New International First-Class Sweet Spots Using SPG Points

Dec 19, 2016

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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's incredible first class for under 44,000 SPG points.
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.

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