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Most people do not realize that if your entire goal is to earn airline miles, then the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express or Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express OPEN are in fact better than most 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. This is of course for every day spend, not for purchases at Starwood or the specific airline directly.
Unlike other hotel programs, a decent redemption opportunity with Starwood is transferring your points to miles. With your Starwood points you can currently transfer to over 30 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, 10,000 points one day and 10,000 points another day, you will not receive those extra 5k miles.
This transfer option makes Starwood one of the most flexible loyalty programs, 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, earning points in this program is great! 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. If you are looking to accrue United miles then the Chase Sapphire Preferred card is suggested as it has a 1:1 transfer option to United (the Chase Sapphire Preferred is limited on airline transfer options, but does include United, Southwest, Virgin Atlantic, Korean Airlines, and British Airways).
So let’s compare using an American Airlines credit card vs. the Starwood credit card for your every day spend. If you were to spend $20,000 on your credit card in a given year, the Starwood credit card would yield 25,000 AA miles, while the American Airlines Visa will yield 20,000 AA miles. Additionally, if your travel plans change and you prefer to instead use your 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 an 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. Some other credit cards are offering up to 100,000 points/miles (check this page for other travel credit card offers), but as mentioned, do not allow the flexibility or their points aren’t valued as high. 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!
Keep in mind though this card, along with other flexible credit cards, are only worthwhile if you can get more then 2 cents per point or mile on your redemption. If you typically redeem for less then a cash back credit card is the way to go.
- Aeromexico Club Premier
- 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
- Etihad Airways
- Flying Blue (transfer ratio – 2 SPG point : 1 mile)
- Go! Smiles
- Hainan Airlines
- Hawaiian Airlines
- Japan Airlines (JAL) Mileage Bank
- LAN LANPASS (transfer ratio – 1 SPG point : 1.5 miles)
- 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)
- Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
- Virgin Australia
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. My goal is for you to travel on a deal! As always, thanks for your support!