Creative Ways To Buy Alaska & American Miles For Cheap

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A few days ago I wrote about how Starwood’s 35% discount on purchased Starpoints expires on May 31, 2018.

Starwood ordinarily charges 3.5 cents per purchased Starpoint. If you max out this promotion you can buy up to 30,000 Starpoints at a cost of $682.50, which is a rate of 2.275 cents per Starpoint.

You can purchase a maximum of 30,000 Starpoints per account per calendar year, and accounts have to be at least 14 days old in order to participate in this promotion.

As I’ve explained, there can be value in this deal whether you want to redeem Starpoints for hotel stays, convert Starpoints into Marriott points at a 1:3 ratio, or convert Starpoints into airline miles.

In this post I wanted to outline some potentially unique ways to generate miles through this promotion, some of which I’ve covered before, and some of which I haven’t.

Buy American miles for 1.46 cents each

Through May 31, 2018, American is offering a 25% bonus when you convert Starpoints into AAdvantage miles. Bonus miles will post to your AAdvantage account within seven days of the initial conversion posting. Registration is required using promotion code HTT25.

Starpoints convert into American miles at a 1:1 ratio, and for every 20,000 points transferred you get 5,000 bonus miles. So if you transferred 20,000 Starpoints you’d get 31,250 AAdvantage miles (which is 25,000 miles plus a 25% bonus), meaning you can potentially convert Starpoints into American miles at a 1:1.5625 ratio, which is something that many many find worthwhile.

Leveraging this promotion, you could purchase 20,000 Starpoints for $455, which would give you 31,250 AAdvantage miles. That’s a rate of 1.46 cents per AAdvantage mile, which is significantly less costly than purchasing them from American directly, even during a promo. For example, during American’s current promo on purchased miles, the lowest cost is 2.08 cents per mile, so buying Starpoints is a much better deal.

Buy Alaska miles for 1.82 cents each

Alaska Mileage Plan miles are one of my favorite points currencies. Starpoints convert into Alaska miles at a 1:1 ratio, and for every 20,000 points transferred you get 5,000 bonus miles. So if you bought 20,000 Starpoints for $455 you could convert those into 25,000 Alaska miles, which is a rate of 1.82 cents per Alaska mile.

Alaska has a great promotion on purchased miles right now where you can buy them for as little as 2.11 cents each, yet buying Starpoints is still much cheaper.

Can this promotion be scaled?

The biggest limitation with buying Starpoints is that you’re limited to 30,000 Starpoints per account per calendar year. If you want to do a direct mileage transfer you may not even want to buy that many, since you only want to convert Starpoints into airline miles in 20,000 points increments, since that’s when you get the 5,000 point bonus.

Starwood does allow household points transfers. The idea is that you can transfer points between accounts registered at the same address for at least 30 days at no cost. Typically there’s no limit to how many household accounts you can transfer between, but I wouldn’t recommend trying to manipulate this. In other words, truly only use this for people at your address, and don’t change the addresses on a dozen accounts so you can combine that many points.

In 2016 I wrote about how Starwood was allegedly preventing people from transferring points between household accounts when the clear goal was to get around the yearly purchase limit. While that was a statement made by a Starwood representative, as far as I can tell that’s not actually the policy — it’s not in the T&Cs, and I’ve received several messages from readers who have stated that they’ve been able to do household transfers on Starpoints that they purchased.

Everyone has to decide for themselves here, but best I can tell it should generally be possible to combine points between accounts.

This promotion gets even better then!

If you are in fact able to combine purchased Starpoints across multiple accounts, this means you can buy American miles for 1.46 cents each and Alaska miles for 1.82 cents each in much larger quantities. But that opens up a potentially even better deal.

Say you buy 30,000 Starpoints each for three people in your household, at a cost of $2,047.50. You’d have 90,000 Starpoints, and once they’re in a single account, you’d have 270,000 Marriott Rewards points. You could then use those points to book one of Marriott’s awesome Hotel + Air Packages.

For example, 270,000 Marriott points will get you 120,000 Alaska miles plus a seven night stay at a Category 1-5 Marriott Rewards property.

Let’s take the seven night hotel stay out of the equation. Buying 120,000 Alaska miles for $2,047.50 is like paying 1.7 cents per Alaska mile. That’s a lower rate than you’ll ever see Alaska sell miles directly, and best of all, you get a free seven night stay thrown in.

This might be your only chance to do this

Generally speaking, this may be the only chance you have to take advantage of a promotion like this:

  • American’s 25% bonus on hotel points transfers expires on May 31
  • Marriott’s Hotel + Air Packages will be changing in August, though we don’t know the full details of how they’ll be changing
  • With Starwood Preferred Guest being folded into Marriott Rewards, we don’t know if they’ll sell points aggressively in the future (this is something Marriott has rarely done)
  • It’s unlikely that the new Marriott program will maintain Starwood’s flexible policy of allowing points transfers between accounts

So this really is a great opportunity. Even though I have a huge balance of Starpoints, I generally don’t like to touch them, since I feel like the value will be going up even further soon. So maybe I’m crazy, but I’m tempted to take advantage of this promotion for three accounts at my household, mainly as a method of acquiring Alaska miles for 1.7 cents each, which would be the lowest rate I’ve ever bought them at.

Bottom line

Buying Starpoints for 2.275 cents each is a great deal in general, and in particular a good deal given the current opportunities available. This should be a way to buy American miles for 1.46 cents each, and Alaska miles for 1.7 cents each. Like I said, I see no reason household transfers with these points shouldn’t be possible — the terms don’t prohibit it, and I’ve received several reader reports suggesting this should be possible, and I have no reason to doubt them.

Anyone plan on buying Starpoints as a way of generating Alaska or American miles?

Comments

  1. @ Michelle — You’ll have a year to use it, so you don’t have to decide right away. Worst case scenario this could be a good deal even if you throw away those seven nights.

  2. Buy Starpoints using your Amex SPG card and you get 2 Starpoints per dollar for the points you purchased. Yes, you can do this again to purchase more points on behalf of a spouse/partner/family at the same address, then transfer the points to your own account. You can even use the same Amex SPG card to buy points on their behalf – just ask beforehand – in case they somehow want to buy points themselves ;>). With the bonus points, the cost per Starpoint is 2.18 cents each.

  3. Is my understanding correct that I can use miles separately from Marriott points? It doesn’t have to be the same trip as I simply get miles transferred to my Alaska or whatever account?

  4. The Marriott 7 night certificate can be extended for a year if you call in and request it before the expiation date. You can do this at least twice per certificate.

  5. @ Lucky- purchasing and than transferring SPG points if same last name but different address would not work, right?
    Also, the 7 night hotel stay can be split however I want it? Do airline miles have to be used within a year like the hotel points?

  6. I’m new to the miles game, I would appreciate your assistance- my husband just bought 30,000 starpoints. I want to buy 30,000 points in my account and then transfer them to his.

    I thought I read that an account can only receive a max of 30,000 points per year (whether bought or transferred). Is this correct? No point in me buying them if they will block my transfer.

  7. How will Hotel + Air certificates issued prior to 8/1/18 convert under the new program? If I can buy a “current” category 7 now for 330,000 Marriott Points (110,000 SPG, or $2,500), and use it at a “new” category 7 after 8/1/18, that is a hell of a deal.

  8. @ Hepworth — I’ve asked Marriott for clarification, and they’ve said they’ll share more info soon. They haven’t yet revealed how the charts will map out for these types of certificates. I’d certainly hope that they’re generous, given the change in categories mid-year.

  9. @ Nicole — An account can only receive up to 30,000 Starpoints either purchased directly or gifted. In this case, gifted refers to just buying them for someone else’s account. You can household transfer as many points as you want per year.

  10. @ Alex Zorman — It matters that the address matches, not the last name. The seven night hotel stay has to be used for one consecutive stay. You can use the airline miles whenever you want once they’re in your mileage account.

  11. Hello Lucky,

    I am sitting on 450K marriott and 15K SPG. I don’t really need more AS because they are easy to earn as an MVPG75K and still have several hundred thousand after booking 3 CX F & J as well as QF F & JL F over the last week.

    My question: What are your thoughts on transferring to JL for EK F awards? I know they include surcharges but I am more than happy to pay ~$700 for 5 EK F flights when 120K AS will get you at most 2 flight in J? It is unlikely I will use a full 7 day hotel voucher especially with most of the sweet spots now in Category 6.

    Thank you

    James

  12. Lucky: you’re clearly a total Marriott newbie. This statement is completely misleading: “It’s unlikely that the new Marriott program will maintain Starwood’s flexible policy of allowing points transfers between accounts.”
    In fact Marriott allows free transfers between anybody for free for Marriott elites. There’s no address requirement or limit. Marriott is much more generous than SPG when it comes to transferring points between accounts, at least for Marriott elites.

  13. @ Daniel M. — What am I missing? I thought they had a 50K limit, and then also allowed you to transfer more for the purposes of booking a specific award, but that’s not helpful if you’re trying to consolidate points from several accounts. Would love to be wrong on this!

  14. Sorry I was wrong when I said there was on limit. You are 100% correct about the 50K limit. However, I still maintain that it’s easier to transfer between Marriott accounts rather than SPG accounts because no common address is needed. Of course, this assumes that you don’t need to go over the 50k limit. It might be worth updating your post to indicate the Marriott transfer option.

  15. Daniel, no one cares about a measly 16.6k SPG equivalent in terms of transfer, if they’re at all thinking about multiple accounts.

  16. I think you just transfer the Marriott points for a hotel booking and then cancel the booking. So, if A has 150,000 and B has 150,000, call to book a resort that takes 300,000 points to book. Just pick as many nights as you need to make the math work taking into account the fifth night free. So, call and book two rooms for six nights at a 30,000 point resort that is cancellable. The Marriott rep combines your points into A’s account and then A later cancels the booking. I haven’t done it but have read blogs about it.

  17. The sweet spot for SPG points to airline miles is increments of 20,000 SPG points due to the 5,000 miles bonus. Purchasing 30,000 SPG points results in orphaned 10,000 points. SPG is not fond of accounts without activity for 12 month so the loss of SPG points is not out of the questions. I am debating if the conversion is best for Singapore Airline miles or AA miles. Few options for acquiring Singapore Airline miles. The additional 25% bonus is tempting, though.

  18. I created my wife’s SPG account yesterday. Do somebody know if SPG strictly enforces the 14 day account rule?

  19. Based on what I see from my end as far as reward redeemptions go, I value AA miles at .01 cents. Good idea for some, but a good deal for me and my people.

  20. Only 79999 Starpoints may be transferred to AAdvantage per 24 hours. So for persons with huge number of Starpoints, you’ll have to initiate the process in time before the promotion is over…

  21. Lucky,
    How come Alaska air website no longer showing Hainan airline redemption seats any more? Also, using BA to find CX seats, but Alaska air customer service cannot find in their system. I like Alaska air points, but it’s not very convenient to use them any more. 🙁

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