You Can Use Starwood Points for ANY Flight, but Should You?

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One of my favorite uses of Starwood points is transferring them to airline partners for award flights.  Because you get 5,000 bonus miles for every 20,000 Starwood points you transfer.

But with SPG Flights, you can use Starwood points for paid tickets on 150+ airlines with NO blackout dates?

This perk can be useful for folks who don’t have a lot of flexibility in scheduling, can’t find award seats, or want cheap paid tickets.

Starwood Points For Any Flight

Start Planning Your Next Trip! With SPG Flights, You Can Travel Where You Want, When You Want, With NO Blackout Dates!

I’ll explain the details of the SPG Flights program.  And help you decide whether it makes sense for your particular situation!

Starwood Points for Any Flight

Link:   SPG Flights

Link:   Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express

Link:   Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express

Link:   My Review of the 35,000 Starwood Point Offer

With SPG Flights, if there’s a paid ticket available, you can use points to purchase it!  Because you can use Starwood points at fixed rates for paid seats on 150+ airlines.

Here’s the chart showing the number of points you’ll need depending on the cash price of the ticket.  The prices include taxes, fees, and Starwood’s $15 booking fee.

Starwood Points For Any Flight

You Might Get a Good Deal If the Price of a Paid Ticket Is Low

Is It Worth It?

The good news is, you’ll earn frequent flyer miles for tickets purchased through SPG Flights.  But it’s not always a good deal, especially for expensive tickets.

Here’s how to figure out if SPG Flights is worth it for your situation.

1.   Compare the Cost of an Award Ticket

First, consider how many points you’d need for an award ticket on the same flight.

Most of the time, you’ll need MORE Starwood points for a paid flight than you would if you transferred points to the same airline for an award ticket.

Sometimes, SPG Flights is a better deal.  Especially if you’re having a hard time finding award seats directly through the airline.

For example, on this round-trip coach flight between Salt Lake City and Dallas, you’d spend the same number of Starwood points for a paid ticket as you would if you transferred points to Delta for an award ticket.

Starwood Points For Any Flight

With SPG Flights, A Paid Ticket Costs 20,000 Starwood Points (Worth 25,000 Delta Miles) From Salt Lake City to Dallas Round-Trip

But it can be difficult to find Delta low-level award tickets, so it might be easier to use Starwood points.

2.   Consider the Transfer Bonus You’ll Earn for Transferring Starwood Points to Airlines

And don’t forget, Starwood points transfer to 30+ airlines, usually at a 1:1 ratio.

For example, if you transferred 20,000 Starwood points to American Airlines, you’d earn 25,000 American Airlines miles (20,000 miles + 5,000 mile transfer bonus).

With 25,000 American Airlines miles, you could book a round-trip coach ticket within the continental US.

Starwood Points For Any Flight

Transfer 20,000 Starwood Points to American Airlines and Have Enough Miles for a Round-Trip Coach Ticket to Seattle. And Head to the Top of the Space Needle!

With SPG Flights, that same number of Starwood points (20,000) is enough for a paid ticket that costs $215 to $280.

So in this example, if the cost of a paid ticket is less than $280 (including taxes, fees, and the booking fee), you’ll do better using SPG Flights than transferring Starwood points to American Airlines.

That said, if there are no low-level award seats available, you may decide to use Starwood points even if it isn’t the best value.

3.   Consider the Cash Price of the Ticket

SPG Flights is generally NOT a good deal for more expensive tickets.

For example, a one-way First Class ticket on Singapore Airlines (a Starwood transfer partner) between New York and Frankfurt costs 76,000 Singapore Airlines miles.

Starwood Points For Any Flight

You Can Enjoy a Lie-Flat Bed and Terrific Service In Singapore Airlines’ Amazing First Class Suites!

You’d have to transfer 60,000 Starwood points to receive 75,000 Singapore Airlines miles (including the transfer bonus of 5,000 miles for every 20,000 points transferred).  Then transfer another 1,000 Starwood points to make up the difference (total 76,000 Starwood points).

A paid ticket on this route could cost ~$5,000+.

According to the SPG Flights chart, you could spend 395,000 Starwood points for a $5,000 paid ticket.  It’s a MUCH better deal to book an award ticket in this case!

As always, do the math make sure you’re getting the best deal!

There Are Other (Better!) Options

Link:   The Trick to Travel Flexibility: Transferable Points

Starwood points are difficult to earn, especially compared to other flexible award program points, like American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, and Citi ThankYou.

But SPG Flights is similar to the Chase and Citi Travel portals in that you get more than 1 cent per point and earn airline miles and no blackout dates.

For example, Citi Prestige cardholders can get 1.6 cents per point when they use Citi ThankYou points to book paid American Airlines flights through the Citi Travel portal through July 23, 2017.

And folks with the Chase Sapphire Reserve get a 50% bonus, or 1.5 cents per point, when you redeem points for travel through the Chase portal.  Or 1.25 cents per point with other Chase Ultimate Rewards earning cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

Starwood Points For Any Flight

Book an Air Berlin Flight Through the Chase Travel Portal and Get 50% Points Back!

So if you want to use points to book paid tickets with no blackout dates, I’d consider using Chase Ultimate Rewards points or Citi ThankYou points because they’re easier to earn.

And save your Starwood points for Big Travel at luxury Starwood, Marriott, and Ritz-Carlton hotels, like these in Paris, London, and New York City.  Or transfer them to airline partners and save cash on Business or First Class seats.

Don’t forget, you can also get an excellent value by using Starwood points for Nights and Flights, like 5 nights and 2 airline tickets to Walt Disney World with the sign-up bonus from 2 AMEX Starwood cards.

Plus, both the personal and small business AMEX Starwood cards currently have limited-time increased 35,000 point sign-up bonuses through April 5, 2017, after completing tiered minimum spending requirements.

Note:   AMEX will only give you the sign-up bonus for each card ONCE per lifetime, with this possible exception.

Bottom Line

Folks looking for travel flexibility might consider booking paid flights with Starwood points through SPG Flights.

It’s usually not the best use of Starwood points.  But it’s a good deal if you can’t find award seats or aren’t flexible in your travel plans.

SPG Flights can sometimes make sense for very cheap domestic tickets.  But I always suggest doing the math see what works better for you!

Plus, I’d rather use Starwood points for award stays at top Starwood hotels in expensive destinations, like Europe.  Or a Nights and Flights package.

Have you ever gotten a good deal with SPG Flights?  Let me know in the comments!

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4 responses to “You Can Use Starwood Points for ANY Flight, but Should You?

  1. For the SPG personal card, the current bonus offer is 25000 points after $3000 spending in 3 months and 10000 points after $2000 spending in the first 6 months. Can you spend $5000 all in the first 3 months and still get all the 35000 points?

  2. Good info, thanks Emily. Haven’t received the SPG Amex (or points, obviously) yet, but will refer back to this in due time.

  3. This is practically ~1.25-1.30 cent / point.