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This morning, we found out that Virgin America Elevate points will transfer to Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles at a 1:1.3 ratio starting on January 9, 2017. We feel like this is a fair-to-generous ratio that falls on the high side of our valuations for these points and miles, although some Elevate members may have hoped for a higher transfer rate.

One thing that’s for sure is that this transfer ratio opens a new arbitrage for what you can do with you Starpoints. Currently, Starwood Preferred Guest is a transfer partner of both Alaska and Virgin America, with both points transferring at a 1:1 ratio plus a 5,000-mile bonus for every 20,000 Starpoints you transfer. If you’re planning to redeem Alaska miles after January 9, now it doesn’t make sense to transfer points directly to Alaska at 1:1, when you can effectively get 1:1.3 by transferring to Virgin America and then Virgin America to Alaska.

Say you’ve got 60,000 Starpoints. After the bonus, you can turn these into either 75,000 Mileage Plan miles or Elevate points. If you choose Elevate points, these points will transfer to 97,500 Alaska miles when the transfer option becomes available on or after January 9.

Get this bed in the sky in Cathay Pacific
Get this bed in the sky in Cathay Pacific’s incredible first class for under 44,000 SPG points.

So, what can you do with this new option? Well, let’s just look at the new international first-class sweet spots:

From the US to: Flying on: SPG points Elevate points Alaska miles
Europe American Airlines 40,000 –> 50,000 –>  65,000*
Asia Cathay Pacific 43,846 –> 53,846 –> 70,000
Asia Japan Airlines 43,846 –> 53,846 –> 70,000
Australia/NZ Qantas 43,846 –> 53,846 –> 70,000
Europe British Airways 43,846 –> 53,846 –> 70,000
Southeast Asia Japan Airlines 47,692 –> 57,692 –> 75,000
India/Africa/Middle East British Airways 51,539 –> 61,539 –> 80,001
Australia Cathay Pacific 51,539 –> 61,539 –> 80,001

*Only 62,500 miles needed, but a minimum of 40,000 Starpoints is needed due to the transfer bonus.

That’s right. For just 52,000 Starpoints and after a couple of transfers, you’ll be able to fly the most desirable first-class products on the planet one-way to anywhere in the world — whether it’s Cathay Pacific’s incredible first classJapan Airlines’ stunning product or even Qantas first class

Need to top off your SPG balance? You can transfer Marriott points to Starpoints at a 3:1 ratio. Or, boost your balance by signing up for the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express and/or Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express, which are both offering 25,000-Starpoint sign-up bonuses after you spend $3,000 or $5,000 in the first three months, respectively. But, you’ll want to meet the spending requirements in a hurry. We’re not sure when Alaska Airlines will shut down the Elevate program or when Starpoints will no longer be able to transfer to Elevate points.

Bottom Line

You can now fly some of the best international first-class products for fewer Starpoints than ever before. If you’re interested in booking these first-class products in the future — and have patience for availability to open up — it’ll make sense to transfer Starpoints to Virgin American Elevate points now.

Featured image courtesy of Cathay Pacific.

2018 TPG Award Winner: Mid-Tier Card of the Year
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card



CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

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More Things to Know
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
Intro APR on Purchases
Regular APR
18.24% - 25.24% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the 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.

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