How to Earn & Use Starwood Points: Part 3 – The 9 Best Airline Transfer Partners

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I’ve been digging into the Starwood hotel program because of the once-a-year up to 30,000 point bonus on the Starwood personal and business card.  This offer ends on June 30, 2014.

How to Earn & Use Starwood Points:

SPG Transfer Partners

One of the best uses of Starwood points is transferring them to airlines.  There are ~30 SPG transfer partners, which is more than American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards.

Starwood points are the only way you can directly top-off your American Airlines, US Airways, Lufthansa, and other airline programs in a 1:1 transfer ratio.  And if you transfer in increments of 20,000 points, you get 1.25 air miles for every 1 Starwood point.

You can get up to 30,000 Starwood points if you apply for the once-a-year 30,000 point Starwood personal or Starwood business card.  That’s 35,000 airline miles!

Starwood transfer partners include many lesser known airline programs which can be very useful, like Lufthansa’s Miles and More program which allows 2 stopovers on a round-trip award.  Or Japanese airline ANA and their distance based award chart.

But transfers aren’t instant, so this could be an issue if you want to put an award on hold and then transfer the miles to ticket the award.  Transfer times vary and it can take up to 4 weeks for your points to transfer.   In my experience, transfers take can take from 2 to 12 days to complete but it may be different for everyone

Transfer Ratio

Most transfers to airlines are 1:1 transfers, with a few exceptions:

  • United Airlines and Gol Smiles (a Brazilian airline) transfer at a 2:1 ratio which is NOT a good option
  • Air New Zealand is 65:1 which is a terrible ratio
SPG Transfer Partners

Don’t Transfer Your Starwood Points To United, GOL, Or New Zealand!

The one good exception is that transfers to LAN (a  South American airline) are 1:1.5.  This is partly because it’s a kilometer based program and 1 mile is 1.6 kilometers.


You get a 5,000 point bonus for every transfer of 20,000 or more Starwood points to airlines.  This essentially means that you earn 1.25 air miles for every 1 Starwood point on most airline transfers (except the exceptions above) if you transfer your Starwood points in increments of 20,000 points.

You get the 5,000 extra points to transfer to airlines whether you transfer 20,000 points or if you transfer 35,000 points in one transaction.  So it is better to transfer in increments of 20,000 Starwood points (20,000, 40,000 or 60,000 points) to get the 5,000 point bonus.

For example, you can transfer 35,000 Starwood points to airlines and get a 5,000 point bonus, giving you 40,000 airline miles (assuming a 1:1 transfer ratio).  But transferring 5,000 more Starwood points (i.e. 40,000 Starwood points) would get you 50,000 airline miles  (i.e 10,000 more miles) if you transferred 40,000 points.

For airlines that don’t have a 1:1 transfer ratio, such as United, your point bonus depends on the transfer ratio.  United has a 2:1 transfer ratio  so transferring 20,000 Starwood points to United would get you only 12,500 United miles [25,000 Starwood points (20,000 points + 5,000 bonus) divided by 2.]

Transfer Restrictions

You can transfer up to 79,999 points per airline within 24 hours.

SPG Transfer Partners

You Can Transfer A Maximum of 79,999 Points Per 24 Hours

But you shouldn’t transfer 79,999 points, because you will get more airline miles if you transfer in increments of 20,000 Starwood points and take advantage of the 5,000 point bonus.  So you should transfer a maximum of 60,000 points each day and transfer more points the next day.

There are minimum transfer requirements:

  • 2,500 Starwood points to airlines for regular members
  • 1,500 Starwood points for Starwood Gold members
  • 1 Starwood point (for most airlines) for Starwood Platinum members

If you don’t have enough points for the transfer, you can combine points from 1 Starwood account to another Starwood account (as long as they share the same address) into 1 account and then transfer.

9 Best Airline Transfers

Chase Ultimate Rewards are the best way to replenish your valuable United miles.  But Starwood points are the the only way to replenish valuable American Airlines miles at a 1:1 or better transfer ratio.

American Airlines has access to some great partner airlines such as Cathay Pacific, Etihad and Malaysia Airlines and does not pass on fuel surcharges on those airlines.

I wouldn’t transfer them to United because you’d lose half your Starwood points.

I group Starwood hotel airline transfers in three categories:

  1. American Airlines or US Airways because of their valuable award charts
  2. Lesser known programs, such as Lufthansa, for specific valuable redemptions
  3. Topping-Off Accounts.  When you’re only a few thousand points short for an award, transferring miles from Starwood beats paying for miles

1.   American Airlines

Link:  American Award Chart

Transferring Starwood points to American miles is the best way to earn American miles because you get 1.25 miles per $1 spent if you transfer in increments of 20,000 points.  This makes the Starwood card BETTER than any of the official Citi American Airlines credit cards for earning American Airlines miles for your regular spending!

For example, you’d only have to spend $80,000 on your Starwood card (which transfers to 100,000 American Airlines miles) to earn a return business class ticket to Europe.  In contrast, you’d have to spend $100,000 on your Citi American Airlines card to earn the 100,000 miles for the same business return trip to Europe!

Besides using American Airlines miles on domestic flights which start at 12,500  miles, you can also use your American miles for flights on on Cathay Pacific, Etihad, and other Oneworld airlines.

SPG Transfer Partners

Book First Class On Cathay Pacific Using American Airlines Miles

You can search for Cathay Pacific award availability on the British Airways website or on the Japan Airlines website.

2.   US Airways

Link:  US Airways Award Chart

US Airways is a part of the oneworld Alliance now that it is merging with American Airlines.  Starwood points transfer at a 1:1 ratio.

3.   British Airways

Link:  Wandering Aramean Avios Calculator

British Airways Avios points are great for short distance redemptions.  But they do charge fuel surcharges on most other long-distance redemptions (except for flights on Air Berlin and Aer Lingus).

But Avios points are great for short distance flights within the US on American Airlines.  For example, it costs only 4,500 Avios points for a 1-way award from Kansas City to Chicago using Avios points for a flight on American Airlines.

SPG Transfer Partners

4,500 Avios Points for a 1-Way From Kansas City to Chicago

I’d pay 12,500 miles if I redeemed American Airlines miles for the same flight!

It is only 25,000 Avios points (20,000 Starwood points) for a return flight, in coach, from the West Coast to Hawaii on American Airlines.

The Wandering Aramean Avios calculator is the best way to calculate how many Avios points you need for a flight.

4.   Japan Airlines (JAL)

Link:  Japan Airlines Award Chart

Japan Airlines has a mileage based chart and is a great option for booking flights on Emirates if you don’t have already have Alaska miles.  That’s because Japan Air has a distance based award chart which could cost less for business class or first class on Emirates.

SPG Transfer Partners

You Can Use Your Japan Miles To Fly On Emirates

For example, flying from Los Angeles to Dubai is 16,678 miles roundtrip.  This would fall under the “14,000 to 20,000” miles band on Japan Airlines award chart and would cost 100,000 miles (80,000 Starwood points) for Business Class and 155,000 miles (125,000 Starwood points) for First class.

But you can’t combine partners on Japan Airlines awards, so you’d have to get to the Emirates departure city in the US on your own.

5.   Alaska

Link:  Alaska Asia Award Chart

You can also use your Alaska miles on a variety of partner airlines including Cathay Pacific and Emirates.  But you can’t mix partners on an award, unless it is an Alaska Air flight.  This means that you can’t book an award ticket where you fly Cathay Pacific on 1 segment and Emirates on another segment.

For example, it is only 100,000 Alaska Air miles (or 80,000 Starwood points) for a return-award to Asia from the US, in business class, on Cathay Pacific.  And it is only 140,000 Alaska Air miles (or 115,000 Starwood points) for the same trip in First Class.

SPG Transfer Partners

Fly Business Class On Cathay Pacific To Asia For 100,000 Alaska Miles (80,000 Starwood Points)

Link:  Alaska Africa, Middle East, India Award Chart

If you want to fly on Emirates and have an in-flight shower, it costs only 90,000 Alaska Air miles (75,000 Starwood points) to go to the Middle East or India in First Class on Emirates.  This is the same amount of miles as a First Class award on American Airlines would cost.

SPG Transfer Partners

Emirates First Class To The Middle East Or India For Only 180,000 Alaska Miles

You can enjoy your own First Class Private Suite in Emirates.

SPG Transfer Partners

Use Alaska Miles To Fly In Emirates First Class Private Suite

That said, you can’t book all Emirates routes with Alaska Air miles and using Japan Airlines (below) could save you some miles for long distance redemptions.

6.   ANA

Link:  ANA Award Chart For Partner Airlines

ANA (Japanese airline All Nippon Airlines) uses a mileage based award chart if you’re not flying on ANA planes, but on their Star Alliance partners such as United, Lufthansa etc.

One of the good values are round-trip flights from the East Coast to Europe which should fall into the “7,001 to 9,000 mile” band.  This costs only 43,000 ANA miles in coach or 68,000 ANA miles in business class.

The same flights would cost 60,000 miles in coach and 115,000 miles in business class on United.

ANA does partner with Virgin Atlantic as well, but you will pay surcharges for most flights on ANA.  ANA doesn’t charge fuel surcharges for most US Air flights and some United flights, though that could change anytime.

SPG Transfer Partners

ANA Partner Airline Mileage Based Award Chart

7.   Lufthansa

Link:  Lufthansa Award Chart

Lufthansa is a 1:1 transfer partner (listed as Miles and More in the Starwood website) so you can top off your Lufthansa account if you got in on the limited time 50,000 mile Lufthansa offer.

Here’s a post on 18 ways to use Lufthansa miles. 

Lufthansa miles are the best miles to use for First Class & Business Class awards to Europe, if you’re willing to pay higher taxes and fees ~$400+ each way!

You’ll find MORE availability on Lufthansa and Swiss flights in First Class and Business when using Lufthansa or Swiss miles.  Using Lufthansa miles is virtually the only way to get Lufthansa and Swiss first class award seats  because it is almost impossible to find Lufthansa award seats or Swiss First Class awards more than 15 days from departure if you use miles from another Star Alliance airline such as United.

For example, I found multiple flights with First Class award seats available even in the middle of summer when you use Lufthansa miles.

SPG Transfer Partners

Our Own Bed In First Class On Lufthansa – Life Is Good!

However, I wouldn’t redeem miles for coach flights on Lufthansa because they charge high fuel surcharges.  Here’s my 10-part series on using Lufthansa miles.

8.   Singapore Airlines

Link:  Singapore Airlines Award Chart

Singapore airlines is a Star Alliance airline which means that you can call their service center (213 -404-0301) and book United awards using Singapore Airline miles.

Singapore Airlines charges only 35,000 miles (30,000 Starwood points) for a return coach trip to Hawaii, while United charges 45,000 miles.  Similarly, Singapore airlines charges 60,000 miles (50,000 Starwood points) for a return business class trip from the US to Hawaii, but United charges 80,000 miles!

If you find a low-level United award on, you can call Singapore airlines to book the same award.  However, Starwood point transfers to Singapore airlines aren’t instant, so the award could disappear while the points are being transferred.

You get access to more business and first class award seats on Singapore airlines when you use Singapore miles AND is the only way you can travel in a Singapore Suite.  Sometimes you may be able to find Singapore Airlines Business Class award seats when you use other Star Alliance partners airlines’ miles (such as United), but I wouldn’t count on it.  

One of the most glamorous award reductions is a Singapore Suite – a private cabin which features doors, window blinds, and full sized bed!  Your best option for this award is to build up your Singapore miles, though you will pay fuel surcharges.

SPG Transfer Partners

Singapore Airlines Singapore Suite Private First Class Cabin

A Suite Class Saver award from New York to Singapore is 93,500 Singapore airline miles miles (after the 15% discount) or 78,500 Starwood points.

Singapore also has a mileage calculator on their website and you get a 15% discount on award redemptions when you book online.

SPG Transfer Partners

Singapore First Class Suite for 90,000 Starwood Points Each Way From New York

9.   Air France/ KLM or Flying Blue

Link:  Air France / KLM or Flying Blue Award Chart

A good use of Air France /KLM miles is to book 1-way awards on Delta within the US for 12,500 miles.  Delta doesn’t let you book 1-way awards within the US, but you can book them with Air France / KLM miles on the Air France website.  That said, low-level Delta awards (which are the only type which you can book with Air France/KLM miles) are hard to find!

Air France / KLM’s award chart usually has business class awards starting at 50,000 miles one-way.

But they also offer discounted award seats known as promo awards at 50% off the normal redemption rates on business class and economy.  Promo awards are offered throughout the year but the departure cities change every few months.

SPG Transfer Partners

KLM Promo Awards – 50% Discount On Business Class And Economy

Promo awards are a good deal but they are only for selected flights on Air France / KLM planes.  So you couldn’t book a Delta flight using a promo award redemption.

Note that fuel surcharges and ticketing fees on Flying Blue award redemptions can easily add up to$400 to $500 in business class.  Still, half price award tickets in business class ( ~60,000 Air France / KLM miles) could be a good value.

This is sometimes a good value for coach tickets because the fuel surcharges are lower on coach redemptions.

How to Transfer Starwood Hotel Points to Airlines

Here’s how to transfer Starwood points to airlines online.

Step 1.

Go the Starwood Airline Partner transfer page by clicking on this link. 

Step 2.

Click “Transfer Now” and log into your Starwood account when prompted.

SPG Transfer Partners

Click “Transfer Now” To Transfer SPG Points To Miles

Step 3.

Select which airline you want to transfer Starwood points to and enter your frequent flyer account number.

Then click “Continue

SPG Transfer Partners

Select the Airline Transfer Partner and Enter Your Membership Number

Step 4.

Enter the number of Starwood points you would like to transfer.  If you transfer more than 20,000 points it will automatically add 5,000 Starwood points to your transfer.  So you should transfer either 20,000, 40,000 or 60,000 Starwood points to make the most of the transfer bonus.

Then click “Continue.

SPG Transfer Partners

Enter the Number of Starwood Points to Transfer

Step 5.

You’ll get one more chance to review your transfer.  Click “Complete Transfer” and you’re done!

When Will I Get My Miles?

Unfortunately, transfers to airlines are not instant.

Transfer times vary based on when you submit the transfer and can take up to 4 weeks.   In my experience it takes anywhere from 2 to 12 days for transfers (depending on the airline) but it may be different for everyone.

Bottom Line

You can transfer Starwood points to 30 different airlines.  Most transfer are at a 1:1 ratio but a few airlines transfer at unfavorable ratios such as 2:1 with United and GOL and 65:1 with Air New Zealand.

You get a 5,000 point bonus when you transfer points in increments of 20,000. So, wherever possible, you should transfer Starwood points to airlines in increments of  20,000 point.  However, the points don’t transfer instantly and can officially take up to 4 weeks, though most of my transfers have come through in ~12 days.

The Starwood card is regarded as the best everyday spending card because you earn 1.25 air miles for every $1 you spend, provided you’re a Big Spender who will transfer your Starwood points to airlines in increments of 20,000 miles.

If you’re not a Big Spender, you can transfer the points you earn from the sign-up bonus to airlines and take advantage of the 5,000 bonus points for transferring 20,000 Starwood points.

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Editorial Disclaimer: Neither the responses below nor the editorial content on this page are provided or commissioned by the bank advertisers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertisers. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the bank advertisers. It is not the bank advertisers’ responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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73 responses to “How to Earn & Use Starwood Points: Part 3 – The 9 Best Airline Transfer Partners

  1. Just starting out with MS and I now have 4 affiliate cc’s. I’m hoping to wait 90 days for first App-O-Rama so can’t take advantage of the SPG. Is it offered generally same time each year? I’m trying to plan out the opportune 6-month windows and haven’t located a site that discusses recurring dates of most popular bonus offers. Is there such a site (perhaps you previously blogged about it) or are the offers random? Thanks for the invaluable assistance as I began this process. I’m now reading FlyerTalk, but couldn’t have followed it in the beginning without your plain discussions in blog format.

  2. I just did my last batch of CC apps in mid/late May. I really want to get this Starwood card and the 50K American Airlines card. The AA card offer expires in mid Sept and this one in early Sept. Do you think it’s too soon to apply for these? I will wait until the last minute to do so.

    I was denied for the Chase business card a couple months ago, so I am afraid to try for another business card. Although I would love to have 60,000 Starwood points.

    • @Cynthia Roney – It has been offered for the last 3 years, so it could be back next year around this time. You could apply for the cards before September 3 especially if you have no AMEX cards.

      @Laura R – It is more than 3 months since your last application, so you should be fine towards the end of August.

  3. Daraius, I just wanted to add a point about redeeming on Alaska. Alaska does not allow you to mix partner awards on a single itinerary but they now allow one way bookings so it is possible to use different partners when booking two one ways.

  4. BA miles is a terrible transfer option for SPG points since you can use Amex points with frequent transfer bonuses.

  5. two issues
    1) I would drop BA down. The earning on the Chase BA card is 1.25 avios/dollar, so the earning for SPG w/ bonus vs Avios with Chase BA is the same. That would drop BA down this list for me.
    2) Singapore – what’s a return coach trip? the mileage is correct for a round trip. is that a return coach trip? If so, I’ve never heard the terminology before, and it’s also inconsistent with the terminology you use in the rest of this post (round-trip is used for other airlines).

    • @Haldami – That’s true, but not everyone has multiple cards.

      @steve – I meant a roundtrip award and I’ve edited the post to make it consistent. The earning is the same with the BA card (for transfer of 20,000 points), but you get more transfer options if you earn SPG points, though you get the Travel Together ticket for spending $30,000 a year on the BA card.

  6. For jal redemption on emirates, aren’t there fuel surcharges?

  7. I guess an extra 5k points is a good cause to pimp the hell out of these cards eh? tsk…

  8. I cancelled my SPG card in December of 2012. Would I likely get signup bonus if I appled now ? Thanks for your helpful website.

  9. @David, you have wait 12 months from the date you close your SPG card to apply for a new one and get another sign up bonus.

  10. Right, spend 30k on BA card, get the companion pass. I still think it’s not as good of a transfer option as where you ahve it on the list. if I had to spend 90k on cards, I’d rather spend 30k on BA to get the avios +companion pass, then 60k on SPG, and transfer it to Singapore to get 70k krisflier miles which is enough for 2 RTs to HI. So I’d put Avios lower on the ranking.

  11. long time reader of your blog. It was about time I paid my dues. Went ahead and used your link for the Personal Card. Still pondering if I should apply for the Business card. Will use your link if I go that route.

    Keep up the good work.

  12. You said the “once a year” 60k points for both cards. Do you reapply for these cards every year?

  13. Darius- Do you know the stop over rules using Singapore miles? if I leave Lax to NRT and return to LAX can I do a stop over and maybe fly on United to NYC or Hawaii several month after?

  14. Darius, what’s the best way to reach the spending target with the SPG Amex card? that’s still a lot of spending to get all 30k thanks

    • @Melissa – I still have my personal card so I won’t reapply. I cancelled the business card earlier this year so don’t qualify again.

      @Paul – 1 stopover on a roundtrip award, but none on 1-way awards.

      @john – $5,000 in 6 months isn’t as bad as it seems because you have longer to complete the spending. Here are 40+ ways to complete the spending.

  15. I checked my credit score on Credit Karma to see how much my recent (and very first ever) round of CC apps affected my credit. My score dropped 12 points! Wow. That seems like a lot. I only got 3 cards! My husband applied for the same amount of cards as I did back in May, yet his score only dropped 2 points. I wonder if applying for and being denied the Chase Ink card caused this?? I’m alittle shy now to apply for this SPG card, even though I was planning to do it anyway. Although my original plan was to wait until Nov or Dec.

    • @Laura R – Being denied for a card doesn’t, by itself, reduce your score. A score of 700 is good and a score above 760 usually gets you the best interest rates, so there’s no advantage to a higher absolute credit score. But do what makes sense for you!

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  17. Can you churn this card? If so, how often? Thanks!

  18. Darius – First I LOVE your blog, it is my favorite cc reference. I am very new to churning. I have the SPG card and my husband is an authorized user. I would like to get him his own card and I read elsewhere on your blog, authorized users can get their own bonus. My question is, do I need to take him off my SPG account first? I would rather apply for his card and take him off my account once the new card comes. Just want to make sure I get the bonus.


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  26. do you know how long Alaska miles really take to transfer?

    is there a set time that it is done? like say every 2 weeks?

  27. I usually work through US Airways and United – United is not a good option for transferring spg points, right – if I choose US Airways which is leaving the alliance, can I then try and get flights through Oneworld – it’s rather unclear to me…thank you!!!

    • @carl – I wouldn’t transfer the points unless you needed the points for a flight soon. You can use US Air miles to book flights on United or other Star Alliance airlines. But if US Air leaves the Star Alliance, you won’t be able to book flights on the Star alliance with US Air miles.

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  32. Hi and thank you for the post.
    I recently called in to SPG and transferred my points to my wife’s AAdvanatage account – different first and last names.. I was told by the gal at SPG that it wouldnt be a prob. i did it on Dec 10 and it still hasn’t posted yet the points have left my SPG account.. Will American definitely reject the transfer? And when will I know?? TY!

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  39. Can you transfer airline points to starwood points? Thank you!

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  49. Raghu Narayanan

    Hi Darius
    Thanks a million for the ton of education out there. Question on using JAL mileage bank to get emirates award tickets. where can I search for emirates award tickets (mainly first class) to book via JAL

    Thanks in advance

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  60. Any one transfer SPG to AAdvantage last week to take advantage of the US Air business class availability? If so, have your miles transferred yet?

    I transferred Starpoints to my AAdvantage account on Monday Jan19th at 10PM PST, but they have not showed up yet (Monday Jan 26th noon PST). Wondering if anyone else has recent experience.

  61. Hi, FYI, please note that with Air New Zealand, they have a one Airpoint = one dollar ratio for their awards program. So, if the flight costs $4500 for Business Premier, say, you’d need 4500 Airpoints. (as opposed to, say 350,000 AAdvantage points for AA Anytime First or 270,000 for AA Business). To get 4500 Airpoints, you’d need 292,300 SPG points. So although it sounds strangely bad, it’s actually just about the same as any other program.

  62. Here is a way to get a 1:1 ratio from Starwood to United, or a token 600 points per stay from Starwood to Southwest. If staying at Starwood, the SPG points earned (2/$1) can transfer directly to the airline instead of first to Starwood. Paying with a United Mileage Plus credit card increases that to 3/$1 or 1:1.5. The 20K + 5K bonus points to most airline points, with a 1:1.25 ratio, is still a better deal for most other airlines transfers, but sometimes it’s all about the exceptions.

  63. Hello we love your website and have started using points to take our family on cheaper vacations and getting free flights and hotels!! We are stumped by our current trip we are planning. We both have the spg card my husband has 40,000 points. I have 24000. I also have 86,000 points in Marriott and my husband wants to get the card too. We want to stay at Atlantis using our Marriott points and some spg points. Our problems are the flights getting there and back. Would you use some spg on flights or just get another airline credit card? Thanks again for your input!!

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  65. I do not know whether it’s just me or if everybody else encountering problems with your website.

    It appears as if some of the written text within your posts are running off the screen. Can someone else please comment and
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