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Joining DeltaUnitedSouthwest and Air Canada‘s recent devaluations of their mileage programs, this past week saw big, sudden changes from American Airlines, including new fees and the raising of several different award levels.

With the current mileage landscape in mind, TPG reader Katrina tweeted me the following timely question:

@thepointsguy In light of recent airline mileage program devaluations, does it make more sense for someone with limited spending to focus on collecting hotel points or airline miles?”

You don’t want to put all your eggs in one mileage or points basket, because guess what? They’re all going to be devalued at some point! So you must always earn points and miles with an eye toward diversifying your portfolio, just like an investment.

For instance, I know several people who were about to book American’s round-the-world Explorer awards, but with the airline’s sudden changes this week, that option is now gone, as is the ability to book stopovers in international gateways on award tickets. However, if you had Starwood points, you could transfer them to a partner airline that might allow you to book an around-the-world ticket for less than American would now charge. I don’t want to sound too gloom-and-doom about it, because it’s all about being prepared for end-runs around devaluation roadblocks, and there are easy ways to do so.

I believe in a total diversification strategy, so in addition to being an American Airlines Executive Platinum member and taking advantage of promotions like US Airways’ amazing 100% Share Miles bonus (which ends today!) I also have credit cards like the Ink Plus, Ink Bold and Sapphire Preferred from Chase that allow me to transfer points to a lot of different programs, each of which I leverage for their maximum benefit.

For example, you can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points at a 1:1 ratio to their hotel partners like Hyatt and Marriott, then convert those points into miles to use on one of their airline partners (see the full list at Ultimate Rewards Airline Transfer Partners), though that’s generally not a great value proposition.

The Starwood Preferred Guest program allows you to collect hotel points for hotel stays but also transfer them to a slew of airline partners
The Starwood Preferred Guest program allows you to collect points for hotel stays but also transfer them to a wide array of airline partners

As far as hotel points credit cards go, my favorite is the Starwood Preferred Guest Amex, both its business, Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express and personal, Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express versions. One of the reasons – aside from benefits like getting 2 stays/5 nights credit toward elite status each year automatically per card – is that Starwood points transfer to most of its airline partners at a 1:1 ratio and you get a 25% bonus of 5,000 points on 20,000-point transfers.

However, these SPG airline transfers take a while, so you’ve got to plan in advance and hope that award availability is still there by the time the transfer goes through. I’ve heard rumors about Starwood working to speed up this process, though, and can only hope it happens sooner than later. If this card had instant or even close to instant points transfers, it would be the absolute no-brainer top points program for me.

So my advice is not to stick to just collecting hotel points or airline miles, but instead to diversify, diversify, diversify! And to look into transferable points programs like those two as well as Amex Membership Rewards – the program of cards like the Platinum and Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express – to give you the most flexibility and leverage when it comes to redeeming your points and staying ahead of airline and hotel devaluations.

Let me know if you have any other questions by messaging me on Facebooktweeting me or emailing me at info@thepointsguy.com.

And check out these related posts:

Why Transferable Points are Best
The Ultimate Guide to American Express Membership Rewards Airline Transfers
The Ultimate Guide to Chase Ultimate Rewards Airline Transfers
Ranking the Chase Ultimate Rewards Transfer Partners
The Ultimate Guide to Starwood Preferred Guest Airline Transfers
Maximizing Starwood Preferred Guest Airline Transfers

Starwood Points are the most valuable points currency out there.
Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express

Earn up to 25,000 Starpoints which can be used for hotel redemption around the globe, transferred to over 30 airline partners, and even transfer from Starwood to Marriott Rewards at a 1:3 ratio.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 25,000 Starpoints® after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
  • Earn 2 Starpoints® for each dollar of eligible purchases spent at participating SPG® & Marriott Rewards® hotels. Earn 1 Starpoint for all other purchases.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on International purchases.
  • Redeem Starpoints® at over 1,300 participating hotels and resorts in over 100 countries and for flights on more than 150 airlines with SPG flights, all with no blackout dates.
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • Planning a road trip? Rent your car, fill up your tank, book your hotel, and pay for it with your American Express® Card.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
16.49%-20.49% Variable
Annual Fee
$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.