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As airline miles and hotel points devalue on an all too frequent basis it’s becoming more important for travelers to keep their rewards point balances as flexible as they can to help minimise the damage the next time a hotel chain or airline decides to “enhance” their program.
One of the better ways to maintain as much flexibility as possible is to collect points that can be converted/transferred into a whole variety of loyalty programs – that way, if one of the loyalty programs devalues, you should still have a number of other options with which to work.
The four primary convertible/flexible points currencies are the offerings from Chase, Citi, American Express and Starwood:
- Chase Ultimate Rewards
- Citi ThankYou Rewards
- American Express Membership Rewards
- Starwood Starpoints
Last week and this week I’ve been taking a look at each of those currencies individually and listing out the airline and, where relevant, hotel rewards programs those currencies can be transferred into.
In this post (the last of four) I’m going to take a look at Starwood’s Starpoints.
Starwood Airline Transfer Partners
Starwood’s Starpoints may not be as sought after as they once were but they’re still one of the more valuable currencies in the miles & points world.
There are a host of different ways you can use Starpoints (you’ll find a menu by following this link) but, for the purposes of this post, I’m going to concentrate on the airline transfer options that Starpoints give you.
- You can currently transfer Starpoints into 35 different airline loyalty/rewards programs
- You can currently transfer Starpoints into 31 of those airline loyalty/rewards programs a ratio of 1 : 1
Here’s a list of all 35 of airlines (or airline loyalty programs) into which you can transfer Starpoints:
There are 16 airline loyalty/rewards programs into which you can transfer Starpoints but which do not accept transfers from any of the other major transferable currencies:
- Aegean Airlines
- Air China Companion
- New Zealand Airpoints
- Alaska Mileage Plan
- American Airlines AAdvantage
- Avianca Lifemiles
- China Eastern
- China Southern
- Gol Smiles
- Hainan Airlines
- JAL Mileage Bank
- Miles & More
- Saudi Arabian Airlines
- Velocity Frequent Flyer
That’s a lot of gaps that the banks’ transferable currencies have left that Starwood’s Starpoints fill very nicely.
Are all of them crucial? No…..but some are certainly important.
JAL Mileage bank offers some fantastic award redemption opportunities that other airlines’ rewards programs do not (I discussed one such example here) but there are only very limited opportunities to earn JAL Miles if you’re based outside of Japan – Starwood’s Starpoints come in very useful here.
Miles & More is the loyalty/rewards program shared by a number of European airlines (Lufthansa, SWISS, LOT etc…) most of which fly to and from the US – Starwood’s Starpoints are the only transferable currency that transfers into the Miles & More program.
I’m not going to try to claim that American’s AAdvantage program is a great addition to have as it’s nearly impossible to find saver award space on American’s own aircraft nowadays….but it can still be useful to be able to transfer Starpoints points to AAdvantage if you’re looking to book partner awards.
Alaska’s Mileage Plan is probably the last of the major rewards programs that worth noting here and, once again, thanks to Starpoints we have a very useful transfer partner that none of the major bank transferable currencies transfer into.
Alaska Miles can be used on Cathay Pacific to book some good value awards:
- Business Class USA to Asia roundtrip – 100,000 miles
- Business Class Europe to Asia roundtrip – 85,000 miles
- First Class USA to Asia roundtrip – 140,000 miles
- First Class: Europe to Asia roundtrip – 120,000 miles
Without Starpoints travelers would have to rely on earning Alaska Miles the hard way (by flying), using an Alaska co-branded credit card or buying miles in one of the sales.
There are a few rules you’ll need to know before you transfer Starpoints to your chose airline loyalty program.
- SPG Members can make one transfer of up to 79,999 Starpoints® per transfer partner program listed in the transfer partner drop-down menu within a 24-hour period.
- For every 20,000 Starpoints transferred by a SPG Member to a single transfer partner program within the same transaction, Starwood will automatically add an additional transfer transaction bonus of 5,000 Starpoints
Point (2) means that you should NEVER transfer 79,999 Starpoints in a single transaction (the maximum allowed per point (1)) as you will be leaving yourself 1 Starpoint short of the 5,000 point bonus.
Starpoints should, where possible, be transferred across in multiples of 20,000 so, to avoid missing out on a bonus, the maximum daily transfer should be capped at 60,000 Starpoints.
One last major rule to note is the minimum transfer rule:
There is no minimum Starpoint transfer requirement for Platinum Preferred Guests, except where transfer ratios are not 1:1.4 Gold Preferred Guests have a minimum transfer requirement of 1,500 Starpoints, and Preferred Guests have a minimum transfer requirement of 2,500 Starpoints.
I’m still a big fan of Starpoints and I use my Amex SPG Credit cards to collect the currency wherever I can’t earn a category bonus with one of my other cards – usually in places like grocery stores when I’m abroad and in drugstores when I’m back home.
With transfer options like JAL, Alaska Airlines, Etihad and even American Airlines Starpoints is hugely powerful transferable currency for travelers looking to book airline awards.