Marriott Rewards members may now use their Rewards points, or a combination of points and cash, to book airline flights and car rentals.
With Air + Car awards, members may book flights on &quot;more than 400 airlines&quot;—in other words, on just about any airline. Car rentals, on the other hand, are limited to Hertz.
As always with such features, there are two scales on which Air + Car awards must be assessed: convenience and value.
The option to use Rewards points for flights and car rentals is an obvious plus, at least in theory.
The booking app itself (courtesy of ezRez Software, which provides similar functionality for United’s MileagePlus program) is clean, easy to use, and quick to generate search results.
Limiting the car rental companies to Hertz, which tends to have the highest prices, is an obvious negative.
Test bookings, comparing the price of flights in Rewards points with the market price in dollars, showed that points had a value of between one-third and one-half a cent each. So, for example, a $439 cross-country flight on American could be booked for 112,000 Rewards points, yielding a per-point value of .39 cents (39 hundredths of a cent).
Car rentals yielded slightly better value, between a half and three-quarters of a cent per point. A two-day intermediate car rental at Chicago International Airport, for example, would cost $224.71 or 44,000 Rewards points, for a per-point value of .51 cents.
To put those numbers in perspective, 112,000 points are enough for five nights at a Category 5 hotel (100,000 points), plus one night at a Category 2 hotel (10,000 points).
Picking a Category 5 hotel at random, the room rates at the JW Marriott in Miami for an early January stay are between $469 and $509 per night, and the total for the five-night stay would be $2,695.05. Redeeming 100,000 points for that stay translates into about 2.7 cents per point—almost seven times the value of a point redeemed for the aforementioned American flight.
While Air + Car awards score well on the convenience scale, they deliver sub-par value compared to hotel awards. Rewards members will get much more bang for their buck by using their points for free nights.
Reader Reality Check
Will you be redeeming your Rewards points for flights or car rentals?
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