How To Maximize Airline Miles With The SPG Amex Sign-Up Bonus

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Update: The Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express has a limited time offer through 11/1/2017. Learn more about best available offers here.

At the moment we’re seeing the biggest ever sign-up bonuses on the SPG Amex. These cards are offering sign-up bonuses of up to 35,000 Starpoints each upon completing minimum spend, which is split up as follows:

Personally I value the flexibility of Starpoints, and it’s one of the few currencies I tend to hoard, since I think it’s pretty safe from devaluation. Starpoints can be redeemed efficiently for hotel stays, and can also be converted into airline miles efficiently.

Even the transfer ratio from Starwood Preferred Guest to Marriott Rewards is lucrative, as you can convert points at a 1:3 ratio. With that kind of a transfer ratio, arguably Marriott’s Hotel + Air packages are more lucrative than converting Starpoints directly into airline miles.

With that in mind, what are the best ways to convert Starpoints into airline miles? Assuming you take advantage of the above sign-up bonuses and complete the minimum spend, you’ll have a total of at least 83,000 Starpoints. How should you maximize them for the purpose of generating miles?

Convert Starpoints directly into airline miles

Starpoints convert into airline miles in over two dozen programs at a 1:1 ratio, with a 5,000 point bonus for every 20,000 points transferred. In other words, when transferring in the right increments, one Starpoint is worth 1.25 airline miles.

Starwood’s airline transfer partners include the following:

Aegean Airlines Miles+BonusAmerican Airlines AAdvantageHainan Airlines Fortune Wings ClubQatar Airways Privileges Club
AeroMexico Club PremierAsiana Airlines Asiana ClubHawaiian Airlines HawaiianMilesSaudi Arabian Airlines Alfursan
Air Canada AeroplanBritish Airways Executive ClubIberia PlusSingapore Airlines KrisFlyer
Air China CompanionCathay Pacific Asia MilesJapan Airlines (JAL) Mileage BankThai Airways Royal Orchid Plus
Air France/KLM FlyingBlueChina Eastern Airlines Eastern ClubJet Airwaystopbonus loyalty
Air New Zealand Air PointsDelta Air Lines SkyMilesKorean Air SkypassUnited Mileage Plus
Alaska Airlines Mileage PlanEmirates SkywardsLATAM Airlines LATAMPASS KmsVirgin Atlantic Flying Club
Alitalia MilleMigliaEtihad Airways GuestLifeMiles of AviancaVirgin Australia Velocity
ANA Mileage ClubGol SmilesLufthansa Miles & More

While generating miles with Alaska Mileage Plan, American AAdvantage, etc., is potentially useful, there are also some unique programs you can convert miles to. For example, Japan Airlines Mileage Bank is a great program, in particular for redemptions in Emirates first class. Here’s their distance based chart for roundtrip Emirates tickets:


Do keep in mind that mileage transfers from Starwood aren’t instant, so you’ll want to convert the points a while before you need to book your ticket.

So at a minimum, 83,000 Starpoints would get you 103,000 airline miles, which is pretty great. Each of these cards gets you at least 50,000 airline miles in your choice of programs after completing the minimum spend.

Convert Starpoints to Marriott and book a Hotel + Air package

Marriott’s Hotel + Air packages let you redeem points partly for hotel stays and partly for airline miles. Even if you’re not necessarily after hotel stays, this could still be quite worthwhile.

For example, here’s the cost of a package if you’re looking for miles with Alaska Mileage Plan, American AAdvantage, etc.:

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

So 270,000 points is enough for seven nights at a Category 1-5 hotel, plus 120,000 airline miles.

90,000 Starpoints would convert into 270,000 Marriott Rewards points. In other words, if you sign up for both cards you’d just need an additional 7,000 Starpoints and you’d have enough for such a package. That’s worth it for the miles alone, without even factoring in the week of free hotel stays you’d get.

You can potentially do even better than that. If you’re interested in United miles, they have a special relationship with Marriott, so you can get 10% more miles for the same cost. That means that 90,000 Starpoints would get you 132,000 United miles plus a free week of hotel stays. Here’s that chart:

RewardsPlus Hotel + Air Package7 Nights + 55,000 Miles7 Nights + 77,000 Miles7 Nights + 110,000 Miles7 Nights + 132,000 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

Bottom line

Regardless of whether or not you’re a Starwood loyalist, there’s so much value you can get out of the SPG Personal Amex and SPG Business Amex. Upon completing the minimum spend on either card, you’ll have enough points to get 50,000 airline miles with your choice of about two dozen airlines.

Converting Starpoints directly into airline miles is a great deal, though converting Starpoints into Marriott Rewards points, and then booking a Hotel + Air package, is potentially an even better value.

For those looking for airline miles with the SPG Amex, do you prefer direct mileage transfers, or Marriott’s Hotel + Air packages?

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  1. With the Hotel + Air package, the hotel nights need to be used consecutively at a single Marriott family hotel, correct?

  2. Hi Lucky – I got an SPG Amex and want to use my miles now. Have you ever been to the Maldives? If so, any tips on how to best get there from the PNW? Thanks!

  3. Hey Lucky,

    In regards to airline/hotel reviews, it seems you almost exclusively describe wifi as either ‘fast’, ‘usable’, or ‘unusable’. I know you have said in the past that the numbers that come out of speed tests don’t matter to you, but I think it would help a lot of readers that understand it a bit more a better idea of how fast wifi speeds will be if you included those in your posts.


  4. Just a note about JAL. Tried to book JFK-MXP in Emirates first, and they base their distance off the city pair distance, not the great circle distance. Since JFK is ~10 miles east of Manhattan and MXP is ~20 miles west of Milan, this kicks the distance over 4000 miles, so instead of being 65,000 miles it was 90,000.

  5. I’m not usually tempted by hotel cards or loyalty programs, but this one looks decent, so thanks for the heads up

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