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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.
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.
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:
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):
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.
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:
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.
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.