Some Useful Things You Can Do with Unused Marriott Rewards Points


If you’re like us, at some point you took advantage of one of those Chase Marriott credit cards to snag a boatload of bonus points in a hurry.

But after redeeming most of them for a nice, relaxing hotel stay somewhere, you might be wondering what you’ll do with the remainder.

What good are a few thousand Marriott points? Should you just leave them in your account and consider them collateral damage to a reward redemption that didn’t completely add up?

Nope. You should think about transferring them out of Marriott and into a reward currency you actively use, or plan to use in the near future.

Turn Marriott Points into Starpoints

Marriott points

One simple option is converting Marriott Rewards points into Starpoints. This is super easy and fast thanks to the marriage of Starwood and Marriott.

Literally all you have to do is go to the Marriott website, click on “My Account” in the top-right corner once logged in, then click on “Use Points.”

From there, you simply select the option next to “Marriott Rewards + SPG” that enables you to transfer points between the programs.

A window will pop up that allows you to quickly transfer Marriott Rewards points in 1,000 increments. The ratio is 3:1, so for every 1,000 Marriott points you want to move out, you’ll get 333 Starpoints in return.

Marriott to SPG

It’s not a spectacular redemption, but seeing that Starpoints are valued so highly, and generally hard to come by, it’s not a bad use of unused Marriott points.

We have an account with 7,070 unwanted Marriott points. Using this option, we can transfer 7,000 of them for 2,333 Starpoints.

Seeing that American Express typically only offers 25k Starpoints (35k at the moment) when you sign-up for their card, this isn’t an awful amount of points to suddenly have.

It might even be just what you need for a bigger reward, or enough to allow you to transfer 20,000 Starpoints to a transfer partner and get that sweet 5,000 bonus.

Transfer Marriott Points to Frequent Flyer Programs

Marriott United

Another option is to transfer your remaining Marriott points to a frequent flyer program, such as United, Southwest, JetBlue, Virgin America, Avios, and so on.

In fact, it might be a good option to activate an Iberia Plus account.

The cheapest redemption option at the moment requires 8,000 Marriott points. You can transfer that amount to United for 2,000 MileagePlus miles.

Again, that might be enough to top up your account and redeem for a big award flight.

Marriott FF

The other frequent flyer programs require a minimum of 10,000 Marriott points, but you do have the ability to buy some Marriott points if you’re just shy of that minimum.

For example, you can buy 1,000 Marriott points for $12.50, which normally wouldn’t be a good deal, but if you just need 1,000 more to get to 10,000, the math could make sense, depending on how you value the airline miles.

Buy Marriott points

Keep in mind that you might be able to just transfer your points directly to Starwood, and then on to frequent flyer programs that way, without having to worry about the 10,000-point (or 8,000-point) minimum. And the ratios might be better.

Either way, the redemption options will be better than doing nothing with your unused Marriott points, which is probably something that happens pretty frequently with nominal leftovers.

There’s also the option of using the points for gift card redemptions or donating them. If you want a $10 Starbucks gift card, you can forfeit 5,000 Marriott points.

Of course, it might serve you better to take the 1,666 Starpoints instead…

(photo: Paul Sableman)

How to Book British Airways Award Flights with Iberia and Save Big on Surcharges


So you’ve got 100,000 some odd credit card points. Now what? Well, redeem them. But how? Good question, it’s often not as easy as it looks. Fortunately, there are 12 million travel blogs here to help you…

Let us join the fray and answer a question regarding British Airways awards, which are often frowned up because of the massive surcharges that accompany travel redemptions.

The Problem with British Airways Award Bookings

In a nutshell, British Airways has a surcharge problem. A big one. They can’t help but charge customers hundreds (thousands) of dollars to fly with them, even if you use tons of points to book a “free flight.”

What’s the point of using points (sorry for the pun) if you also have to pay a ton of cash too? Might as well just buy a revenue ticket and earn miles, right? Well, there isn’t a point, which is why points and miles are often redeemed via other avenues.

But there is a solution. And that’s to book British Airways awards (or their partners like American Airlines) using a different carrier, such as Iberia, a Spanish airline.

It works because Iberia charges much lower surcharges, though they still charge these fees in many cases. It’s just that they’re a fraction of what you’d have to pay if you booked award travel directly with BA.

Enough talk, let’s look at a clear-cut example to illustrate the costs and the savings of using this loophole to book an award trip.

Flying Business Class from the West Coast to London with Points

It can be tricky to land a cheap business class flight award ticket to Europe unless you’re willing to go to some random cities.

But say you want to travel from the west coast of the US (LAX or SFO) to London. It’s a very common destination and one that can be expensive to book with miles in a class outside economy. And let’s face it, who wants to sit in economy for 10 hours?

Well, it’s very difficult to find business class saver awards via partners like United on this route. Typically, you’ll have to fork over 150,000 miles each way if you want business class. Or 170,000 for first class. That’s just too much.

Often, you’ll need to travel to some other European city, like Dublin, Brussels, or Madrid, or some place in Germany to save on miles and/or get a business class or better award at the saver rate of 70,000 miles or less each way.

That might lead you to try other airline transfer partners, such as British Airways.

If you use the BA website to book a business class award from LAX to LHR, you’ll often be presented with some options to fly business class from the west coast to London using miles.

While that might at first glance be seen as the answer you’ve been looking for, you’ll quickly be discouraged by the outrageous surcharges associated with the ticket.

For a pair of roundtrip business class flights to/from the west coast to London, you might be looking at fees of $2,500 or so, plus all the miles you have to relinquish to get there.

Most people probably won’t be okay with that, or even able to afford it. Factor in the cash value of the points you’re giving up and it might be like spending a couple grand per ticket. No Bueno.

Using Iberia to Cut the Fees

book with avios

If you do the same exact search at Iberia, you should see the same flights available, but with much lower surcharges. The same exact flights that cost $1,250 per ticket in fees might only set you back $500 each.

Yes, you still have to pay fees with Iberia, and they’re much more than those typically tied to United award flights, but if there’s no availability in business class through other alliances, it might be worth it to you to pay the fee to get your business class saver tickets.

The convenience of flying to the airports you’d like to fly to might well be worth it, not to mention the fact that you won’t have to pay for connecting flights because you won’t be forced to fly into adjacent airports throughout Europe.

Our guess is many people would be happy to pay $500 to fly business class roundtrip between the west coast and the UK while giving up the typical amount of points these saver flights cost.

The problem is Chase Ultimate Rewards don’t transfer to Iberia, only to British Airways. And while Amex MR points can be transferred directly to Iberia, the ratio is a poor one at 250:200.

However, if you follow some steps, you can transfer miles between the two programs and potentially save some dough while expanding your redemption options.

Key Steps to Ensure You Can Transfer Avios from British Airways to Iberia

This whole setup works because British Airways and Iberia use the same award currency, known as “Avios.”

There are some important things you need to know about the Iberia frequent flyer program to ensure this works.

If you’re moving points from a British Airways reward account to Iberia, your Iberia account and BA account need to have been open for 90 days.

Additionally, some type of activity has to have taken place in these accounts in order to transfer BA miles to Iberia.

The best way to ensure you’re all set to go if/when you want to move Avios from BA to Iberia is to open an Iberia and BA frequent flyer account ASAP, whether you have travel plans or not.

Tip: Make sure the information on both accounts matches 100%, such as your name, e-mail address, birth date, etc. If they don’t, you could run into trouble when attempting to execute a transfer between them!

Then transfer some nominal amount of Avios into the accounts to generate activity. There are also ways to earn Avios doing surveys, participating in social media, and signing up for partner deals, apparently.

But if you have an Amex card that allows transfers to airlines, you can link up your Iberia account and transfer a small amount of Membership Rewards that way as well and without the 90-day waiting period. However, the transfer ratio isn’t 1:1 like it is with Chase, it’s 250:200. However, they sometimes have promos that better 1:1, so look out for those.

Amex to Avios

To activate the Iberia account, simply move the minimum 250 MR points to Iberia. You’ll wind up with 200 Avios.

This is why it’s always good to leave some small amount of rewards currency in all your accounts…

UR to BA

To activate your BA account, move a minimum of 1,000 UR points from Chase.

Once 90 days have gone by, you can “combine your Avios” via the BA website. Or the Iberia website. Or It can get pretty messy, so follow the many instructions others have laid out.

Essentially, if you’re wanting to redeem an Iberia flight with Ultimate Rewards, you need that Iberia frequent flyer account seasoned for 90 days. So get cracking now!

Another issue with transferring Amex MR to Iberia is the lag time. It can take a day or two (or more) for the points to transfer. They say 4-7 business days!

With Ultimate Rewards, the transfers seem to be instant. That can come in handy if you don’t want to miss out on limited inventory award seats for a big trip.

In any event, make sure both your BA and Iberia frequent flyer accounts are active and seasoned before you try to transfer points among them.

Once they are, you can move Ultimate Rewards from Chase to BA, and then to Iberia, and save lots of money by avoiding costly surcharges.

It gives you a new redemption option in a roundabout sort of way, but can be well worth the work once it’s all set up.

We looked at a business class booking from LAX to EDI this summer that had surcharges of ~$2,500 on the BA website when using Avios. It was actually an American Airlines flight.

The same exact flight when booked with Avios on the Iberia website only charged ~$1,000 in fees. That’s just one of many examples out there.

You may also save on the number of Avios needed to book the flight when using Iberia instead of BA.

So there you have it. Chase Ultimate Rewards don’t transfer to Iberia directly, but including one extra step means you can redeem them by way of BA.

Pro tip: Sign up for any and all frequent flyer programs you think you’ll ever use immediately to ensure you don’t get caught up with any seasoning requirements. You may also gain access to special deals and unexpected free seat upgrades along the way!

(photo: BriYYZ)

How Barclaycard Arrival Travel Redemptions Actually Work


File this under tricky, or at first glance, confusing. If you recently hit the minimum spend on your Barclaycard Arrival Plus MasterCard, you might be wondering how best to maximize those lucrative travel credits.

Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a manual on how to do it provided by Barclaycard, you’re just told you can redeem for travel statement credits “starting at 10,000 miles.”

Where it gets murky is the “starting at” part – in reality, the minimum redemptions are usually a lot higher if you’ve made large travel purchases, which makes it appear as if you’re getting a raw deal.

Let’s look at an example of this to illustrate what might seem like a misleading redemption policy.

Say you spent $3,000+ on the card and received your 50,000 bonus miles. You’re now around 56,000 total miles thanks to the 2X on all purchases plus the bonus.

Kudos to Barclaycard for applying those miles to your account literally the minute your purchase that surpassed $3,000 hit your account. That’s a big plus – no waiting period or wondering if you hit the minimum spend. The miles are just there instantly!

Where It Gets Confusing

minimum redemption

When you go to the travel statement credit area of their rewards page, you’ll see any qualifying travel purchases listed that you can redeem miles against.

But when you click on the “redeem now” button, you’ll probably be presented with a minimum number of miles that is well above 10,000, despite this being the number Barclaycard advertises.

In our case, the minimum redemption for a $393.90 purchase was 32,500 when the miles balance was around 56,000, more than triple the stated 10,000 minimum. What gives?!

Well, it’s unclear what gives to be honest, and it’s somewhat annoying because it might lead someone to believe they’ll be stuck with an insufficient amount of miles if they choose that high redemption.

Assuming they cash in 32,500 miles, they’ll have somewhere in the neighborhood of 25,000 miles remaining, which if the minimum is once again a seemingly arbitrary 32,500, they’d fall short.

So they’d either need to spend more to get more miles, or make a new purchase around $250 that the system recognizes as travel and generates a lower redemption number, such as 25,000.

In reality, this isn’t necessary, though you wouldn’t know it until you took that leap of faith and redeemed your miles on an initial travel purchase.

After redeeming 37,500 miles (which was another option above the 32,500 minimum), the minimum mile redemption was lower on subsequent redemptions. But again, this wasn’t known until that first redemption was finalized. So a cardholder might not know they’ll be able to redeem for a lesser amount.

As you can see from the screenshot above, the redemption minimum dropped to 15,000 miles on a different $393.90 travel purchase once the miles balance dropped to around 22,000, which while still above the oft-quoted 10,000 minimum, is manageable with the remaining miles in the account.

Our hypothetical cardholder can now redeem 20,000 of their ~22,000 remaining miles (they redeemed 37,500 the first go around) and wind up with only about 2,000 unused miles stuck in their account, unable to be redeemed until they reach 10,000 again.

Getting Nearly $600 in Value Fast

In total, the redemptions equate to $575 in travel credits, which is a good deal for a card that doesn’t charge an annual fee the first year, and only requires $3,000 in spending.

travel credits

The trick is making sure you actually spend $500+ on travel so you can redeem your miles for their maximum value, as opposed to cash.

It would be nice to know that your minimum redemption amount will automatically reset LOWER once you make your first travel redemption. But there’s literally no way of knowing what that magic number will be as it’s not set at 10,000 in many cases.

Oh, We Get It Now…Maybe

25 increments

Update: We figured it out, we think.

There was another situation where there were around 57,000 miles in the account and a few travel purchases we could redeem against.

One of the travel purchases was over $1,000, and it appears if you don’t have the miles to erase the entire purchase, it will only let you redeem in $25 increments.

That meant we could redeem at maximum of 55,000 miles for $550 value, but that would have left a random, and more importantly, insufficient amount of miles leftover for another redemption.

So we did some math and realized if we redeemed 10,000 miles first for a smaller ~$100 purchase, we’d wind up with more than 47,500 miles remaining. That just so happens to be enough to get over the next $25 threshold on a subsequent redemption.

most miles used

Returning to the $1000 transaction, we could now redeem 47,500 miles for $475 in value.

All told, that meant we got $575 in travel credit as opposed to just $550.

575 total

The moral of the story is this. For whatever reason, Barclays doesn’t seem to let you redeem all your miles unless it will cover the entire travel purchase.

If it’s less than the full amount, you apparently have to redeem in $25 increments. That means you need to do the math first to see how best to maximize your miles.

(photo: Ethan Lofton)

The Cash Value of Credit Card Points and Miles

cash register

Most blogs, bloggers, credit card websites, etc. value credit card currencies, such as points and miles, at a certain amount based on what they think you can squeeze out of them.

For example, a recent TPG post valued Chase Ultimate Rewards at 2.1 cents each, whereas MileValue values UR at a flat 2 cents each.

The thing with all these valuations is that it depends what you actually use the miles for, and what the cost would be to just pay for those redemptions out of pocket instead.

In the real world, it’s not all that helpful to place a value on points because there are so many different combinations and outcomes that it’d be impossible to sum it all up in one single point value.

But forget about all that. Let’s just focus on how much points are worth if you simply cash them in, for, well, cash.

We’re talking a check or direct deposit to your bank account, or a statement credit. Not a trip on an airline, a hotel stay, or an iPad.

Chase Ultimate Rewards Are Worth a Penny in Cash

chase cash back

While the valuations can definitely be higher if redeemed for travel, if you simply want cash for your Ultimate Rewards you’ll get a penny apiece.

In other words, if you have 104,000 Ultimate Rewards points thanks to that massive Chase Sapphire Reserve bonus, you’d be able to cash them in for $1,040. And yes, you can have that money direct deposited into any of your associated accounts in three business days.

Someone might say you’re a fool for doing so, but if you want cash, and only cash, Chase makes it easy and doesn’t give you a hard time about it. The minimum redemption is $20, but you can take out odd amounts (see above) for the full balance if you wish.

Cash Value of American Express Membership Points Varies

When it comes to American Express, it’s not so simple. They allow you to redeem your Membership Rewards points for cash, but only via a statement credit or an American Express gift card. Both aren’t truly “cash,” but we can still assign a clear value.

The bad news is they aren’t worth a penny apiece. In fact, they’re worth quite a bit less. If you redeem them for an Amex gift card, which can be used like cash anywhere Amex is accepted as payment, you’re looking at .50 cents for each point.

So 100,000 Membership Rewards points have a cash value of just $500. If you’re keeping track, that’s half the value of Ultimate Rewards points.

If you opt for a statement credit to erase some purchases you already made, you’ll get a slightly better .60 cents for each point. In this case, 100,000 MR points are worth $600, but only to cover purchases you already made.

Discover Miles Are Worth 1 Cent Each

miles cash back

If you happen to have the Discover it Miles card, the math is also very simple. A mile is worth a penny.

However, the card earns 1.5 “miles” per dollar, making the effective cash back rate 1.5% on all purchases.

And like Chase, redemption is a snap. You can request a direct deposit online, and perhaps more importantly, there’s no minimum redemption. Yes, you can get a redemption as low as $1.57 (or lower) if you so choose.

Redeem Citi ThankYou Points for Cash

citi cash back

Then we have Citi and their ThankYou Points, which probably won’t make you feel very thankful if you cash them in for, cash.

That’s right, Citi ThankYou Points (TYP) are worth just half a cent (0.50) each when redeeming for cash, which is a pretty awful valuation. You get the option of requesting a check or applying them as a statement credit.

If you want a check, the minimum redemption is 10,000 TYP for $50. You can also request a $100 check for 20,000 TYP. Either way, not a great deal.

Alternatively, you can request statement credits for as few as 2,000 TYP points for $10. So you get more flexibility, but still a poor valuation.

One “trick” around this is to request a check to pay down a mortgage or student loan – they’ll give you a value of one cent per point if you do this, and they just make out a check to the bank you tell them. That’s double the value.

Barclaycard Miles Cash Value Is 0.525 Cents

The Barclaycard Arrival Plus earns 2X miles on all purchases. There is an option to redeem for a cash back statement credit with a minimum redemption of 5,000 miles for $25.

Effectively, that means you earn 1% cash back because you get 2X miles on all purchases and the ratio is 2:1 for cash back rewards. But wait, there’s more. You get 5% of your miles back when you redeem them, so they’re actually worth a slightly better 0.525 cents apiece.

It should be noted that travel purchases earn a 1:1 ratio, or double (1.05 cents apiece), so 10,000 miles equals $100 in value plus 5% of those miles back. However, the minimum redemption for a travel purchase is $100.

Bank of America Travel Rewards Can Be Redeemed for Cash

This one is a bit tricky because Bank of America doesn’t post the value of cash back redemptions with regard to the points you earn on their Travel Rewards card. Granted, why would you apply for a travel card if you want cash, but still.

Making it even more difficult to quantify is if there’s a banking relationship bonus on those points. The best we could find was 0.9 cents per point via some comments from cardholders. That may or may not be accurate and/or current. Either way, it’s probably not the best use of these points.

Capital One Venture Miles Cash Value

If you have the Capital One Venture Card and happen to want cash back instead of a travel credit, know that the value of a mile is half a penny (0.5 cents).

But you get 2X on all spending with Venture, so you effectively get a penny per dollar spent when redeeming for cash, which would be 2 cents per mile if used for travel purchases.

In other words, 50,000 Venture Miles are worth $250 cash or $500 in travel statement credits. It is believed that the minimum redemption is 2,500 miles, though Capital One is pretty good at hiding this information from non-cardmembers.

Merrill Points Are Worth a Penny

This one is fairly straightforward, as far as we can tell. If you open a card such as the Merrill+ Visa Signature Card, you’ll earn one penny per Merrill point.

So 50,000 Merrill points will get you $500, though only via statement credit unless you have a BofA/Merrill bank account. Cash rewards start at 3,000 Merrill Points for $30 in value.

Travel redemptions are worth 2 cents because you only need 25,000 Merrill points for a $500 flight.

Nasa Star Trek Points Require a Klingon to Do the Math

Here’s a random one to add to the mix, assuming you’ve applied for a Star Trek credit card from the NASA Federal Credit Union.

Per DoC, Star Trek points are worth 0.704 cents with redemptions starting at 7,100 points. WTF? That’ll get you $50, while 14,200 will land you $100. These are statement credits FYI, and apparently can take 1 or 2 billing cycles. Talk about light speed.

As you can see, in many cases you’re probably better off going for a 2% cash back credit card like Citi Double Cash if it’s simply cash back you’re after.

At the same time, some of these travel-oriented credit cards have massive sign-up bonuses that can score you a ton of cash value upfront, even if you forego the huge travel redemptions in the process.

These cash back redemptions can also be helpful if you have no use for the points and want to cash out, close the card, and move on.

How Much Are Credit Card Points Worth (in Cash)?

Card Issuer Currency Cash Value
American Express Membership Rewards 0.5-0.6 cents
Bank of America Travel Rewards 0.9 cents
Barclaycard Arrival Miles 0.525 cents
Capital One Venture Miles 0.5 cents
Chase Ultimate Rewards 1 cent
Citi ThankYou Points 0.5 cents
Discover Miles 1 cent
Merrill Lynch Merrill Points 1 cent
Nasa FCU Star Trek Points 0.704 cents

(photo: Marcin Wichary)

American Express Membership Rewards Points Are Kind of Weak When Not Used for Travel


If you’re new to the credit card points game, your first stop might be American Express, which has long been known for offering rich rewards to its cardholders.

Many of their cards earn “Membership Rewards” points that can be used for a variety of redemption options, such as travel, merchandise, gift cards, and so on.

But if you actually take a hard look at what you can do with your Amex Membership Rewards, you might be a little disappointed.

Amex Membership Rewards Redemption Values Often Stink

Amex gift card

Let’s assume you apply for the Amex Business Platinum that earns 100,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $15,000 in the first three months. Yes, that’s a ton of spending to earn what Chase will give you for spending $4,000 over the same period.

Now let’s pretend that you spent the required $15,000 and wound up with ~115,000 MR points. That’s a pretty good haul, despite all the spending that was required to get there.

Of course, you did have to pay a $450 annual fee in the process, some of which could be offset by a qualifying $200 airline purchase credit and perhaps a credit for Global Entry if you don’t already have it.

Anyway, you’ve got all your MR points and you’d like to see what you can do with them.

A new feature to the Amex Biz Platinum is the ability to book flights via the American Express Travel website and get 50% back.

So your 100,000 points would be worth double, or $2,000 worth of flights. That’s a good benefit for someone who travels frequently, though it should be noted it must be with your “selected airline.”

You get to pick one airline for both your annual credit and this new perk. That’s all good and well.

Alternatively, you could transfer your points out of Amex and into a different reward currency, such as into British Airways Avios, or Etihad Guest Miles. These options offer 1:1 transfers, meaning 1,000 points is worth 1,000 miles.

Again, great deal for the person looking to fly somewhere sometime soon.

But what happens if you don’t actually have a trip planned? Or don’t want to use your Membership Rewards for travel?

Well, this is where things get kind of sucky. You see, the value of Membership Rewards points tanks when they aren’t used for travel.

For example, if you want cash, you can’t really get it. Instead, you can redeem your hard-earned points for an Amex gift card at 2:1 value. If you burn through all 100,000, you’ll get the equivalent of $500.

That’s not very awesome, is it?

What Are Amex Points Good For?

Amex merch

Same goes for merchandise purchased with Amex MR points. You’re looking at 2:1 in many cases, valuing the points at just .50 cents each.

If you want to use the points for charges, a la statement credit, the ratio isn’t very good either. You’re looking at $600 for those 100,000 points, or .60 cents value.

There are some third-party gift cards you can redeem for that offer 1:1 value, such as Chili’s, or Home Depot, but come on, you can get those for a discount on sites like GiftCardGranny.

Same goes for Uber, you get 1:1 value. But most folks aren’t looking for 1:1 value…they’re looking for something exceptionally better to make that steep annual fee (and all that spending) worth it.

If you look at alternatives, like Chase Sapphire Reserve, or Chase Ink Preferred, you get way more options, even if you don’t have any plans to fly anywhere.

Most importantly, you’re given the option to redeem your points for cash at a 1:1 ratio, so you could get $1,000 no questions asked and do whatever you’d like with it. Even use it for travel eventually!

The moral of the story here is to look into the redemption options of the awards currency you’re earning to see if it will actually benefit YOU.

Many of the points blogs are travel-oriented, so they assume you’re going somewhere. If you’re not, you might be disappointed with what you wind up with.

That’s why a Chase card that earns Ultimate Rewards might be the better choice for the individual who is unsure if they’ll be traveling anytime soon.

What You Can Do with 100,000 Amex Membership Rewards Points

Amex gift card – $500.00
Donate to charity – $1000.00
New York City Taxis – $1000.00
Reserve flights via Amex Travel – up to $2000.00 (with 50% points refund)
Reserve prepaid hotels via Amex – $700.00
Shop with MR points – $500.00
Shop with Points at Amazon – $700.00
Telecharge – $500.00
Ticketmaster – $500.00
Third-party gift cards – up to $500.00
Transfer to airline/hotel partners – sky is the limit
Transfer to Plenti – $800.00
Uber – $1000.00
Use points at Best Buy – $700.00
Use points for Airbnb – $700.00
Use points for charges – $600.00

(photo: Paul Sableman)