Sunday Reader Email Question: How to Best Accrue AA Miles Via Hotel Spend

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TPG reader Anuj writes:

Next month I (along with family) will be staying in a hotel for two weeks, I can choose hotel and my company will pay for the stay. I would like to collect as many points on AA … what would be your approach? i.e. Hotel/Card etc … I have CO, AA, BA cards but no hotel card.

First off, I’d probably start with getting a hotel card so you can maximize the points earned on your hotel stay (check out this post for my rundown of the best hotel cards). Every major co-branded credit will give major bonus points for using it at the hotel chain. As far as hotel transfers to American Airlines, the most generous is probably Starwood, which has a 1:1 transfer ratio and gives a 5,000 point bonus for every 20,000 points you transfer. The Starwood Amex card currently has a 25,000 point sign-up bonus (10,000 after first purchase and then 15,000 after spending $15,000 within 6 months), with the $65 annual fee waived for the first year. You earn 2x points per dollar spent at Starwood properties plus the standard 2 points per dollar earned via the regular Starwood Preferred Guest program for your stays (free enrollment here).

So let’s pretend you are going to spend $200 a night for 14 nights, so $2,800 on this hotel stay and you stay at a Starwood hotel.

If you use your AA card, you will earn 2,800 AA miles (1 mile per dollar spent) plus 5,600 Starwood points (2 SPG points per dollar spent at Starwood hotels), which can then be transferred into 5,000 AA miles (you can only transfer in 1,000 point increments unless you are a Starwood Platinum) so the net haul is 7,800 American Miles.

If you open up and use a Starwood American Express, you’ll get:
5,600 SPG (2,800 x 2) SPG for using the card at a Starwood hotel, 5,600 SPG via the normal program 2x points per dollar, plus 10,000 for using your SPG Amex for the first time.
You end up with 21,200 Starwood points, so after the 5,000 point bonus for transferring at least 20,000 points, the net haul is 26,000 AA miles.

Plus, if you spend $12,200 more within 6 months, you’d get at least 12,200 more SPG points plus the 15,000 bonus points from the sign-up bonus, which equates to 27,200 more SPG points, which can be transferred into 32,000 more American miles.

Potential haul if you maximize the SPG Amex and transfer ratio: 58,000 AA miles, which can certainly help with any last minute efforts to lock in lifetime elite status before they change the program on December 1, 2011!

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