How Starwood Almost Caused Me to Lose Half a Million Miles

Update: Looking deeper into this and working with Aeroplan, Starwood tells me that in fact there’s no minimum transfer amount for Platinum members and they show that the transfer did go through. Developing…


Last month I wrote about a unique Starwood Platinum benefit that lets you keep airline miles from expiring. Starwood has a wide array of airline points transfer partners, and Platinum members can transfer as little as one point to most of them.

So where any activity is enough to keep a mileage account active, moving one point over is almost free.

This doesn’t work with every airline. Air France KLM’s Flying Blue points expire after 20 months without flight activity. Singapore Airlines miles expire after 3 years, and activity in an account doesn’t extend that. But it works for most.

However I moved 1 mile over to Air Canada’s Aeroplan and after more than a month it hadn’t hit my account.

Aeroplan miles expire after 12 months of inactivity. And I have nearly half a million points in my Aeroplan account. Keeping these points from expiring is a Very. Big. Deal.

So I reached out to Starwood to see what’s up, and they replied:

I reached out to my colleagues at our Flight Desk and was advised a minimum of 500 Starpoints is needed for a transfer to Aeroplan. This is why the transfer has not completed.

Starwood publishes a minimum transfer of 1 point but the points didn’t post because the minimum is 500 points. They didn’t tell me the points weren’t going to post. And the 1 point wasn’t returned to my account.

Over a month went by. Silence. The reason I made this transfer was to ensure my Aeroplan points do not expire. The misleading statement on the Starwood website, and lack of communication from Starwood when not transferring the points as promised and confirmed, could have cost me the half a million points in my Aeroplan account. There would have been little I could do about it. Fortunately I keep watch and didn’t let that happen.

I followed up again to get my 1 Starpoint back. Now I’ll either move 500 Starwood points over, or 1000 American Express points which should transfer instantly and give me peace of mind.

I’ve given it a week and Starwood’s website still says a single mile transfer for a Platinum is possible.

How should they have handled this?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. “I followed up again to get my 1 Starpoint back”

    Oh God. I went to Lowes and demanded my 0.005 cent was refunded, but the [migrant] sent me to a manager and he told me that coin wasn’t in circulation any longer.

  2. Anyway Hilton points were about to expire and I bough some. They say they send out mails. I didn’t get any. I get all other kinds of junk. This is why the miles and points game is a big headache.

    Anybody doing well in the points game isn’t doing well in their career because this takes up too much time

  3. This is easy to track with TripIt Pro – it shows a list of all the points and each program’s expiration on one page. Really useful. I normally buy magazines for less than 1000 points or donate to charity less than 1000, which usually gives me another 18 -24 months except for Hilton, which is only 12 months.

  4. So is SPG trying to say that Aeroplan is an exception to the 1 point minimum or that it is intended to be 500 point minimum across the board?

  5. That’s pretty crappy of Starwood, Gary. Even if my big takeaway from this is also to wonder why yo have 500,000 Aeroplan miles.

  6. Earn and burn, Gary. Fine print and dubious account rules/language/enforcement/devaluation would make me nervous of hoarding such a windfall.

  7. It sounds like a UDAAP issue to me in the unfair advertising side of things. But again that goes back to whether points are “money”. To me if the airlines need to disclose them on financial statements as liabilities then I say yes, but it seems up to this point that lobbying has stopped that from being recognized for consumers.

  8. They should have handled it by apologizing and then fixing their webpage to so show the correct minimum transfer amount.

  9. After getting burned by LATAM on mileage expiry (I called in Dec 31 2015 and a “glitch” prevented them from booking, was promised it’d be reconciled and my points honored, but they did not make good on this), I concluded that the following strategy might be prudent:

    Intentionally leave off the FF# to some low earning flights — later on you can always request credit for the miles near the 6-month mark (or don’t they’re low earning). If in the mean time some program shafts you the full account balance, typically you can retroactively credit and restore your full balance. This strategy is apt for frequent flyers that have many accounts and don’t have complete faith in AwardWallet and their own ability to transfer or use miles to bump the balance (shit still happens).

  10. Challenge accepted. I now need to complete 25 eligible stays or 50 eligible nights in a calendar year at Starwood or Marriott properties so I may be worthy of earning Starwood Platinum status. After that, I will use their customer focused benefit of being able to transfer one Starwood point to somewhere every day just for the fun of it.

  11. You moved 1 mile, at the last minute, failed to check on it, and you have half a million,

    Now you want to blame who..

  12. @Ken A – I have a better challenge for you… It’s time to look for a job that will require you to be a productive member of society.

  13. Gary, your question was how Starwood should have responded: It’s very, VERY simple:
    (1) They owed you (and all their Platinums) and should have apologized NOT for “any inconvenience this may have caused you” (which is code for saying “We don’t really give a *%$# about you, but we’ll pretend otherwise”), but for (a) changing terms & conditions without notification; and (b) nearly costing you big-time as a result.
    (2) They should have immediately transferred what is their actual/new minimum to your Aeroplan account — and not charged your SPG account — as a TAGIBLE apology.
    (3) They should IMMEDIATELY notify all Platinums of the new minimum, and post it on the SPG website.
    (4) They should have refunded your one point — for which you received absolutely nothing.
    This is not rocket science — this is customer relations 101. Any credible corporation’s customer service operation should know it and be able to handle it. Everyone who learns about this through your blog and otherwise is now forewarned about SPG. (I’m less certain this warning also should apply to new parent Marriott.)

  14. How do you end up with 500k miles in Aeroplan when you don’t fly Air Canada much? Presumably from transfers, no, that got stuck there? That’s the first mistake, but of course it is easily forgiven as there are always circumstances that might require cancellation.
    I have faced this issue with Hilton before, and I find the best strategy is to buy directly from the Hilton website. I’d rather pay $10 for peace of mind over 300k HHonors points, but that’s just me.
    Next time maybe don’t rely on transfers (is this really the first time one didn’t work as planned) to extend an account, particularly if you can’t verify within 24 hours.

  15. I think Debit and Credit are alter-egos of the same person. He or she makes a comment, logs out, then logs back in and criticizes the point he just made

  16. Mr Leff your experience boils my blood
    Why should Starwood care about anything at this point? They haven’t too much for years which is one of many reasons they were sold.Their customers deserve better and so do their hotel owners
    Once a great world class iconic program to redeem for their hotels and free nights in most would rather redeem for FF miles as their redemption’s are laughable in premium hotels
    They lost some of their greatest HR talent over the years including their legendary first CEO
    with a great vision in everything the company did
    The last number of years agents lack empathy/concern and basic CRM skills with their members when problems arise.Sure agents try hard to be friendly and helpful when selling you a room fair enough.Behind the scenes is company that simply put lost its way. Its simply sad and disappointing
    They should have offered you 1000 points for the inconvenience,apologized and gotten on the phone with their partner and taken care of the matter straight away real time. Austin customer service did years ago before they moved everything to Canada where they kept the downward spiral going.
    All they really care about is your money and what works conveniently for them while they soon turn into a big empty pumpkin I mean Marriott
    One of the saddest losses in history next to the clown running American Airlines into the ground
    The glory days of travel are mostly over
    Lets hope for a positive healthy and happy New Year for all
    Cheers

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