Starwood Partnership With Virgin America Ending January 6, Transfer Points Now

When transfers from Starwood to Virgin America briefly disappeared from the Starwood website a week ago it looked like a change without notice, the elimination of a partnership driven by Alaska’s acquisition of Virgin America. After all, it was separately announced that Citibank would lose the ability to transfer points to Virgin America as well.

Fortunately the ability to transfer points to Virgin America return to SPG.com and always remained available by phone.

The reason this matters is because:

  1. 1:1 transfers into Virgin America is already super generous. American Express and Citibank transfers are less lucrative, and Virgin America partner redemptions require far fewer points than you’d expect (though in many cases do add fuel surcharges)

  2. Virgin America points will transfer 1 to 1.3 into Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles.

It’s this arbitrage possibility — Starwood to Virgin to Alaska that allows you to move 20,000 Starpoints to 32,500 Alaska miles instead of the normal 25,000 Alaska miles when transferred directly — that folks were concerned about.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone, of course, that Starwood’s partnership with Virgin America is ending. However we do get some advance warning. Starwood shared the following with me:

SPG has a long-standing partnership with both Alaska Airlines and Virgin America, and was excited to hear the news about the official close of their merger. This presents a great opportunity for Elevate members to join and enjoy all the benefits of Alaska’s award-winning Mileage Plan starting January 9th. Instead, SPG has decided to focus its partnership on Alaska Mileage Plan and end its partnership with Virgin America’s Elevate program. This means SPG members will no longer be able to earn Elevate points on hotel stays, or directly transfer Starpoints into Elevate accounts after January 6, 2017.

SPG members will be able to use Starpoints to travel on Virgin America by transferring Starpoints to Alaska Mileage Plan miles and redeeming them for Virgin America flights on alaskaair.com starting January 9, 2017. Furthermore, SPG members can continue to transfer Starpoints to Alaska Mileage Plan at a 1:1 ratio – and earn a 5,000 bonus miles when they transfer 20,000 Starpoints to Alaska Mileage Plan.

If you want Alaska Airlines miles for your Starwood points with this extra 30% bonus, make your transfers right away. Remember that you do not want to transfer more than 60,000 points per day (yielding 75,000 Virgin America Elevate points) because the maximum that Starwood will post in a day is 99,999 and a transfer of 80,000 points (maximizing the bonus 5000 points for transferring in 20,000 point increments) would mean 100,000 Virgin points and would not go through.

So if your plan involves transfers of more than 60,000 Starpoints you’ll want to split those up into transfers across different days — which means you will not want to wait until the last day of the partnership.

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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  1. Nice thing is they transfer pretty quickly – about 24 hours in my experience (and that was over Christmas).

    Now if I should transfer one more block of 20,000 points…?

  2. Is Jan 9 the date you will be able to transfer Virgin to Alaska, or will my points transferred into Virgin be stuck there for a while and not transferable to Alaska until some later date? I need to use my Alaska miles in mid Jan, so can’t have all my spg points stuck in Virgin in limbo.

  3. Hi, could you please elaborate more about – “After all, it was separately announced that Citibank would lose the ability to transfer points to Virgin America as well” ?

    Haven’t heard anything related to this elsewhere. Thanks.

  4. I transferred one block of points yesterday, thought about it, then transferred another 20k today. Saw nothing in my Elevate account, so emailed and was told 4-6 working days. That would take it to Jan 6, the last day allowed for transfers. If they aren’t in the Elevate account by then, what happens? Or do I misunderstand the rules and the transfer can be INITIATED up until Jan 6?

  5. Gary – Please advise or provide a link to where I can find the verbiage provided above (that includes “This means SPG members will no longer be able to earn Elevate points on hotel stays, or directly transfer Starpoints into Elevate accounts after January 6, 2017.”) This seems to indicate that today would have been fine to complete a transfer. Unfortunately, I just got off the phone with an SPG agent who advised that transfers needed to be completed by yesterday, 5 January. Thank you for providing the source of the text above.

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