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I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

Update 8/30/15: This offer ends Monday August 31, 2015.

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Until August 31, 2015, you can transfer 20,000 SPG Starpoints to 30,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles. This is a repeat of an awesome promo we saw July 2014.

Screen Shot 2015-08-07 at 2.45.27 AM

 

This is not the only SPG transfer bonus at the moment, with Aeroplan offering something similar.

  • How many Starpoints can you transfer?
  • Do Starpoints transfer instantly to American Airlines miles?
  • In what increment must you transfer Starpoints to maximize this deal?
  • How many Starpoints should you transfer speculatively?

Here’s what American Airlines says:

From July 1 through August 31, 2015, convert your Starpoints® to AAdvantage miles and earn a 20% bonus on the amount of AAdvantage miles you receive from the conversion.

As always, for every 20,000 Starpoints transferred within the same transaction, SPG® will automatically add another 5,000 Starpoints.

With the additional 20% mileage bonus offered by the AAdvantage program, you’ll receive 30,000 miles from the transaction.

The bottom line is 20,000 SPG Starpoints = 30,000 American Airlines miles until August 31.

  • 20,000 Starpoints = 20,000 AAdvantage miles (1:1 transfer partner)
  •  Standard SPG bonus = 5,000 AAdvantage miles per 20,000 Starpoints transferred
  • AAdvantage 20% mileage bonus = 5,000 AAdvantage miles
  • Total: 20,000 Starpoints = 30,000 AAdvantage miles

How Many Starpoints Can You Transfer?

You can transfer up to 79,999 Starpoints per 24 hours to an airline. Since you need to send Starpoints in exact 20k point increments to maximize transfer bonuses, the effective limit is 60,000 Starpoints per day to 90,000 American Airlines miles.

Starpoints do not transfer instantly to American Airlines miles. The transfer usually take 2-4 days in my experience.

Other than the daily limit, there is no limit to the number of Starpoints you can transfer to American Airlines miles during this promotion.

Speculative Transfers

I value Starpoints at 2.5 cents each and AAdvantage miles at 1.8 cents each, so I’d rather have 30,000 American Airlines miles than 20,000 Starpoints. However, I am not going to rush off and convert all my Starpoints to American Airlines miles for two reasons:

  1. Transferring kills the option value of holding transferable points. What if for my next award Asiana or Singapore or British Airways or Delta miles are better than American Airlines miles? I’d rue my transfer.
  2. I expect an American Airlines award chart devaluation announcement in the next few months that kicks in around the beginning of 2016. Here’s a post where I asked several miles experts to predict the next American Airlines devlauation’s size and timing.

For that reason, I’ll only transfer Starpoints to American Airlines miles that I reasonably expect to burn by the end of 2015 for travel through late 2016.

Getting Starpoints

You can’t get Starpoints by August 31 by opening a new credit card, but this promotion highlights one of the many reasons you’d want to get a new Starwood Preferred Guest personal or business card.

Both cards offer 25,000 bonus Starpoints after spending $3,000 in the first three months.

Get More American Airlines Miles

For a limited time, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® offers 75,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $7,500 in the first three months. That means you’ll have 82,500 American Airlines miles after meeting the spending requirement.

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 2.52.22 PM

Included in the $450 annual fee, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® offers Admirals Club lounge membership, meaning you can access over 90 American Airlines Clubs in airports around the world whenever you’re flying–even if you’re not flying on American. Plus you can bring in any two guests for free OR your spouse and all children under 18 for free on each visit.

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Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get an additional $500 in free airfare on any airline in the first 12 months plus free airport lounge access worldwide for only a $450 annual fee. Why I got the card.

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I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

Yesterday I wrote about Starwoord Preferred Guest Starpoints being transferable to Korean SkyPass miles. I wrote some about the rules of SkyPass awards, and I mentioned that the best awards to book with Korean miles are SkyTeam First Class awards and awards to Hawaii.

This post will focus on Korean First Class award space because it is the most available international First Class award space I’ve ever seen.

  • How do you search Korean First Class award space?
  • How available is it?
  • What is the price?
  • What is the product?

Search Korean Award Space

You can search Korean First Class award space on Korean Air’s website. Just tick Award Booking. You will have to sign in to a SkyPass account to award search, but joining is free and you don’t need miles in your account to search.

Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 3.05.20 PM

You can also search award space on the paid Expert Flyer website. That allows you to see a week of search results on one screen, so many of the screenshots in this post come from there.

Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 2.34.59 PM

Korean First Class Availability

Korean flies to Seoul from 11 American cities.

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It features a First Class cabin on all 11 routes, including Honolulu.

I searched award availability for one week for each route on Expert Flyer. I spread my searches throughout the calendar. In total, there were 87 flights searched because because the cities ranged from 3 to 17 flights per week. On 84 of those 87 flights, there was at least one award seat in First Class.

Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 2.35.19 PMThe most common number of First Class seats available were 2, 3, and 6.Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 2.36.03 PMScreen Shot 2015-08-19 at 2.36.39 PMSome days, I saw as many as 14 First Class seats spread across three flights.Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 2.39.00 PM

Korean also operates First Class cabins on many intra-Asia flights. Here are the possible connections from Seoul.

Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 2.33.22 PMPrice

Hopefully you can read this award chart, which I’ve spliced up to show the prices from North America to the destinations in the farthest left column. The chart shows roundtrip award prices. You can fly one way for half price.

Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 3.23.36 PMScreen Shot 2015-08-19 at 3.24.01 PMScreen Shot 2015-08-19 at 3.24.20 PM Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 3.24.35 PM Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 3.24.45 PM Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 3.24.56 PM

Korea, Japan, and China are 80,000 miles one way in First Class during off peak times. Southeast Asia is 95,000 miles, and the Indian Subcontinent is 105,000 miles.

Prices are about 50% higher during the peak window, which only affects 60-70 days a year. If you want to fly Off Peak, it is very easy to do. Just avoid these peak dates:

Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 4.00.29 PM

Region definitions:

Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 3.22.46 PM

In addition to miles, you’ll pay taxes (very low) and fuel surcharges. Fuel surcharges vary by destination but from the United States to Korea are usually $80 or less each way. From the United States to Southeast Asia, they can hit about $180 one way.

Product

Korean Airlines lists five First Class products. All are fully flat beds.

Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 3.37.36 PM

The best one, the Kosmo Suites 2.0 was introduced in May 2015, and this blogpost (Google Translate) says they will be on the 747-8i, 787-9, 777-300ER, and A330-300. It looks like they will only be on new planes delivered, and other planes will not be retrofitted. I do not think all 777-300ERs or A330s will have them.

Unfortunately I cannot find better information about which First Class product is on each plane. Anyone with info should leave it in the comments.

Getting Korean Miles

Ultimate Rewards transfer 1:1 instantly to Korean miles

SPG points transfer 1:1 to Korean miles, and for every 20,000 Starpoints transferred, you get 5,000 extra Korean miles. So to get 80,000 Korean miles, you’d need to transfer 65,000 Starpoints. Starpoints transfers are not instant. In a few days, we’ll probably know how long they take.

The Starwood Preferred Guest personal and business credit cards from American Express are offering their once-a-year 30,000 Starpoints bonuses. The personal card requires spending $3,000 in the first three months, and the business card requires spending $5,000 in the first three months to unlock the bonuses.

Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 11.20.20 PM

The increased bonus is only for applicants approved by September 14, 2015.

Links:

Bottom Line

First Class award space on Korean Air is available on nearly every flight for 2+ passengers. You can book it for as little as 80,000 Korean miles one way plus under $100 of taxes and fuel surcharges.

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Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get an additional $500 in free airfare on any airline in the first 12 months plus free airport lounge access worldwide for only a $450 annual fee. Why I got the card.

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I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

SPG Starpoints now transfer to 33 airlines with the addition of Korean SkyPass Miles to the list. Korean SkyPass is a 1:1 transfer partner, and, as with all 1:1 transfer partners, for every 20,000 points transferred, you get 5,000 bonus miles.

Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 3.30.05 PM

Examples:

  • 15,000 Starpoints = 15,000 Korean miles
  • 20,000Starpoints = 25,000 Korean miles
  • 25,000 Starpoints = 30,000 Korean miles
  • 60,000 Starpoints = 75,000 Korean miles

You can transfer Starpoints to airline miles here. Transfers take several days to post as mile, and one transfer to Asiana miles took two weeks to post.

You can also transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards to Korean SkyPass Miles at a 1:1 ratio. Those transfers are instant.

Here are some quick things to know about the Korean program:

Best Uses

  • Redeeming for SkyTeam First Class like Korean First Class and China Southern First Class. Delta SkyMiles cannot be redeemed for international First Class.
  • Redeeming to Hawaii on Delta for 25,000 Korean miles roundtrip in economy and 45,000 Korean miles roundtrip in First Class. Redeeming to Hawaii on Hawaiian or Alaska costs 30k/60k roundtrip in economy/First

Award Charts

All award charts list roundtrip prices. You can fly awards with only Korean Air flights one way for half price. All other awards must be booked roundtrip.

Weird Rules (Some Good)

  • No close-in booking fee
  • No award change fee
  • No award cancellation fee
  • Free five day award holds
  • With your miles, you can only book an award for yourself, grandparents, parents, spouse, brothers, sisters, children, grandchildren, parents-in law, sons-in-law and daughters-in-law
  • Convoluted award ticketing requires sending a copy of your passport
  • Korean collects fuel surcharges on award tickets. (There are no fuel surcharges on flights on Delta, Hawaiian, or Alaska within North America.)
  • You get one stopover per one way award on Korean flights in addition to the destination
  • There are peak and off peak award dates for Korean flights (not SkyTeam or other partner awards)
    Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 4.00.29 PM
  • You get two stopovers per roundtrip SkyTeam award in addition to the destination

Korean First Class

Korean Airlines First Class is excellent, especially on its A380, which features a fully flat enclosed suite.

Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 3.30.56 PM

Award space is wide open in the cabin, since there is little competition for the seats with miles. Fuel surcharges between the United States and Korea are about $162 roundtrip.

Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 3.24.56 PM

You can search Korean First Class award space on ExpertFlyer. Here’s how. You can search the fuel surcharges on ITA Matrix. Here’s how.

Getting SPG Points

The Starwood Preferred Guest personal and business credit cards from American Express now come with 30,000 bonus Starpoints, up from the normal sign up bonus is 25,000 points. The personal card requires spending $3,000 in the first three months, and the business card requires spending $5,000 in the first three months to unlock the bonuses.

Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 11.20.20 PM

The increased bonus is only for applicants approved by September 14, 2015.

Application Links:

Bottom Line

SPG adding Korean as a transfer partner is awesome news, and further cements Starpoints’ status as the most valuable transferable points. Transfer your Starpoints or Ultimate Rewards to Korean miles to book trips to Hawaii or Korean First Class.

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Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get an additional $500 in free airfare on any airline in the first 12 months plus free airport lounge access worldwide for only a $450 annual fee. Why I got the card.

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I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

The Starwood Preferred Guest personal and business credit cards from American Express now come with 30,000 bonus Starpoints, up from the normal sign up bonus is 25,000 points. The personal card requires spending $3,000 in the first three months, and the business card requires spending $5,000 in the first three months to unlock the bonuses.

Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 11.20.20 PM

The increased bonus is only for applicants approved by September 14, 2015.

Links:

Quick Facts

  • Sign Up Bonus: 30,000 bonus Starpoints after spending $3,000 (personal) or $5,000 (business) on the card in the first three months
  • Category Bonuses: 2x on on SPG stays
  • Value of Staroints: I value Starpoints at 2.5 cents each
  • Global Acceptance: Chip technology and no foreign transaction fees
  • Annual Fee: $0 for the first 12 months, $95 per year afterwards
  • Eligibility: You can’t get the personal bonus if you’ve ever gotten the personal bonus before. You can’t get the business bonus if you have the card currently or cancelled it in the last 12 months.

Sign Up Bonus

Until September 14, The Starwood Preferred Guest personal and business credit cards from American Express now come with 30,000 bonus Starpoints, up from the normal sign up bonus is 25,000 points. The personal card requires spending $3,000 in the first three months, and the business card requires spending $5,000 in the first three months to unlock the bonuses.

Subject to the eligibility section below, you can get both cards at once.

 

If you get both cards, you’ll have to spend $8,000 in the first six months of cardmembership to unlock the sign up bonuses. In return, you’ll get one Starpoint per dollar spent plus a 30,000 point bonus on each card for a total of 60,000 Starpoints. I get at least 2.5 cents of value per Starpoint in the following ways, meaning a total value of at least $1,500 to me.

1. Free Night Awards

Starpoints can be used for free nights at any Sheraton, W, Westin, Le Meridien, Aloft, Four Points, St. Regis, Element, or Luxury Collection Hotel. Free nights start at 2,000 points per night. And the best part is: If a standard room is for sale, you can book it with Starpoints. Free night awards are not capacity controlled like award flights are.

Here is the Free Night Awards chart:

Book a four night award at Category 3-7 hotels and get a 5th night free. Here are the total prices for five nights:

Le Meridien Chiang Rai is only 3,000 points per night

As another example of Free Night Awards, the cheapest SPG property in Hawaii is the Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa at Keauhou Bay, a category 4 property that costs 10k points per night or 40k for five nights, using the 5th Night Free pricing.

2. Cash & Points Awards

Cash & Points awards are a way to stretch your cash and your Starpoints. You’ll generally get even more value from your Starpoints through these awards though they are capacity controlled. Here is the Cash & Points chart:

As you’ll notice, a Cash & Points night requires half the Starpoints of a free night plus a cash co-pay.

Unless I were taking advantage of the 5th Night Free with Free Night Awards, a discounted weekend night, or I was cash poor at the moment, I would look to choose a Cash & Points award over a Free Night. Just do the math on each redemption to see whether a Free Night or Cash & Points night offers you more value for your points.

3. Transfer to Airlines with a Miles Bonus

For people who eschew chain hotels, Starpoints are incredibly valuable to transfer to airline miles because their are so many partner airlines, and with all 1:1 transfer partners you receive 5,000 bonus miles for every 20,000 Starpoints transferred.

Starpoints transfer to 30 airlines in total, mostly at favorable rates. Starpoints have far better options than Membership Rewards, Ultimate Rewards, and ThankYou Points.

I think the best options are American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, and Asiana, none of which transfer with Membership Rewards, Ultimate Rewards, or ThankYou Points. Starpoints transfer in a 20k points to 25k miles ratio (1:1.25) to all three airlines.

I love American Airlines miles luxurious First Class cabins of their partners like Cathay Pacific, Etihad, and Japan Airlines and super cheap off peak awards in economy.

I love Alaska Airlines, which partners with Cathay Pacific and has an underpriced award chart to Africa, charging only 70,000 miles one way in First Class from the US to Johannesburg on 24+ hours of Cathay Pacific flights. Alaska also partners with Emirates, so you can book from the United States to Asia, Europe, or Africa in Emirates A380 First Class for 100,000 miles one way.

Asiana is ideal for awards to South America or Europe on United or Star Alliance partners. Its award chart is way under-priced compared to competitors like 27,500 miles from Honolulu to Bogota or 50,000 miles for Lufthansa First Class.

Other partners where I would consider transferring Starpoints include:

(Note that many of the airlines on this bulleted list are Membership Rewards, Ultimate Rewards, or ThankYou Points partners, and I would rather transfer those points to these airlines, since I value Starpoints more.)

The one glaring weakness in the airline transfer partners is that United is not a 1:1 transfer partner, 20k Starpoints transfers to only 12,500 United miles. Avoid that transfer and earn Ultimate Rewards instead to transfer to United.

But apart from that, the transfer partner list is astoundingly excellent, featuring US-based representatives and major independent airlines. You can get on most commercial flights worldwide through one of these transfer partners.

Other Important Things to Know about the Starwood Preferred Guest Program

Status

Both the Starwood personal and business cards confer 2 stay credits and 5 night credits toward elite status, and they are cumulative, so if you get approved for both cards, you’ll have 4 stays and 10 nights credited to my account, leaving you just 6 stays or 15 nights short of Gold Status.

Gold Status entitles you to free internet and a 4 PM checkout. You also get an extra Starpoint per dollar on Starwood purchases, so cardholders with Gold Status get 5 Starpoints per dollar.

4x or 5x

Cardholders can earn 4 points per dollar on Starwood purchases, 5 points per dollar if they have Gold Status. This breaks down to 2 points per dollar for the spending normally plus another 2 points per dollar if the spending is on a Starwood card.

Combine Points

You can combine points between Starwood accounts if both parties have had the same address on file for 30 days.

This is hugely important, since certain blocks of Starpoints are critical. For instance, if you and your wife each have 10k Starpoints, you could each transfer them to your respective American Airlines accounts and have 10k miles in two accounts. Or you could combine the Starpoints and send the points to one person’s American Airlines accounts, leaving you with 25k American Airlines miles in one account after the transfer bonus.

Nights & Flights

I probably should give Nights & Flights more billing because it might be a better deal than Free Night Awards, Cash & Points awards, and airline transfers. With Nights & Flights, you get five hotel nights and 50,000 airline miles for only 60-70k Starpoints.

Unfortunately the award is limited to Category 3 and 4 hotels. But the price is unbeatable. Going back to the Sheraton in Kona discussed above, for 70k Starpoints, you could get five free nights at the property plus 50k American Airlines miles to get there (you only need 35k).

Moments

A lot of airlines and hotels, want you to blow your points on overpriced experiences and merchandise, but Starwood Moments have some good values. I spent 6,000 Starpoints to attend a Capital Cities concert in Buenos Aires and meet the band.

IMG_20141204_193808

 

Eligibility

Eligibility is separate for each card. The current American Express rule is that you can only get one sign up bonus per lifetime on personal cards, so if you’ve ever had the personal card before, you can’t get it again with bonus now.

The business card rule is different:

“This offer is also not available to applicants who have had this product within the last 12 months.” That means to be eligible for either card, you must have never had it OR had it but cancelled it more than 12 months ago.

Recap

Currently, both the personal and business versions of the Starwood Preferred Guest credit card have a 30,000 Starpoint sign up bonus.

Getting both cards gives you 68,000 total Starpoints after meeting their minimum spending requirements. Through Free Nights, Cash & Points, airline transfers, and Nights & Flights, I get at least 2.5 cents of value per Starpoint.

Further Reading:

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If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get an additional $500 in free airfare on any airline in the first 12 months plus free airport lounge access worldwide for only a $450 annual fee. Why I got the card.

I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

Right now 40k Starpoints plus taxes will get you a roundtrip economy class trip to Europe, 65k Starpoints will get you a roundtrip Business Class ticket, and 80k will get you a roundtrip First Class ticket.

Starpoints always transfer to dozens of airlines at a rate of 20k Starpoints to 25k miles. On top of that standard bonus, until August 24, 2015, Aeroplan is giving a bonus of up to 40k miles on transfers of hotel points to Aeroplan miles.
Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 1.07.21 PM

Transfers in from any of these partners count, and the best deal is to transfer in SPG Starpoints.Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 1.07.33 PM Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 1.07.46 PM

The normal transfer bonus on Starpoints-to-miles plus this special Aeroplan transfer bonus combine to mean you can get up to 56% more Aeroplan miles than you had Starpoints. You can redeem the Aeroplan miles on a cheap award chart on Air Canada flights or any Star Alliance carrier.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 9.14.50 PM

If you redeem to Western Europe on United, Swiss, Turkish, Brussels, Ethiopian, or Scandinavian flights, you’ll pay only 40k/65k/80k Starpoints in economy/Business/First with no fuel surcharges.

Screen Shot 2015-04-01 at 12.02.27 PM

  • How can you take maximum advantage of this promotion?
  • How can you avoid the fuel surcharges?
  • Where do you search? How do you search?
  • Where do you book?
  • How good of a deal is 40k Starpoints to Europe or 80k Starpoints in First Class?

The Deal

Starpoints always transfer to dozens of airlines at a 1:1 rate. For every 20k transferred, you get 5k bonus miles. My favorite airlines transfer partners are American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, and Asiana.

Ordinarily I wouldn’t consider Air Canada’s program, Aeroplan, because Aeroplan collects fuel surcharges on most partners, though not on flights operated by:

  • United
  • Singapore
  • South African
  • Egyptair
  • Air China
  • Ethiopian
  • Avianca
  • TACA
  • Copa
  • Swiss
  • Turkish
  • Brussels
  • Scandinavian

Aeroplan is running a compelling promotion through August 24, 2015. Transfer hotel points and get bonus Aeroplan miles. All transfers from the listed partners will be summed to determine one’s bonus threshold.

 

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 1.07.21 PMScreen Shot 2015-08-05 at 1.07.33 PM

The relevant transfers for Western Europe awards with Aeroplan miles are:

  • 40k Starpoints transfer to 50k Aeroplan miles + 10k bonus Aeroplan miles for 60,000 total Aeroplan miles (50% bonus). This is enough miles for a roundtrip economy award to Western Europe* from the continental US, Alaska, and Canada.
  • 65k Starpoints transfer to 80k Aeroplan miles + 10k bonus Aeroplan miles for 90,000 total Aeroplan miles (38% bonus). This is enough miles for a roundtrip Business Class award to Western Europe* from the continental US, Alaska, and Canada.
  • 80k Starpoints transfer to 100k Aeroplan miles + 25k bonus miles for 125,000 total Aeroplan miles (56% bonus). This is enough miles for a roundtrip First Class award to Western Europe* from the continental US, Alaska, and Canada.

*Western Europe includes the countries defined as Europe 1 on the chart, Europe 2 is more expensive.

Screen Shot 2013-11-20 at 10.55.57 PM

Similar deals are available to Southern South America. Check the award chart to see how many Aeroplan miles you need.

Maximizing Aeroplan Awards

Aeroplan awards allow for two stopovers in addition to your destination.

Aeroplan collects fuel surcharges on most partners. For instance, fuel surcharges of over $500 per person per roundtrip are instituted on Lufthansa economy awards. Only fly partners listed in this article to avoid fuel surcharges.

Searching for Surcharge-Free Space

We want to book our Aeroplan award on partners on which no fuel surcharges are collected. The best place to search for space on United flights is united.com. On an advanced search, tick the box to search only United flights.

Screen Shot 2013-11-20 at 11.05.07 PM

Search results–and the search calendar–will only display United flights.

To search for other surcharge-free options to Europe like Swiss, Brussels, Turkish, Scandinavian, or Ethiopian, find routes that they fly and check Nonstop Flights Only on the united.com advanced search.

Once you’ve found your surcharge-free flights, head to aeroplan.com to book them. Aeroplan will have access to all Saver United space, and all partner space that shows up on united.com. You can mix-and-match these partner flights and still have no fuel surcharges.

Booking on Aeroplan.com

Booking the award space on aeroplan.com is easy. Search the dates and cabins you found on united.com. I found award space from Washington to Brussels to Copenhagen to Washington on united.com.

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 1.39.53 PM Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 1.42.49 PM

 

Then I searched for the space on aeroplan.com.

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Each flight I found was the top result for the day I searched. I pieced it together for 90,000 Aeroplan miles + $89. That would be only 65k Starpoints at current rates.

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Lufthansa First Class

Many people will want to use this deal to book Lufthansa First Class. I don’t recommend that.

Asiana miles can always book Lufthansa First Class for 50,000 Asiana miles one way between the United States and Europe. That’s 40,000 SPG points every day.

With this promotion you’d need 42,500 SPG points for a one way Lufthansa First Class booking with Aeroplan miles or 80,000 SPG points for a roundtrip. That’s no better than the everyday Asiana rate.

Asiana and Aeroplan collect the same fuel surcahrges on Lufthansa flights.

Here is Lufthansa A380 First Class space from Houston to Frankfurt.

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 1.45.33 PM It costs 62,500 Aeroplan miles (42,500 SPG points) + $456 one way.Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 1.46.18 PM

Getting the Miles

The easiest way to get Starpoints is to get the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express with 25,000 bonus Starpoints after spending $3,000 in the first three months. The business version offers the same bonus, and you can get both.

Your Starpoints won’t arrive before this promotion ends, but we’ve seen similar promotions before, so you’ll have Starpoints in case this promotion returns.

Caveat

It can take up to two weeks for transfers from Starwood to Aeroplan to arrive. The exact award space you want may be gone by the time your Aeroplan miles are in your account.

Bottom Line

  1. Search for award space on united.com for Aeroplan partners on which Aeroplan doesn’t collect fuel surcharges.
  2. Open an Aeroplan account.
  3. Transfer the correct number of Starpoints to your Aeroplan account to book your dream award, taking into account the standard Starpoints to Aeroplan miles bonus (20k points = 25k miles) and the special limited time bonus being offered by Aeroplan until August 24.
  4. When the points arrive, redo your search on aeroplan.com and book.

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Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get an additional $500 in free airfare on any airline in the first 12 months plus free airport lounge access worldwide for only a $450 annual fee. Why I got the card.

I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

I don’t spend much time in hotels (here’s a breakdown of where I’m sleeping as I travel 365 days this year), but I’ve been looking at booking some upcoming hotel stays. I carry several co-branded credit cards, but as I’ve crunched the numbers, my Citi Prestige® Card has come out as a better option for paying the hotel stay in almost all cases.

That’s especially true if I’m looking at a four night hotel stay, since the Citi Prestige® Card offers the fourth night free on paid hotel stays, which is an ~25% rebate (more if you’re doing it right.)

But even on a one night stay at a chain hotel where I have the hotel’s credit card, the Citi Prestige® Card‘s 3x hotel category bonus is usually a better option. Since I value ThankYou Points at 1.8 cents each, getting three points per dollar is like a 5.4% return for me. I can either use the points for 1.6 cents off American Airlines and partner flights or transfer them to 11 types of miles.

Let’s take a look at some major chain and non-chain hotels to see the return from using a co-branded card versus the Citi Prestige® Card. In parentheses is the card I’d use for a stay at that hotel chain. If there is nothing in parentheses, I’d use the Prestige. Here are there rankings by number of affiliated hotels according to Wikipedia:

1. Wyndham (Wyndham card for American properties)
2. Choice (Choice card for American properties)
3. IHG
4. Hilton
5. Marriott
9. Club Carlson
10. Starwood (maybe SPG Card for American properties depending on how you use ThankYou Points)
15. Hyatt (SPG Business Card for American properties)
Non-chain hotels

1. Wyndham

The Wyndham card offers 5x points per dollar on Wyndham stays at the following brands:

Screen Shot 2015-07-08 at 3.26.25 PM

I value Wyndham points at 1.33 cents each now that you can book any Wyndham property for 15,000 points per night. That’s a 6.65 cents per dollar return from the Wyndham card versus 5.4% from the Prestige.

But the Wyndham card has a 3% foreign transaction fee that the Prestige doesn’t have, so only use the Wyndham card at American properties, not abroad where the Prestige offers more value.

2. Choice

The Choice card offers 15x points per dollar on Choice stays at the following brands:

Screen Shot 2015-07-08 at 3.32.26 PM

I value Choice points at 0.5 cents each. That’s 7.5% back.

But the Choice card has a 3% foreign transaction fee that the Prestige doesn’t have, so only use the Choice card at American properties, not abroad where the Prestige offers more value.

3. IHG

The IHG card offers 5x points per dollar on IHG stays at the following brands:

  • Candlewood Suites
  • Crowne Plaza
  • Holiday Inn Hotels & Resorts
  • Holiday Inn Club Vacations
  • Holiday Inn Express
  • Hotel Indigo
  • InterContinental
  • Staybridge Suites

I value IHG points at 0.7 cents each. That’s 3.5% back.

I’d prefer to get 3x points by paying with the Citi Prestige® Card, which I value at 5.4% back.

4. Hilton

The Hilton Reserve offers 10x points per dollar on Hilton stays at the following brands:

  • Conrad Hotels & Resorts
  • Waldorf Astoria Hotels and Resorts
  • Hilton Hotels & Resorts
  • DoubleTree by Hilton
  • Embassy Suites
  • Curio, A Collection by Hilton
  • Hilton Garden Inn
  • Hampton Inn
  • Homewood Suites by Hilton
  • Home2 Suites by Hilton
  • Canopy by Hilton
  • Hilton Grand Vacations

I value Hilton points at 0.4 cents each. That’s 4% back.

I’d prefer to get 3x points by paying with the Citi Prestige® Card, which I value at 5.4% back.

5. Marriott

The Marriott card offers 5x points per dollar on Marriott stays at 18 brands including Marriotts and Ritz-Carltons.

I value Marriott points at 0.4 cents each. That’s 2% back.

I’d prefer to get 3x points by paying with the Citi Prestige® Card, which I value at 5.4% back.

9. Club Carlson

The Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card offers 10x points per dollar on Club Carlson stays at the following brands:

  • Country Inns & Suites
  • Hotel Missoni
  • Park Inn
  • Park Plaza Hotels & Resorts
  • Quorvus Collection
  • Radisson Hotels
  • Radisson Blu
  • Radisson Red

I value Club Carlson points at 0.4 cents each. That’s 4% back.

I’d prefer to get 3x points by paying with the Citi Prestige® Card, which I value at 5.4% back.

10. Starwood

The SPG card offers 2x points per dollar on SPG stays at the following brands:

Screen Shot 2015-07-08 at 3.47.17 PM

I value Starpoints at 2.5 cents each. That’s 5% back.

I’d prefer to get 3x points by paying with the Citi Prestige® Card, which I value at 5.4% back. But if you use ThankYou Points like cash toward American Airlines flights, they are worth 1.6 cents each, so you’d only get 4.8% back.

In any case, the SPG card has a 2.7% foreign transaction fee, so definitely use the Prestige at Starwood properties aborad.

15. Hyatt

The Hyatt card offers 3x points per dollar on stays at the following brands:

  • Park Hyatt
  • Andaz
  • Grand Hyatt
  • Hyatt Regency
  • Hyatt
  • HYATT CENTRIC
  • Hyatt Place
  • Hyatt House
  • Hyatt Zilara
  • Hyatt Ziva
  • Hyatt Residence Club

I value Hyatt points at 1.5 cents each. That’s 4.5% back.

However you can actually do better by using any American Express OPEN Business card, which offers 5% off Hyatt stays. The best would be the SPG Business card because you’d get 5% off plus 1 Starpoint per dollar (another 2.5%) for 7.5% back total.

Non-Chain Hotels

Definitely get 3x points by paying with the Citi Prestige® Card, which I value at 5.4% back.

Bottom Line

The Citi Prestige® Card is always the best card to book hotel stays of four nights with the fourth night free, and is often the best hotel card to book any stay.

The only hotel credit cards that offer a better return at their own hotels are the Wyndham and Choice cards, and those only offer a better return at American properties because of their foreign transaction fees.

Check out my review of the Citi Prestige Card which explains its many benefits like $250 in airfare or airline fee credits per calendar year, access to the American Airlines Admirals Clubs and Priority Pass lounges, 3x points per dollar on air travel and hotels, and a $450 annual fee.

 

  • $250 Air Travel Credit each year
  • Complimentary 4th Night for any hotel stay
  • Earn 50,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after $3,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open.
  • Points are redeemable for an $800 flight on American Airlines or US Airways®, a $665 flight on any other airline or $500 in gift cards.
  • Transfer points to a variety of travel loyalty programs from airlines to hotels.
  • Earn 3x points on Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 2x points on Dining at Restaurants and Entertainment
  • 1 ThankYou® Point per $1 spent on other purchases

Application Link: Citi Prestige® Card

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Updated June 4: Hilton has moved up its free wifi to today from its originally announced date of August 1.

Hilton, Hyatt, SPG, Marriott, IHG, and Fairmont all offer free internet in their hotels worldwide if you meet certain easy conditions. Finally the great hotels of the world are catching up with a standard benefit of hostels for the last decade. 😉

Hilton now offers free wifi as of June 4, 2015 to all Hilton HHonors members who book their stay through a Hilton-controlled channel (like hilton.com, the Hilton app, or by contacting the hotel itself.) Join Hilton HHonors free here. Diamonds will get premium internet. All other members will get basic internet. Hilton operates the following brands:

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Hyatt offers free wifi in lobbies and guest rooms worldwide since February 1, 2015. This applies no matter how you book your room–yes even if you use Priceline–and even if you are not a member of the Hyatt Gold Passport loyalty program. Hyatt operates the following brands:

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SPG offers free internet access since February 2, 2015. The free internet is only available to SPG members who book their stay through SPG.com or other SPG owned channels (ie the SPG app or sheraton.com.) Join SPG for free here. SPG operates the following brands:

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Marriott offers free internet access since January 15, 2015. The free internet is only available to Marriott Rewards members who book their stay through marriott.com or other Marriott owned channels (ie by phone or directly with the hotel.) Join Marriott Rewards for free here. Marriott operates the following brands:

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IHG has long offered free internet to IHG Rewards club members no matter how their stay is booked. Join IHG Rewards for free here. IHG operates the following brands:

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Fairmont has long offered free internet to Fairmont President’s Club members no matter how their stay is booked. Join Fairmont President’s Club for free here. Fairmont operates the following brands:

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This is great news for travelers. In the United States, I never bought internet from hotels anymore, opting to tether my laptop to my phone, but abroad I was often stuck paying 10 to 15 euros per day at hotels. I look forward to free internet at hotels worldwide for the rest of my life.

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Get two free Hilton weekend nights worldwide at the fanciest properties with the Hilton Reserve card.

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Starwood Preferred Guest has two summer promotions that should be stackable, and for some people, the value of the promotions will make mattress running a viable option.

The first promotion–Make It Count–offers 1,000 bonus Starpoints for each eligible 2+ night stay that includes at least one weekend night. Eligible stays must be completed by August 31, 2015. Eligible stays are paid stays booked through an SPG channel.

Weekend nights are a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday in most of the world and a Thursday, Friday, or Saturday in the Middle East.

I got an email to register, and I registered in two clicks.

Screen Shot 2015-06-02 at 5.00.18 PM

The other promotion is Sheraton Free Weekends, which has been announced in part on FlyerTalk, but we’ll get more details in a week. From the announcement on FlyerTalk, we have the following information.

  • Free weekend night at any Sheraton worldwide to be used by December 13, 2015 for every five eligible paid nights at any Sheraton worldwide during the promotion period.
  • Paid nights must be completed between July 9 and September 30.
  • Eligible paid nights do not include award stays or cash and points and must be booked through SPG channels.
  • The list of participating properties will be unveiled July 9. Expect Sheraton Suites to count and Four Points by Sheraton not to count.

Whenever you see a stay that allows X number of nights at any property (ie cheap ones) to earn a free night at any property (ie expensive ones), there is a possibility to game the promotion. This promotion’s five-for-one nature makes it a lot tougher than one-for-one or two-for-one promotions, but let’s do some digging to see if there is value.

Ideally, you would get two free nights at an expensive Sheraton worldwide by making five two-night stays at cheap Sheratons. The five two-night stays would each include a weekend night, so that those five stays would earn 5,000 bonus Starpoints through the Make It Count Promo. You’d also earn SPG points based on the price of those stays.

Costs

  • Five two-night weekend stays at a Sheraton

Benefits

  • Two free weekend nights at any Sheraton from Sheraton Free Weekend Promo
  • 5,000 SPG points from Make It Count Promo
  • 2x or 3x SPG points per dollar on paid stays based on your SPG status

There are 14 Category 1 Sheratons that are likely to be cheapest for a paid stay.

There are 77 Category 2 Sheratons including 21 in the United States:

Let’s imagine you could stay at the cheapest hotel on this list, which might just be the Sheraton Lampung Hotel in Indonesia. After taxes, a stay booked at least 14 days in advance for this summer for two nights costs under 1.2 million rupiahs or about $45 per night.

Screen Shot 2015-06-02 at 5.32.26 PM

Ten nights–booked as five weekend stays–would be $448. In return, you’d earn:

  • 2 free Sheraton weekend nights to be used anywhere by December 13
  • 5,000 bonus points from the Make It Count Promo
  • 896 Starpoints for spending the $448 (or 1,344 for Gold members)

I value 5,896 Starpoints at 2.5 cents each or $147. That means the free nights only need to be worth $150 each to have made a profit on these stays even before factoring in how much you value the paid hotel stays.

These are the Category 7 and 6 Sheratons. No word for sure on whether any is excluded from the promotion.

The Sheraton in the Maldives goes for $564+ per night for a weekend in October.

Screen Shot 2015-06-02 at 5.44.36 PM

 

If you value the Sheraton Maldives anywhere near the retail rate, you can get a lot of value from stacking these two promotions and making some stays at cheap Sheratons.

Screen Shot 2015-06-02 at 5.58.30 PM
Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort and Spa

 

You Don’t Live in Indonesia or Want to Go to the Maldives

The purpose of all the above examples and math was just to show that these two promotions could be a good deal under some circumstances and to show you how to calculate whether the promos are a good deal for you. They probably aren’t a good enough deal for you to alter your behavior much.

But if you have a super-cheap nearby Sheraton and want to stay at a very expensive Sheraton later this year, a mattress run could be in order. (A mattress run is where you get no value from the hotel stay, and might not even sleep there; you are just paying and checking in to trigger more valuable bonuses than the cost of the stay.)

Or if you have some upcoming work travel that you can steer to a Sheraton, it may be worth doing even if the Sheraton is more expensive or less convenient. In this case, the cost of steering those stays to a Sheraton is the extra money spent over your best option and the extra cost of the inconvenience of not staying at your best option. If those costs are less than the thousands of Starpoints and value of the Sheraton free nights, you earn, steer your discretionary stays to Sheratons this summer.

Bottom Line

Two SPG promos combine to be a good deal for some folks:

  1. 1,000 Starpoints for a 2+ night stay by August 31 that includes at least one weekend night at any SPG property.
  2. One free Sheraton weekend night (used by December 13) for every five nights stayed at Sheratons by September 30.

Pure mattress running or changing summer stays to Sheratons could be in order. Do the math for your situation.

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Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get an additional $500 in free airfare on any airline in the first 12 months plus free airport lounge access worldwide for only a $450 annual fee. Why I got the card.

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The Starwood Preferred Guest personal credit card has lowered its minimum spending requirement. Now to get the 25,000 bonus Starpoints, you need only spend $3,000 in the first three months after opening the account.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 2.28.45 PM

Previously the spending requirement was $5,000 in six months. American Express tested out this new, lower requirement last August on both the personal and business SPG cards, and was apparently satisfied with the results for the personal card. The business card remains with its traditional $5,000-in-six-months minimum spending requirement.

  • 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?
  • Why get the offer?
  • Why not get the offer?

What is Different about This Offer?

Other than the minimum spending requirement and time frame, this offer appears identical to the offer we’ve seen on the Starwood Preferred Guest card for months.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 2.28.39 PM

  • Earn up to 25,000 bonus Starpoints
  • 2 points per dollar on SPG stays, 1 point per dollar elsewhere
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $65.

Who Is Eligible?

Having the SPG business card is irrelevant to whether you can get the SPG personal card. You can get both SPG cards on the same day no problem if you’ve never had either card before.

If you’ve ever had the personal SPG card before, you are ineligible to earn the sign up bonus on the card again. This is a new American Express policy as of May 1, 2014 for personal card sign up bonuses.

Screen Shot 2014-08-21 at 3.07.38 AM

Should You Wait for a 30k Offer?

About once a year, American Express offers both SPG cards with a 30,000 point sign up bonus instead of the standard 25,000. The deal came up in August 2012, August 2013, and June 2014.

Based on that data, it seems like we may see a 30k offer in the next few months, but I have no inside information. I also wonder, if we get a 30k offer, what the minimum spending requirement will be. Will it be $3,000 or will it come with a higher spending requirement like $5,000?

Best Uses for Starpoints

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:

Why Get This Offer

Starpoints are the most valuable currency in the mileage world. I value them at 2.5 cents each since they transfer at a rate of 20,000 points to 25,000 miles to several important types of miles like American and Alaska or can be used for free hotel nights starting at 2,000 points.

If you spend a ton of money per year on credit cards that isn’t going to category or sign up bonuses, that spending should be on this card, so that you are accruing valuable, flexible points.

If you want SPG status, this card offers 2 stay credits and 5 night credits toward status.

Why Not Get This Offer

If you’re a small spender, it’s possible the new offer is worse for you. The total spending requirement has been lowered, but actually works out to more per month on average ($1,000) than the previous offer of $5,000 in six months ($834.) Maybe you could average $834 per month a new card, but not $1,000. (Although there are easy ways to bridge that gap and spend more on credit cards now without spending more money overall.)

If you think a 30k offer will come up on the SPG card this summer as it has the last three summers and don’t need your SPG points immediately, don’t get the card.

If you are irresponsible with credit cards (don’t pay them in full each month, incurring interest or spend more than you would if you just stuck to cash and debit cards), don’t get the SPG personal card or any other credit card.

Get a Referral

If you want to get the SPG personal card with its lowered $3,000-in-three-months minimum spending requirement, you can do it through a referral link that will earn me 5,000 Starpoints or through a bank link that won’t.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 2.27.10 PM
My referral offer as an existing cardholder

 

To get the referral link, leave a comment to this post asking for a referral. Fill in your real email address in that blank of the comment form. Your email address will NOT be displayed publicly, but I will use it to have the referral sent (and for no other purpose.) I promise to use my referral Starpoints for frivolous adventures!

If you don’t want to do that, here is a direct link to the new offer.

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Until May 31, 2015, you can up to 20,000 Starpoints with up to a 25% discount on the normal purchase price.

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Starpoints are normally sold in increments of 500 points for 3.5 cents per point. The percentage discount you receive during the current sale is based on the number of points you buy.

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Purchasing 4,500 points or fewer offers no discount, and you pay the full 3.5 cents per point.

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Purchasing 20,000 points, the maximum points you can purchase per year, receives the full 25% bonus, bringing the price down to 2.625 cents per point.Screen Shot 2015-05-10 at 4.04.09 PM

How to Use Starpoints

There are three main ways to get huge value from Starpoints.

  1. Free nights at SPG properties
  2. Cash & points nights at SPG properties
  3. Transfers to airline miles with 25% bonus

1. Free Night Awards

Starpoints can be used for free nights at any Sheraton, W, Westin, Le Meridien, Aloft, Four Points, St. Regis, Element, or Luxury Collection Hotel. Free nights start at 2,000 points per night. And the best part is: if a standard room is for sale, you can book it with Starpoints. Free night awards are not capacity controlled like award flights are.

Here is the Free Night Awards chart:

Book a four night award at Category 3-7 hotels and get a 5th night free. Here are the total prices for five nights:

I just booked two free nights for 12,000 points per night at the Westin Maui when it was going for over $400 per night.

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2. Cash & Points Awards

Cash & Points awards are a way to stretch your cash and your Starpoints. You’ll generally get even more value from your Starpoints through these awards though they are capacity controlled. Here is the Cash & Points chart:

As you’ll notice, a Cash & Points night requires half the Starpoints (or fewer) of a free night plus a cash co-pay.

On a Cash & Points stay, think about it like booking a free night and then buying back half the points for the cash copay. The price of the points you are buying back varies from 1.5 cents (category 4) to 2 cents (category 1.) These are good prices to buy Starpoints.

3. Transfer to Airlines with a Miles Bonus

For people who eschew chain hotels, Starpoints are incredibly valuable to transfer to airline miles because their are so many partner airlines, and in most cases, transferring 20k Starpoints nets you 25k miles in the account of your choice, a 25% bonus!

Starpoints transfer to 30 airlines in total, mostly at favorable rates. Starpoints are the only transferable point to transfer to a major US-based airline in each alliance as well as several major airlines that are not part of any alliance. Starpoints have far better options than Membership Rewards and Ultimate Rewards.

The best two options are American Airlines and Alaska. Starpoints transfer in a 20k points to 25k miles ratio (1:1.25) to both airlines, and neither airline is a transfer partner of Ultimate Rewards, Membership Rewards, or Citi ThankYou Points.

Buying 20,000 Starpoints for $525 would allow you to transfer to 25,000 miles. That’s like buying the miles for 2.1 cents each. (Not a good deal speculatively, but possibly a good deal if you have an immediate high-value use.)

When to Buy (Math)

Is buying SPG points for 2.625 cents each a good deal?

I would not buy SPG points speculatively for 2.625 cents each because I value them at 2.5 cents each. But if you have an immediate high value redemption in mind, buying points can be a good deal. I listed the high value uses above. Do the math on the redemption you have in mind.

Buy SPG Points with These Credit Cards

Starpoints purchases are processed by points.com, so the purchases will not code as a bonus “travel” or “hotel” purchase on any credit card. You will not earn category bonuses from the purchase of SPG points.

That means you should make the purchase with whatever card you need to meet a minimum spending requirement on.

For me, that’s the Citi Prestige® Card, which I got for its 50,000 bonus points after $3,000 in spending in the first three months, its $250 Air Travel Credit that refunded my first $250 of airfare and award taxes this year, and its unrivaled airport lounge access.

Bottom Line

You can buy 500 to 20,000 SPG Starpoints for as little as 2.625 cents each until May 31. That’s too high to buy speculatively, but there are a lot of immediate uses for the points where that price offers great value.

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Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get an additional $500 in free airfare on any airline in the first 12 months plus free airport lounge access worldwide for only a $450 annual fee. Why I got the card.

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My friend and I stayed two nights at the Westin Maui Resort & Spa Ka’anapali last weekend that cost me 12,000 SPG Starpoints and $31.25 per night. I really enjoyed my stay and recommend the Westin Maui and Ka’anapali area generally.

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The hotel is on the beautiful, wide, miles-long Ka’anapali white sand beach just a few miles north of Lahaina on the west coast of Maui with perfect views of sunset over the ocean.

My friend and I spent three nights on Maui (and three on Oahu), and our plan was to camp the first night and stay at a nice hotel the next two nights. I wanted to use Starpoints, and both the Westin and Sheraton on the same beach should cost 12,000 points per night during most of the year. (During peak dates, they go for 16,000 points a night.)

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Unfortunately on our dates, the base room at the Sheraton was unavailable, so I was offered a better view for 13,500 points per night. I figured I’d get an ocean view for my 12,000 points at the Westin, so I picked the hotel that cost me fewer points.

I would summarize this FlyerTalk thread comparing the Sheraton and Westin as saying that some people prefer each one. On our travel dates, the Westin was more expensive with cash, but that isn’t always the case, and you can get it for a $269 base rate next month.
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Check In & Parking

We arrived at the hotel at 2:45 PM in our rental car and pulled to the valet stand to ask about self-parking. The valet had to check that we were actually hotel guests, which took about 2-3 minutes before opening the self-parking gate for us. This system is in place because once you are in the self-parking area, exit is free. Waiting around to park was not a great first impression.

Self-parking is included in the $31.25 (including tax) resort fee. We were given a second card for free at check in for our friends to use when visiting us. That’s not actually necessary, as we could have swiped the one card we got at check in to let our friends in, and they could have exited freely. The self-parking lot is right near the entrance, so it is convenient enough.

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When we checked in, we had to wait a few minutes in the Gold/Platinum line. While we waited, someone came out to give us cowrie shell leis. The hotel often had someone right at the main entrance doing this. We were given a fourth floor “Ocean View” room in the Ocean Tower, two towel cards, and two parking cards at check in. I accepted the “make a green choice offer,” which turned down some cleaning service for 500 points per night. That was a nice 1,000 points back.

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Room

Our room was nice enough, although Ocean View was a bit of a stretch for the 4th Floor. It was mainly tree view with a little ocean peaking out.

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We got two queen beds, which were very spacious and comfortable.

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The room had a flat screen TV and a mini-fridge to store the Kona Brewing Company beer we had picked up at Walmart in Kahului. Unfortunately the room had a corkscrew, but no beer bottle opener. Luckily YouTube has a great video on opening one bottle with another. 😉

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The sink and mirror were outside the bathroom, which made it easy to chat while one of us got ready.

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The bathroom was standard. The hot water and water pressure in the shower were on point.

Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 6.57.12 PMScreen Shot 2015-04-17 at 6.58.49 PM

The little balcony was perfect for two people to hang out with a drink.

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Resort Fee

Resort fees are a scam in my opinion. This $31.25 per night scam included:

  • High Speed Internet Access in your guestroom and public areas (basically a lie since everyone already gets free internet at SPG properties just for booking through an SPG platform)
  • Local and toll free calls up to 60 minutes
  • Two (2) bottles of water replenished daily as needed
  • Self-Parking
  • Shuttle service to Kapalua West Maui Airport, upon availability (this is not the airport that serves the mainland)
  • Shuttle service to Lahaina and to our three Starwood resorts
  • Logo souvenir eco bag
  • Outdoor portrait sitting and free 4 by 6 color photograph through Reflections Photography

We thought the 4″ by 6″ portrait sounded like a funny perk, so we took advantage. This service is only available Monday through Saturday with 3:40 PM Saturday the last slot. You sign up in the lobby, and the pictures took us just a few minutes. They’re hoping to sell you a more expensive package, and they hold the images hostage to entice you to buy.

They won’t email you the pictures. They will just print one out and put it on their table for you the next business day. Unfortunately we took our picture on a Saturday, so that meant we’d be checking out on Sunday before the picture was ready on Monday. The photographer said she could mail us the one photo for $16.

Service

All the employees I encountered were friendly, and two went above and beyond.

The front desk check in agent offered me a second self-parking access key when I asked where our friends could park when they came to visit.

A manager picked up our 4″ x 6″ portrait and mailed it to us for free. We were walking through the lobby, and she asked how our stay was going. We had just taken our portrait, and we mentioned we were bummed we would not actually receive the final product. She took my friend’s address, and the photo was there when he got home.

I’ll also give good marks for how quickly extra cups were brought to our room and how quickly my to-go burgers from Relish were ready.

Facilities

The only area I checked out were the swimming pool and ponds between the hotel and beach, which are the star of the resort.

The ponds have waterfalls, koi fish, and flamingos.

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Waterfall into koi pond
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Pink flamingos

The all-ages pool has a volleyball net, waterfall, basketball net, balls floating around, a water slide, and turns blue at night.

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Volleyball net, free balls are floating around
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Shot of the Ocean Tower from the Pool
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View of the Waterslide
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Basketball hoop

 

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Poolside
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Blue pool at night

 

Above the main pool is an adults-only pool and hot tub open until 10 PM. I never spent more than half an hour at a time in the pool area, but I really enjoyed it because I like pool games like basketball and volleyball.

The free poolside chairs, some of which had some shade, filled up very quickly. Renting a gazebo or caban is ludicrously expensive.

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Beach

Ka’anapali Beach is stunning and has views of Molokai and Lanai.

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Molokai in the distance

 

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Lanai in the distance

Two chairs and an umbrella is $45 per day. I’d recommend a towel instead.

My favorite part of the beach is at the very end in front of the Sheraton, a rocky outcropping called Blackrock. Every day dozens of people ignore the “Don’t Walk Past This Sign” signs and jump from the 20 foot rock. Every day at a sunset, a local guy paid by the Sheraton comes out and does a swan dive. Some days he even does other tricks like flips and handstand jumps.

The snorkeling especially near Blackrock must be pretty good as there is a steady stream of people out there. I saw several turtles from the rock and one dolphin.

Food

I got burgers to go both nights from Relish. At about $20 after tip, they were fine. Next door is Whaler’s Village, which has a food court including pizza, Mexican, plate lunch, and Subway. There are several beach front dining options, but they were out of my price range.

Location

Here’s a map I made for my review of the Andaz Maui at Wailea. Ka’anapali is just north of the underlined Lahaina on the northwest coast.

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The Westin Maui is 39 minutes from Kahului Airport and 8 minutes from West Maui Airport. I consider Ka’anapali’s location a little better than Wailea’s. Both are about the same distance from the airport, Haleakala, and start of the Road to Hana.

Ka’anapali is right next to Lahaina, which is a nice little town on Maui, so I give it a slight edge.

Overall

I definitely am happy with my 12,000 points per night redemption to stay at the Westin Maui.

Ka’anapali Beach, the pools, and the service were highlights.

I would have liked to have stayed on a higher floor and gotten out of that resort charge, but I wouldn’t hesitate to go back.

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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 by 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?

Broadly Useful

None of these programs is perfect, but I consider all the following programs to be broadly useful programs in which a person could exclusively collect miles and still get a fair deal on the vast majority of potential redemptions:

  • American Airlines
  • United
  • Starwood Preferred Guest
  • Ultimate Rewards

American Airlines

American Airlines miles offer good value on most routes in all cabins. The oneworld alliance great members like Cathay Pacific, Qantas, and LAN, and American miles can be redeemed on 24 airlines.

There are some weaknesses with American Airlines miles:

  • American Airlines collects fuel surcharges on British Airways flights. British Airways award space is the most available award space to Europe and Africa. If you avoid booking British Airways flights with American Airlines miles, you are hamstrung to Africa especially.
  • I–and the experts–anticipate a devaluation announced in late 2015 for awards booked in early 2016 or later.
  • Awards to the Middle East and India are overpriced.

United

Even after 2014’s devaluation, I still think United miles are among the most broadly useful airline miles to stockpile for a few reasons:

  • Award space is good on United and partners.
  • United is a member of the Star Alliance, the largest alliance in the world, with good coverage of every continent.
  • United never imposes fuel surcharges on awards.
  • United’s economy awards are fairly priced.
  • United’s Business Class awards on its own planes are not outrageously priced.

Of course, the big problem is that partner First Class awards are basically out of reach. Who has 240,000 United miles for one roundtrip to Asia in First Class?

Still, I’ll almost always be happy when folks come to my Award Booking Service with a stash of United miles.

Ultimate Rewards

Since Ultimate Rewards transfer 1:1 instantly to United miles, Ultimate Rewards are at least as useful as United miles. With the added flexibility of transferring to niche programs like British Airways, Singapore, Virgin Atlantic, Southwest, and Korean plus hotel programs, Ultimate Rewards are the second most flexible currency overall.

Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints

The most flexible and broadly useful points are Starpoints, which transfer to American, Alaska, and 27 other airline programs mostly at favorable rates. Every day, 20,000 Starpoints transfers to 25,000 American Airlines or Alaska Airlines miles.

The big drawbacks with Starpoints:

  • Most transfers take days.
  • 2 Starpoints transfer to 1 United mile. Since United devalued, I’d love that transfer to get revalued to 1:1 like with American, Delta, Alaska, and dozens of other airlines.

Intermediate Usefulness

These three programs have bigger warts than the programs above, but are too broadly useful for me to call “niche” programs.

  • Delta
  • Alaska Airlines
  • American Express Membership Rewards
  • Citi ThankYou Points

Delta

Delta has some definite strengths:

  • There are good value awards and decent space to Australia (Virgin Australia), Africa (Air France), Europe (various partners), Asia (various partners), and South America (AeroMexico). Very few of these awards have fuel surcharges.
  • The often-times higher prices are offset by the ease with which you can earn Delta miles from Delta cards, Membership Rewards-earning cards, and Starpoints-earning cards.
  • Since January 1, 2015, Delta allows one way award redemptions for half the price of roundtrips.

But the weaknesses are far greater than with competing US-based airlines:

  • Delta doesn’t offer much Saver award space on domestic flights, making it hard to get to a gateway to connect to partner award space abroad. This is a huge drawback.
  • Delta collects fuel surcharges on a bunch of its partners.
  • Delta collects fuel surcharges on all awards originating in Europe. This essentially means that its miles can be used for one ways to Europe, but are a terrible value for one ways home.
  • Delta miles cannot be redeemed for three-cabin international First Class.

Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines has a hodge-podge of partners that fly all over the world.

Screen Shot 2014-01-22 at 2.54.32 AMAlaska has access to some of the world’s most coveted award space like Emirates First Class space with no fuel surcharges.

Some of the award charts are very cheap–there is a different one for each partner to each region–you can book one way awards for half the roundtrip price, and you can even get a stopover on one way awards.

The only thing that holds Alaska miles back from being more widely useful is that you cannot freely combine partners on Alaska awards. Each direction needs to be all one partner’s flights or all one partner’s flights plus Alaska flights. This rule hampers your options incredibly, especially if you don’t live in a city where Alaska flies!

Membership Rewards

Membership Rewards have a large number of partners, but none of them is in the most useful category above. All are 1:1 partners in case otherwise noted.

  • Delta Airlines
  • AeroMexico
  • Air Canada (Aeroplan)
  • Alitalia Airlines
  • All Nippon Airways (ANA)
  • British Airways Avios
  • Cathay Pacific
  • EL AL Israel Airlines 1,000 MR to 20 EL AL point
  • Air France & KLM Flying Blue
  • Emirates
  • Frontier Airlines
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Iberia Plus Avios
  • JetBlue 250 MR to 200 TrueBlue Points
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • Virgin America 200 MR to 100 Elevate Points

Delta is in this intermediate category, and the rest of the programs are in the niche category below including Virgin Atlantic, Aeroplan, ANA, British Airways Avios,  Flying Blue (Air France), Hawaiian, and Singapore. The big problem is that all the global partners impose fuel surcharges on most of their awards.

You can creatively mostly avoid fuel surcharges, but you have to work hard enough that this program can’t be in the “Broadly Useful” category.

Citi ThankYou Points

ThankYou Points now transfer to 11 airlines at a 1:1 rate:

  • Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
  • EVA Air Infinity MileageLands
  • Etihad Guest
  • Garuda Indonesia Frequent Flyer
  • Qatar Privilege Club
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Thai Airways Royal Orchard Plus
  • Air France/KLM Flying Blue
  • Malaysia Airlines Enrich
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
  • Qantas miles

I don’t know of a single high value use of the eight programs that are not in bold. But between Singapore KrisFlyer, Air France Flying Blue, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, and the ability to use ThankYou Points for 1.25 to 1.6 cents each toward any flight on any airline, this program belongs in the intermediate category.

Singapore miles allow fuel-surcharge-free awards on United flights often for fewer mile than United would charge for the same award including to Hawaii, Europe, South America, and within the continental US; they’re the only way to book Singapore Suites; and they have awesome stopover rules.

Flying Blue miles allow you to book some Delta flights for fewer miles than with Delta miles, and allow access to Promo Awards like 12,500 miles one way to Europe or Israel.

Virgin Atlantic miles aren’t just about 17,500 mile awards to London or 27,500 mile Premium Economy awards to London. They also allow 45,000 mile roundtrips to South America on Delta and a few other high value awards.

Citi partners with American Airlines. If Citi ever adds American Airlines as a 1:1 transfer partner, ThankYou Points will shoot to the most useful category.

Niche Usefulness

The absolute wrong conclusion to draw about the programs in this section is that they are not useful. Each program listed here–and many programs not listed here have some incredible, high-value awards. But most of their awards are a poor value.

You shouldn’t focus all your miles collecting in these programs, but you should know their strengths in case your travel goals overlap with their strengths, and you have transferable points. Here are some of my favorite niche programs and their strengths:

Of course, each of these programs has major flaws. Southwest points can’t be used for First Class, international travel beyond the Caribbean, or any partners. Any Avios awards with layovers get pricey very quickly. Almost all the international programs collect big fuel surcharges on most awards (but not on the awards mentioned above where there are no or small surcharges.)

Because of the weaknesses, I rarely collect miles in niche programs unless there’s an extremely attractive credit card sign up bonus, but I constantly consider the programs as transfer options for my Membership Rewards, Ultimate Rewards, ThankYou Points, and Starpoints to take advantage of their one or two sweetspots.

Action Item

If you’re currently collecting niche miles with your day-to-day credit card spending, put more of your spending on cards that earn more widely useful miles and points like the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express with 25,000 bonus Starpoints after spending $5k in the first six months, which earns the most versatile points of all.

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Your Take

Are any of the programs listed here mis-categorized for you? Is one of the niche programs perfect for all your awards? Does one of my “generally useful programs” never seem to offer you value? Am I letting United miles off too lightly for its big devaluation last year?

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Right now 40k Starpoints plus taxes will get you a roundtrip economy class trip to Europe, 65k Starpoints will get you a roundtrip Business Class ticket, and 80k will get you a roundtrip First Class ticket.

Starpoints always transfer to dozens of airlines at a rate of 20k Starpoints to 25k miles. On top of that standard bonus, until April 27, 2015, Aeroplan is giving a bonus of up to 25k miles on transfers of hotel points to Aeroplan miles.

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These transfer bonuses combine to mean you can get up to 56% more Aeroplan miles than you had Starpoints, which you can redeem on a cheap award chart on Air Canada flights or any Star Alliance carrier.

If you redeem to Western Europe on Swiss and United flights, you’ll pay only 40k/65k/80k Starpoints in economy/business/first with no fuel surcharges.

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Luckily I have Starpoints from getting the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and business version a few years back.

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  • How can you take maximum advantage of this promotion?
  • How can you avoid the fuel surcharges?
  • Where do you search? How do you search?
  • Where do you book?
  • How good of a deal is 40k Starpoints to Europe or 80k Starpoints in First Class?

The Deal

Starpoints always transfer to dozens of airlines at a 1:1 rate. For every 20k transferred, you get 5k bonus miles. My favorite airlines transfer partners are American Airlines and Alaska Airlines.

Ordinarily I wouldn’t consider Air Canada’s program, Aeroplan, because Aeroplan collects fuel surcharges on most partners, though not on United, Copa, Avianca, Swiss, and Turkish flight.

But Aeroplan is running a compelling promotion through April 27, 2015. Transfer hotel points and get bonus Aeroplan miles. All transfers from the listed partners will be summed to determine one’s bonus threshold.

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The relevant transfers for Western Europe awards with Aeroplan miles are:

  • 40k Starpoints transfer to 50k Aeroplan miles + 10k bonus Aeroplan miles for 60,000 total Aeroplan miles (50% bonus). This is enough miles for a roundtrip economy award to Western Europe* from the continental US, Alaska, and Canada.
  • 65k Starpoints transfer to 80k Aeroplan miles + 10k bonus Aeroplan miles for 90,000 total Aeroplan miles (38% bonus). This is enough miles for a roundtrip business class award to Western Europe* from the continental US, Alaska, and Canada.
  • 80k Starpoints transfer to 100k Aeroplan miles + 25k bonus miles for 125,000 total Aeroplan miles (56% bonus). This is enough miles for a roundtrip first class award to Western Europe* from the continental US, Alaska, and Canada.

*Western Europe includes the countries defined as Europe 1 on the chart, Europe 2 is more expensive.

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Similar deals are available to Southern South America. Check the award chart to see how many Aeroplan miles you need.

Maximizing Aeroplan Awards

Aeroplan awards allow for two stopovers in addition to your destination.

Aeroplan collects fuel surcharges on most partners. For instance, fuel surcharges of over $500 per person per roundtrip are instituted on Lufthansa economy awards. Two partners on which no fuel surcharges are collected are United and Swiss flights.

Searching for United and Swiss Space

We want to book our Aeroplan award with United and Swiss space to avoid fuel surcharges. The best place to search for space on United flights is united.com. On an advanced search, tick the box to search only United flights.

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Search results–and the search calendar–will only display United flights.

To search for only Swiss flights, find routes that Swiss flies and check Nonstop Flights Only on the united.com advanced search.

Once you’ve found your United or US Airways flights, head to aeroplan.com to book them. Aeroplan will have access to all Saver United space, and all Swiss space that shows up on united.com. You can mix-and-match Swiss and United flights and still have no fuel surcharges.

Booking on Aeroplan.com

Booking the award space on aeroplan.com is easy. Search the dates and cabins you found on united.com. I found award space from Newark to Brussels to Zurich to Newark on united.com.

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Screen Shot 2015-04-01 at 12.29.10 PM Then I searched for the space on aeroplan.com.Screen Shot 2015-04-01 at 12.29.04 PM

Each flight I found was the top result for the day I searched. I pieced it together for 90,000 Aeroplan miles + $132. That would be only 65k Starpoints at current rates.Screen Shot 2015-04-01 at 12.30.25 PM

Getting the Miles

The easiest way to get Starpoints is to get the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express with 25,000 bonus Starpoints after spending $5k in the first six months.

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Your Starpoints won’t arrive before this promotion ends, but we’ve seen similar promotions before, so you’ll have Starpoints in case this promotion returns.

Caveat

It can take up to two weeks for transfers from Starwood to Aeroplan to arrive. The exact award space you want may be gone by the time your Aeroplan miles are in your account.

Bottom Line

  1. Search for award space on united.com for Aeroplan partners on which Aeroplan doesn’t collect fuel surcharges.
  2. Open an Aeroplan account.
  3. Transfer the correct number of Starpoints to your Aeroplan account to book your dream award, taking into account the standard Starpoints to Aeroplan miles bonus (20k points = 25k miles) and the special limited time bonus being offered by Aeroplan until April 27.
  4. When the points arrive, redo your search on aeroplan.com and book.

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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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