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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!
- 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
- Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express (personal)
- Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express OPEN (business)
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. My goal is for you to travel on a deal! As always, thanks for your support!