Maximizing Starwood Preferred Guest Airline Transfers: Transfer Times

Sep 11, 2012

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One of the best features of Starwood Preferred Guest points is the ability to transfer them to over 30 airline partners and to score a 5,000-mile bonus for every 20,000 points you transfer.

But one question that comes up time and again is, how long exactly does it take for those transfers to go through? It’s a significant question because you could be searching for flight award availability, find an itinerary you want and then try to transfer your Starpoints after that. But if they don’t transfer to your airline frequent flyer account in time, you could end up losing your award redemption, so it’s important to know just how long it will take for those miles to show up.

Starwood claims that transfers can take up to 14 days, but usually transfers post much faster than that. It’s tricky to estimate just how quickly your transfer will post, however, because rather than processing transfers transaction by transaction, Starwood seems to process the transactions in parcels based on the day of the week, so there are no exact timelines, and even transfers to the same airline might take different amounts of time based on the day of the week that you ask for them.

To try to make some sense of it – and at least collect some hard data with exact transfer times, I set up transfers to several of SPG’s major airline partners on two different days, and here’s what I found.

Transfers made on Monday, August 27

Airline Date Transfer Posted
Air Berlin August 30
Alaska Airlines September 4
ANA August 30
Asia Miles September 10
Asiana Still not posted
British Airways September 4
Delta August 28 (the winner!)
Flying Blue Not yet posted
LAN September 4
US Airways September 3
United September 4

Transfers made on Tuesday, September 4

Airline Date Transfer Posted
Aeroplan Air Canada September 6
ANA September 10
American Airlines Not yet posted
Virgin Atlantic September 9

So as you can see, there’s quite a lot of variety in posting times – especially if you consider my first ANA transfer went through within 3 days, while the second one took a week to post!

Making things even more confusing is the fact that even though some of my original August 27 transfers didn’t show up in my frequent flyer accounts until a few days later, my airline accounts still listed them as having gone through on August 27 itself – even though those miles weren’t there when I originally checked on that day, so I could not verify when they finally did post.

What’s worse is, while some of my September 4 transfers still haven’t posted, even some of my original August 27 transfers haven’t posted yet. So stay tuned for an update when all these finally do go through, and I’ll try to parse out how Starwood sends these through to get a more accurate way of estimating airline transfers.

Because even getting a 5,000-mile bonus doesn’t matter as much if you can’t use those extra miles for the award you want.

My best advice would be, if you need to transfer points to miles in a hurry, check if the airline you’re transferring to is a partner of either American Express Membership Rewards (points that you earn on cards like the Premier Rewards Gold or the Platinum card) or Chase Ultimate Rewards (British Airways, United, Korean Air, Southwest) since those transfers process almost instantaneously and you won’t have to worry about losing your award opportunity. Just note, Amex transfers to ANA and Singapore Airlines take approximately 48 hours, as do Chase Ultimate Rewards transfers to Priority Club.

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