of these brands include high-end hotels, so these can be fun points to collect. For example, you can redeem Marriott points for luxury stays at fancy Ritz-Carlton or St. Regis locations and save hundreds of dollars!
The transfer ratio from AMEX Membership Rewards to Marriott is 1:1.
As much as I think Marriott has a great rewards program, unfortunately, a lot of point value gets lost while transferring from American Express to Marriott.
On average, Marriott points are usually worth a little less than 1 cent each. So converting a single AMEX Membership Reward point directly into a Marriott point is usually a value drop. You’ll do better earning Marriott points directly from cards like the Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Credit Card, which earns 6X Marriott points per $1 at Marriott and Starwood hotels, and 2X Marriott points per $1 spent on everything else.
I do like that Marriott uses an award chart and category system for their award bookings. This makes it much easier to plan award travel and is a huge plus in my book because of its simplicity.
Marriott is relaunching their award chart for 2019, which will start award redemptions at just 5,000 Marriott points per night (for off-peak Category 1). Unfortunately, they are bumping many high-end hotels into a new category 8 as part of this change. This will increase the price of some of the ultra-premium hotels like St Regis New York or The Ritz-Carlton Kapalua Hawaii from 60,000 Marriott points per night (amazing deal) to 85,000 Marriott points per night (okay deal).
Marriott also offers the 5th night free perk to all guests with no elite status required. Especially with high-end hotel brands, this is a good way to earn incredible value from an award stay.
Is It Worth Transferring AMEX Membership Rewards Points to Marriott / Starwood?
Considering Marriott’s new 2019 chart, I actually think that booking many of the off-peak hotel prices can start to make this a decent transfer option. There are sweet spots within the new chart that offer nuggets of value.
Marriott also offers the 5th night free perk for all guests (no status required), which is another great way to turn a good award deal into a great one.
Indirect AMEX Hotel Transfer Partners
There are ways to transfer AMEX Membership Reward points to other hotel partners indirectly. This means that you won’t see them as a transfer option in your account portal. You must first transfer to another direct American Express partner and then transfer from that partner to the hotel chain.
There are 2 other hotel reward programs you can indirectly transfer to:
I’ll say right now that neither of these are a great deal. But they are worth mentioning because there are times when I would do it. For example, it could be worth it if you just need a few more hotel points to get a free award night. Or maybe you just want to transfer over a few points to prevent the hotel points from expiring.
You can transfer AMEX Membership Rewards to Virgin Atlantic at a 1:1 ratio, and then transfer Virgin Atlantic miles to IHG at a 1:1 ratio.
Ultimately, you effectively get a 1:1 ratio between Membership Rewards points and IHG points. Both transfers are instant, and both can be done online, so it’s pretty painless to make this happen.
IHG points have about the same value as a Marriott point, so this is a viable option if you need to top-off your account for an award stay.
You can turn AMEX Membership Rewards points into Wyndham points through a fairly complex transfer process:
- Transfer Membership Rewards points to Hawaiian Airlines at 1:1 ratio
- Transfer Hawaiian Airlines miles to Caesar’s Total Rewards at 2:1 ratio
- Transfer Caesar’s Total Rewards points to Wyndham at 1:1 ratio
Now I know, a 3-step transfer process isn’t ideal. Also, you are ultimately trading AMEX Membership Rewards points for Wyndham points at a 2:1 ratio. So you are “losing” points here, in that it will take 2,000 Membership Rewards points to earn 1,000 Wyndham points.
But, considering you can redeem 15,000 Wyndham points for a free night at any of their hotels, this can still be worth it if you book a higher-end hotel in an expensive city. Essentially, 30,000 Membership Rewards points could get you a free stay at any Wyndham location, which at the right hotel could still be a good deal.
For example, the Wyndham Grand Orlando Bonnet Creek hotel is located at Walt Disney World near Lake Buena Vista. This is a premium hotel at a prime and expensive location. Standard rooms can easily run ~$300 throughout the year and even crest $400+ during peak travel season. So 15,000 Wyndham points (effectively 30,000 Membership Rewards points) for a free award night here can make sense.
Is It Worth Transferring Points to AMEX Hotel Partners?
As you read each of these hotel transfer options you might have noticed that I hesitated to endorse any of them as an astoundingly good deal. There is no single hotel transfer partner that I think stands out among the rest.
Generally, you’ll get better value per AMEX Membership Reward point when you transfer them to certain partner airlines. For example, we got ~6.3 cents per point by transferring Membership Rewards to Air Canada for an international Business Class flight between San Francisco and Sydney.
That is why most of us on the Million Mile Secrets team exclusively transfer AMEX Membership Rewards points to airline partners because they simply offer a far better value.
But there are times when transferring to a hotel might make sense for you. One good example is if a hotel is running an award sale that you want to take advantage of. You might not have enough award points with that hotel, so transferring AMEX Membership Reward points to cover the difference might easily make sense because the sale is probably giving you much better than average value.
American Express also runs limited-time promotions throughout the year that allow you to transfer Membership Rewards to certain partners at a better ratio.
We write about all of these deals (transfer bonuses, award sales, and more) whenever they happen, so be sure to subscribe to our newsletter if you want to stay in the know.
Only you will be able to judge whether it makes sense to transfer points to a hotel. Everyone’s trip plans and point strategies are unique. So just because we say it isn’t the best deal, doesn’t mean it isn’t the right deal for you.
Earn More AMEX Membership Rewards Points
If you’re looking to boost your points balance, here are all the cards that earn AMEX Membership Rewards points:
|Personal Cards||Business Cards|
|American Express® Gold Card||American Express® Business Gold Card|
|The Platinum Card® from American Express||The Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card from American Express|
|Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card||The Business Platinum® Card from American Express|
|Business Green Rewards Card from American Express|
In addition to 17 airlines, you can transfer American Express Membership Rewards points to 3 AMEX hotel partners directly:
- Choice Hotels (1:1 ratio)
- Hilton (1:2 ratio)
- Marriott / Starwood (1:1 ratio)
None of these transfer partners are an outstanding deal, and you’ll typically get much more value transferring your AMEX Membership Rewards points to certain airline partners instead. But there are certain situations where it can make sense, like if you need to top-off your account for an award stay or if there’s an award sale or transfer bonus going on.
Both Hilton (elite status required) and Marriott offer a 5th night free perk, which is very useful in getting the best value from your award stays. This can turn an average value award stay into an amazing one.
There are also indirect transfer options available to IHG (via Virgin Atlantic) and Wyndham (via Hawaiian Airlines and Caesar’s Total Rewards). These usually don’t make sense to mess with, but certain scenarios might make them worth considering.
Do you ever transfer points to AMEX hotel partners? Or do you stick with airlines?