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I just got an email today from Starwood Preferred Guest announcing up to a 25% discount on the purchase of Starpoints. Through December 31, 2014, you can purchase up to 20,000 Starpoints with the following discounts:

  • 500 – 9,500 Starpoints — 3.15 cents each (10% off)
  • 10,000 – 14,500 Starpoints — 2.975 cents each (15% off)
  • 15,000 – 19,500 Starpoints — 2.8 cents each (20% off)
  • 20,000 Starpoints — 2.625 cents each (25% off)

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Should you buy Starpoints at the discounted price? Maybe…

Who shouldn’t miss this sale? Who can skip it? How can you get around the 20k Starpoint purchase cap?

I value Starpoints at 2.5 cents each, so buying them without a use already in mind doesn’t made sense at 2.625 cents each, especially when you can get the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express with a 25,000 Starpoint bonus after spending $5k within six months.

But there are a ton of Starpoint redemptions where you can get 3-4+ cents of value per point. If you have one of those redemptions ready to go, but you need a few more points, this can be a great deal. What redemptions specifically might offer you a great deal?

Nights & Flights Awards

My favorite SPG awards are Nights & Flights, which allow you to redeem Starpoints for hotel nights and airline miles at once.

  • 60,000 Starpoints: you get 50,000 American Airlines, US Airways, Delta, or other 1:1 SPG airline partner miles plus five free nights in a Category 3 hotel
  • 70,000 Starpoints: you get the same 50k airline miles plus five free nights at a Category 4 hotel

Check out my full write up of Nights & Flights Awards in How to Get 10 Nights in Hawaii and First Class Flights for Free.

Cash & Points Awards

Cash & Points Awards often let you get 3 or 4 cents of value per point by getting a hotel award night for half the normal amount of points plus a cash co-pay to make up the difference. The drawback is that they are capacity controlled, unlike free night awards, which are available whenever there is a room for sale.

Check out my full write up of Cash & Points awards in A Chance to “Buy” Starpoints for 1.1 Cents: Starwood Cash & Points Awards.

Transfer to Airline Miles

Starpoints transfer to dozens of airline partners, often at a better than 1:1 ratio. For any of the airline partners–including US Airways, American Airlines, Delta, British Airways, and many more–listed here with a 1:1 ratio, you can transfer 20k Starpoints to 25k miles.

That means buying 20k Starpoints gets you 25k miles for $525, which is 2.1 cents per mile.

I don’t value any of those miles at 2.1 cents in the abstract, but there are tons of awards you can book that get more than 2.1 cents of value from any of those miles. If you have such an award in mind and see award space, this can be a great way to get the miles you’re short.

Getting Around the 20k Purchase Limit

You are limited to purchasing 20,000 Starpoints per account per calendar year. But Starwood is encouraging folks to buy Starpoints at the discounted rate for friends and family during this promotion.

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There is no limit to how many gifts of 20k Starpoints you can give.

And the only limit to free sharing of Starpoints between accounts is that the addresses on file with SPG must be the same for 30 days before sharing. So you can buy 20k Starpoints for all the people with whom you share an address and later combine them into one account.

Don’t Expect a Category Bonus for Buying Starpoints

Starpoints purchases are through points.com, not starwood.com, so you won’t get a category bonus for hotel spending.

My Plan

I am not going to buy Starpoints now because I have enough at the moment to meet my needs.

Recap

The 25% discount on Starpoints means you can buy them for 2.625 cents each. If you have a great idea for their use, and you already have the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and business version, this can be a great deal for you. But I do not recommend buying the points speculatively.

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Asiana has the best award chart in the Star Alliance. That means that you can book any of the 27 Star Alliance airlines, including United, for fewer miles on many routes with Asiana miles than with better known programs like United, Lufthansa, LifeMiles, Singapore, and Air Canada.

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Asiana is a 1:1 transfer partner of Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints. As usual with Starpoints transfers, you get 5,000 bonus Asiana miles for every 20,000 Starpoints transferred.

If you can get your hands on Asiana miles, you can book insanely cheap awards like:

  • Lufthansa First Class between the United States and Europe for 50,000 Asiana miles one way vs. 110,000 United miles
  • United First Class between the continental United States and Hawaii for 27,500 Asiana miles one way vs. 40,000 United miles
  • United Global First between the United States and Southern South America for 45,000 Asiana miles one way vs. 70,000 United miles

Unfortunately some Asiana awards have fuel surcharges, and it took 17 days for my transfer of Starpoints to reach Asiana miles. Continue reading for:

  • Comparison tables of United award chart versus Asiana award chart
  • Fuel surcharge info on Asiana awards

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How long does it take to transfer Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints to Asiana Club Miles?

An astounding 17 days.

Why would you want to transfer Starpoints to Asiana Miles?

Starpoints transfer 1:1 to Asiana miles. As with all 1:1 Starpoints transfers, you get 5,000 bonus miles for every 20,000 points transferred.

Asiana has an incredible award chart. Asiana miles can be used to book any Star Alliance airline, often for cheaper award prices than United, Lufthansa, Avianca, Singapore, and Air Canada miles.

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  • What is the transfer procedure?
  • What are the Asiana sweet spots?

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Starting in 2015, you will only be able to transfer 250,000 Membership Rewards to Delta miles per year and 200,000 Starwood Preferred Guest points to 250,000 Delta miles per year. See Delta FAQ.

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Delta imposed the rule on American Express and Starwood, but it’s so easy to work around that it’s no big deal.

Here’s what membershiprewards.com says about the new rule:

“Beginning January 1, 2015, the maximum number of Membership Rewards® points you will be able to transfer out of a single Membership Rewards account to one or more SkyMiles accounts will be limited to 250,000 points per calendar year. Additionally, the maximum number of Membership Rewards points you will be able to transfer into a single SkyMiles account will also be limited to 250,000 points per calendar year.

You are able to transfer Membership Rewards points to a SkyMiles account without any annual limitations through December 31, 2014.”

  • What is the exact limit on transfers?
  • What are the workarounds to basically get unlimited Delta miles from Membership Rewards and Starpoints transfers?

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This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

Longtime reader Scott forwarded me an offer for the Starwood Preferred Guest personal and business credit cards that I’ve never seen before. Instead of the normal $5,000 minimum spending requirement in 6 months, these cards come with a $3,000 minimum spending requirement in the first 3 months.

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Both cards come with 25,000 bonus Starpoints after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months. That is a lower total spending requirement, but actually works out to more per month ($1,000) than the standard offer of $5,000 in 6 months ($834.)

This offer seems targeted in the sense that it was emailed to Scott, but I can open it in my browser. In my experience, banks always honor the terms of the offer that you apply for.

  • How do these offers compare to the standard offer?
  • Are you eligible for these offers if you’ve had Starwood cards before?
  • Should you wait for a 30k offer on the Starwood cards?
  • What are the best uses for Starpoints?

I’ve created comparison charts of how many mile a certain award costs with United MileagePlus miles versus the same award with Singapore KrisFlyer miles. Why?

  • Singapore Airlines miles can be used to book all the same Saver award space that United releases to its non-elite members without any fuel surcharges. That makes it a relevant comparison.
  • For many routes, the Singapore KrisFlyer program charges fewer miles to book a United flight than United charges to book the same flight. That makes it a profitable comparison.
  • Singapore miles are extremely easy to get since you can transfer all of the major transferable points to Singapore KrisFlyer miles. That makes it a useful comparison.

The major transferable points are:

I’ve compiled three charts to show whether Singapore miles or United miles are cheaper to any given destination that United serves in economy, business, and first class.

  • For which destinations are United miles cheaper?
  • For which destinations are Singapore miles cheaper?
  • What about fuel surcharges?

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Until July 31, 2014, you can transfer 20,000 SPG Starpoints to 30,000 US Airways Dividend miles.

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This promotion is identical to the current promotion to transfer 20,000 Starpoints to 30,000 American Airlines miles, which makes sense since US Airways and American Airlines have legally merged.

Yesterday I said about the American Airlines promotion: “it’s July 2nd, and I think we can probably declare this the best miles deal July will see!” Of course, such a statement was disproved in less than a day because I consider the US Airways promotion slightly better.

  • How many Starpoints can you transfer?
  • Do Starpoints transfer instantly to US Airways miles?
  • In what increment must you transfer Starpoints to maximize this deal?
  • Should you transfer your Starpoints to US Airways miles, American Airlines miles, or neither?

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Overnight, I wrote about the current Starwood/American Airlines promotion: for all of July, 20,000 Starpoints will transfer to 30,000 American Airlines miles.

I gave the facts in this post, but I was called out in the comments for not analyzing the promotion. Said DH:

“Is this offer an indication there’s an AA devaluation right around the corner? If so, is this transfer still a good idea? Starwood points are really valuable, and I doubt devalued AA miles would be anywhere close. It’d be nice if you could discuss a bit about the merits and drawbacks/risks of the transfer instead of just saying the offer is available. It’s usually your analysis of an offer that sets this site apart. Thanks.”

DH is totally right that I want this site to stand apart because I don’t just say there is a promotion, I analyze it.

In my defense, I was coming back from a night out in Brazil celebrating the USA’s World Cup run, so I wasn’t up to the analysis. But I am now, and there’s 1,500 words of it below!

  • Should you transfer Starpoints to AAdvantage miles speculatively this month?
  • What are the 30+ airline partners of Starpoints?
  • What are the 10+ to which I’d transfer?
  • What are the three best?
  • What are the strengths of those three airline programs?
  • What is my forecast for upcoming devaluations?
  • What are four other great uses of Starpoints besides airline transfers?
  • Will I transfer?
  • Should you?

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Update at 11:45 PM ET on Saturday May 31: I have sent a referral to all who have requested. To spread the love, I won’t send out any more. If you want a referral, contact one of the commentors offering to send referrals.

Until June 30, 2014, the Starwood Preferred Guest personal and business credit cards are offering 30,000 bonus Starpoints each to new cardholders who are referred by existing cardholders. This deal is much better than the current public offer of 25,000 bonus Starpoints and matches the best deal we’ve ever seen on two amazing cards.

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The applicant will get 30,000 bonus Starpoints:

  • 10,000 bonus Starpoints after first purchase
  • 20,000 bonus Starpoints after spending $5,000 in the first six months
  • $0 annual fee the first year, $65 thereafter. See Terms and Conditions of emailed offer for full details.

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The referrer gets 5,000 Starpoints.

This sign up bonus is identical to the deal that ran last August that many of us got in on. Back then I got the personal and business Starwood cards on the same day. After spending $5,000 on each card, I had 70,000 total Starpoints (60,000 bonus Starpoints plus 10,000 for the spending.)

Great Uses of Starpoints

Seventy thousand Starpoints transfer to 85,000 American, US Airways, Delta, and dozens of other airlines’ miles, since Starwood gives you 5,000 bonus miles for every 20,000 points transferred to airline miles.

So far I’ve transferred 20,000 Starpoints to 25,000 US Airways miles to top up my account for a dream First Class award to the World Cup in Brazil. And I used 6,000 to win an auction for a once-in-a-lifetime meet and great with the band Capital Cities in Argentina.

I value Starpoints at 2.5 cents each, and I certainly got more value than that from both redemptions. That means that the 70,000 potential Starpoints you can earn by getting both cards are worth $1,750 to me.

Here is my Starwood primer, so you can understand how to use Starpoints for transfers to airline miles, hotels, and all the other great uses.

Here are some in-depth articles on top uses:

As far as I can tell, the only way for an applicant to get this 30k bonus instead of the public 25k bonus is to be emailed by a current cardholder. I currently hold the personal and business SPG cards, so I can refer people.

Comment on this post with whether you’d like a referral to the personal offer, business offer, or both. The comment form asks for your email address, which I can see, but which is not public, and that’s where the offer will be sent.

 

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This is the seventh installment of a round-the-world trip report that started here. We pick up in Cambodia.

I landed at Siem Reap International Airport and got my Cambodia visa on arrival. (Make sure to have $20 in cash and a passport-sized photo. Better yet, check current requirements.)

I had booked my first night at Le Méridien Angkor to test it out and because my preferred hostel was sold out.

Le Méridien Angkor is a Category 2 SPG property, which means it costs 4,000 Starpoints for a free night Sunday through Thursday and only 3,000 points for a weekend night.

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I was staying on a weeknight. Instead of booking a free night, I decided to book a Cash & Points night for 2,000 points + $35.

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Compared to a free night, this was like “buying” 2,000 points back for 1.75 cents each, which I was happy to do to stretch my super-valuable Starpoints balance.

Using points was the way to go with a paid night at the hotel going for around $140. (Every price you see in Cambodia is in dollars. Riel are really only used by tourists for change when a price is less than $1. Conveniently when I went, the exchange rate was basically exactly 4,000 riel to the dollar.)

Outside the airport, I was offered a taxi for $10 or a scooter for $3. I pack light, and the scooter sounded more fun, so saving $7 was an easy decision!

Le Méridien Angkor is about 8 miles from the airport, 3 miles from Angkor Wat, and 1 mile outside the heart of Siem Reap.

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Whether the location is a positive or negative depends on whether you want to be in the heart of the action or in a quieter area. Transportation options are so quick and cheap that I think it doesn’t matter much.

I arrived at the hotel in the early afternoon on a beautiful day.

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Entrance
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The Grounds
  • How was the room?
  • How was the hotel’s food?
  • How were the grounds?
  • How was the service?
  • Do I recommend Le Meridien as the place to stay when visiting Angkor Wat?

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In general, you should use airline miles for flights only and hotel points for hotel stays only. There are a few exceptions.

For instance, Starpoints in your Starwood Preferred Guest account are great for hotels, but they also transfer at a favorable rate to 30 major airlines. Read my Starpoints Primer here.

Starpoints also occasionally offer incredible value through Moments by SPG. SPG Moments offer one-of-a-kind musical, sporting, or cultural experiences to Starwood Preferred Guest members.

Some of the packages are available for immediate redemption, and some are in an auction format. I was browsing the options the other day, and I ran across an “Exclusive Capital Cities Concert at Sheraton Buenos Aires.

For only 5,000 Starpoints, you can instantly get two tickets to see these guys perform in my favorite city, and two tickets to a pre-concert cocktail reception.

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At my valuation of 2.5 cents per point, that’s $125 worth of points for an awesome evening for two.

Even better, there are five auction packages that include the concert tickets, the reception tickets, and a meet-and-greet with the band.

Only two of them even have a bid.

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That’s probably because this is a band with only one hit playing a concert thousands of miles away from most SPG members eight months from now. But for me it means I can probably spend 5k points or just a little more for an option to have an incredible night in December if I’m in Buenos Aires.

There are a number of other live auctions to meet other musicians or sports stars all over the world.

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Again, this isn’t necessarily the best use of Starpoints. Nor will it appeal to everyone. But it is a nice option to have, and one to be aware of in addition to the bread-and-butter Starpoint redemptions:

Both the personal and business versions of the Starwood credit card offer 25,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 on the card in the first six months. Getting both and meeting both spending requirements would give you 60k Starpoints (which can transfer to 75k American, Delta, or US Airways miles.)

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I naturally categorize miles and points into two groups:

  1. Broadly useful
  2. Niche programs

The first type of miles are the miles you want to stockpile if you’re hoping to follow a simple mile-accumulation strategy to meet all your future travel goals. Ideally these miles benefit from cheap award charts across all classes of service and to all regions without incurring fuel surcharges on awards.

By contrast, niche programs have some great values on their award charts, but lots of flaws. Maybe the program collects fuel surcharges on most awards, or charges too much for redemptions in premium cabins, or simply doesn’t release much Saver award space on flights.

Niche programs can be ignored my those who merely dabble in miles collection, but serious miles collectors should  know the strengths of and collect miles in niche programs too.

Which miles do I consider broadly useful? Which programs do I consider niche programs? What are the niche programs’ strengths?

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