Should I Transfer Starpoints to Marriott for Airline Awards?
TPG reader Faysal sent me a message on Facebook to ask about maximizing transfer partners:
“I've been stockpiling Starpoints to redeem for an Emirates First Class award (via Alaska Airlines). Should I transfer from Starwood to Alaska directly, or should I transfer to Marriott for a Hotel + Air package?”
The merger between Starwood Preferred Guest and Marriott Rewards has been one of this year's biggest award travel stories for good reason. You can get a lot of value out of the newly linked programs by transferring points between them, and Marriott's Hotel + Air packages offer a particularly lucrative way to redeem Starpoints. SPG has its own roster of transfer partners, but Faysal's question provides a great example of why you may be better off transferring points to Marriott first.
Starwood normally offers a 5,000-mile bonus when you transfer 20,000 points to airline partners, so you effectively get 1.25 miles per point. Alaska Airlines charges 150,000 miles for a one-way award in Emirates first class between North America and the Middle East or India. That means Faysal would need to transfer 120,000 Starpoints to Mileage Plan in order to book his award.
Now consider the alternative. Marriott's Hotel + Air package allows you to redeem 270,000 points for 120,000 Alaska miles plus a seven-night stay at a Category 1-5 property. Each Starpoint you transfer gets you 3 Marriott points, so you'd need to transfer 90,000 for the package, plus another 25,000 directly to Alaska (with a 5,000-mile bonus) to reach 150,000 miles for the Emirates award. That adds up to only 115,000 points transferred, so this method saves you 5,000 Starpoints and gets you a week-long hotel stay on top.
Even if you have no use for the hotel room, you'll still come out ahead by transferring to Marriott. That's difficult to imagine, however, since you have 12 months to redeem your stay certificate, and there's no rule that says you actually have to use all seven nights. If you only plan to use some of those nights, then you can just book the full week and leave whenever you want.
The results should be the same regardless of which airline you transfer to, but only for the more expensive Hotel + Air packages (i.e., the ones that get you the most miles). Also, keep in mind that since Alaska devalued Emirates awards earlier this year, you may be better off transferring to Japan Airlines instead (depending on your destination).
For more on how to maximize the Starwood-Marriott connection, check out these posts:
- How to Link Your Marriott/SPG Account and Transfer Points
- When It Makes Sense to Transfer Marriott Points to Starwood
- 7 Cards You'll Want to Have as a Starwood/Marriott Guest
If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.