There has been lots of publicity surrounding the recent United Airlines promotion offering bonus miles when you convert points from several hotel programs to MileagePlus miles now through November 30. I don’t normally like to repeat everyone else, and as others have noted most of the conversion rates are pretty poor. (Loyalty Lobby has a great comparison.) However, this is a very good opportunity for some people, particularly those like me who have hotel points they never planned to redeem for free nights in the first place.
I have well over 100K Club Carlson points from the various Radisson and Country Inn & Suites promotions over the past year where you could stay one night and get as much as 50K bonus points. But I don’t care for Club Carlson. It’s not just the hotels, which always seem to be one notch below the quality I’ve come to expect from Hyatt. I also just don’t like the idea of speculative hotel stays solely to earn points with a program I might not use.
I have had a hard enough time requalifying for Hyatt’s Diamond tier, so I don’t need to waste nights at another chain. And as much as people might boast about staying one night in an airport Radisson to get a free night at a more expensive Radisson Blu, I don’t want to stay at a Radisson Blu in the first place. The only reason I got these points in the first place was because I knew I’d be visiting areas where Club Carlson brands were my least bad option. I even laid out how I planned to earn enough points for a free flight.
Similarly, I bought a few Wyndham Rewards points not because I planned to stay at a Wyndham hotel but because I figured I might need a few points for the US Airways Grand Slam. (To be honest, I have some fond memories of staying at the Days Inn when I was a tyke.) That promotion never materialized, much to Mommy Points dismay, but the Wyndham points were cheap enough that I didn’t mind buying them on speculation.
I held on to these points for a long time, at least longer than necessary. Why? First, I didn’t particularly need the United MileagePlus miles. I have Ultimate Rewards points in case an emergency pops up and I need to transfer some immediately. Second, I had hopes a promotion like the current one would materialize. This is why you should use a service like AwardWallet to track your balances. I was never at any risk of letting the points expire. Now I think this promotion is the best opportunity I’m going to get to redeem them.
How it works is that you register with United and then go to your various hotel programs’ websites to transfer points into United miles. United will keep a record of your cumulate transfers and give you a bonus based on the total number of miles you end up receiving on their end. You can get up to a 15K mile bonus for transferring in 50K miles (30% bonus), but I decided instead to settle for a 5K bonus on 20K miles (25% bonus). The return is only a small fraction less, and I wouldn’t have had enough points to reach the higher threshold unless I dipped into some of my more valuable hotel programs where it becomes a really bad deal.
So, first I transferred all 32K of my Wyndham Rewards points to get 12,800 United miles. Wyndham lets you transfer in blocks as low as 8,000 and up to 30,000. So instead of trying to transfer 30K and having a few left over, I did four blocks of 8,000.
Then it was on to Club Carlson. I saw no reason to transfer more than was necessary to get the 5,000 bonus, so I only needed another 7,200 United miles. I ended up transferring only 50K Gold points from Club Carlson to get 8,000 United miles. Unlike Wyndham, where every option is the same transfer ratio, with Club Carlson the numbers do get better as you transfer more. So I ended up with slightly more miles than I need, but I actually used fewer points than if I tried to transfer in smaller blocks of 250 to get closer to my exact target.
And there you have it! I took screenshots along the way, although only Club Carlson sent me an email confirmation. It may take a few weeks for the transfers to go through, and United said they won’t award the bonus until the end of the promotion. So, be sure to check back around the end of the year to see if your transferred and bonus miles have posted. I will have enough miles for a free flight, my cost was really only $99 for the Wyndham Rewards points, and I still have over 50K Club Carlson points left over should I find myself with a need to stay at a Radisson Blu after all.