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One of the reasons I frequently sing the praises of transferable points programs is for their occasional transfer bonuses, which can essentially earn you extra points and miles for nothing. As a perfect example, Starwood Preferred Guest is currently offering a 10% bonus for transfers to British Airways Avios, and that’s on top of the 5,000 mile bonus they already offer for transfers of 20,000 Starpoints to any of their partners. However, the 10% bonus offer is only available through September 30, 2014.
To transfer points and earn the bonus, log in to your SPG account and head to the British Airways transfer page. Only existing British Airways Executive Club members are eligible for this promotion, but presumably you could open an account now if you don’t already have one and become eligible that way. You can transfer as few as 1,500 points if you’re an SPG Gold member, or 2,500 points if you’re SPG Preferred, up to a maximum of 79,999 Starpoints in a 24 hour period. One important caveat is that transfer times from SPG to British Airways are unpredictable, and can take anywhere from days to weeks. Keep that in mind if you’re transferring for an immediate redemption, since you might not get your Avios in time to book the itinerary you want.
A 10% bonus isn’t a no-brainer. My monthly valuations for September list Starpoints at 2.3 cents apiece and Avios at 1.7 cents apiece. If you were to maximize your transfer options and convert Starpoints in increments of 20,000, you’d end up with 1.35 Avios for every Starpoint you transferred. By my valuations, 1.35 Avios is worth 2.295 cents, still not as much as Starpoints. Still, while this isn’t an opportunity for loyalty point arbitrage, there are plenty of reasons to transfer now while the 10% bonus is in play.
First, if you’re planning to transfer to Avios anyway, you may as well do it now and earn the 10% bonus. Second, if you’re just a few thousand points shy of an upcoming Avios redemption, the 10% bonus can help you get over the hump a little more easily. Third, if you don’t necessarily have a redemption in mind, but you use Avios routinely and can get good value out of them (for example, flying from the West Coast to Hawaii on Alaska Airlines or between New York and Toronto), then the 10% bonus is just gravy.
For a more specific example, suppose you’re planning to explore Europe. British Airways Avios awards are priced based on the distance flown, with the shortest flights (less than 650 miles) costing only 4,500 Avios each way. If you transferred 20,000 Starpoints (for a total of 27,000 Avios after the 5,000 mile and 10% bonuses), you’d have enough for you and a friend to check out two extra destinations and get back to your origin. That’s six total flights for 20,000 Starpoints; not a bad deal.
As always with a promotion like this, its usefulness depends a lot on how you value the points involved. If you favor Starpoints, the 10% bonus probably isn’t enough incentive to make transferring worthwhile without a redemption in mind. If you favor Avios, then the bonus is all the reason you need. If you’re looking for ways to top up your Avios account, but don’t have any Starpoints to transfer, check out the British Airways Visa Signature Card from Chase, which offers a sign-up bonus of 50,000 Avios after you spend $3,000 in the first three months of cardmembership.