Crunching The Numbers On The SPG To AAdvantage Transfer Bonus

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 17 Nights + 50,000 Miles7 Nights + 70,000 Miles7 Nights + 100,000 Miles7 Nights + 120,000 Miles
Category 1-5200,000220,000250,000270,000
Category 6230,000250,000280,000300,000
Category 7260,000280,000310,000330,000
Category 8290,000310,000340,000360,000
Category 9320,000340,000370,000390,000
Ritz Tier 1-3350,000370,000400,000420,000
Ritz Tier 4-5470,000490,000520,000540,000

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.

Bottom line

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.

Comments

  1. What about transferring Chase UR or Amex rewards? Would it be a benefit or a total loss since they are valued higher as is.

  2. My current plan for my Starpoints were to convert 80K into 100K JAL miles for an EK F flight JFK-DXB-MLE. Given what you said it makes sense for me convert instead 90K into Marriot points which in turn should give me 7 nights + 85K JAL miles. The 15K JAL miles would be easy to make up, it would just cost me an extra 10K Starpoints for essentially an entire weeks hotel stays.

    Thanks for covering this. If I’m looking at it the correct way then I need to change my points strategy 😉

  3. Does Hilton have a similar program? Given their sign up bonuses you wrote about the other day, that could be a really attractive option.

  4. You may not want to spend a week in the same location UNLESS you use it as a base for exploring the area.
    I’ve stayed for 7 nights (on Marriott Travel Packages) in Brussels which gave me an opportunity to visit beautiful towns of Ghent and Bruges as well as to get to know Brussels very well.
    On another trip I was stationed in Malaga which was convenient for Granada, Córdoba, Sevilla and Gibraltar.
    Next year I’ll be in Bologna with easy access to Florence, Ravenna, Rimini, San Marino and Venice.
    So these 7 night packages do offer value for people who would not ordinarily want to be in one place for a week 🙂

  5. A better comparison might be to the 25% Marriott –> AA transfer bonus earlier this year, in April. Under that bonus, transferring to the nights & flights package meant that 270K Marriott points yielded 120K + 25% = 150K AA miles, plus the 7-night voucher. That’s .556 AA miles per point, plus the voucher. The current offer converts 80K Starpoints, equivalent to 240K Marriott points, into 130K AA miles and no voucher. That’s .615 AA miles per Marriott point, without the voucher. So it comes down to whether the voucher is worth .059 AA miles/point for 270K Marriott points, which is 15,930 Marriott points, or 5310 Starpoints. Is a 7-day hotel voucher with 5310 Starpoints? I would say so. Seven nights in a Category 5 hotel “Point Saver” would be 120,000 Marriott points, which is a lot more than 15,930. In fact, one night in a Category 5 hotel would be more than 15,930 Marriott points, and you could just throw away the remaining six nights. (Also, you can use the voucher for categories above Category 5, if you pay the difference in points.) So unless the voucher is basically worthless, it would be better to use the Marriott transfer bonus instead of the SPG transfer bonus, if we ever see it again.

    Another interesting comparison would be to United Airlines conversions. Since United and Marriott have a special relationship, you get more UA miles than AA miles from conversions — as many as 157K UA miles, plus the 7-day voucher, for 270K Marriott points (during transfer bonus periods). That’s .581 UA miles per Marriott point, plus the voucher.

  6. I think there’s a couple issues left out of the discussion that are worth mentioning.

    1) if you’re willing to spend some time HUCA, it’s still possible to get the five night packages which offer better prices.

    2) you don’t have to stay/redeem for 7 nights. You’ll lose the certificate once you use it, but what I mean is it can be difficult to find availability for 7 consecutive nights and if you only want to stay 4 nights they’ll let you redeem the 7 night certificate for just that.

  7. @Peter B – How would 90K starpoints give you 7 nights and 85K JAL points? Could you please elaborate? I’m a bit confused. I intend to do a similar redemption using Starpoints and JAL, hence the interest.

  8. @Lucky To avoid the more complex and subjective part of the equation regarding the value of the hotel stay, what about the scenario where you refund the hotel portion of the package (45K Marriott/15K SPG) and so are essentially getting 120K AA for 75K SPG? Assuming you would never really stop at 75K transferred, assume we would add 5K to each side of the equation. At this point, you would get 125K for the Marriott package but 130K for the straight SPG transfer, so a little bit better with the current promotion.

  9. @ Lucky. I’m hung up on the math here.

    Ordinarily, 90,000 Statwood Points convert to 110,000 AA Miles.

    During the promotion, wouldn’t we get an additional 33,000 AA Miles (That’s 30% of 110,000) for a grand total of 143,000 AA Miles?

    You give a total of 142,000. The German part of me wants to know.

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