SPG

3

Most airline miles charge exorbitant fees to transfer miles from one person’s account to another’s. For instance, United is currently charging $82.50 to transfer 5,000 miles from one account to another, which is more than the 5,000 United miles are even worth!

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However, SPG Starpoints can be freely transferred from one SPG account to another as long as both accounts have had the same address on file for 30 days. You would want to transfer points between SPG accounts for at least five reasons:

  1. Because you can now transfer SPG points to Marriott points at a 1:3 ratio (or Marriott to SPG at 3:1.) With transfers between SPG accounts, you can get all of your family’s SPG and Marriott points into the same SPG or Marriott account. Just transfer everyone’s Marriott points to their SPG accounts; transfer everyone’s SPG points into your SPG account; then leave the SPG points there or transfer all of them to your Marriott account.
  2. Because the name on the SPG account and airline miles account must match when transferring SPG points to miles. So if I want my brother to get Alaska Airlines miles, I need to transfer my SPG points to him and have him transfer them to Alaska miles because I can’t transfer directly to his Alaska account.
  3. To maximize transfer bonuses. SPG offers 5,000 bonus miles for every 20,000 points transferred to 1:1 transfer partners. So my 10,000 SPG points and your 10,000 SPG points could transfer to 10,000 Alaska miles in my account and 10,000 in yours or could be combined to 20,000 SPG points to transfer to 25,000 Alaska miles in either account.
  4. To maximize elite status. If you and I will be splitting an SPG hotel on a free night award and you have Platinum Status and we each want to pay our half of the award, I could transfer half the points for the free nights to your account, and you could book from there to lock in your Platinum benefits.
  5. To top off an account for an award. Are you a little short of an award (whether Free Nights, Nights & Flights, or an airline transfer)? I could send you the necessary points for free.

Transfer Process

There are only two steps.

First, align the physical addresses on the two relevant SPG accounts and wait 30 days.

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This only takes a few clicks. Sign into your SPG account and click My Profile.Screen Shot 2016-06-14 at 11.35.34 PM Then click Edit in the Contact Information box.Screen Shot 2016-06-14 at 11.35.57 PM

Second, fill out the household transfer form at spg.com. You must transfer in increments of 1,000 points.

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The transfer is not instant. The points should show up in their new account in a few days.

Bottom Line

SPG allows free transfers of Starpoints between accounts that have shared an address for at least 30 days. Thanks, Starwood, for the customer friendly policy!

SPG and Marriott allow free transfers back and forth between your SPG account and your Marriott account. These two policies combined mean that you can get all of your family’s Marriott or SPG points into a single Marriott or SPG account of your choosing. This can be 26.

There are also several other reason to take advantage of free SPG transfers whether you use SPG points primarily for hotel stays or to transfer to airline miles.

Marriott and Starwood have merged. With admirable speed, Marriott has announced that you can now status match between the two rewards programs and transfer your Marriott points to Starpoints or vice versa, and that the programs will remain separate until at least 2018.

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I’ll break down the news from the perspective of how to maximize the separate programs.

Status Match Angle

This one is a no-brainer. Link your Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest accounts now, so that any status you have in either program matches to the other program.

screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-2-33-05-pm For instance, I am an SPG Gold member, and now I am Marriott Gold member too.
screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-2-35-04-pm That’s pretty nice since Marriott Gold is better than SPG Gold and includes free breakfast and club access.

screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-2-38-14-pmBelow is a table of how the statuses match. The only complaint would be from top-top tier elites who only match the top of the other program and not the enhanced top of the other program reserved for those who spend half their lives in hotels.

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United Angle

United has a partnership with Marriott. If you’re United Gold or higher, you get Marriott Gold Status, which means you can match to SPG Gold also and have mid-tier status at two chains without ever having made a paid stay.

If you’re a Marriott Platinum member, you get United Silver elite status. So if you have SPG Platinum, match to Marriott Platinum and claim your United Silver status.

American Express Platinum Angle

If you have any American Express Platinum (the best one is currently the Mercedes-Benz AMEX Platinum), you can get free SPG Gold status–that’s how I have mine. You can match that to Marriott Gold Status.

Combining Stays for Status?

Sorry, no dice here. (The third loyalty program referenced is Ritz-Carlton Rewards, which has been maintained separately of Marriott Rewards despite the companies’ prior merger.)

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Points Transfer Angle

Once you link your accounts, you can transfer from Marriott to SPG at a 3:1 ratio or the other way at a 1:3 ratio. There are a lot of times you’d want to do this.

Hotel Booking

If you have an upcoming hotel stay that you want to book with points, go to both sites and check your award options. All other things equal, if the Marriott option is less than three times the number of points, you might want to transfer from SPG to Marriott to make the booking. But if the Marriott option is more than three times the number of points, you might want to transfer from Marriott to SPG.

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SPG Chart
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Marriott Chart

At the top end, Marriott free hotel nights will be a better deal. At the bottom end, SPG free nights will often be a better deal.

SPG to Marriott for Hotel + Air (including Southwest Companion Pass)

The best value redemption of Marriott points is Hotel + Air packages. You redeem a certain number of Marriott points for seven free nights at a Marriott or Ritz Carlton hotel plus a certain number of miles in the airline program of your choosing. Here is the chart to convert Marriott points to Southwest Rapid Rewards.

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Along the left, you see the Category of the Marriott hotel or Tier of the Ritz Carlton hotel where you’d get your seven free nights. Along the top, you see the number of Southwest points you’d get.

For 270,000 Marriott points, transferred from 90,000 Starpoints, you can get a week in a Category 5 Marriott and 120,000 Rapid Rewards and a Southwest Companion Pass valid until December 31 of the next year.

The Rapid Rewards are worth about 1.4 cents each ($1,680), and the Companion Pass gets a designated person onto Southwest flights for free (plus taxes of $5.60 one way on domestic flights and a little more internationally) every time you fly Southwest, whether you book your ticket with cash or your 120,000 new Southwest points.

Read more about the Southwest Companion Pass (and other ways to get it) here. For those with a regular companion who like to go where Southwest flies, the Companion Pass is the best deal in travel.

To maximize this deal, you’d want to redeem for the Hotel + Air package in January 2017 or January 2018 to get the companion pass for two full years. Redeeming now would get the Companion Pass for only 15 months.

If you don’t want a Southwest Companion pass, you can redeem a Hotel + Air package for dozens of airlines’ miles.

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You get 10% more miles if you choose United miles because of the special Marriott-United relationship.

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18,667 SPG to Marriott to 25,000 United Miles

While SPG points have a great transfer rate of 20,000 Starpoints = 25,000 miles with a few dozen airlines–my favorites being Asiana, American, and Alaska–United is not on that list. Twenty thousand Starpoints is a measly 12,500 United miles.

Now, with an intermediate step, you can turn SPG points into United miles at a better rate.

  1. Transfer 19,000 SPG points to 57,000 Marriott points
  2. Transfer 1,000 Marriott back to 333 Starpoints (necessary step because the starting amount of transfers from each program has to be an even thousand)
  3. Transfer 56,000 Marriott (18,667 Starpoints) to 25,000 United miles

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Or you can turn 8,000 Starpoints into 10,000 United miles.

Speculative Transfers

I value SPG points at 2.5 cents and Marriott points at 0.8 cents.

My SPG valuation is pretty steady no matter how many you have because SPG points are valuable for free nights, Cash & Points stays, transfers to airline miles, SPG moments, and Nights & Flights awards.

My Marriott valuation changes a lot depending on how many you have. If you only have a few thousand, you can really only redeem for free nights, and I’d value your points around 0.5 cents. If you have enough to book Hotel + Air packages, a few hundred thousand points or more, then I’d value the points at 0.8 cents or even higher.

Your valuations may differ.

Under my valuations, there is some value in transferring 3 Marriott points to 1 SPG point. If you’re afraid that transfers will be cut off without notice, or the ratio will change, maybe you should transfer speculatively. I don’t see either thing happening, though, so I think there is no point in speculative transfers. Keep your balances as they are until you see an arbitrage opportunity for on an immediate redemption.

Credit Card Angle

Until at least 2018, we will see the Marriott and SPG credit cards stick around.

screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-2-37-24-pm You’ll want to get all the cards before 2018 when one or more might be killed off. Right now the SPG personal and business cards each offer 25,000 SPG points after spending $3,000 in the first three months. The Marriott card offers 87,500 Marriott points after spending $3,000 in the first three months and adding an authorized user.

After meeting minimum spending requirements, you’d have:

  • 56,000 SPG and 90,500 Marriott points
  • or 86,000 SPG points
  • or 258,500 Marriott points (which is just $4,000 more in spending on an SPG card short of the best Hotel + Air package values which cost 270,000 points)

Bottom Line

In the long run, it’s bad for our rewards when hotels or airlines merge. It means less competition and less need for the airlines or hotels to offer lucrative rewards programs.

But for the next two years or more, there will be a lot of ways to take advantage of the Marriott-Starwood merger by combining points and matching status.

Hat Tip Dan’s Deals

Ever wondered if you can combine miles between two accounts in the same program? As in, you have some American Airlines miles and your wife does too, and you want to pool them together to redeem on one award ticket?

The answer is technically yes, but most of the time* there are transfer fees above one cent per mile, and often transaction fees on top of that, that make this a bad idea. The fees depend on how many miles you transfer. The more you transfer, the lower the per mile cost, but transfers are always a bad deal.

*I said most of the time because JetBlue does allow you to pool points, as well as some foreign airline loyalty programs whose miles you can earn directly through American credit cards, like British Airways Avios, Hawaiian Airlines, and Asiana Airlines.

But transferrable points are a totally different story. The big four transferrable points programs allow you to transfer points between accounts, albeit each has different stipulations and restrictions. Today I’m going to review what those stipulations and restrictions are for the following types of points:

  • American Express Membership Rewards
  • Citi ThankYou Points
  • Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints
  • Chase Ultimate Rewards

ThankYou Pointsscreen-shot-2015-03-23-at-11-01-54-am

ThankYou Points have (had?) some of the most lenient policies for transferring points between accounts. You don’t have to be married nor even living together. But as a backlash from what I can only assume was people selling large amounts of points, Citi has recently tightened their rules. Now you’re only allowed to transfer 100,000 ThankYou Points per year between two people’s ThankYou accounts, which is probably a big blow to families trying to book group trips together or share points amongst one another.

But 100,000 ThankYou Points is something. The other stipulation is that the ThankYou Points expire 90 days after the transfer, so only do it when you’re ready to redeem.

Transfers are instantaneous and free.

Starpoints (SPG)

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You can transfer your SPG Starpoints to another person’s SPG account as long as you and that person have the same household address on both of your accounts. You don’t need to be married, just living together at the least.

You also must make transfers in 1,000 point increments. This could result in some orphaned Starpoints if the award you’re redeeming miles for isn’t a round number.

Transfer between accounts normally take three to five days and are free.

Ultimate Rewards

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Transfers between two people’s Ultimate Rewards accounts are allowed as long both people live at the same household or are married. There isn’t anything in their terms that requires you to have accounts actually registered to the same address– like SPG– but if they find out that you don’t live in the same place or are married, they could shut down your account and you would loose all your points. You can also only choose one person in your household to share points with.

Policy for transferring Ultimate Rewards earned by the Ink Plus (business) card is a little different. You can transfer those Ultimate Rewards to another owner of the company that doesn’t necessarily have to be a member of your household.

Transfers are instantaneous and free.

Membership Rewards

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Out of all the big transferrable points, Membership Rewards have the strictest policy for transfers between two members accounts– you generally can’t do it. However, there is a simple workaround to this rule. You just have to add the person you would like to pool Membership Rewards with as an authorized user to your American Express card.

But watch out for two big caveats to that workaround:

  1. Being an authorized user on someone’s credit card account will count towards the number of cards you’ve opened in the eyes of Chase, so if the person you want to add is keeping an eye on their 5/24 count, you probably don’t want to do this.
  2. It costs $175 to add authorized users to American Express Platinum cards. Boo. Although they do get to enjoy lounge access and other travel benefits of the card if added, so it could be worth it in that sense.

Transfers are instantaneous and free.

Bottom Line

Transferring points amongst accounts can be advantageous for many reasons. Maybe you need just a few thousand more miles to top off an account for a specific award, or maybe you want to be able to book multiple awards on one ticket for your family that plans on traveling together. Or maybe you have a Chase Freedom Unlimited card but no other Chase cards, and your domestic partner has a Sapphire Reserve, so you want to transfer those Ultimate Rewards to their account to take advantage of airline transfer partners rather than just redeem for cash back.

  • You can transfer 100,000 ThankYou Points between any two ThankYou accounts per year
  • You can transfer SPG Points in 1,000 point increments between accounts who have had the same address on file for 30 days
  • You can transfer Ultimate Rewards between the accounts of spouses, household members, or (in the case of the Ink Plus) another business owner
  • You can transfer Membership Rewards to another persons’ account as long as they are designated as an authorized user

You have less than two weeks left to take advantage of this transfer bonus! 

Until September 14, 2016, you can transfer 20,000 SPG Starpoints to 30,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles. This is a repeat of an awesome promo we saw in the summers of 2014 and 2015.

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  • 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:

Convert your Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints® to AAdvantage® miles and earn a 20% bonus from August 1 – September 14, 2016.

Plus, if you convert 20,000 points in one transaction, Starwood automatically adds a 5,000 bonus.  

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 1.5 cents each, so I’d rather have 20,000 Starpoints ($500) than 30,000 American Airlines miles ($450). So I am not going to rush off and convert all my Starpoints to American Airlines miles since 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.

However, if you have an immediate high value redemption in the mind, then this transfer bonus could help to top off your AAdvantage account balance.

It is also very important to note that the bonus American Airlines miles will not post until after the SPG > AAdvantage transfer is complete, and could take up to seven business days according to the promotion’s terms and conditions (detailed below). You can hold American Airlines’ awards free of charge for five days, but not beyond that.

Get More American Airlines Miles

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® offers 30,000 bonus American Airlines miles after making $1,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of opening the card.

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® offers 50,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months.

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Included in the $450 annual fee, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® offers Admirals Club lounge membership, meaning you and up to 32 other people can access over 90 American Airlines Clubs in airports around the world whenever you’re flying–even if you’re not flying on American and and even if you’re not present.

Offer Terms and Conditions

(Click to enlarge)

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5

SPG Moments offer one-of-a-kind musical, sporting, or cultural experiences to Starwood Preferred Guest members. SPG Moments are unique in that they provide an experience that would be very difficult, or next to impossible, to put together yourself. After last night, I can attest to this statement.

Yesterday I attended the US Open evening session and was lucky enough to watch world class tennis from Starwood Preferred Guest’s Luxury Suite. You can too, by bidding on an SPG Moments US Open package.

From pictures I’ve seen of last year’s SPG Suite, it looks like this year’s was an upgrade.

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It is located in Arthur Ashe Stadium and has a killer view. Last night was the closest I’ve ever been to the court of a major sporting event.

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Serena Williams vs Ekaterina Makarova

We watched Serena Williams and Ekaterina Makarova duke it out first. Normally, those two wouldn’t be much of a match, but with Serena somewhat injured and tired from Wimbledon and the Olympics, Makarova had a fighting chance.

Taking a Serena selfie was mandatory because, well, it’s Serena Williams.

Serena selfie
Serena selfie

Meanwhile, I enjoyed the indoor portion of the suite, which was spacious and well stocked with tasty food and drink– plenty of top shelf booze to go around. Air conditioning was a huge plus with the muggy late summer heat.

The Honey Duece, the most popular drink at the US Open.
The Honey Duece, the most popular drink at the US Open.

There were crudités and finger foods like those pictured below, as well as a hot bar of entrée options and a salad bar. All the food I tried was good especially considering that it’s hard to keep buffet style food tasting fresh.  Staff rotated out dishes continuously as we finished them off and replaced them with new choices.

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After Serena won the ladies match and before the mens match began, our host introduced surprise guest tennis star James Blake. The room abuzz with excitement, Blake spoke to us about his experience over the years achieving his career-high singles ranking of #4 in the world.

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He was a humble gentleman, patiently answering everyones questions and posing for pictures afterwards. Blake, among other tennis greats like Andre Agassi, has taught Starwood’s pro-tennis clinic which is offered as an SPG Moments package each year.

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Scott Mayerowitz asked Blake, “Coming from someone who travels often, what’s the first thing you do when you get to a hotel room?”

Blake replied that he enjoys hotel rooms with lots of space and right off the bat throws his clothes all over the place. I can 100% relate to that one.

Other fun celebrity sightings: Bille Jean King, Andre Agassi, Anna Wintour (editor of Vogue), and a handful of Olympians like swimmer Simone Manuel who just snagged two gold and two silver medals in Rio.

A friend that came along as my +1 happened to catch a shot of the two seconds we were displayed on Arthur Ashe’s jumbotron.

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Does that make us celebrities?

Next up came the mens’ match, Andy Murray versus Lukáš Rosol. Murray cruised, defeating Rosol 6-3, 6-2, 6-2.

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Throughout the event hosts and staff made sure you were never left wanting. They went out of their way to make you feel like a VIP. As a final touch before departing, everyone was given a goodie bag full of SPG branded products.

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Bottom Line

While you should normally save your Starpoints for transferring to one of their myriad airline partners, SPG occasionally offers incredible value through Moments by SPG. In December of 2014, Scott won two tickets to a Capital Cities concert in Buenos Aires that came with a chance to meet the band and a cocktail reception for only 6,000 SPG Starpoints through an SPG Moments auction.

If you’re a tennis fan, I highly recommend looking into SPG Moments for next year’s US Open. Bidding prices for the packages can be high, but an experience like a tennis clinic instructed by James Blake or court side seats to a final match could be worth it tenfold if you’re a tennis junkie.

I would like to extend a big thank you to those who helped coordinate last night’s event. You made the whole experience seamless and unforgettable.

0

Let’s talk about transferring Starpoints to airline partners for redeeming on domestic awards. This is part three in a series that will allow you to master redeeming awards within the United States, no matter what kind of points or miles you might have.

For those of you that have already read the first three posts in this series, you will notice repeat information because some of the airline partners overlap between transferrable points programs. 

“How to Maximize Domestic Award Redemptions” Series Index

Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints can be transferred to 35 airline loyalty programs, over 30 over those at a 1:1 ratio:

Aegean Airlines 1:1
Aeromexico Club Premier 1:1
Aeroplan/Air Canada 1:1
Air Berlin 1:1
Air China Companion 1:1
Air New Zealand Airpoints 65:1
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan 1:1
Alitalia MileMiglia 1:1
All Nippon Airways (ANA) Mileage Club 1:1
American Airlines AAdvantage 1:1
Asia Miles 1:1
Asiana Airlines 1:1
British Airways Executive Club 1:1
China Eastern Airlines 1:1
China Southern Airlines Sky Pearl Club 1:1
Delta Air Lines SkyMiles 1:1
Emirates Skywards 1:1
Etihad Airways 1:1
Flying Blue 1:1
Gol Smiles 2:1
Hainan Airlines 1:1
Hawaiian Airlines 1:1
Japan Airlines (JAL) Mileage Bank 1:1
Jet Airways 1:1
Korean Air 1:1
LATAM Airlines LATAM Pass 1:1.5
Miles and More 1:1
Qatar Airways 1:1
Saudi Arabian Airlines 1:1
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer 1:1
Thai Airways International Royal Orchid Plus 1:1
United Mileage Plus 2:1
Virgin America Elevate 1:1
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club 1:1
Virgin Australia 1:1

 

Perhaps the most unique and awesome thing about SPG points is that when transferred to an airline partner program in increments of 20,000, they earn a 5,000 mile bonus in that program (as long as it’s a 1:1 transfer partner). For example, 20,000 SPG Points = 25,000 Singapore Krisflyer miles.

Aside from transferring to airline loyalty program, you can also redeem SPG points on any Sheraton, W, Westin, Le Meridien, Aloft, Four Points, St. Regis, Element, or Luxury Collection Hotel.

Now let’s get into some of the higher value redemption options on awards within the United States when transferring your SPG points to one of their partner airline programs.

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan

Here are the prices for booking Alaska Airlines flights:Screen Shot 2016-08-18 at 9.52.45 AM Screen Shot 2016-08-18 at 9.53.00 AM

The two biggest strengths in using Alaska miles domestically:

  1. Alaska Airlines domestic awards can have one stopover per one way as long as all segments are flown on Alaska Airlines planes. This is a very valuable and unique feature not offered by other programs.
  2. Alaska is considered to be the same region as the other contiguous 48 U.S. states, which is usually not the case. So you can book a flight from anywhere on the mainland United States to Alaska for 12,500 each way in economy or 25,000 in two cabin First Class.

You can also use Alaska miles to book American Airlines and Delta award space as they are partners, but price wise you’re better off transferring SPG points to their own programs to book their respective award space.

What’s Money & Miles? You can get $100 off the base fare of a revenue ticket for paying 10,000 Alaska miles, or $200 off the base fare for 20,000 Alaska miles, which is like buying them for 1 cent each. This does not represent a good deal to me since I value Alaska miles much higher than that (although you do earn 100% of the miles flown when booking with Money & Miles).

American Airlines AAdvantage

Domestically, American Airlines miles can be redeemed on American Airlines and Alaska Airlines flights. Award space on both airlines is searchable on aa.com. American miles can book all the exact same award space that Alaska opens up to its own members at the Saver level.

Below are the one way prices within the contiguous 48 U.S. states (first row) and Canada & Alaska (second row):

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50,000 and 55,000 miles prices are charged for three-cabin aircraft that are only operated by American Airlines on certain flagship routes (the American Airlines A321T between New York and Los Angeles/San Francisco and a few 777s between Los Angeles and Miami).

For direct flights only on American Airlines planes that fly a distance less than or equal to 500 miles within the continental 48 U.S. states and Canada, the following prices apply:

  • 7,500 miles each way in economy
  • 15,000 miles each way in First Class on a two-cabin aircraft (almost all aircraft) and in Business Class on three-cabin aircraft

Every two months, American Airlines publishes a list of new destinations in the United States and Canada eligible for discounted awards if you are an AAdvantage card holder. Be sure to check those out as you can get up to a 30% discount. 

For even more details read Redeem American Airlines Miles: Part 6 — Domestic and Transcontinental Awards.

Asiana Flying Club

Asiana is a part of Star Alliance with United. You can fly United airlines for only 12,500 Asiana miles each way in economy or 22,500 miles each way in (two-cabin) First Class between the contiguous 48 U.S. states and Alaska. That’s just as good as Alaska’s prices in economy and better than Alaska’s prices flying Business.

You can also fly cheaply to Hawaii on United with Asiana miles, it only costs:

  • 27,500 Asiana miles each way in (two-cabin) First Class
  • 17,500 Asiana miles each way in economy (same price Singapore charges for flying United)

Asiana doesn’t collect fuel surcharges on United flights.

British Airways Avios

I love that British Airways Avios has a distance-based award chart. They also do not charge fuel surcharges on American Airlines nor Alaska Flights within the western hemisphere.

Here is the chart for award bookings of flights that touch the United States (all values represent thousands of Avios):Screen-Shot-2015-10-28-at-2.50.49-PM

For perspective, American Airlines charges 7,500 American Airlines miles for direct flights of 500 miles or less, and United charges 10,000 United miles for flights of 700 miles or less. So you can see that the strength in British Airways chart lies in short distance redemptions.

I also love that for 25,000 Avios and $11, you can fly roundtrip on American Airlines or Alaska Airlines planes from the West Coast to Hawaii. Here are the possible routes.

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Watch out for SPG to British Airways Avios transfer bonuses as they are frequent and will increase the value of your redemptions, like this 35% transfer bonus last June.

Delta SkyMiles

Delta is one of the three American legacy carriers, so obviously their miles are useful in the sense that they grant access to a good deal of domestic award space. Delta doesn’t publish their award charts online anymore, so the only way to really know the price of a Delta award is to look it up on delta.com.

Here are some examples I just searched for varying distances:

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Note that the above prices may be influenced by the domestic “award sale” Delta is running right now through September 30. It seems they run these sales quite often, like this one last month. I say “award sale” with quotation marks as I don’t see how you can have a sale when you don’t have published prices; not to mention when your sale appears to be a state of being rather than an actual discount.

Either way, Delta has some very cheap domestic award prices comparatively, so search delta.com when comparing your options. If you want to fly Delta One, look to book it with Virgin Atlantic miles instead. More on that in the Virgin Atlantic section below.

Etihad Guest

Etihad Guest’s award chart for redeeming Etihad miles on American Airlines makes it appear that you cannot redeem Etihad miles on American Airlines flights within North America. However The Points Guy claims that you can book First Class on American Airlines A321T for transcontinental service (three cabin First Class), and that an agent quoted him only 25,000 miles and $92.45 to book the ticket, which is just half of what American Airlines’ charges for it (50,000 AA miles).

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I haven’t tested this myself, but if any of you have done it, let us know in the comments.

Flying Blue

Both Flying Blue (Air France/KLM) and Delta are part of the Skyteam Alliance. It costs 30,000 Flying Blue miles + standard taxes/fees (no fuel surcharges) to fly roundtrip in Delta economy between the mainland United States and Hawaii. You can also book one way Flying Blue Awards for half the price of a roundtrip (in this case, 15,000 Flying Blue miles).

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Delta charges 45,000 miles roundtrip between the mainland United States and Hawaii.

Stopovers are not allowed on one way Classic Flying Blue Awards. It is not clear how may stopovers you can have on a roundtrip, but definitely at least one. Travel is Free also reported that you have to call Flying Blue (1 800 375 8723) if you’d like to include stopovers as a part of your roundtrip award.

**BONUS**

There is currently a glitch with Flying Blue’s award prices between the mainland United States and Kauai (LIH) specifically. While it should be priced at 15,000 Flying Blue miles, it’s actually priced at 12,500.

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Read Flying Blue Glitch: 12,500 Miles to Kauai to learn more.

Korean Air 

Korean miles can book a roundtrip in Delta economy from anywhere in the United States to any of the four major Hawaiian islands for 25,000 Korean miles. A roundtrip and one way is the same price, so only book roundtrips. Korean awards allow a stopover en route an open jaw at the destination though, so consideration that your consolation prize for having to book roundtrip. Screen-Shot-2016-03-23-at-7.27.01-PM

A roundtrip between the United States and Hawaii in Delta One is 45,000 Korean miles, which is much cheaper than using Delta miles to fly their own premium cabin (80,000 Delta miles roundtrip).

Korean does not collect fuel surchrages on awards flying Delta, only the standard taxes apply.

To learn more about finding award space and booking this award, read my guide to booking Delta flights to Hawaii with Korean miles.

Korean miles can also book Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines Saver award space, but the price is higher: 30k/60k Korean miles roundtrip in economy/First.

Singapore Krisflyer

Singapore Airlines and United are fellow members of Star Alliance. You can redeem Singapore Krisflyer miles between the continental United States and Hawaii on United flights for 17,500 miles each way in economy and 30,000 miles in First with no fuel surcharges. United charges 22,500 and 40,000 miles respectively for the same flights! (Get the flat bed in first!)

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You can also fly within the United States on United Business Class for 20,000 Krisflyer miles each way (10,000 miles cheaper than redeeming United miles on their own Business Class).

Virgin America Elevate

Elevate Points are redeemed differently depending on whether you use them to book a flight on Virgin America Flights or one of its five partners.

  • If redeeming on a Virgin America flight, the required amount of points is tied to the revenue cost of the ticket. This means that you don’t have to search for specific award space, as any flight that is available on virginamerica.com can also be booked with Elevate points (ie no blackout dates.) Elevate points are on average worth about two cents a piece, but that’s not accounting for the loss when you transfer from Membership Rewards without a bonus). Cheap, short domestic flights or airfare sales would be the best case scenarios in which to use Elevate Points.
  • For flying partners, the award pricing is fixed. There is no traditional chart like other loyalty programs often use, but you can price out awards (including taxes, fees and fuel surcharges) with the award calculator tool on Virgin America’s website.
    • Potential sweetspots on partner charts:
      • 20,000 Virgin America Elevate Points is a roundtrip in Economy between the western United States and Hawaii on Hawaiian Airlines
      • 3,000 Virgin America Elevate Points is a one way economy interisland flight on Hawaiian Airlines

Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic doesn’t have flights within the United States, but they are partners with Delta.

For 45,000 Virgin Atlantic miles you can fly Delta One roundtrip within the United States, which is 5,000 miles less than what Delta normally charges for it. It must be booked as a roundtrip however, as Virgin Atlantic partner redemptions will cost the roundtrip price even if you book a one way.

You can redeem Virgin Atlantic miles on Hawaiian or Delta flights to Hawaii from the mainland as well, but there are better deals redeeming British Airways Avios, Singapore Krisflyer, or Flying Blue miles (which are all SPG transfer partners).

Virgin Atlantic won’t collect fuel surcharges if the partner airline that you fly doesn’t.

Virgin Australia

Virgin Australia is partners with Virgin America and Delta, and the award prices for redeeming on those airlines is distance based. Virgin Australia does not collect fuel surcharges flying either.

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Like British Airways Avios distance-based chart, the strengths in Virgin Australia’s chart for redeeming on Delta and Virgin America is short, direct flights.

For example, this Delta flight between New York City and Washington, D.C. would cost 12,500 Delta miles…

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…and only 7,800 Virgin Australia miles as the flight distance is 214 miles.

Bottom Line

Starwood Preferred Guest has more transfer partners than any of the other transferrable point  currencies, which is a big reason why I value them more highly than any of the others. You also have a variety of different types of miles and points so that you can utilize depending on whether you want to take a short hop to a nearby state or a transcontinental flight to Alaska.

  • Use Alaska miles if you want to a build in a free stopover on a domestic award, or for some of the cheapest award prices to Alaska
  • American Airlines miles obviously open you up to a large amount of domestic award space. Prices are pretty standard, but you can also get 7,500 mile awards for short, direct flights.
  • British Airways Avios are some of the most useful for short haul flights as well as to Hawaii. In the same vein, Virgin Australia miles can be valuable for short flights as their award prices are also distance-based.
  • Apparently you can book three cabin First Class on American Airlines A321T for transcontinental service with half the amount of Etihad miles as it would cost using American’s own miles.
  • Redeem Singapore miles on United Business Class within the 48 contiguous United States.
  • Flying Blue and Asiana miles are great deals to Hawaii.
  • Delta often has cheap domestic awards whose prices aren’t published, so you’ll have to check those on delta.com.
  • Virgin America is also one you’ll need to check by hand as the prices of their awards are tied to the revenue cost of the ticket
  • Use Virgin Atlantic miles to book Delta One.

And don’t forget the biggest perk. Starpoints transferred in 20,000 point increments to airline partner earn a 5,000 mile bonus.

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The US Open begins August 29 in Flushing, New York. Chase customers can register here to reserve a free spot at Chase’s Lounge for access to air-conditioning and complimentary snacks and beverages during the world class tennis matches.

To be clear, you still have to purchase tickets to the US Open– this free reservation at the Chase Lounge is solely for entrance to the lounge. But with temperatures in New York climbing that time of year and pricey drinks, a lounge with air conditioning and refreshments would no doubt be appreciated. Just make sure you register ahead of time as spots are limited.

How to Get a Free Spot in the Chase Lounge

1. Register here by inputting the Chase customer service number in the New User Login boxes. That’s the only verification of being a chase customer that is needed.

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2. You’ll be given 19 different time slots to choose from. You can reserve spots for up to four people total in any session that has availability. The four spots don’t all have to be reserved for the same time, you can spread them across different sessions (or even book a spot for yourself in four different sessions if you wish).

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FYI, Mark Jackson commented on this One Mile At a Time Post that last year the Chase Lounge was only serving alcoholic beverages during the evening sessions.

3. You should receive a confirmation that looks like this once you pick your sessions. The first bullet point in the confirmation suggests printing or taking a screenshot to facilitate an easier check-in process when you arrive.

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4. If you want to change your reservation at any point, you must do it at least 24 hours prior to the event.

Here are the full terms & conditions (click to enlarge).

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SPG Moments Packages for US Open Tickets

SPG Moments offer one-of-a-kind musical, sporting, or cultural experiences to Starwood Preferred Guest members.

While you should normally save your Starpoints for transferring to an airline partner, SPG occasionally offers incredible value through Moments by SPG. In December of 2014, Scott won two tickets to a Capital Cities concert in Buenos Aires that came with a chance to meet the band and a cocktail reception for only 6,000 SPG Starpoints through an SPG Moments auction.

SPG is offering Moments by SPG packages for the US Open as Starwood is a sponsor.

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Most of the bidding for these packages start at above 50,000 Starpoints (which I value at 2.5 cents each, so more than $1,250). But if you’re a big tennis fan, one of these packages could be worth it to you. Before buying one of these packages, just make sure to compare the cash price of the ticket outright out with your valuation of the amount of Starpoints required to make sure you’re getting a deal.

A lof of the prime US Open tickets are already sold out, so in that case an SPG Moments package could be very appealing for you tennis fans that didn’t plan ahead.

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Arthur Ashe Stadium, Photo by slgckgc

Bottom Line

Register here to reserve a free spot at Chase’s Lounge at the 2016 US Open in New York. You can also bid on an SPG Moments package for US Open tickets using Starpoints.

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From now through September 19, 2016 you can earn 2,500 SPG points for adding an authorized user to your Starwood Preferred Guest®Credit Card from American Express. The promotion was originally sent out as a targeted email, but you can also access it from this link.

I value SPG points more highly than any other transferrable points currency (around 2.5 cents each) because they transfer to over 30 airline loyalty programs.

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This bonus could be especially useful if you have a balance of Starpoints that is almost but not quite 20,000, since when you transfer Starpoints in increments of 20,000 to an airline loyalty program you receive a 5,000 mile bonus.

How to Get the 2,500 SPG Point Bonus

1. Click this link.

2. Log in if you’re not already logged into your American Express online account.

3. Add authorized user.

How would the authorized user be affected?

One of the first things you’ll probably notice is that American Express asks for the social security number of the user you are authorizing to spend on your card. Adding a person as an authorized user does not trigger a hard credit pull for them, but does apparently does count against the Chase 5/24 according to this Flyertalk thread about Applying for Chase Credit Cards- May 2015-Present (it’s in the Wiki at the top).

What if I have the SPG Business card but not the personal?

Commenters on Reddit have confirmed that the authorized user bonus is not available for Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card cardholders.

Terms & Conditions

  • The offer for 2,500 Starpoints expires on September 19, 2016. Card Members are limited to one-time receipt of 2,500 Starpoints through this email offer. Bonus points will appear on your Starwood Preferred Guest statement 8-12 weeks after you add an additional Card.
  • You must notify Additional Card Members that we may obtain, provide, and use information about them and that their use of your Account is subject to certain provisions of the Card Member Agreement. The maximum number of Additional Cards issued on each Account is 99.
  • Additional Card Members must be at least 15 years of age and never have had a defaulted account with American Express.
  • Additional Card Members do not have accounts with us but they can use your Account subject to the terms of the Card Member Agreement. You are responsible for all use of your Account by Additional Card Members and anyone they allow to use your Account. You must pay for all charges they make. You authorize us to give Additional Card Members information about your Account and to discuss it with them.
  • Eligible Purchases means purchases for goods and services minus returns and other credits. Eligible purchases do NOT include fees or interest charges, balance transfers, cash advances, purchases of travelers checks, purchases or reloading of prepaid cards, or purchases of other cash equivalents. Additional terms and restrictions apply. Starpoints received from your Card will be posted to your SPG account up to 12 weeks after the end of each month. To be eligible to receive Starpoints, Card Member’s account must not be cancelled or in default at the time of bonus fulfillment.
  • Merchants are assigned codes based on what they primarily sell. A purchase will not earn additional points if the merchant’s code is not eligible. Purchases made through a third-party payment account or on an online marketplace (with multiple retailers) will not earn additional points. A purchase may not earn additional points if the merchant submits the purchase using a mobile or wireless card reader or if you use a mobile or digital wallet.

Don’t Forget the SPG Card Referral Bonus

You can earn 10,000 SPG Points per credit card referral, up to 55,000 per year– click here to learn more.

Here is my friend’s referral link if you want to benefit a fellow mile lover and get the card. I already have my 55,000 points for the year.

Bottom Line

SPG is running a targeted email promotion giving cardholders the opportunity to earn 2,500 bonus Starpoints for adding an authorized user through September 19, 2016. Luckily there is a link that currently works whether or not you received the targeted email.

Many people can get a small business credit card. Opening small business cards roughly doubles the number of amazing miles and points cards available to you.

Every small business credit card I’ve gotten I opened by putting my social security number as the tax ID, and by saying that my business is a sole proprietorship. I got many of the cards when my business revenue was very low.

Check out my post on How to Be Approved for Business Cards.

Here are the top cards, broken down by Best Sign Up Bonus, Best Category Bonuses, Best for Everyday Spending, Best for Perks, and Best for Cash Back. Depending on what kind of business you have, how much/what kind of spending the business does, and what your overall goals are, the best card for you will vary.

Best Sign-Up Bonus: The Ink Plus

The Chase Ink Plus offers 60,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the card. Ultimate Rewards transfer 1:1 to United, British Airways, Southwest, Korean, Virgin Atlantic, and more. I value Ultimate Rewards very highly because of this versatility– at about 2 cents per point. That makes this sign-up bonus worth $1,200.

For the reasons presented in this post, this is one of the first three cards I recommend you get if you can get a business card.

I have to also mention the Alaska Airlines Visa® Business Card for this category. The sign-up bonus isn’t all that impressive on its own (30,000 Alaska miles for spending $1,000 in three months), but when you consider that you can potentially earn the sign-up bonus repeatedly in a relatively short span of time, and the fact that I value Alaska miles very highly (1.75 cents each), the card becomes a lot more interesting.

Best for Everyday Spending: SPG Business Card

The Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express OPEN earns 1 Starpoint per dollar on all purchases.

Starpoints transfer to over 30 airlines, most at a 1:1 ratio. Whenever Starpoints transfer at a 1:1 ratio, you always get 5,000 bonus miles for every 20,000 points transferred. That effectively means that you are earning 1.25 airline miles per dollar on all purchases with this card. Key 1:1 transfer partners:

  • American Airlines
  • British Airways
  • Delta Air Lines
  • Alaska Airlines
  • Korean Air
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Virgin America
  • Many More, but NOT United

Here is how to transfer Starpoints to airline miles.

The card comes with 25,000 bonus Starpoints after spending $5,000 in the first six months. Points can also be used for free hotel nights, Cash & Points stays, and Nights & Flights awards.

The annual fee of $95 is waived the first 12 months.

Best Category Bonuses: The Ink Plus

The Chase Ink Plus offers 5x Ultimate Rewards on up to $50,000 each account anniversary year for purchases at:

  • office supply stores
  • cellular phone services
  • landline phone services
  • internet and cable TV services

The card also earns 2x points at gas stations and hotels on up to $50,000 each account anniversary year.

All other purchases earn 1 Ultimate Reward per dollar spent.

Best for Perks: Business Platinum Card from American Express

The Business Platinum Card® from American Express is the king of perks for business cards. The card comes with:

Here is how to set up and maximize those benefits.

The card comes with 40,000 bonus Membership Rewards after spending $5,000 in the first three months. It earns 1 Membership Rewards per dollar on all purchases except when you book on the American Express Travel website, which earns 2x per dollar spent.

The card has a $450 annual fee that is NOT waived, but if you are an avid traveler, the perks should more than make up for it.

Best for Cash Back: Costco Anywhere Visa® Business Card by CitiScreen Shot 2016-06-20 at 6.42.10 PM

The Costco Anywhere Visa® Business Card by Citi, exclusively for Costco members, earns:

  • 4% cash back on eligible gas for the first $7,000 per year and then 1% thereafter
  • 3% cash back on restaurants and eligible travel purchases
  • 2% cash back on all other purchases from Costco and Costco.com
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases

Read my full review of the card here.

Bottom Line

Depending on how much spending power your business has and how much you travel, all of the cards above have their own strengths that might benefit you and your small business more than others.

If your business has a lot of expenses and you therefore have a lot of spending power, you’ll probably want either the Costco Anywhere Visa® Business Card by Citi or the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card depending on whether you prefer cash back rewards or travel rewards.

If your business is still growing and doesn’t have a lot expenses, then perhaps you’ll get more out of the Ink Plus or the Alaska Airlines Visa® Business Card with their valuable sign-up bonuses.

If you travel often enough to highly value perks like lounge access and hotel status, whether your business has spending power or not, the Business Platinum Card® from American Express should be appealing.

Until July 5, 2016, you can transfer 20,000 Starpoints to 33,750 British Airways Avios. The normal rate is 20,000 points to 25,000 Avios, but Avios is running a 35% bonus on transferring hotel points.

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If you don’t have Starpoints, you can buy them right now for 2.45 cents each. The best number to buy would be 20,000 for $490 to maximize this promotion, since Starwood gives a bonus for every 20,000 Starpoints transferred to airlines. Then you could transfer those 20,000 Starpoints to 33,750 Avios, which is like buying those Avios for 1.45 cents each. I value Avios at 1.6 cents each, so this can be a very good deal if you use Avios for their high value uses.

This (1.45 cpp) is close to the best we’ve seen for buying Avios other than a few Spanish Groupon deals.

Key Links:

Hat Tip One Mile at a Time

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Until July 1, 2016, Starwoodis offering a 30% discount on the normal purchase price of SPG points.

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Starpoints are normally sold in increments of 500 points for 3.5 cents per point. With 30% off, the price drops to 2.45 cents each.
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The deal applies to all purchases of 5,000 points.

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This is the second cheapest I’ve ever seen Starpoints sold, behind last month’s 2.275 cents price that was only open to SPG credit card holders. Since you can transfer Starpoints to most types of miles at a rate of 20,000 Starpoints = 25,000 miles, buying Starpoints for 2.45 cents is like buying many types of miles for 1.96 cents each.

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:

Last year I 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 have far better transfer options than Membership Rewards, ThankYou Points, and Ultimate Rewards.

The best four options are Asiana, Aeroplan, Alaska, and new partner Virgin America. Starpoints transfer in a 20k points to 25k miles ratio (1:1.25) to all four airlines, and only Aeroplan is a 1:1 transfer partner of another transfer program (Membership Rewards.)

Buying 20,000 Starpoints for $490 would allow you to transfer to 25,000 miles. That’s like buying the miles for 1.96 cents each. (Not a good deal speculatively, but possibly a good deal if you have an immediate high-value use.)

Buying 30,000 Starpoints for $735 would allow you to transfer to 35,000 miles, which is like buying miles for 2.1 cents each. While $735 for 35,000 miles is a terrible deal in the abstract, it is enough Asiana miles to book a one way in Business Class to Southern South America and almost enough Virgin America points (45,000) to book a one way in Business Class to Australia.

When to Buy (Math)

Is buying SPG points for 2.45 cents each a good deal?

I value SPG points at 2.5 cents each, but I don’t really want to convert hundreds of dollars to points without a plan for them. 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.

Bottom Line

You can buy 5,000 to 30,000 SPG Starpoints for 2.45 cents each until June 1. That’s too high to buy speculatively, but there are a lot of immediate uses for the points where that price offers great value.

Key Link: Buy SPG Points

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Until today (June 3, 2016), Starwood Preferred Guest personal or business credit cardholders can buy up to 30,000 Starpoints with up to a 35% discount on the normal purchase price. (If you don’t have an SPG card, get it through this referral thread and earn a fellow miles lover 10,000 SPG points.)

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Starpoints are normally sold in increments of 500 points for 3.5 cents per point. With 35% off, the price drops to 2.275 cents each.

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The deal applies to all purchases of 5,000 points.

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The deal automatically appears after you enter your SPG number on this page if it detects that you are an SPG credit cardholder.

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This is the cheapest I’ve ever seen Starpoints sold. Since you can transfer Starpoints to most types of miles at a rate of 20,000 Starpoints = 25,000 miles, this is like buying many types of miles for 1.82 cents each.

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:

Last year I 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 have far better transfer options than Membership Rewards, ThankYou Points, and Ultimate Rewards.

The best four options are Asiana, Aeroplan, Alaska, and new partner Virgin America. Starpoints transfer in a 20k points to 25k miles ratio (1:1.25) to all four airlines, and only Aeroplan is a 1:1 transfer partner of another transfer program (Membership Rewards.)

Buying 20,000 Starpoints for $455 would allow you to transfer to 25,000 miles. That’s like buying the miles for 1.82 cents each. (Not a good deal speculatively, but possibly a good deal if you have an immediate high-value use.)

Buying 30,000 Starpoints for $682.50 would allow you to transfer to 35,000 miles, which is like buying miles for 1.95 cents each. While $682.50 for 35,000 miles is a terrible deal in the abstract, it is enough Asiana miles to book a one way in Business Class to Southern South America and almost enough Virgin America points (45,000) to book a one way in Business Class to Australia.

When to Buy (Math)

Is buying SPG points for 2.275 cents each a good deal?

I value SPG points at 2.5 cents each, but I don’t really want to convert hundreds of dollars to points without a plan for them. 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.

Bottom Line

If you are an SPG credit cardholer, you can buy 500 to 30,000 SPG Starpoints for as little as 2.275 cents each until June 3. That’s too high to buy speculatively, but there are a lot of immediate uses for the points where that price offers great value.

Key Link: Buy SPG Points

It is cheaper to book the exact same Delta flights to Hawaii with Korean miles than with Delta miles.

  • Delta charges 22,500 miles each way in economy and 40,000 miles in First Class between the mainland and Hawaii or 50,000 in flat bed Delta One
  • Korean charges 25,000 miles roundtrip in economy and 45,000 miles roundtrip in First Class or Delta One between the mainland and Hawaii

That’s a humongous difference. Instead of costing 90,000 Delta miles to get two people from your home airport to Hawaii and back, you could pay 50,000 Korean miles. Instead of paying 160,000 Delta miles for two roundtrip First Class tickets, you could pay 90,000 Korean miles–even theoretically for flat beds!

To reiterate, these are the exact same flights with vastly different prices depending on which miles you use.

Korean has access to all the same Level 1 award space Delta releases to people with Delta miles, but no other Delta award space.

What’s the catch? For bookings to Hawaii, there are two:

  1. You can only book Korean awards for yourself or immediate family members, with proof of relationships.
  2. Korean awards are the same price roundtrip or one way, so you have to book roundtrip (although an open jaw is allowed.) Delta awards can be booked one way (and then you can return home with another type of miles.)

However there are a number of benefits to booking Korean awards to Hawaii:

  1. Korean awards cost fewer miles than Delta awards
  2. Korean awards have no change or cancellation fees if your plans change
  3. Korean awards of Delta flights to Hawaii do not have fuel surcharges, so both types of awards will just have identical taxes of $11 roundtrip.
  4. Korean offers a stopover on roundtrip awards to Hawaii. Delta doesn’t.
  5. Korean miles are easy to get

Getting Korean Miles

Korean miles are a partner of two of the four major transferable points program:

  1. Chase Ultimate Rewards, 1:1
  2. SPG Starpoints, 1:1 with a bonus. Every 20,000 Starpoints transferred earns a 5,000 mile bonus, so the ideal transfers are in exact increments of 20,000 Starpoints to 25,000 Korean miles.

Right now, the two best cards to get Korean miles are the Sapphire Preferred and Ink Plus because both earn Ultimate Rewards that transfer 1:1 to Korean miles.

The Sapphire Preferred is one of the best personal credit cards on the market. It offers:

  • 50,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 in the first three months
  • 5,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards for adding an authorized user
  • 2 Ultimate Rewards per dollar on travel and dining purchases
  • 1 Ultimate Reward per dollar on all other purchases
  • no annual fee the first year and $95 thereafter

While I can not directly link to the current Sapphire Preferred offer, you may find it by clicking below if you decide to apply. (I receive a commission, and your support keeps this blog going.)

The Ink Plus is easily the best business card on the market. It offers:

  • 60,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $5,000 in the first three months
  • 5 Ultimate Rewards per dollar at office supply stores and on cellular phone, landline, internet and cable TV services
  • 2 Ultimate Rewards per dollar at gas stations and hotel accommodations
  • 1 Ultimate Reward per dollar on all other purchases
  • $95 annual fee

While I can not directly link to the current Ink Plus offer, you may find it by clicking below if you decide to apply. (I receive a commission, and your support keeps this blog going.)

Starpoints also transfer to Korean miles, and both SPG cards are in the middle of their biggest bonuses ever.

Searching for Award Space, Transferring Miles, and Booking the Awards

You will have to search for award space on the Delta flights on delta.com; then you will call Korean Airlines and possibly email them some documents to ticket the award.

Searching Delta.com

On the home page of delta.com run an award search from your home airport to Oahu (HNL), Maui (OGG), Kauai (LIH), or the Big Island (KOA). I prefer one way searches because I think they display the results more clearly.

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 3.14.11 PM

At the top of the search results, select “Delta Only” to avoid Alaska Airlines flights showing up in the results (they can booked with Korean miles, but at a higher price) and change the calendar to “5 Weeks” if you are extra flexible.

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 5.55.00 PM

Here are the results for this fall from Los Angeles to Maui for two passengers. Days that say 22,500 have Level 1 award space that we can book with Korean miles. Other days do not.
Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 3.15.39 PM Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 3.15.45 PM

Similarly, here is Kauai to Los Angeles for two passengers. Again, I see surprisingly good economy award space this fall.Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 3.16.04 PM Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 3.16.09 PM First Class award space is not nearly as good. Level 1 space is 40,000 miles each way per person, so that’s what you need to find.Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 3.16.59 PM Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 3.17.03 PM Once you find the award space you want that prices at the Level 1 price, note the date, cabin, and flight number. For instance, here is an economy trip with Level 1 award space from Minneapolis to Maui, returning from Kauai to Minneapolis.Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 3.20.15 PM

Flat Beds

Delta flies flat beds from Atlanta to Honolulu, but award space is terrible on the route. These flights would still be 45,000 Korean miles roundtrip even though they are 50,000 Delta miles one way at the Level 1 price. Let us know in the comments if you find any award space on these routes.

Booking Process

I have never booked an award with Korean miles. I am relying on this post from One Mile at a Time. Basically:

  1. You call (800) 438-5000 to put the award on hold. Tell the agent that you want to book a Bonus Award and feed her the date, cabin, and flight numbers of the Delta segments you found on delta.com. For cabin, call the forward cabin on Delta’s planes “Business Class” even though Delta calls it something else.
  2. Complete the Bonus Award Application. You can only book awards for yourself, parents, grandparents, siblings, children, grandchildren, parents-in-law, and children-in-law. You have to provide proof of the relationship too, which might mean scanning and emailing a marriage certificate or birth certificate. Insane, I know, but you can literally save about $1,000 worth of miles for two people taking a roundtrip to Hawaii.
  3. Call back to ticket the award.
Transferring Miles

Transfers from Ultimate Rewards to Korean are instant, so put the award on hold before transferring.

SPG transfers take approximately five days. Also initiate these after putting the award on hold because Korean award holds are of essentially limitless duration.

Picking Seats

To pick your seats and confirm that your reservation was ticketed correctly, call Delta.

Get Creative (Routing Rules)

Here are the routing rules when redeeming Korean miles to fly SkyTeam partners, like Delta:

  • Roundtrip and one way awards are the same price, so book roundtrip awards
  • You get one stopover per roundtrip award in addition to the destination
  • You can have three segments maximum in each direction
  • You get one open jaw, at the destination only

You can get a stopover on the mainland an open jaw in Hawaii, so you can book something like:

  • Your home airport to Los Angeles
  • Hang out in LA for a few days (or weeks or months)
  • Los Angeles to one Hawaiian island
  • Another Hawaiian island to your home airport

That leaves just a single interisland flight to be booked separately (or several interisland flights depending on how many islands you want to see.

Bottom Line

Use Korean miles instead of Delta miles to book economy and First Class awards to Hawaii on Delta flights. You’ll pay fewer miles, lower fees, and be able to book the exact same seats. Plus Korean awards allow a stopover en route an open jaw at the destination.

Cards that earn Ultimate Rewards are ideal, since they transfer 1:1 instantly to Korean miles.

The Sapphire Preferred is one of the best personal credit cards on the market. It offers:

  • 50,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 in the first three months
  • 5,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards for adding an authorized user
  • 2 Ultimate Rewards per dollar on travel and dining purchases
  • 1 Ultimate Reward per dollar on all other purchases
  • no annual fee the first year and $95 thereafter

While I can not directly link to the current Sapphire Preferred offer, you may find it by clicking below if you decide to apply. (I receive a commission, and your support keeps this blog going.)

The Ink Plus is easily the best business card on the market. It offers:

  • 60,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $5,000 in the first three months
  • 5 Ultimate Rewards per dollar at office supply stores and on cellular phone, landline, internet and cable TV services
  • 2 Ultimate Rewards per dollar at gas stations and hotel accommodations
  • 1 Ultimate Reward per dollar on all other purchases
  • $95 annual fee

While I can not directly link to the current Ink Plus offer, you may find it by clicking below if you decide to apply. (I receive a commission, and your support keeps this blog going.)

11

You can earn 10,000 Starpoints per referral to the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card, up to 55,000 Starpoints per calendar year. That’s double the normal Starpoints per referral (but the same annual cap.)

Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 8.45.24 PM

I value 10,000 Starpoints at $250 and 55,000 Starpoints at $1,375.

How does the referral bonus work?

Look for an email with the subject “Limited Time: Refer a Friend, Earn Double the Starpoints” and click the Refer Now button. If you can’t find that email, but you have the SPG card, try signing in to your Amex account here.

Enter your friends’ email addresses, and they will get an email from American Express saying you are referring them to the card.

Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 8.47.57 PM

If they apply through the link in the email and are approved, you’ll receive 10,000 bonus Starpoints, up to 55,000 per calendar year.

The referral offer is the standard offer for the card:

  • 25,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 within the first 3 months of Cardmembership
  • 2 Starpoints per dollar on SPG purchases
  • Earn 1 Starpoint for all other purchases.
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95

You should probably mention to your friends that in the last year we have seen 30,000 and 35,000 points offers, and you can only get the bonus on an Amex card once per lifetime.

Here is my friend’s referral link if you want to benefit a fellow mile lover and get the card. I already have my 55,000 points for the year.

Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 8.49.48 PM

If you want to leave your referral link in the comments, go ahead.

Terms & Conditions

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All Nippon Airways (ANA) has reduced fuel surcharges drastically on awards that travel to or from Japan. Now you can fly to Tokyo from the United States for 75,000 miles in flat bed Business Class roundtrip plus low taxes plus a $4–yes four dollar–fuel surcharge. That’s tens of thousands of miles fewer than competitors charge.

Screen Shot 2016-05-05 at 2.33.42 PM

The above screenshot is of a roundtrip Business Class award flying ANA between Los Angeles and Tokyo in February 2017.

Routing Rules

ANA has two award charts. A cheaper one for flying only ANA flights, and a more expensive one for flying partner flights.

ANA flies between Tokyo and Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York (JFK), San Francisco, San Jose, and Washington D.C.

Screen Shot 2016-05-12 at 12.25.37 PMIf you don’t live in one of those cities, you can add Saver United award space to get to one of those cities (the United hubs of Washington-Dulles, Houston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco would be easiest), but that puts you onto the more expensive partner award chart.

When redeeming ANA miles on ANA-operated flights, you can have one stopover if your flight originates outside of Japan. You can also have one open jaw.

 

US to Japan Roundtrip

ANA awards are roundtrip only– no one ways allowed. Hence all prices mentioned in this post are roundtrip.

The price of redeeming ANA miles on ANA-operated flights depends on the time of year. If you fly to Japan during any of the dates listed in the blue section of the chart (basically January, February, or April 2017), you will pay the lowest rates of 40,000 miles roundtrip in economy, 75,000 roundtrip in Business, or 150,000 roundtrip in First Class.
Screen Shot 2016-05-05 at 12.28.07 PMHere are the current prices for all cabins (taxes and fuel surcharges for all are roughly $85):

Low Season (January, February, April)

  • North America to Japan in economy: 40,000 ANA miles
  • North America to Japan in Business Class: 75,000 ANA miles
  • North America to Japan in First Class: 150,000 ANA miles

Regular Season (Most of the rest of the year, including most of summer)

  • North America to Japan in economy: 50,000 ANA miles
  • North America to Japan in Business Class: 85,000 ANA miles
  • North America to Japan in First Class: 150,000 ANA miles

High Season (Christmas, New Years, late April to early May, and late July to mid-August)

  • North America to Japan in economy: 55,000 ANA miles
  • North America to Japan in Business Class: 90,000 ANA miles
  • North America to Japan in First Class: 165,000 ANA miles

Any time of year if you include a United flight (same prices as High Season)

  • North America to Japan in economy: 55,000 ANA miles
  • North America to Japan in Business Class: 90,000 ANA miles
  • North America to Japan in First Class: 165,000 ANA miles

For comparison, redeeming American Airlines miles to Japan would cost 70k/120k/160k miles roundtrip in economy/Business/First. Redeeming United miles to Japan would cost 70k/150k/220k miles roundtrip in economy/Business/First on partners.

Flights From the US to Other Countries ANA Flies To

While ANA’s award redemption rates are some of the lowest out of all of the Star Alliance options to a number of regions, their fuel surcharges can be prohibitive. Unfortunately–apart from Japan–fuel surcharges on those awards have remained intact and exorbitant. It appears that ANA has only cut fuel surcharges on awards that touch Japan.

Out of pocket costs to get to Bangkok are over $500, to Delhi are nearly $700, and to Sydney are nearly $900.

Good News from Another Angle

ANA axing fuel surcharges on awards to or from Japan is also beneficial for those of you with any type of Star Alliance miles that collect fuel surcharges when the carrier does (pretty much all of them do except United, Copa, and Avianca). You can now redeem your miles on roundtrip flights between the US and Tokyo (almost) fuel surcharge free!

However, the easiest way for Americans to collect foreign programs’ miles are through cards that earn transferrable points, so it’s most of you reading this have points that can transfer to a variety of programs rather than, say, Lufthansa or Asiana miles outright. In that case, don’t bother transferring to a different Star Alliance partner to redeem on ANA flights since ANA’s mileage prices on their own flights are by far the cheapest to Japan.

How to Search for and Book Award Space

You can search for and book award space right on ANA’s website. Read this post to learn how to use the ANA search tool.

How to Get ANA Miles

ANA is a 1:1 transfer partner of SPG points as well as Membership Rewards.

Until June 22, 2016, the Platinum Card from American Express Exclusively for Mercedes-Benz comes with 75,000 Membership Rewards after spending $3,000 in the first three months. Membership Rewards transfer to around 20 hotel and airline programs including Delta, Singapore, and British Airways.

The card has a $475 annual fee in the first year. But it comes with huge benefits like airline fee reimbursement, airport lounge access, and hotel status.

Premium Cabin Award Space to Japan During the Low Season

I checked the Los Angeles to Tokyo route’s award space in both directions for the first portion of the low season in 2017 (January 5 to February 28) to see how much space is available in Business and First Class. It appears to be completely, totally wide open in Business and First Class.

Los Angeles to Tokyo

Pretty much every week has six seats available in Business Class every day. The screenshot below is for six passengers in Business Class:

Screen Shot 2016-05-05 at 5.12.07 PMSix to seven days each week have four seats available in First Class. The screenshot below is for four passengers in First Class:

Screen Shot 2016-05-05 at 5.29.06 PM

Tokyo to Los Angeles

Beginning January 11, there are six seats available in Business Class every day. The screenshot below is for six passengers in Business Class:

Screen Shot 2016-05-05 at 5.15.33 PM

Also beginning January 11, there are four seats available in First Class five to seven days a week. The screenshot below is for four passengers in First Class:Screen Shot 2016-05-05 at 5.35.37 PM

Bottom Line

ANA is now only charging $4 fuel surcharges on awards between the United States and Japan that used to be rendered much less attractive by expensive fuel surcharges. Depending on what time of year you travel, it will cost you 40-50,000 miles roundtrip in Economy, 75-90,000 miles roundtrip in Business, and 150-165,000 miles roundtrip in First Class. These prices are well below what competitors charge for the same routes.

Award space during the low season, which costs the least amount miles, is wide open in Business and First Class.

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