Should You Transfer Starpoints To Alaska With A 62.5% Bonus?

Yesterday was a big day for Alaska Mileage Plan — we learned that their partnership with Delta is ending, that they’re making some great changes to the program, and at what rate Virgin America points will convert into Alaska miles.

Since yesterday the question I’ve been asked most is whether it makes sense to transfer Starpoints to Virgin America, given the arbitrage opportunity available for now:

  • Starpoints convert into Alaska Mileage Plan and Virgin America points at a 1:1 ratio, with a 5,000 point bonus for every 20,000 points transferred
  • Virgin America points will convert into Alaska miles at a 1:1.3 ratio
  • This means you can convert 20,000 Starpoints into 25,000 Virgin America Elevate points, and then convert those into 32,500 Alaska miles, which is a 62.5% bonus when converting Starpoints into Alaska miles

So… should you convert Starpoints into Alaska miles?

I think Alaska Mileage Plan miles are probably the single most valuable mileage currency on a per point basis. There are so many things that make Mileage Plan great:

Japan-Airlines-Business-Class-777 - 1
Redeem Alaska miles for travel in Japan Airlines business class

So in general I’m very tempted to transfer Starpoints to Alaska Mileage Plan for the purposes of premium cabin redemptions on Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, Emirates, etc. And I think doing so could make sense for a lot of people.

Assuming you value Starpoints at ~2.2 cents each (as I do), getting a 62.5% premium on Alaska miles is the equivalent of picking them up for ~1.35 cents each, which is fantastic. I’d just keep in mind that:

  • I don’t recommend transferring points unless you have a fairly short term use in mind (let’s say within six months); much of the value of a points currency like SPG comes from how flexible the points are, and you lose that flexibility when you transfer points
  • There’s only so much award availability out there, so if you’re looking for Japan Airlines first class, Cathay Pacific first class, etc., realize that it’s going to sometimes take effort to find seats
  • It’s possible that we’ll see an award chart devaluation at some point, though personally I’m not too concerned, as I think Alaska will provide notice of major changes, especially after the last Emirates fiasco

Cathay-Pacific-First-Class-777 - 1
Redeem Alaska miles for travel in Cathay Pacific first class

Keep in mind Starwood is selling points at a discount

Keep in mind that through December 31, 2016, Starwood is offering a mystery bonus on the purchase of Starpoints. The bonus seems to range from 25% off to 50% off, and is available to members who purchase at least 5,000 Starpoints. You’ll want to log into your SPG account here to see which version of the offer you were targeted for. 50% off would be an opportunity to purchase Starpoints for 1.75 cents each, which would be an opportunity to pick up Alaska miles for ~1.1 cents each. Unfortunately most people don’t seem to be targeted for that good of a bonus, though.

starpoints-sale

Should you transfer Amex/Citi points to Virgin America?

As of now, Virgin America Elevate is transfer partners with both American Express Membership Rewards and Citi ThankYou, though the latter partnership ends on January 22, 2017.

In both cases, Amex/Citi points convert into Virgin America Elevate points at a 2:1 ratio.

amex-virgin-america

In other words, 10,000 Amex/Citi points would convert into 5,000 Elevate points, which would convert into 6,500 Alaska miles.

So should you transfer Amex/Citi points to Alaska at a 3:2 ratio?

Personally that’s not a rate at which I’d choose to redeem those points, though I know plenty of others who think that’s a good deal. It’s certainly a better opportunity to transfer flexible points currencies to Alaska than we’ve otherwise seen.

Bottom line

The ability to transfer points from Virgin America to Alaska opens up quite some opportunities for a limited amount of time. I have a sizable balance of Starpoints, and am tempted to transfer quite a few of them to Alaska for the purposes of premium cabin redemptions on their partners.

Do you plan on taking advantage of this opportunity to transfer Starpoints to Alaska at a better than usual rate?

Comments

  1. I so regret not transferring 80K Amex MR points with 25% bonus to Virgin America and also get the Gold Status with the offer they had until Oct 31. I wish they could bring the offer back

  2. NO – do not trust Alaska. See what they did with Emirates redemptions. DO NOT PASS GO UNLESS YOU HAVE AN IMMEDIATE REDEMPTION.

  3. At 120,000 miles each way, are Emirates Business class awards to Africa (via Alaska miles) really reasonable when AA miles can book Qatar business oneway at just 75,000 miles?

    I know its a different airline, but since the route networks have expanded so much theres a decent amount of overlap to avoid a ~60% mileage premium, assuming you have sufficient miles in both (and availability).

    Now if only AA would allow Ethiad awards to Africa…

  4. @Evan- My thoughts exactly. Especially considering Emirates angled lie flats on the 777. At least with Qatar you’re guaranteed a lie flat seat from the States to Doha.

  5. With the recent announcement that Alaska is ending its codesharing with Delta (and the ability to use AS miles on DL flights), perhaps you could revalue Mileage Plan miles.

  6. I am inclined to move some Starpoints to Alaska, even if will not use them immediately. A more difficult issue is the Thank You points. If I do not move them, I am not sure where to use them. Singapore Airlines seems like a possibility. It is a difficult choice.

  7. @Tony:

    Correct. AS is pretty smart at this game… hope the folks who did their transfers before AS caught on enjoy their Starpoints.

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