Here’s How to Make the Most of Starwood Points Transfers to Miles With Over 30 Airlines

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While I’ve long used Starwood points for hotel stays — the Starwood program has more top-end properties that I’d want to stay at than any other chain — often the best value can be obtained through airline mileage transfers.

I’ve carried the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express since 2001 because they have the most full value airline mileage transfer partners and because when you transfer points into 20,000 airline miles, you get 5000 additional bonus miles. Since most airline partners transfer at a 1:1 ratio, that’s like earning 1.25 miles per dollar spent on the card for all spend.


Al Maha Desert Resort — Starpoints Are Good for Hotel Stays Too

Starwood has a huge array of points transfer options. The value here is being able to move points to wherever you need them, when you need them.

Decide Where You Want the Points to Go Later, Based on the Award You Want to Redeem. You can accumulate points in one program — Starwood — and then figure out what you want to do with them later. For instance, if you decide you want to go to South America then no frequent flyer program offers you better availability than American (because premium cabin award space on American flights is excellent to South America, and there are tons of flights, and also because they are a partner of LAN). If you decide you want to go to Asia or Europe then it may make sense to move the points to a Star Alliance airline for great business class options.

Top Off an Account to Have Enough Points for Redemption. Platinum members have no minimum point transfer, they can literally transfer just 1 point to most frequent flyer program partners, which is a great way to keep an airline mileage account from expiring. It’s also a great way to have ‘partner transaction activity’ when an airline runs a promotion that requires you to have activity with various hotel partners in order to earn bonus miles. Gold members can move as few as 1500 points to an airline program, and non-status members can move 2500 Starpoints at a minimum.

Move Points into Family Member Frequent Flyer Accounts. Since Starwood will allow you to move points between accounts at the same residential mailing address, you can put your Starwood points into, say, a spouse’s account and then move them to your spouse’s frequent flyer program account.

Here’s the full list of airline mileage transfer partners, updated since Starwood has since added the fantastic Star Alliance program Aegean and the excellent Skyteam option Korean, while losing Virgin Amerca as a result of its acquisition by Alaska since I wrote extensively about transfers last.

Frequent Flyer Program Exchange Ratio (Starpoints : Miles)
Aegean Airlines 1:1
Aeromexico Club Premier 1:1
Aeroplan/Air Canada 1:1
Air Berlin 1:1
Air China Companion 1:1
Air New Zealand & Air Points 65:1
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan 1:1
Alitalia MilleMiglia 1:1
All Nippon Mileage Club 1:1
American Airlines AAdvantage 1:1
Asia Miles 1:1
Asiana Airlines 1:1
British Airways Executive Club 1:1
China Eastern Airlines 1:1
China Southern SkyPearl Club 1:1
Delta Air Lines SkyMiles 1:1
Emirates Skywards 1:1
Etihad Airways 1:1
Flying Blue 1:1
Gol Smiles 2:1
Hainan Airlines 1:1
Hawaiian Airlines 1:1
Japan Airlines Mileage Bank 1:1
Jet Airways 1:1
Korean Air Skypass 1:1
LAN LANPASS 1:1.5
Miles and More 1:1
Qatar Airways 1:1
Saudi Arabian Airlines Alfursan 1:1
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer 1:1
Thai Airways RoyalOrchidPlus 1:1
United Mileage Plus 2:1
Velocity Frequent Flyer 1:1
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club 1:1

My Favorite Mileage Transfer Options

The transfer partners I like the most are American Airlines, Aeroplan, Alaska Airlines, Japan Airlines, Morean, Aegean, and Singapore Airlines.

  • American. What a wonderful demonstration of how much better the Starwood card is than an airline co-brand. You’re effectively earning more miles than the airline’s card (1.25 miles per dollar with transfer bonus rather than just 1) in addition to having the flexibility to transfer to the program of your choice. American offers 5 day holds on awards, and transfers generally take less than that — so you can often secure your award before you even initiate a transfer. My favorite redemption is the Etihad A380 First Class Apartment.


    Etihad First Apartment, with Divider Down Between Seats 3A/4A

  • Alaska. Again you’re earning more miles with the Starwood card than if you were spending on Alaska’s card. Alaska offers a free stopover even on their one-way awards. And they have diverse partners like Hainan Airlines, Icelandair and Cathay Pacific.

  • Singapore Airlines. I really like having having Singapore Airlines as a transfer partner since they offer their own members much better premium cabin award space on Singapore flights than other Star Alliance frequent flyer program members get. Similarly, Miles&More can be a useful transfer partner, because Miles&More members have access to better reward availability on Lufthansa and Swiss than other Star Alliance programs do. The ability to move Starpoints to those frequent flyer programs can be really useful.


    Singapore A380 Suites Class

  • Japan Airlines. They have a reasonable award chart and partnerships even outside oneworld like Bangkok Airways and Emirates.


    Emirates A380 First Class Shower

  • Korean Air. They have the most first class award space between the US and Asia. They serve 11 US cities. Business class awards between the US and Europe on their Skyteam partners cost only 40,000 miles each way (plus fuel surcharges). And Hawaii awards on their partners Hawaiian Airlines and Alaska Airlines are just 30,000 miles roundtrip in economy and 60,000 in first class.


    Korean Air First Class

  • Aegean. Star Alliance awards, with only one connection permitted, has some great values like 90,000 miles roundtrip for US-Europe business class (and North Africa is included in Europe). First class is 120,000 miles roundtrip. It’s 110,000 miles roundtrip for US-Middle East business class and 110,000 miles roundtrip for US-Africa business class. One-way awards are available at half these prices.

Starwood is not great for transfers to United MileagePlus. The transfer ratio is 2 Starpoints to 1 mile. If you want United miles, points from the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card transfer 1:1 and instantaneously.

Transfer in the Right Blocks. The most points you can transfer in a 24 hour period is 79,999. You wouldn’t want to do that, since transferring 80,000 points would get you the next 5000 mile bonus. So you usually want to transfer 60,000 points in a day instead, to maximize bonuses. Then wait until the next day to move more points over.

Transfers Aren’t Instantaneous. The biggest drawback to points transfers is that points don’t post over to airline in real-time. With both Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards, you get ‘live’ transfers to several partners (hit transfer and the points show up). Starwood, on the other hand, can take longer. So when points show up award space may already have been taken or pulled. Instead it can be wise to determine your strategy, transfer points, and then secure award space (or transfer when you know you have multiple options in case one is gone when you are able to book).

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. Hey Gary,
    What happened to Alaska freezing accounts when you transferred in a bunch of SPG points and then tried to redeem for a partner flight? Is that still continuing to happen”?

  2. It’s worth noting that SPG Flights, where you book flights directly with SPG points CAN be useful for accessing flights that might not be otherwise bookable with points.

    Not often the best value, but sometimes very useful for hard to score routings and, occasionally, the point useage is even less than booking an award seat with transferred points.

  3. If you need united miles, transfer from spg to Marriott and then from Marriott to united. That way you get better than 1:1 spg:ump

  4. Post title: “Here’s How to Make the Most of Starwood Points Transfers to Miles With Over 30 Airlines”

    This is a recycled post. It’s been recycled at least 100 times. Here is why you should never again do the above: it is outdated and there are much, much better value propositions out there. Start reading at this link https://goo.gl/UxAGUQ to a comments section on this very blog and then go down the thread from there. I kid you not. It will be an eye-opener for those who still think [brainwashed into thinking] that the starpoint is the alpha and omega of loyalty points currencies 😉

    Think again!

  5. Man you must be close to being removed as a referral partner for how much you are trying to push credit cards. Remember everyone, go right to the bank’s website- it’s safer as you don’t click through a 3rd party link to provide your information.

  6. Wow a lot of trolls out tonight.
    Gary, how hard do you think it would be for a hotel chain to invest in the infrastructure for instantaneous miles transfers? I have only ever done an instant miles transfer. Seems like Amex/SPG should follow Chase/Citi’s lead on this one.

  7. LoL@DCS anytime there is a post regarding SPG points DCS is all over it trying to explain why they aren’t the most valuable points. Get a life dude. There most be better things to do then troll SPG posts.

  8. @STANO — And here you are, trolling me!

    If you have anything substantive to say that would advance and contribute to this discussion, then go ahead and say it. Otherwise, well, go troll someone else, preferably elsewhere, because I am not the topic of the discussion here…

    G’day!

  9. DCS likes to make himself the topic of discussion anytime it’s a hotel / loyalty program other than Hilton being bashed…he just can’t help himself.

    Go start your “rah rah Hilton!” blog and watch the traffic…not come.

  10. Oh, and as for some content…yes, once can transfer UR points to let’s say British (one of 500+ programs one can transfer UR points to, no matter how crappy!!!)…and then you pay 50% more than AA Aadvantage redemptions for long-haul business/first on airlines like CX.

    So yes, SPG points have extreme value in transferring.

  11. Losing 50% of the miles through transfer of UR to BA, even if it were case, which it ain’t, would still leave me ahead compared to the hard slog of earning starpoints for the same spend. Rocket science this ain’t.

    I am done here because the canard has been shot dead — predictably, only the same one poster will keep arguing against what everyone else has already grasped.

    G’day

  12. Un-bonused spend -> SPG has an advantage
    Use SPG AmEx at Marriwood properties vs. Chase CSR -> your miles will go further CPM redemption-wise at AA vs. at BA for int’l C/F travel

    Helps to use your brain to work through the calculations, vs. just saying “I’m right and you’re wrong, just because”

  13. DCS has such ire for a program he seems to care nothing about yet he repeatedly bashes it with the persistence of the recycled posts he rails against, all under the guise of educating the great unwashed. Perhaps a Starwood hotel turned down his request for a 6 pm checkout or maybe a complimentary upgrade to the presidential suite.

  14. @Chancer – yes, just remember, guarantees are a BAD thing ;), they’re the absolute worst part of a loyalty program, just SAD…

  15. @DCS: Why compare unbonused spends on SPG vs. bonused spends on Chase cards? It’s a stupid point you keep repeating when people can have the best of both worlds. Go for bonused spends on other cards; unbonused can go to SPG. Not that others grasped what you said, the ones who truly know the game simply ignored you.

  16. @Chancer — Very silly comment. There is no “ire” here at all. I am simply telling it like it is. I did the math about what it would take to make collecting starpoints rewarding and never came up with a formula that would work, so I never bothered, but I know a thing or two about valuing points currencies.

    You’d like to continue sinking your hard currency into starpoints? I could not care less. I have no idea where you live nor what you do. Hopefully, others have much more open minds and will at least evaluate the other side, rather than continuing to drink the same stale, out of date kool-aid. BTW, do you know how many people have clicked on the link in my first comment above directing traffic to where I took on the dogma about starpoints? It’s now at 140 and counting — a new record. Now, compare that number to how many have challenged the content of the comment and wonder…

    With the way I earn my loyalty points, I can afford to patronize Starwood more than the many folks who can’t afford the program, which is by far the most expensive and least rewarding of all, but nevertheless patronize it. I did the math and I am sharing the results in a forum designed for that. To impugn ulterior motives to my clearly reasoned posts is garbage.

    Attack the message and not the messenger. It is how you win debates. I go after this blog hosts’ messages and not after hosts personally. Do you get the difference?

    GOODBYE AND GOOD LUCK.

  17. @Tanh — The really stupid thing is why anyone would go for unbonused spend at all, when there better options. But I won’t star trying to account for the stupid things that people do…It’d be a full time occupation!

    BTW, did you even read my post on this at all and why I am challenging? Do first and then pontificate.

  18. In transit and committing errors!

    “I go after blog hosts’ messages and not after hosts personally. Do you get the difference?”
    Delete “this” and make that general.

    “BTW, did you even read my post on this at all and WHAT I am challenging? Do THAT first and then pontificate.”

  19. Beyond LOL – starting off your diatribe with “This is a recycled post. It’s been recycled at least 100 times” is the exact definition of “going after the host personally”

  20. I am not surprise you’d think that but beyond LOL and the pale is disclosing other posters’ personal info in an online forum. You have no moral authority on the subject.

    Speaking the host, before he starts RIGHTLY deleting posts as too personal or stupid bickering, the floor is yours. Knock yourself out.

    G’day!

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