Don’t Transfer Marriott Points to Etihad Guest

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Have you also been Bonvoyed? Thanks to reader Vince, who shared in a comment below the site www.bonvoyed.com. It was created by people like us so we can share our grievances in the hopes that perhaps someone from Marriott may decide to give a $h1t.

Warning: If you’re considering a points transfer to utilize one of the various mileage sweetspots of the Etihad Guest loyalty program, don’t pick Marriott Rewards for the job. I transferred 27,000 points from my Marriott account to my Etihad account on January 24, and then another chunk of 27,000 points on January 29. That should equate to 18,000 Etihad miles as the transfer rate is 3:1. Today is March 14 and my Etihad account balance reads zero.

I’ve never experienced such a delayed transfer. Under no circumstance should you count on Marriott points transferring to Etihad.

What Happened

My boyfriend and I tend to make last minute travel plans, which is one reason why I love miles and points. Often it’s possible, and sometimes even easier than with anticipation, to score award seats not long before the desired travel date. Take a look at buying last minute cash flights, or even worse, last minute one way cash flights, and you’ll choke on the numbers. I understand down to the wire isn’t the way the majority of people travel, but it is often the way we travel. So to me, my rewards hold extra value for the flexibility they lend my chosen lifestyle.

On January 24, we decided we wanted to book tickets to Rio de Janeiro from Buenos Aires in early February. Cash flights between the two South American cities tend to be expensive year round, and January/February/early March in Brazil are the high season. Using points was clearly in the cards. The flights I found with award space that required the fewest amount of points were on Gol, utilizing the Etihad Guest program.

To find the distance between two airports, you can use gcmap.com

Buenos Aires (EZE) to Rio (GIG) flies a distance 1,240 miles, which falls in the 9k price band for economy.

Withers transferred 9k of his Membership Rewards to Etihad and they showed up the next day. Lulled into a false sense of security by previous quick transfers between Marriott and Etihad, I initiated the 27k transfer from Marriott to Etihad expecting to see 9k Etihad miles within the following few days. Five days passed, and we were entering the danger zone of being VERY close to our hard leave-by date since renovations to our apartment started on it. We decided to transfer 9k more of Withers’ Membership Rewards to Etihad and to book both our outbound flights with his Etihad miles. I would transfer another 27k from Marriott to Etihad so I could cover both of our return flights. Because, surely, three and a half weeks from then the points would hit my Etihad account.

Two and a half weeks later, I checked my Etihad account and to my dismay found the balance had not budged from zero. I heard an invisible elder whisper in my ear, “To assume makes an ASS out of U and ME.”

And then it dawned on me. I had not considered the overhaul of Marriott’s system post SPG merger last year, and the effect that could have on transfer times between the new joint loyalty program and the expanded list of airline transfer partners. A quick search on Flyertalk proved my creeping suspicion correct. There were various reports of atrocious transfer times and experiences with customer service. Ouch.

While I didn’t have much faith in a phone call procuring a result, as a last ditch effort to get those points in my Etihad account in time to book our return flights to Buenos Aires I decided to call both Marriott and Etihad.

via me.me

Expectedly, both representatives told me it could take six weeks and punted the fault to the other party. Both times I asked to speak to a supervisor, and both supervisors took a little time to type into their computers but reached no helpful conclusion.

I cut my losses and started damage control. We ended up transferring another large chunk of my Marriott Rewards to Delta, which I had done recently and knew only took around 24 hours, to redeem on Aerolineas Argentinas flights. It costs 12,500 Delta miles one way between Rio and Buenos Aires, but at that point in time the cash price of the ticket was sky high and I had to get back to Buenos Aires to welcome a friend visiting from the United States. Using points, even significantly more, was the best option. At least these Aerolineas Flights flew us into the (much closer to our home) domestic airport instead of the international one, which would have been the case flying Gol.

I know at some point I’ll use the orphaned Etihad miles on one of their numerous partner airlines, most likely American Airlines or Gol. That is if they ever show up in my account. It’s been seven weeks since the first transfer and still no sign of any miles. Soon I’ll call again and I hope at that point it will appear preposterous enough for someone to do something about it. I really don’t look forward to the call, or those calls, based on Flyertalker IAD_flyer’s experience:

“After six weeks, I had to call Marriott to get the certificate number. Called Etihad a few times, after the thrid call where I setup a conference call between Marriott, Etihad and myself I issue was resolved. Based on the phone chat with Etihad this seems to happen a lot. Of course during the eight weeks I lost the award availability I wanted to book on Royal Air Maroc.”

Faster Transfer Options to Etihad than Marriott

  • #1 Option: American Express Membership Rewards or Capital One Miles, equally fast
  • #2 Option: Citi ThankYou Points

I can say from recent experience that transfers between American Express Membership Rewards and Etihad are a safe bet. It took Withers’ points around 24 hours to turn into Etihad miles. You can get tons of Membership Rewards fast with the lucrative Platinum Card from American Express, which comes with 60,000 points for spending $5,000 on your new card within the first three months.

It appears–no personal experience here, but looking at other data points–transfers from Capital One miles are just as fast. I value Capital One miles less than Membership Rewards, so if I had the choice I’d probably transfer those over Membership Rewards. The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card can quickly boost your balance of Capital One miles with 50,000 of them for spending $3,000 within the first three months.

Transfers from Citi ThankYou Points to Etihad are OK but not preferable with an average transfer time of around five days (again, no personal experience, but that’s the general consensus).

Ultimate Rewards and Etihad are not transfer partners.

To learn more about what kind of redemptions Etihad miles are good for, check out Sweetspots with Etihad miles: 20,000 miles one way to Europe.

Bottom Line

Don’t waste your time or your points transferring Marriott Rewards to Etihad. It’s been seven weeks since I transferred mine and they still haven’t shown up in my account. Reports I see on Flyertalk show glacially slow transfer times as well… think weeks creeping into months. Do yourself a favor and transfer Membership Rewards or Capital One miles.

And the moral of this story is: ALWAYS check the average transfer time of your points to the target loyalty program. If you’re booking last minute and/or there is scant award space available, a long transfer time could create a headache of a situation that’s not worth it.


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7 COMMENTS

  1. Sarah, I am so sorry that you, too, have been Bonvoyed. Someone actually came up with a website where people can post their unfortunate experiences with Marriott in hopes of getting them to improve their customer service.
    https://www.bonvoyed.com/

    Thank you for the warning and for suggesting alternate transfer options.

  2. I transferred my points to AA I think like over nite . It was to hard finding hotels I could use them on.Good thing u have a lot of points.
    Live and learn.
    CHEERs

    • My transfers to Delta were also overnight, so some partners still work. Seems like transfers to foreign partners are much slower than domestic.

  3. Yeah, you got Bonvoyed all right. Was about the same amount of time when I transferred my Bonfire points to AeroMexico

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