As I wrote about yesterday, through October 15, 2017, you can receive up to a 30% bonus when you convert Starpoints into American AAdvantage miles. But there’s another indirect way to convert Starpoints into American miles, and I wanted to compare the value of that, in light of this promotion.
Converting Starpoints into American miles
Ordinarily Starpoints convert into American miles at a 1:1 ratio, with a 5,000 point bonus for every 20,000 points transferred. This means that typically you’re earning at most 1.25 American miles per Starpoint.
However, through this promotion you can:
- Earn a 20% bonus with each conversion
- Earn an additional 10,000 AAdvantage bonus miles for every 100,000 AAdvantage miles received from conversions
This is an opportunity to earn up to 1.625 AAdvantage miles per Starpoint. For example, 80,000 Starpoints would convert into 100,000 American miles, and then you’d receive a further 30,000 bonus miles, for a total of 130,000 miles.
But now let’s look at the other popular option, just to compare.
Using Marriott’s Hotel + Air packages to earn American miles
Now that Marriott has taken over Starwood, it’s possible to convert Starpoints into Marriott Rewards points at a 1:3 ratio, and vice versa.
One of the best uses of Marriott Rewards points is their Hotel + Air packages, which allows you to redeem Marriott Rewards points for a combination of free nights at a Marriott hotel plus a fixed number of miles. I’ve written in detail about this before, so I recommend checking out that post if you’re not familiar with these packages.
Here are the details of Marriott’s Hotel + Air packages when choosing to earn American miles:
|Hotel + Air Package 1||7 Nights + 50,000 Miles||7 Nights + 70,000 Miles||7 Nights + 100,000 Miles||7 Nights + 120,000 Miles|
|Ritz Tier 1-3||350,000||370,000||400,000||420,000|
|Ritz Tier 4-5||470,000||490,000||520,000||540,000|
If booking these packages, keep in mind that:
- If the goal is to earn miles, the best value is the package that comes with 120,000 bonus miles
- You’re generally best off booking a Category 1-5 package, and then you can always “upgrade” your package at a later point by paying the difference in points, while there’s no option to downgrade your package
So 270,000 Marriott Rewards points is the equivalent of 90,000 Starpoints, and that gets you seven nights at a Category 1-5 Marriott property, plus 120,000 miles.
If you’re looking to convert a bunch of Starpoints into airline miles, ordinarily the Hotel + Air packages are a no brainer. 90,000 Starpoints would ordinarily convert into 110,000 airline miles, so not only do you earn 10,000 miles miles through Marriott, but you also get a week of free nights at a Category 1-5 property.
Which deal is better during the Starwood transfer bonus?
While the Hotel + Air packages are unarguably a better deal under normal circumstances, what about during the transfer bonus of up to 30%?
During the transfer bonus, 90,000 Starpoints would earn you 142,000 AAdvantage miles. So is it worth forgoing seven free nights at a Category 1-5 property for an additional 22,000 miles? It depends on your stay patterns:
- The Category 5 restriction locks out many of Marriott’s best properties
- All seven nights have to be redeemed consecutively at one hotel, and many of us don’t want to spend seven nights in a single hotel
While paying 4,400 airline miles per night sounds good, you’re basically paying that amount for seven nights, which is a long time to stay.
Let’s look at another example on the other end of the spectrum. You could book a Hotel + Air package for a Category 9 property plus 120,000 miles for 390,000 Marriott Rewards points, which is the equivalent of 130,000 Starpoints.
130,000 Starpoints would convert into 202,000 AAdvantage miles under the current offer.
So would I be willing to pay the equivalent of 82,000 AAdvantage miles for seven nights at a Category 9 property? There are two ways to look at this:
- I value AAdvantage miles at ~1.3 cents each, so the 82,000 miles are worth ~$1,060, which is like paying ~$150 per night for a Category 9 property; that’s an exceptional deal, on the surface
- A free night at a Category 9 hotel ordinarily retails for 45,000 Marriott Rewards points per night, or 15,000 Starpoints per night; using the usual 1:1.25 transfer ratio, that’s the equivalent of ~65,000 Starpoints for the whole week, compared to the usual cost of 100,000 Starpoints (it would cost 300,000 Marriott Rewards points, since Marriott offers a fifth night free, so you only pay 50,000 points per night for six nights)
That’s a decent deal for seven nights at a Category 9 property, though the issue remains that most of us don’t want to spend seven nights in one place.
Under normal circumstances, I’d say Marriott’s Hotel + Air packages are a better deal than outright converting Starpoints into airline miles. Even if you don’t actually use the free nights, you still come out ahead.
However, this promotion changes things a bit. If you do want to earn AAdvantage miles you’re slightly better off converting Starpoints directly into American miles. However, if you value the Marriott free nights even a little bit, it could still make sense to go with the Hotel + Air package.
I think the biggest thing to keep in mind, however, is that there are so many other airline partners to consider. Rather than converting Starpoints into American miles, convert them into Alaska Mileage Plan miles. I value American miles at 1.3 cents each, while I value Alaska miles at 1.8 cents each, so I’d much rather choose a Hotel + Air package for 120,000 Alaska miles. Everyone values miles differently based on their redemption patterns, but that’s how my math works out.