This is post #6 of a series regarding the Starwood Preferred Guest hotel program. 

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I wrote about this same topic last year when I found out that Mr. Deals was using his American Airlines credit card over his Starwood credit card for work expenses. I did a quick intervention, and that changed quickly! But I wanted to again point out  the benefit of the Startwood credit card for earning miles and not just Starwood points. Many people overlook the value of this card when their entire goal is to earn airline miles. I mean, why would you use a hotel credit card on every day spend when you are trying to get free flight on miles, right? WRONG! The Starwood credit card, in many cases, can actually earn you miles quicker on your every day spend than your airline specific credit card!

With the Starwood credit card, you earn 1 point for every dollar spent. With an airline specific credit card (i.e., American, US Airways, Delta), you also earn 1 point for every dollar spent. With your Starwood points you can currently transfer to 31 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 (although they are still great programs and extremely flexible). 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 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. In this situation, the Starwood credit card is NOT a good option, but instead the Chase Sapphire Preferred card. One of the best transfer options used to be LAN as points used to transfer as 1:2. This was great, however, has changed recently and is now 1:1.5. While this is still great, it is not as lucrative as it once was. You can read this prior blog post to learn more about this, but keep in mind that is has yet to be updated to reflect the change of 1:2 to 1:1.5

For example, if you were to spend $20,000 on your credit card in a given year, the Starwood card would actually give you 25,000 American Airline miles, while the American Airlines Visa will only net you 20,000 miles. Additionally, if your travel plans change and you you’d prefer to fly US Airways instead, you can transfer your points to that airline and not be pigeon holed into American. Just to note again though, some of the airline specific cards do give you extra perks when flying with them (i.e., checked baggage, priority boarding, etc.), so keep that into consideration.

Now, while this really is a great option, I do want to add that I typically find a better value by using my SPG points for Starwood hotels, especially with the cash & points option, although as I mentioned in a previous blog post that this option has decreased in value a few months ago. The valuation really depends on how you use your points and what your travel goals are. If you are looking to fly business/first class, then the airline value will be huge! If you’ve been keeping up with this blog, you know that I typically redeem my points for coach, so I do not get as good of a value, but to each their own!

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
  • China Eastern Airlines
  • China Southern Airlines’ Sky Pearl Club
  • Delta Air Lines SkyMiles
  • Emirates Skywards
  • Ethiad
  • Flying Blue
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Japan Airlines (JAL) Mileage Bank
  • King Club Miles
  • LAN LANPASS (transfer ratio – 1 SPG point : 1.5 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

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Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or suggestions expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.

  • Christian said,

    If my math is correct, you can transfer to 31 airlines, of which 28 offer 1:1 transfers or better. You might also want to add Etihad to your list as a 1:1 transfer partner. My wife and I plan on flying their first class suites from Abu Dhabi to Paris one-way for 39,500 Etihad Guestmiles each next year. Considering the 7.5 hour flight would cost almost $7,000 each, it’s not a bad redemption for 64,000 Starpoints.

  • mr g said,

    paying A $2000.00 MORTGAGE with my credit card for a fee of $14.95 is that a good deal ?

  • dealswelike said,

    @mr g – It always depends on how you typically redeem your miles, but that is equivalent to buying miles at 0.75 cents per mile, which I personally think is great!

  • dealswelike said,

    @Christian – Thanks for pointing that out. I’ve added Ethiad as well.

  • Flyer said,

    you mentioned it take quite some time for spg points to show up in airlines account. Any idea how long does it take?

  • dealswelike said,

    @Flyer – I personally do not know from personal experience as I’ve never transfered my points, but I’d assume no longer than a week. I can pull some people’s past experiences from FlyerTalk possibly.

  • Flyer said,

    I found that my spg points always posted in USair on Monday. I did two transfer, one on fri and another one on Tue, both posted on following Monday.

  • Joey said,

    I’ve transferred SPG points to Emirates Skywards and Singapore Krisflyer and both took 2-3 business days to complete.

  • LAEKflyer said,

    Depends on airline. Check flyer talk bc YMMV, pardon the pun. Still waiting for Alaska air transfer to show up. It’s been almost two weeks. Annoying when you are trying to get that awesome award before someone else!

  • Jeremy said,

    Just dove in to the SPG program with both cards and think I’ll plan on using the points for stays at SPG properties as that’s where the value seems to be best as opposed to airline transfers. If transfers were instant it’d be great as you could transfer when needed, but I’m not willing to take the risk of transferring when availability may not be there as I’ve seen some take a week. I may do some small transfers though to top up accounts as needed. I can’t recall if you can transfer odd numbers like 2,789 points to AA or something like that, if so it’d be a great way to use up all miles in a certain program as UR and MR require 1000 point increments.

  • Levy Flight said,

    For frequent flyers the SPG card does not offer the fastest way to get miles in a airlines particular program, which is faster through an airline card, Sapphire, or the Amex Biz Gold (my fav at 3x miles per purchase). As I don’t stay in SPG hotels much I value the hotel redemption options more highly. I do value the option to top off or access rarer programs.

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