Fantastic Value: Starwood Adds Virgin America As A Transfer Partner

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Starwood has long impressed me in terms of the unique partnerships they’ve launched. Most notably they first launched Crossover Rewards, a partnership with Delta, where elite members of both programs could earn points and receive reciprocal benefits. Then they launched a partnership with Uber, where SPG members can earn points for their Uber rides, which is awesome.

Uber

And now Starwood and Virgin America have announced yet another innovative partnership. It’s especially awesome to see both of these brands still innovating, given that Starwood is being taken over by Marriott, and Virgin America is being taken over by Alaska.

You can now convert Starpoints into Virgin America points

Effective immediately, SPG members can convert their Starpoints into Virgin America Elevate points at a 1:1 ratio. As is the case with SPG’s other airline transfer partners, you get a 5,000 point bonus for every 20,000 points transferred, meaning you can really earn 1.25 Elevate points per Starpoint.

Virgin-America-Elevate

That’s pretty incredible, since I’d say the two currencies are worth roughly the same.

I’ve long said that I consider Starpoints to be worth ~2.2 cents each. Meanwhile Virgin America Elevate points can be redeemed towards the cost of a revenue ticket on Virgin America at a rate of ~2.1-2.3 cents per point.

For example, take the below flight between Los Angeles and New York, which costs $149:

Virgin-America-Points-1

To redeem points you’d need 6,545 Elevate points, plus the $5.60 in taxes (that’s a rate of ~2.2 cents per point):

Virgin-America-Points-2

Given that you can ultimately get 1.25 Elevate points per Starpoint, that means each Starpoint is potentially getting you ~2.75 cents towards the cost of a ticket on Virgin America.

Virgin-America-Transfer

Keep in mind that Virgin America also has some airline partners, on which you can redeem per a traditional award chart. There are some good values to be had, like 80,000 Elevate points for a roundtrip business class ticket between Los Angeles and Sydney on Virgin Australia:

Elevate-Virgin-Australia

It’s extremely rare to be able to transfer points between currencies at a “fair” ratio, though that’s exactly what they’re allowing here. While Starwood has over two dozen airline transfer partners to which you can convert points at a 1:1 ratio, arguably Elevate points are more valuable on a per point basis than any of those currencies. For example, transferring Membership Rewards points to Elevate points can only be done at a 2:1 ratio.

Virgin-America-Elevate

Bottom line

Purely in terms of value, this is hands down the most valuable airline transfer partner which Starwood has. Being able to convert Starpoints into Elevate points at a 1:1 ratio, with a 5,000 point bonus for every 20,000 points transferred, is incredible. If you’re a Virgin America flyer, this also means that the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express are probably your best bet for everyday spend, since you can earn up to 1.25 Elevate points per dollar spent.

As part of the new partnership, Elevate members can also elect to earn two Elevate points per dollar spent with Starwood through the airline direct deposit program, though it would be silly to do so, since you can just earn Starpoints and then later convert those to Virgin America, potentially at a better ratio.

Kudos to these two brands for continuing to develop new partnerships despite their upcoming mergers.

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Comments

  1. @Lucky – Should it be 90,000 Elevate points instead of 80,000 (for business class RT with Virgin Australia) or are you account for transferring points from SPG to gain the extra 5,000 point bonus? Wasn’t sure if it is a typo or just something I’m not understanding!

  2. Nvm – Notice that when you switch from One-Way to RT it gives you a “discount” on the fares!

  3. Hmmmmm…I wonder if I should transfer over 20K Starwood points over to Virgin America, with the 5K bonus, and then hold onto those miles until they are transferred over to my Alaska account during the merger. I’ve heard that the transfer will be better than 1:1. Thoughts?

  4. @Nick L.

    By which point AS will devalue their program another few times like they just did EK redemptions, maybe ruining their CX redemptions or some other ones that still have value?

    Taking points out of a flexible program like SPG (where if one program devalues, you can instead decide to transfer to another) in order to completely speculate on what AS’s program will look like in 2017-2018… maybe you’d like to invest in some Zimbabwe dollars while you’re at it? Or buy this slightly used bridge in Brooklyn? 😉

  5. So, this means if you spend ~$6,000-$10,000 in hotel spend with SPG (depending on your status and I guess whether you take points or breakfast, or whatever tricks you use to add to the point balance), you’re going to get ~$570 in VX airfare? Is this what this boils down to?

    This doesn’t strike me as fantastic value as a rebate for hotel spend. If I was getting less than 10% return on HHonors spend instead of my usual 15-25%, depending on promo and stay pattern during promos… well, hotels.com is a 10% rebate across the board not requiring undying loyalty to SPG or Hilton.

    Am I misunderstanding something here?

  6. Hi Ben, as of 10:14am EST, the transfer option to Virgin America is not seen on the transfer page of SPG

  7. @ VirtuosoEric — It’s definitely meant to be 1:1, they confirmed that to me. I’m sure they’re just fixing something on the back end.

  8. @ Garrett — That’s the only way to be sure. However, Emirates and Virgin Australia space should match what’s available to other partners, so you can look online through other carriers and then call to book.

  9. Can someone who is already an Elevate member post the mileage/fee chart for travel within Australia? Is it similar to AA or better?

  10. Definitely nice to have another option for SPG transfers. For those wanting to go to Hawaii from the mainland though, I think the Korean Air transfer provides a better value since they only require 45k points to fly first class roundtrip with a stopover rather than the 50k Virgin requires for business class. The Virgin process of finding the flights might be easier compared to the Korean process though.

  11. SFO to HKG for 78000 on Singapore Airlines First Class. Thats quite reasonable. Does Virgin have access to Singapore First space (unlike United) or is this a pipe dream? And where would I search for those?

  12. Could there be an arbertration moment with SPG where AS announces a 2:1 conversion ratio between Elevate and AS miles?

  13. There is another Ben like option that appears here. If your Platinum or Gold you can status match on Virgin Air, even if you just become a member now. Then, you transfer at least 12K miles using SPG and you will meet the status match requirement. Will this work Ben?

  14. Any reason you would not choose Nights & Flights and transfer to Virgin America? Seem like the better deal and if you need to cancel the hotel you get your 20-30k points back.

  15. Unclear on how elevate points are earned on the crossover – do the rooms need to be booked through the VA link?

  16. Starwood still sucks. It takes too much spend to get the points via hotel stays (can’t always count credit card, some people have. Use their work card) I have to spend $7000k in a hotel to get 20,000 points. For the same spend Marriott would give me roughly 85000 points which in turn can get me 25,000 airline points plus a free hotel night . I Hope very much that Marriott keeps their program and dumps overrated SPG

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