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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express, Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express
With the current limited-time 30,000-point sign-up bonus offers (when you spend $5,000 in 6 months) on both the personal and business versions of the Starwood Preferred Guest Card from American Express a lot of readers have been asking me about the best uses for Starpoints and the program’s airline transfer partners. I asked TPG contributor Jason Steele to put together this post on SPG’s airline partners – including their alliances and non-alliance partners you can use their miles on, as well as one-way and roundtrip routing rules, and online versus phone – as a comprehensive web resource on the Starwood Preferred Guest program and its airline partners.
Points in the Starwood hotel’s Preferred Guest program are widely considered to be among the most valuable points currencies available in part because they can be transferred to miles in 31 different airline programs and in turn, used for award flights with all of these airlines’ partners. If this program has a flaw, it is that the point transfer options can be overwhelming.
So as I was helping a friend use his Starpoints to plan an award flight, I realized that there was no comprehensive guide to all of the transfer options, and of the other airlines they are partnered with. I also wanted to know which of these programs allowed one-way awards.
The 31 transfer partners actually represent many more carriers than that number since some programs such as Flying Blue and Miles & More are operated by multiple carriers in a sort of sub-alliance. When I added up all of the carriers you could transfer points to, and all of their partners that you can book award flights on, I came up with 118 unique carriers ranging from Adria Airways to Xiamen Air.
Seventeen of SPG’s 31 direct airline transfer partners allowed one-way awards in all circumstances, four in some cases (usually just their own flights), and the ten other airlines require roundtrip awards, or just require the same number of miles as a round trip in order to redeem a one way award.
When you download this Excel document that I created, you will see that there are two separate charts: Starwood Airline Partners Guide
The first one is a list of every partner of SPG’s airline transfer partners (118 in all) including which alliance they are in and which non-alliance partners’ miles you can use to book awards on them. I did not include lists of alliance partners since that information is readily available, so if it says Star Alliance, you can assume you can use ANA, United, US Airways, etc. to book an award on that airline, plus whatever non-alliance partners I list.
The second set of information is a list of the Starwood Preferred Guest airline partners grouped by alliance and then notes on which non-alliance partners you can redeem their miles on.
How to Use this Information
Let’s say you have a bunch of Starpoints and a burning desire to visit the other side of the world. You should start with the Wikipedia page for your destination airport, and determine which carriers service it and from where. For example, the page for Faa’a International Airport in Pape’ete, Tahiti shows that it is serviced by Air France, Air New Zealand, Air Tahiti Nui, Aircalin, Hawaiian, and LAN.
Next, you need to find award availability and want to use the fewest amount of points. You can look at the first chart of the 118 Starwood transfer partners by operating carrier, and realize that flights on all six of these carriers can be booked with Starpoints via partners. For instance, Air France award flights can be booked through its own Flying Blue program (and SPG transfer partner) as well as with miles from any SkyTeam carrier as well as non-alliance partners Alaska, JAL, and GOL.
If you need a one-way award flight, you can further narrow this down by looking at the second chart of Starwood transfer partners to determine that Flying Blue (Air France and others), Alaska, and GOL will allow a one-way award, but that JAL will not. Finally, you will want to consult the award chart for each of these airlines to find out the miles required for my award, as well as any fees, rules, and restrictions.
Also don’t forget that TPG has compiled two other very useful resources when it comes to SPG transfers and booking partner awards:
First, I recognize that Wikipedia is not 100% accurate at showing all carriers and destinations that service a particular airport, but it is very close. Also, it is the fastest and easiest to use free resource that I am aware of that covers the whole world.
The biggest problem with this chart is that it doesn’t (and can’t) account for all of the types of codeshare agreements in place between different carriers. In general, airlines won’t let you book a partner award on the codeshare of a third carrier’s flight, but there are many exceptions. For example, Alitalia may have a codeshare flight with Etihad, but you can’t book these flights with Delta miles even though it is a SkyTeam partner with Alitalia. On the other hand, Air France code shares with Air Mauritius, but you are permitted to book these flights with your Delta SkyMiles. In general, flights operated regional carriers in the United States that code share with major airlines such as Mesa and Great Lakes can be booked with miles from airlines partnered with the major airline.
Finally, I compiled this list, and I am human. If you notice any inaccuracies, please comment below and I will try to update it. There’s no telling how much longer these cards will be around and available for new applications because of the Marriott takeover, so now might just be the perfect time to apply. Apart from hotel redemptions, you can transfer Starpoints to over 30 airline partners, and now also transfer points from Starwood to Marriott Rewards at a 1:3 ratio, opening up even more redemption options.
There’s no telling how much longer these cards will be around and available for new applications because of the Marriott takeover, so now might just be the perfect time to apply. Apart from hotel redemptions, you can transfer Starpoints to over 30 airline partners, and now also transfer points from Starwood to Marriott Rewards at a 1:3 ratio, opening up even more redemption options.