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TPG reader @RicMansur tweeted me a question about what to do with a stack of Starpoints:
@ThePointsGuy — “I’m taking a trip to Southeast Asia; should I transfer my 20,000 SPG points to American Airlines, or use them for a hotel?”
Starwood Preferred Guest is the only transferable points program that transfers directly into American Airlines, and through tomorrow (August 31, 2015) SPG is giving a 20% bonus for points transferred to the AAdvantage program. This means transferring 20,000 Starpoints, which would normally net you 25,000 AA miles, would actually equal 30,000 AAdvantage miles.
Starpoints are extremely valuable — in fact, they’re the highest-rated currency in my monthly valuations. At 2.4 cents apiece, 20,000 Starpoints are worth $480, and that’s a pretty conservative valuation. You can get even more out of your points by taking advantage of the fifth night free on awards, bidding on unique experiences through SPG Moments or via other redemptions that maximize their value.
American Airlines miles are also highly valuable: at my estimate of 1.7 cents apiece, 30,000 miles are worth $510. Those miles could easily get you a one-way coach ticket to Europe, which is only 20,000 miles during the off-peak season from October 15 to May 15. And there are plenty of other lucrative ways to redeem AAdvantage miles.
So what’s better: 20,000 Starpoints or 30,000 AAdvantage miles? The answer depends on how you want to use them. Ric is headed to Southeast Asia, so if adding 30,000 miles to his account gives him enough for a first-class redemption on Cathay Pacific, then the value of those miles increases drastically.
Similarly, if you have plans to stay in a few cities with valuable Starwood properties, then that could be the better option. For example, I stayed at Le Meridien at Angkor Wat, which is a really nice property and a steal as a Category 2 hotel. Award nights there cost 4,000 Starpoints on weekdays (Sunday-Thursday) and just 3,000 points on Fridays and Saturdays, so 20,000 points is enough for at least five nights. At a regular rate of around $130 a night, those points would get you a great value of over 3.2 cents apiece.
In general, I use my Starpoints for hotels (like the St. Regis Princeville on Kauai) and SPG Moments, and I use my separate pool of AAdvantage miles for flights (like JAL first class to Japan). I’ve never transferred Starpoints to American Airlines, and although it’s not a terrible idea, my gut instinct would be to save them. AAdvantage miles aren’t too hard to come by, so you can find other opportunities to bulk up your frequent flyer account.
Know before you go.
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