How Long Do Points Transfers From Starwood To Alaska Take?

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Starwood Preferred Guest points are, in my opinion, the single most valuable points currency (I value them at ~2.2 cents each):

  • Starpoints can efficiently be redeemed for hotel stays, both using “free night” redemptions and “Cash & Points” redemptions
  • Starpoints can be transferred to 31 airline partners, which is more partners than any of the other three major transferable points currencies
  • Starwood has the most favorable transfer ratio of any major transferable points currency — points transfer 1:1, but for every 20,000 points you transfer you get a 5,000 point bonus, meaning you’re basically earning 1.25 miles per Starpoint when transferring in efficient increments

The major downside to Starpoints is that points transfers to airline partners aren’t instant. In some cases they take a few days, and in some cases they take well over a week. Given how many airlines don’t allow award ticket holds and how fluid award availability is, that’s often pretty tricky.

Sometimes that’s not a huge deal. For example, American AAdvantage allows five day award holds, and Starpoints typically convert into AAdvantage miles within that timeframe.

Late last week I decided to convert 60,000 Starpoints into Alaska Mileage Plan miles, which convert into 75,000 Alaska Miles given the 5,000 point bonus for every 20,000 points transferred.

Alaska-SPG

I initiated the transfer on Thursday, February 19, 2015, and the points posted last night, Monday, February 23, 2015. So converting Starpoints into Alaska miles took four days for me. Of course this is very much a case of “your mileage may vary,” though the reports I’ve seen indicate that the miles seem to post on Mondays and Friday, which lines up with my experience.

SPG-Alaska

While Alaska Mileage Plan doesn’t allow holds on award tickets, that was much faster than I was expecting. I don’t actually have a specific use for those miles in mind, though I figured I might as well transfer some points given how valuable Alaska Mileage Plan miles are (they have a unique mix of partners and allow stopovers on one way awards, which is pretty awesome). And that usually goes against what I suggest, which is to only transfer points when you have a specific use in mind.

Cathay-Pacific-First-Class-07
Redeem Alaska Mileage Plan miles for travel in Cathay Pacific first class

Anyway, the ability to transfer Starpoints into airline miles is what makes the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Card from American Express among the most compelling cards for everyday, non-bonused spend. I hugely value Alaska miles, and this is the best earnings rate you’ll get for Alaska miles through credit card spend. I just wish the points transfers were instant, in which case this currency would be even more valuable to me.

If you’ve transferred Starpoints into Alaska miles, how long did the transfer take?

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Comments

  1. Ben: just to reiterate lanteans’ comment, any update on the Emirates redemption would be a huge loss–please do what you can to update your readers on how this is going to play out!

  2. My data points from last week:
    Initiated 60,000 SPG points transfer on 2/14. 75000 points posted on 2/18.
    Initiated 22,000 SPG points transfer on 2/15. 27000 points posted on 2/19.

    They posted quickly but it seems like an eternity when you have specific seats on on a flight that you’re eyeing.

  3. @Lucky opined: “Starwood Preferred Guest points are, in my opinion, the single most valuable points currency (I value them at ~2.2 cents each)”

    Enter: Devil’s Advocate Mode 😉

    Lost in the opinion above about how valuable Starwood points/SPG AMEX are is how hard those points are hard to come by. The most starpoints that one can earn on the SPG AMEX, by par, is through spend associated with stays at SPG hotels. Top SPG elites can earn 5 points/$. So, 60K starpoints would require a top elite to spend $12K. Now you want to take $12K worth of starpoints and transfer them to 75K airline miles. What would a 75K award ticket on Alaska cost in hard cash? If it’s nowhere near $12K as I suspect, then the transfer of starpoints to Alaska miles might be wasteful. If one transfer 60K starpoints earned from general spend (as opposed to from SPG hotel spend) at 1point/$, one must spend $60K on the SPG AMEX, in which case the transfer to airline miles might make even less sense.

    Bloggers have their own “wisdom” but as a rule of thumb, it is best to use bonus points from credit card spend within the associated program (i.e., if one earns 60K starpoints from spend on the SPG AMEX or Hyatt visa, it is best to use them to redeem reward stays at SPG or Hyatt properties, even if one has the option to transfer points to other programs). Hotel points to airline miles transfers should be avoided unless one has points to burn, especially since airline points can be earned relatively easily depending on one’s travel pattern.

    Exit: Devil’s Advocate Mode

  4. @DCS

    I understand your logic, but I also think that there is another way to think about this:

    If the purpose is to get that 75K Alaska miles for that specific award, then it would make sense for me to put 60K spending on SPG instead of 75K on Alaska. Plus I would also get that 40K threshold bonus.

    That being said, I think most would agree that there are better way to generate 75K Alaska miles, but what I am trying to say is that doing so might make sense for someone in that specific situation..

    Peter

  5. Hi Lucky! I know this is irrelevant but can I use amex serve to meet min spend on citi aa card? Because it says on their website that “Purchases exclude cash advances, etc”?

  6. I had a similar transfer time last week: 2/16 @5pm initiated transfer, points arrived on 2/20 sometime close to midnight; booked award on EK Saturday morning 🙂

  7. @Daniel

    no, it will not work, the transaction will be coded as cash advance by Citi.

    when in doubt, call your credit card company and have your cash advance limit lowered to $0. then try the charge…

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