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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available – Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Mark, who traded his Starpoints for airline miles prematurely. Here’s what he had to say:
When I first started in the points and miles game, I applied for and received the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express. I met the minimum spend requirement and received my bonus points. I promptly transferred those points to American Airlines because of the 25% bonus. I didn’t have any particular travel in mind, just thought American Airlines miles sounded good.
Well, it’s now five years later, and those miles are still sitting in my AAdvantage account. Meanwhile, I could have used the Starpoints for a variety of redemptions by now! I’ve used up my chance to earn a lot of bonus points with SPG, and I have none left to show for it. I was too hasty when I transferred the points without a plan in mind. You should always have a plan!
I tend to value transferable points above other rewards because they give you greater flexibility and higher upside. With more redemption options, you get more opportunities to maximize your return than you would have with points or miles that are limited to a single loyalty program. But once you transfer them, you’re locked in to whatever program you’ve chosen, and all that other potential disappears. That’s why I generally recommend waiting to transfer points until you’re ready to redeem them.
That said, there are some cases where it makes sense to transfer points even if you don’t have an immediate plan to redeem them. Most programs count transfers as qualifying account activity to keep rewards from expiring, so you can exchange a small number of points to ensure the rest stay safe. You might also consider transferring speculatively to take advantage of a transfer bonus, but I only recommend doing that if you’re transferring to a program you use regularly. Clearly the AAdvantage program didn’t fit that description for Mark, and he would have been better off saving his Starpoints for later.
I appreciate this story, and I hope it can help other readers avoid making the same mistake. To thank Mark 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 travel mistake stories to firstname.lastname@example.org, and put “Reader Mistake Story” in the subject line. Tell us how things went wrong, and (where applicable) how you made them right. Offer any wisdom you gained from the experience, and explain what the rest of us can do to avoid the same pitfalls.
Feel free to also submit your best travel success stories. If your story is published in either case, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure. I look forward to hearing from you, and until then, I wish you a safe and mistake-free journey!
Featured photo by Luis Alvarez via Getty Images.
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