Maximizing an Airline Transfer Bonus — Reader Success Story

Jul 9, 2018

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Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Monjur, who booked several premium awards to Asia after jumping on an advantageous transfer ratio. Here’s what he had to say:

I have been a TPG reader for the past three or four years, and I cannot thank you enough for what I’ve learned about booking premium awards.

American Airlines had a promotion earlier this year where you could get a 25% bonus for transferring hotel points. That was in addition to the normal 5,000-mile bonus you get when you transfer 20,000 points from SPG to airline partners. I had almost 92,000 Starpoints in my account from the sign-up bonus and spending on the SPG Amex card, and from buying discounted points earlier this year. Since I usually travel to Asia once a year, I took this opportunity to transfer those points to my AAdvantage account. The transfer took two days, and gave 140,000 miles total.

This move paid off quickly, as I was booking a trip to Dhaka in Bangladesh. I was flexible about dates and routing (including my departure city), and my plan was to fly in business class on Qatar Airways, which costs 70,000 AAdvantage miles one-way from the U.S. to the Indian subcontinent. I hoped to try the Qsuite, but my award search on British Airways didn’t show any availability. However, I love Qatar’s regular A350 business class, so I booked that out of Atlanta instead, with my final outbound itinerary being PHX -ATL-DOH-DAC [Phoenix-Atlanta-Doha-Dhaka]. I also decided to take a long layover in Doha so that I could take advantage of the Doha City tour.

For my return flight, I got curious and started browsing Etihad award availability. Sure enough, I found seats available in Etihad’s first class apartment on its route from Abu Dhabi to New York. I called American Airlines to book the DAC-AUH-JFK-ORD-PHX [Dhaka-Abu Dhabi-New York-Chicago-Phoenix] itinerary, which cost me 110,000 AAdvantage miles. I used the remaining 70,000 miles from my SPG transfer plus another 40,000 miles I had from domestic American Airlines flights. Now I get to fly both Qatar’s A350 business class and Etihad’s A380 first apartment on one trip. I can’t wait!

I generally don’t recommend transferring points without a plan to redeem them in the near future, but this is one scenario where a speculative transfer made sense. Monjur effectively got a transfer bonus of over 50%, netting him 48,000 more AAdvantage miles than he would have had if the ratio were 1:1, including 28,000 extra miles from the promotional bonus alone. Even that large of a bonus may not be worthwhile if you’re transferring to a program you don’t use regularly, but that clearly wasn’t the case here.

Thanks to the high value of Starpoints, the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express has long been one of the best options for spending outside of bonus categories. Unfortunately, that will change in August as the earning rate drops by 33% — instead of 1 Starpoint per dollar (which translates to 3 Marriott Rewards points), cardholders will earn 2 Marriott points per dollar on non-bonus purchases. The card is adding an annual free night certificate and several other benefits, but you should consider swapping it out of your wallet in August for one of these other everyday spending candidates.

I love this story and I want to hear more like it! To thank Monjur for sharing his experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending him a $200 airline gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you. Please email your own award travel success stories to info@thepointsguy.com; be sure to include details about how you earned and redeemed your rewards, and put “Reader Success Story” in the subject line. Feel free to also submit your most woeful travel mistakes. If your story is published in either case, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure.

Safe and happy travels to all, and I look forward to hearing from you!

Featured photo of Etihad’s First Class Apartment by Zach Honig / The Points Guy.

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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