Why SPG Mileage Transfers Are A Great Value

In the interest of full disclosure, One Mile At A Time earns a referral bonus for anyone that’s approved through some of the below links. These are the best publicly available offers that we have found for each card. Please check out our advertiser policy for further details about the partners we work with. Thanks for your support!

Links: Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express

I value Starpoints at ~2.2 cents each, which is the highest I value any individual points currency on a per point basis. The reason for that is because of how versatile Starpoints are.

They can efficiently be redeemed for hotel stays (including Fifth Night Free and Cash & Points stays). But part of what I love about Starpoints so much is that they can also efficiently be converted into airline miles. While most hotel loyalty programs will let you convert points into airline miles, it doesn’t typically represent a good value.

So I figured I’d talk a bit more about Starwood mileage transfers.

SPG airline mileage transfer partners

Starwood has over two dozen airline transfer partners, including the following:

AeroMexico Club PremierANA Mileage ClubEmirates SkywardsQatar Airways Privileges Club
Air Canada AeroplanAmerican Airlines AAdvantageEtihad Airways GuestSaudi Arabian Airlines Alfursan
airberlin Top BonusAsiana Airlines Asiana ClubGol SmilesSingapore Airlines KrisFlyer
Air China CompanionBritish Airways Executive ClubHawaiian Airlines HawaiianMilesThai Airways Royal Orchid Plus
Air France/KLM FlyingBlueCathay Pacific Asia MilesJapan Airlines (JAL) Mileage BankUnited Mileage Plus
Air New Zealand Air PointsChina Eastern Airlines Eastern ClubKorean Air SkypassVirgin Atlantic Flying Club
Alaska Airlines Mileage PlanChina Southern Airlines' Sky Pearl ClubLAN Airlines LANPASS KmsVirgin Australia Velocity
Alitalia MilleMigliaDelta Air Lines SkyMilesLufthansa Miles & More

For a vast majority of programs, points transfer at a 1:1 ratio. The exceptions are Air New Zealand, LAN, and United.

Maximize the 5,000 point transfer bonus

There’s an added bonus on top of the 1:1 transfer ratio. For every 20,000 Starpoints transferred you get a 5,000 point bonus, which means you’re really earning 25,000 airline miles per 20,000 Starpoints, or 1.25 airline miles per Starpoint. Of course this assumes you transfer points in increments of 20,000.

SPG-Airline-Partners

This is part of what makes the SPG Personal Amex and SPG Business Amex so lucrative. For example, a lot of people use American’s co-branded credit card for everyday spend, assuming that’s the best way to earn American miles.

Really if they want to maximize the number of American miles they earn for everyday spend they should use an SPG card instead, since they’d earn an average of 1.25 American miles per dollar spent, rather than just one mile per dollar spent. We’ve even sometimes seen transfer bonuses on top of that in the past, like last August.

As I said above, I value Starpoints at ~2.2 cents each. Part of that valuation is based on being able to earn 1.25 airline miles per Starpoint. That’s basically establishing a value of ~1.76 cents per airline mile, which seems fair to me.

For example, Alaska frequently sells miles for ~2.1 cents each, which I consider to be a great value, and is something I often take advantage of. Those are miles I could have also transferred over from Starwood.

Emirates-Shower
Redeem Alaska miles for travel in Emirates first class

Restrictions on converting Starpoints into miles

There are a few things worth noting when it comes to converting Starpoints into airline miles.

First of all, the mileage account and SPG account need to have the same name, though keep in mind you can make Starwood household transfers. As long as members are registered at the same address you can transfer points between accounts, which is a great way to transfer points from multiple SPG accounts to a single mileage account.

Starpoints-Transfer

Second of all, Starwood lets you transfer at most 79,999 Starpoints to a mileage account in a 24 hour period. Since you get 5,000 bonus miles for every 20,000 Starpoints transferred, in practice you won’t want to transfer more than 60,000 Starpoints per day. That shouldn’t be an issue, but it is something to be aware of.

SPG-Mileage-Transfers

Lastly, converting Starpoints into airline miles isn’t an instant process. It can take anywhere from a day to a couple of weeks, so you’ll want to transfer those points well ahead of when you actually want to redeem them.

Bottom line

Being able to convert Starpoints into airline miles is one of the best uses of those points. Even if you like to redeem points for hotel stays, it’s something which stabilizes the value of Starpoints, since there are so many currencies you can convert those points into.

Ultimately we don’t know how much longer this option will be around given the merger with Marriott (though even that is in limbo at the moment), but for the time being converting Starpoints into airline miles is a fantastic use of points, and is how I spend most of my Starpoints.

Links: Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express

Do you like to convert your Starpoints into airline miles, or do you prefer using them for hotel stays?

Regarding Comments: The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Comments

  1. Great info. I was considering buying star points with my Amex Starwood card. Do you get any sort of bonus points by doing that?

  2. I am thinking of signing up for the card but had it a couple of years ago. I heard that Amex does not offer the bonus twice anymore. I don’t see any restrictions in the offer terms and conditions. Any advice here? Thanks.

  3. In the past I’ve always used my SPG points for hotel stays, since I could consistently get way more than 2.2 cents/point value at good Cat 2-5 hotels. But over the past few years SPG’s annual hotel category changes have eliminated much of the “outsized value” formerly available. So moving forward I may use some of my points for airline transfers, and am using my SPG cards much less than before.

  4. Lucky, with the Freedom Unlimited coming out which will earn 1.5 Ultimate Rewards Points per dollar, how does that compare with these SPG cards which effectively earn 1.25 miles/$?

  5. Rob says March 15, 2016 at 1:35 pm: “Lucky, with the Freedom Unlimited coming out which will earn 1.5 Ultimate Rewards Points per dollar, how does that compare with these SPG cards which effectively earn 1.25 miles/$?”

    Great question but…wait…

    @Lucky values Starpoints at ~2.2 cents each, which is the highest value of any individual points currency…

    Oh, boy. It looks like it is time to educate the masses once more, because as much as I hate to rain on this parade, this is truly insane.

    For those who earn most of their starpoints through the highly touted SPG AMEX at 1/$, I simply fail to see the value proposition in this constant pushing and promotion of using starpoints for premium tickets.

    Case in point
    Aegean (A3) – starpoints 1:1 to A3 miles. A First-class for some destination on A3 costs, say 120,000 miles roundtrip.

    To get from starpoints to to there, one would need to transfer 60K starpoints * 2 = 120K to A3 miles, which would earn one 30K [ i.e., 5K * (60K/20K) * 2] extra miles for transferring starpoints in multiples of 20K.

    The question that bloggers pushing the meme about how “valuable” starpoint transfers are never seem to bother addressing is the cost of earning 120K starpoints through spend on the SPG AMEX.

    The math is simple: 120K starpoints * 1$/starpoint = $120,00.

    $120,000 is a lot of money. It may even be more than the annual salary of someone who is being conned into buying the claim about how valuable starpoint-to-mile transfers are. Unless one does volume purchasing that one charges to the SPG AMEX (small business owners; entrepreneurs), it is unclear to me why one would want to earn 120K starpoints, one at a time, at the tune of $120K to just afford a ticket that would cost a fraction of that spend.

    If that makes sense to you then it seems to me that there are better ways to go about it. One approach that would make a lot more sense, for example, is to get the United Club card from Chase, which offers 1.5 mile/$ for general spend and 2 miles/$ for UA-related purchases.

    If we assume, very conservatively, that all of one’s spend on the UA Club card would be on general purchases, to earn 120K miles one would need to spend: (120K miles divided by 1.5mile/$) = $80,000. In other words, one would save $40K COMPARED to what one would need to spend on the SPG AMEX to come up with 120K miles. In reality, one would get 30K bonus miles for transferring 60K starpoints TWICE to A3. However, because one saves $40K on the UA Club card, one could use those savings to earn: $40K * 1.5 UA miles/$ = 60K extra UA miles or twice the bonus that one would earn through the SPG AMEX spend. The $40K in savings would easily cover the Club card’s $395 annual fee.

    Thus,
    — For spending $120K on the SPG AMEX one would earn 150K miles.
    — For spending $120K on the UA Club card, one would earn 180K UA miles

    A net difference of 30K miles more for the spend charged to the UA Club card.
    That is not all.

    UA miles do not need to be transferred to A3. They can be used “as they are” to book award tickets on all 27 (TWENTY-SEVEN) members of the *A network to get one to just about any corner of the globe where one might wish to travel. On the other hand, with starpoints transfers aren’t instantaneous. A Big drawback if you saw an incredible award that you would like to snatch because it is gone and must rely on starpoint transfers to afford it.

    BIG BRIGHT RED BOTTOM LINE:
    The touting of starpoints earned through the SPG AMEX as having “the highest value of any individual points currency” is simply ridiculous. There might have been a time when that claim was valid, but for many years now better cards have come along that have superseded the starpoints/SPG AMEX combo.

    Even going with the most conservative scenario in which most of one’s spend on the UA Club card would be on general spend, one does much better than with the starpoints/SPG AMEX combo. For someone like me, the conservative scenario does not apply at all because I purchase all my airline tickets through united.com, which earns me 2miles/$. This means that I would do even better than in the scenario above.

    If you ever read again (and I am sure you will) about how starpoints through the SPG AMEX are the “most valuable points currency there is”, just remember this simply demo. The claim is the biggest CON in the travel blogosphere. In fact, it is even a bigger con now since it seems that it is being pushed with higher intensity precisely after SPG has gone belly up. Someone (not @Lucky since he is only passing along the offers, although he may be contributing indirectly by selling the purported metaphysical “value” of starpoints) seems to be trying to capitalize on the known “loyalty” to SPG by conning folks into getting a card and earning points that would soon cease to have any value [will the Chinese save the day?], while they would be laughing all the way to the bank…

    G’day!

  6. correction: “A Big drawback if you saw an incredible award that you would like to snatch BEFORE it is gone because you must rely on starpoint transfers to afford it.”

    Anyway, @Rob, the preceding long post is the answer to your great question.

  7. @ DCS or you could just use the new freedom earn your 1.5 miles per dollar and transfer it to United and save the $450 annual fee……

  8. @DCS – i agree with the over enthusiasm of bloggers for this card when a slightly better offer comes out. That said, there are some of us who actually stay in SPG hotels and rack up points that way. If Plat 120k points takes a bit of spend, 25-30k or so. That passes quickly. If I were a pedestrian I’d go for another card.

  9. Let’s be realistic here, Lucky is pushing these cards for his own personal currency, no issue with that, except the non-stop barrage looking for credit card referrals. I get great information from his blogs but I hate to be hoodwinked into an advertisement when the title clearly does not imply a referral push…and by the way how many times do we have to see that lame Emirates Shower photo…

  10. Nothing wrong with getting the card for the signup bonus and then putting it away. As AMEX have gone to a one time bonus per card my mindset is to get the card with the high sign up bonus and use the points as needed. I like the transfer partners SPG offers better than Chase but admittedly I haven’t put much effort into the reward charts of Chase partners since I’m predominantly an AA flyer.

  11. @DCS So now, in addition to your broken record rants against SPG and for Hilton, you copy and paste your flawed comparisons? I’ve already pointed out on VFTW that your comparison above is invalid because you cannot achieve the same result (a roundtrip first class award) with 120,000 UA miles. It seems in most of your logic you have trouble with equivalency.

  12. @Mark O — I agree.

    The new Chase Freedom @1.5 mi/$ and no AF is an even a better case than my UA Club card example in making my point that: “The touting of starpoints earned through the SPG AMEX as having ‘the highest value of any individual points currency’ is simply ridiculous. There might have been a time when that claim was valid, but for many years now better cards have come along that have superseded the starpoints/SPG AMEX combo.”

    Cheers! 😉

  13. @Levy Flight — I agree, as you would belong to the group that I had stated the SPG AMEX/starpoints combo would be valuable for when I’d written “Unless one does volume purchasing that one charges to the SPG AMEX (small business owners; entrepreneurs)…”

    SPG Golds or Plats who earn their starpooints through spend on actual stays at SPG properties @4/$ or 5/$ would come out ahead, as that can be considered “volume purchasing charged to the AMEX card.”

  14. V — What are you, an Idiot?

    BTW, the above question is rhetorical, meaning that no answer is necessary because it is not even a question…

  15. I a little confused with the once in a life time rule vs getting this card. I got the 100k bonus on a Platinum personal months ago and recently got 75k for a Gold business. Does this mean I can or can’t apply for the Starwood personal or business and get the 35k? Same thing for my wife who has NO Amex cards and if she applies for the Starwood personal or business can she ever get a normal Amex bonus in the future?

  16. @ Dan — You can apply for the card. Just those who have had the exact product can’t apply again. But if you’ve never had SPG Amex (Personal or Business) then you can get that type of card.

  17. @lucky- so you can apply for the 35k Starwood and at a later point apply for a regular Amex point bonus and still get an Amex rewards bonus?

  18. @ Dan — Yep, since they’re considered different products. Let me know if you have any other questions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *