Demonstrating a high value redemption with SPG Starpoints
I always like to tell people that Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) Starpoints are one of the best award currencies you can have. They have great flexibility to transfer to over 2 dozen airline partners and can really facilitate some great high value redemptions. For every 20,000 Starpoints that you transfer to an airline, SPG automatically adds 5,000 extra points further maximizing their value. Additionally, SPG and its partners run periodic promotions that increase the transfer bonus even further! Recently, I took advantage of a 35% transfer bonus to Air Canada’s Aeroplan so that I could book 3 business class and 2 economy class tickets on a return from Europe.
What airlines are best for SPG transfers?
Starpoints transfer to over 2 dozen different airlines. But not all of them are a great deal. Air New Zealand transfers make absolutely no sense whatsoever at a rate of 65:1. United and GOL transfers are 2:1, and are also not a great deal. However, the rest of the transfers are at least at a ratio of 1:1. Once you factor in the automatic 5,000 mile bonus for transferring 20,000 points, this means you are actually getting 1.25 airline miles per SPG point.
All of the SPG transfer airlines are listed below:
|AeroMexico Club Premier||ANA Mileage Club||Emirates Skywards||Qatar Airways Privileges Club|
|Air Canada Aeroplan||American Airlines AAdvantage||Etihad Airways Guest||Saudi Arabian Airlines Alfursan|
|airberlin Top Bonus||Asiana Airlines Asiana Club||Gol Smiles||Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer|
|Air China Companion||British Airways Executive Club||Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles||Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus|
|Air France/KLM FlyingBlue||Cathay Pacific Asia Miles||Japan Airlines (JAL) Mileage Bank||United Mileage Plus|
|Air New Zealand Air Points||China Eastern Airlines Eastern Club||Korean Air Skypass||Virgin Atlantic Flying Club|
|Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan||China Southern Airlines’ Sky Pearl Club||LAN Airlines LANPASS Kms||Virgin Australia Velocity|
|Alitalia MilleMiglia||Delta Air Lines SkyMiles||Lufthansa Miles & More|
Some of the best airlines to transfer to include: Star Alliance members Singapore and Air Canada; One World members American Airlines and British Airways; and Sky Team member Korean Air. Another solid non-alliance choice is Alaska Airlines who partners with several airlines that can make for great redemptions (Like when I redeemed Alaska miles to fly Emirates First Class!)
The airlines that I listed above have reasonably priced award charts, and offer good availability on partner airlines.
Taking Advantage of a Mileage Bonus promotion
For 3 weeks in August, Air Canada was offering SPG members an extra 35% bonus when transferring miles to their mileage program, Aeroplan. This was an all-time high bonus!
While this was an exceptionally great deal, SPG and its partners offer transfer bonuses a few times per year on average–so another bonus should be coming along soon. In fact there was an up to 30% bonus on transfers to American Airlines last month.
If you can wait until one of these bonuses come along, you can really get some phenomenal value for your points.
Bottom line–I was able to transfer increments of 20,000 SPG points into 33,750 Aeroplan miles.
How I completed the transfer
First, I ensured that I had a good use for the points–I would not transfer the points from SPG to Aeroplan speculatively. It is better to have the flexibility of SPG points then to simply take advantage of the bonus without a solid plan. Once I confirmed availability on the flights I wanted using the Aeroplan website, I began the transfer process.
Then, scroll down to “Transfer Air Miles.” You will notice that SPG mentions the 5,000 point bonus they give you for every 20,000 miles transferred.
Finally, choose the airline that you want to transfer to. In this case, I chose Aeroplan/Air Canada. I transfer points in 20,000 point increments to maximize the bonus points. Note you can only transfer 79,999 points per transfer–so 60,000 points is really the best increment to ensure you get the bonus transfer miles. 60,000 SPG points + 15,000 bonus miles + 35% transfer bonus = 101,250 miles.
It is a fantastic deal to turn 60,000 points into over 100,000 miles. But I still needed more miles for my planned redemption. I waited until the next day and then made a transfer of 75,000 more points which converted into 90,000 Aeroplan miles plus the 35% bonus = 121,500 miles.
The transfer took a few days, unfortunately they are not instantaneous to most airlines.
I already had 2,250 Aeroplan miles in my account, so by the end of the week I had a total of 225,000 Aeroplan miles!
Booking my Flights
Once the miles were credited to my account, I was able to book the flights I wanted via the Air Canada Aeroplan website.
Air Canada’s award chart has some good deals–and one of the sweet spots is 55,000 miles one way in business class on Star Alliance partners. The website is easy to use, searching is straightforward for both round trip and one-way searches.
Below are a couple of screen shots from some sample searches.
I searched for 3 business class seats from Venice to New York in June 2018. I had been watching availability since before I transferred the points from SPG and I knew that Turkish airlines had at least 3 business class seats for the date I needed. My itinerary showed up after a quick search VCE-IST-JFK in Turkish business class for only 55,000 miles per person.
I easily finished the booking process, and paid approximately $60 in taxes/fees per ticket. Not too shabby.
Now, I still had 60,000 miles left–mostly from the 35% transfer bonus. I wanted to book 2 more one-way tickets in economy. Air Canada charges 30,000 miles for a one-way economy ticket from Europe to the USA and vice versa.
After another quick search I booked 2 more bonus one way economy tickets. This was just gravy–essentially free tickets just from the promotional transfer bonus.
Hopefully this article illustrates how valuable and flexible SPG points are–especially when combined with promotional transfer bonuses. Remember, I do not recommend transferring SPG points from your account to an airline unless you have a specific redemption planned. Leave them in your SPG account to maximize their flexibility until you are ready to transfer and book.
The transfers typically take a few days–and in that time your planned award may disappear. Unfortunately, that’s part of the game–but you can set yourself up for success by looking for awards with several seats available and/or being flexible on dates/airlines/etc.
Starwood points are my favorite point currency because I can really get some high value awards from a relatively small amount of points. If I was to purchase the one way business class tickets with cash I would have paid $2,100 per ticket and the economy tickets would have cost $600 each. Instead I used 135,000 SPG points and took advantage of both the standard SPG bonus of 5,000 points per 20,000 points transferred and also a 35% promotional transfer bonus to Aeroplan. This redemption could have cost $7,500 cash–but I ended up getting a value of just over 5.5 cents per SPG point–not a bad redemption!