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Starpoints, the loyalty currency of Starwood Preferred Guest, consistently ranks as one of the most valuable and flexible points currencies available today. And while there is uncertainty regarding the pending merger with Marriott, the consolidation of the two rewards programs, at this stage pegged for 2018, providing another 16 months of earning and redeeming under the current program.
UPDATE: Marriott has added the ability to link your Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, and SPG accounts. Members can now transfer Marriott points to Starpoints at a 3:1 ratio, enabling members to use Marriott points to book award travel on SPG's extensive list of airline partners.
One of the benefits that make Starwood Preferred Guest points so valuable is the massive list of airline transfer partners available to SPG members. With over 30 carriers, most converting at a 1:1 ratio, redemption options reach deep into every airline alliance, with transfers to non-alliance partners such as Alaska the icing on the SPG cake.
As with all loyalty programs, however, not all 30+ transfer partners offer the same value. The aim of this post is to provide a list of transfer partners and touch on some of the SPG Airline transfer sweet spots to help you get maximum value for your Starpoints.
The fastest way to earn Starpoints
While there's a host of ways to earn Starpoints, for most points enthusiasts, the fastest way is through SPG's two co-branded cards, the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express. Both cards offer a generous welcome bonus and no foreign transaction fees.
5,000 bonus miles when you transfer 20,000 Starpoints to airline partners
When transferring Starpoints in multiples of 20,000, you receive a bonus 5,000 airline miles from Starwood, credited to the airline partner to which you are transferring points. For instance, if I convert 20k points to Alaska Mileage Plan miles, Starwood credits an extra 5k bonus miles to my Alaska account as part of the transfer. Given that SPG transfers to Alaska at a 1:1 ratio, the ratio becomes 1:1.25 after the 25% bonus from Starwood.
There are a few tricks, rules and tips that need to be followed to ensure transfers are trouble-free, and you receive maximum value for your SPG points.
- SPG allows a maximum of 79,999 points to be transferred each day, so to receive the 25% bonus, only transfer a maximum 60,000 points in any one transaction (which will convert to 75,000 miles in your chosen program)
- The names must match on the accounts you are transferring between
- There is no minimum transfer requirement for SPG Platinum members. However, Gold members need to transfer a minimum of 1,500 points and all other members 2,500 points
- Transfer times for SPG points vary but are never instant. From experience, most transfers take between 2/5 days but can take as long as two weeks, something that needs to be taken into account when transferring for award redemptions as they are also non-refundable
Starwood Preferred Guest Airline Transfer Partners
Even with the merger in sight, Starwood has been proactively expanding its loyalty program and is still improving on the SPG product. In April, they announced the latest addition to the family of SPG transfer partners, the recently added Virgin Elevate and Avianca LifeMiles takes the number of transfer partners well over 30. You can see the list below.
|FREQUENT FLYER PROGRAM||TRANSFER RATIO (STARPOINTS:MILES)||TRANSFER TIME|
|Aegean Airlines||1:1||7-10 days|
|Aeromexico Club Premier||1:1||2 days|
|Aeroplan/Air Canada||1:1||4 days|
|Air China PhoenixMiles||1:1||1-2 days|
|Air New Zealand Airpoints||65:1||2 days|
|Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan||1:1||2 days|
|Alitalia MilleMiglia||1:1||7-10 days|
|All Nippon Airways (ANA) Mileage Club||1:1||7-10 days|
|American Airlines AAdvantage||1:1||2 days|
|Asia Miles||1:1||2 days|
|Asiana Airlines Asiana Club||1:1||7-10 days|
|Avianca LifeMiles||1:1||7-10 days|
|British Airways Executive Club||1:1||2-5 days|
|China Eastern Airlines Eastern Miles||1:1||7-10 days|
|China Southern Airlines Sky Pearl Club||1:1||2-5 days|
|Delta Air Lines SkyMiles||1:1||1-2 days|
|Emirates Skywards||1:1||2-5 days|
|Etihad Airways||1:1||2-5 days|
|Air France/KLM Flying Blue||1:1||1-2 days|
|Gol Smiles||2:1||7-10 days|
|Hainan Airlines Fortune Wings Club||1:1||7-10 days|
|Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles||1:1||2-3 days|
|Japan Airlines (JAL) Mileage Bank||1:1||7-10 days|
|Jet Airways JetPrivilege||1:1||10-14 days|
|Korean Air SKYPASS||1:1||7-10 days|
|LATAM Airlines LATAM Pass||1:1.5||2-5 days|
|Lufthansa Miles and More||1:1||4-7 days|
|Qatar Airways Privilege Club||1:1||7-14 days|
|Saudi Arabian Airlines Alfursan||1:1||5-7 days|
|Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer||1:1||7-10 days|
|Thai Airways International Royal Orchid Plus||1:1||10 days|
|United MileagePlus||2:1||2 days|
|Virgin Atlantic Flying Club||1:1||1 day|
|Virgin Australia||1:1||2-5 days|
While the majority of partners convert at a 1:1 ratio, there are a few exceptions.
- Air New Zealand Airpoints 65:1
- Gol Smiles 2:1
- LATAM Airlines LATAM Pass 1:1.5
- United Mileage Plus 2:1
LATAM transferring at 1:1.5 is a touch deceptive as the program is based in kilometers (1:1.6 – miles:kilometers), not miles. While LATAM has some good redemption options, it doesn't quite make our cut for the top transfer partners when compared to the best SPG has to offer.
The Best SPG Airline Transfer Partners
The five transfer partners at the top of our list are Japan Airlines Mileage Bank, Alaska MileagePlan, American AAdvantage, Virgin America Elevate, and British Airways Executive Club. Here's why:
- British Airways Executive Club
On top of the excellent value flying transatlantic on oneworld® partners airberlin and Iberia, British Airways still retains a distance based program meaning short haul flights with Avios are a great way of redeeming SPG points. Short-haul flights within North America price out at 7,500 Avios one-way and non-stop economy flights from the West Coast to Hawaii will set you back only 12,500 points each way flying American or Alaska.
- Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan
With Alaska Airlines not a member of any major alliances, it leaves them in the unique position of being able to pick and choose the airlines with whom they partner. Combined with low fees and the ability to add a stop-over when booking most one-way flights, something that typically requires a round-trip on most other airlines if it is allowed at all, Alaska offers some of the best redemption options for any frequent flyer.
The best options for Alaska are often aspirational redemptions such as first-class long-haul Cathay Pacific awards to Asia for between 50k and 70k miles each way (with a stop-over in both directions possible on most itineraries) and Qantas first-class to Australia and New Zealand for 140k miles roundtrip. Award space can be elusive on Qantas but once secured, you are flying one of the best first-class products to one of the best destinations in the world.
- Japan Airlines Mileage Bank
Unlike the other programs on this list, the most significant setback for Japan Airlines is that there is no easy way to accumulate miles other than transferring them from SPG. Depending on the destination, however, JAL offers fantastic value due to being a distance based program and allowing multiple stopovers on awards.
While they did raise the number of miles required to redeem for some business and first-class redemptions towards the end of last year, the rates are still competitive, and the real value in JAL is being able to build itineraries with multiple stopovers and an open jaw in one award. While you will end up paying hefty taxes and fees on some oneworld® partners, LATAM, Qatar, and AA all have small fees for select flights. You can see all the taxes and fees on the JAL website, along with the JAL award chart for partners below.
Additionally, outside of their partners within oneworld, JAL provides access to awards with Emirates at reasonable redemption rates.
- American Airlines AAdvantage
Despite recent changes to the AAdvantage program, which had a massive impact on the cost of first-class awards (and to a lesser degree, business-class), AAdvantage is still the best transfer partner of the big three legacy carriers for SPG points. Most of the changes to American's award chart were negative; however, award costs were reduced for business-class flights to Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean (dropped 2,500 miles) and economy tickets to the Middle East/Indian Subcontinent (dropped 5,000 miles).
While the award costs rose on many first-class redemptions in the latest changes to AAdvantage, most of the changes to business-class just bought American into line with the other legacy carriers. One first-class award I think still worth redeeming is Cathay Pacific one-way from the US to Hong Kong for 80k.
- Virgin America Elevate
Transferring SPG points to Virgin can offer some incredible value on Virgin's new business-class product to Australia. While transferring to AAdvantage will let you redeem 80k miles for a roundtrip to Australia in economy on oneworld® partner Qantas, that same 80k if converted to Virgin Elevate points is enough for a return business-class fare on Virgin Australia between LA and Sydney.
Special mention at this point goes to Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer which offers some of the most sought-after and aspirational redemptions available. In fact, it could be argued they provide a better cent-per-point value in some instances than the options above, but when all factors come into play, the five programs listed offer the best mix of standout redemptions, value, flexibility, and award availability.
SPG's transfer partners are one of the aspects that make Starpoints so valuable. There are very few places you cannot fly by transferring SPG points. With the majority of airlines converting at 1:1, the additional 5,000 bonus points received for every 20,000 transferred, and the sheer number of transfer partners, Starwood Preferred Guest is still the go to rewards program.
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