Starwood Amex Card – Getting a Great Value by Transfering Points To Airline Miles

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If you’ve been following my blog religiously, you know that I am a huge advocate of the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Credit Card. This past summer I found out that my husband was using his American Airlines credit card over his SPG credit card for his work expenses. There was no way I was going to let that fly! That changed pronto!

Most people do not realize that if your entire goal is to earn airline miles, then the SPG credit card is in fact better than an airline specific credit card. As strange as that sounds, it’s true! With the SPG credit card you earn 1 point for every dollar spent. With an airline specific credit card (i.e., AA, Delta, United, etc.) you also earn 1 mile for every dollar spent. Therefore, with every purchase the SPG points you earn are equal to the miles you would earn, right?!

Unlike other hotel programs, a decent redemption opportunity with Starwood is transferring your points to miles (you can read my other top redemption suggestions here). With your Starwood points you can currently transfer to 29 partner airlines! And, almost all of the partner airlines transfer at a 1:1 ratio (except a few which I will get into in a minute). Now, the kicker is for every 20,000 points you transfer you will receive of bonus of 5,000 miles – that is a 25% bonus! This is NOT a limited time promotion, but instead ALWAYS part of the Starwood program. However, to receive the bonus miles, you must transfer in increments of 20,000 points at a time. If you transfer, for example, 10k points one day and 10k points another day, you will not receive those extra 5k miles.

This transfer option makes Starwood the most flexible program, in my opinion. There is not one other hotel program that offers this flexibility, and even American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards do not have as many options. While you will not get the perks that come along with the airline specific credit cards when flying on that airline, if you are primarily in it for maximizing your points and love flexibility, this program is calling your name! Of course there are always a few downsides to every program, and the biggest limitation is the length of time it takes when transferring your points. Points do not post immediately to the transferring airline, so if you are looking for a reward ticket immediately, this transfer opportunity will not benefit you. Additionally, if your airline of choice is United or Continental, you will only receive half the number of miles as you would transferring to other airlines – the redemption ratio is 2:1, where most of the other airlines is 1:1.

To go back to the American Airlines vs. Starwood credit card example: If my husband were to spend $20,000 on his credit card in a given year, the Starwood credit card would yield him 25,000 AA miles, while the American Airlines Visa will yield him 20,000 AA miles. Additionally, if his travel plans change and he prefers (more so if I prefer) to instead use his points at a Starwood hotel or on another airline, that can be done easily. With earning points solely on AA there is no flexibility and the miles must be redeemed on AA or a AA partner airline.

I know what the comments on this post are going to be – the Starwood credit card sign up bonus is not nearly as good as some of the airline specific credit cards and that is where one can obtain the most number of points/miles. And you are correct. The highest Starwood American Express bonus I have ever seen is 35,000 bonus points and that is offered about 1 time a year, if that. So like every airline and hotel program, there are always pros and cons. If you already have your airline specific credit card and are not eligible to earn the new application bonus again, this is another way to maximize those bonus points and great for your everyday spend!

Participating Airlines:

  • Aeroplan/Air Canada
  • Air Berlin
  • Air China Companion
  • Air New Zealand & Air Points (transfer ratio – 65 SPG points : 1 mile)
  • Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan
  • Alitalia MilleMiglia
  • All Nippon Airways (ANA) Mileage Club
  • American Airlines AAdvantage
  • Asia Miles
  • Asiana Airlines
  • British Airways Executive Club
  • Continental Airlines(R) OnePass (transfer ratio – 2 SPG points : 1 mile)
  • Delta Air Lines SkyMiles
  • Emirates Skywards
  • Flying Blue
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Japan Airlines (JAL) Mileage Bank
  • King Club Miles
  • LAN LANPASS (transfer ratio – 1 SPG point : 2 miles)
  • Mexicana Frecuenta
  • Lufthansa Miles and More
  • Qatar Airways
  • Saudi Arabian Airlines Alfursan
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Thai Airways International Royal Orchid Plus
  • US Airways Dividend Miles
  • United Mileage Plus (transfer ratio – 2 SPG points : 1 mile)
  • VARIG Smiles (transfer ratio – 2 SPG points : 1 mile)
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

Key Links:

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. My goal is for you to travel on a deal! As always, thanks for your support!



  1. Thank you for laying out all the details and benefits of this card in a simple, clear post! I’ve been trying to explain to some people why, after you’ve opened up a card with a big bonus and flexible redemptions (like Chase Sapphire), this should be the next card you get. Now I can just link them here and save my breath 😉

    • @SM – Glad this was easy to follow! Aside from the sign up bonus, I personally find this card to have the best value. The Ultimate Rewards shopping mall has had some unbelievable deals lately though! Each card has its own purpose, right?!

  2. Wouldn’t a 2% cash back card be better for spend? You can usually obtain miles for less than 2 cents through other means. Also, with a non-amex card you can buy AMEX GCs through big crumbs and generate even more cash back. You can’t really do that with an AMEX card (like SPG) without risking AMEX financial review. So what it comes down to is if you really want to maximize the value of spend, SPG may be a relatively poor choice.

  3. @ hmaia SPG transfer to LAN @ 1:2 ratio. So 20K points adds the 5k bonus at twice the value making it 50k for a 20k transfer.

    • @TheShadow762 and hmaia – That is correct. The 1:2 ratio is unbelievable. This program services South America so is a great option when flying from the US/Canada or within South America. For example, flying from the US to Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador for 48,000 miles. With the 1:2 transfer rate, you will only need to transfer 20,000 SPG points to the LAN frequent flyer program, which is pretty amazing! Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay is 70,000 miles (or 30,000 Starwood points).

      Also, LANPASS is part of the OneWorld alliance so you can use your LAN points on partner routes as well. This award chart is based on distance.

      Stay tuned for a blog post about this redemption opportunity!

  4. I like it only for cash and points.

    You can’t beat the chase sapphire card and it’s crazy for anyone to say its your to go to card. Of course it’s better than the airline or hotel specific card but it’s not better than the chase saphire + chase ink + chase freedom. How can SPG points be better when I get 2 points for travel, 2 points for dining, 2 points for gas, and 5 points for rotating categories compared to 1 point — that’s not even including the 7% return or the rewards mall.

    Then to combine all these points and be able to use it on all the major airplane alliances and Hyatt — can’t be beat. Sure, Starwood has more hotels but if you can get Hyatt points faster that means you can get to vacation faster.

    You probably Want people to use your link to get the referral — which I have no problem with since I’m sure you put lots of time in it — but you can’t possibly say that it’s the best card out there to all the newbies like me.

    Just my 2 cents.

    • @Amitdelia – Thanks for your comment. You are absolutely correct, the Starwood credit card is not the best credit card out there. There is actually not one single credit card that is the best all around. The best credit card really depends on the person – their purchasing habits and what they ideally want to redeem for. If someone typically flies Delta or American Airlines, then the Chase credit cards you mentioned will not work well. For someone who ideally wants Continental/United points, then the Chase cards are definitely the best. I agree that the Hyatt points with Chase are a great redemption opportunity, but the point of this post was “why to use your starwood credit card vs. an an airline specific credit card” while point out the transferring opportunity. This was not a comparison against the Chase Sapphire or American Express credit cards. As mentioned in the post, each credit card has their pros and cons. I agree with you that the cash & points redemption is by far the best opportunity. Sounds like another blog post to come! Thanks and feel free to email/comment with any additional points.

  5. I have accumulated 150,000 points on my American Express Gold Card. When I look at the diminishing airline partners they are linked with and also the poor value of airline vs. hotel points, I am tempted to transfer all my miles to my SPG account. I just saw that they are running A “sale” where they are discounting the transfer rate by 40%. I am not that knowledgebale about points. Can someone advise?

    • @Eric – Where do you see the 40% transfer discount from Amex to SPG? Can you please send me that link. Thanks! A 40% discount would be worth it, but typically transferring to SPG is a pretty poor transfer value with AMEX.

  6. I just got the card, met the minimum spend by staying at Sheraton Waikiki over Christmas. The res was in my boyfriend’s name but I paid for the rooms (there were two) on my SPG Amex card. I got my SPG sign up bonuses (10,000 & 15,000) but have not gotten any bonus points for the stay. Do you know if the bonus points take longer to post?

    • @jtehmom – You should receive the points for the stay within a few days of checking out. Sometimes when the reservation is under one name and the credit card is under another wires get crossed and no points are given. Which SPG number was on the account, yours or your boyfriends?

  7. I came across this post doing research for redeeming LAN miles (km). I see that great value in transfering 20k SPG points to get 50k LAN “points”. Which SUPPOSEDLY allows you to book a ticket from the US to SA. But I’ve been trying for hours to actually find a ticket priced to Brazil for 48k LAN km (flying out of SFO – one of LAN’s hubs). It’s virtually non-existent, at least from my experience! Has anybody successfully booked a 48k LAN km reward (US to SA)??

  8. I am mulling over what card is best for regular spending… my BA card gets 1.25 points per dollar, my AAdvantage is at 2pts per dollar, my Gold AMEX is 2 pts for gas and restaurants. These 2pts per dollar make them my favorite cards. I also have a capital one card that is 1.25 per dollar. It all makes my head spin! But it seems that the starwood card might as well be 1.25 per dollar, since that’s the rate it transfers at (20pts transferred equal 25pts to spend).

    • @jp – I understand! Maybe a post on best cards for regular spend is needed. How do you get 2pts with your AA card?

  9. This card charges foreign transaction fees which add up significantly if you travel outside of the USA. Even worse, if you stay at a Starwood hotel overseas they often charge in local currency and won’t let you charge in dollars which means you pay the transaction fees 3% and that offsets any points benefits of this card.

  10. I’m trying to accumulate Jetblue points but see that it is not listed as a participating airline. I do see that Hawaiian airlines is listed, which is a partner for jet blue. Wondering if it would be easier to transfer the SPG points to hawaiian, then to jet blue. Or is it possible just to transfer the AMEX points on the SPG to the AMEX points on the jet blue card?

    • @dana – I lost you a little there. Do you have SPG points or AMEX Membership Reward points?

      If it is SPG points you cannot transfer points to JetBlue. Amex Membership Reward points, however, do transfer to JetBlue.

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