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UPDATE: The Starwood American Express credit card offers in this post are no longer available, but check Hot Deals for the latest offers!
You can transfer Starwood points to 30+ airline partners. And some are great for flying to Europe!
I’ll highlight the best deals and give you helpful tips!
About the AMEX Starwood Cards
Link: Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
Link: Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express
Apply before September 14, 2015, to earn the increased bonus. You’ll get:
- 30,000 Starwood points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the 1st 3 months of opening your account (personal card), or
- 30,000 Starwood points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the 1st 3 months of opening your account (small business card)
- 2X Starwood points per $1 you spend at Starwood hotels (includes Aloft, Element, Four Points, Le Meridien, Sheraton, St Regis, The Luxury Collection, Westin and W brand hotels)
- 1X Starwood point per $1 you spend on everything else
- Unlimited use of Boingo Wi-Fi hotspots (excluding in-flight)
- For small business cardholders, access to Sheraton Club lounges (free breakfast and hors d’oeuvres) for cardholder and 1 guest staying in the same room (3rd party bookings are excluded).
- 2 stay credits or 5 night credits toward Starwood Elite Status
- $95 annual fee, waived for the 1st year
- No foreign transaction fees
- Terms & limitations apply
Note: American Express only allows folks to get the sign-up bonus ONCE per person, per lifetime on their personal cards. But you CAN get the bonus again (typically after at least 12 months since you last closed the card) on small business cards.
Starwood Airline Partners
When you transfer 20,000 Starwood points to partner airlines, you’ll earn 5,000 bonus miles automatically.
There are a few airline partners that are not so good, though.
Watch out for United Airlines, GOL, and Air New Zealand. The transfer ratios are terrible!
You’ll get a much better deal when you transfer to other airline partners. If you need United Airlines miles, transfer to United Airlines from Chase Ultimate Rewards instead.
When you transfer 20,000 Starwood points, you’ll get 25,000 American Airlines miles.
And through August 31, 2015, you’ll receive 30,000 American Airlines miles.
American Airlines has off-peak awards to Europe from October 15 to May 15. That’s over half the year! During that time, you’ll pay 20,000 American Airlines miles each way for a coach award flight to Europe. And fuel surcharges are very low.
A 1-way coach fare from Chicago to Barcelona in November is ~$1,978. So you’ll save a lot of money by using miles!
Another great way to use Starwood points is to transfer them to British Airways Avios points.
Be aware flights on British Airways have huge fuel surcharges and taxes. So you’ll want to avoid their flights. Use their airline partners instead!
British Airways partners with airlines that do NOT charge as much in fees, like Air Berlin and Aer Lingus.
A flight from New York to Berlin on Air Berlin costs 20,000 British Airways Avios points and $5. You’ll pay the same number of points to fly back, and fuel surcharges are under $100. This is a great deal if you can find open seats!
60,000 Delta miles round-trip in coach is a great way to get to Europe. And fuel surcharges are typically low on Delta flights, which saves you from paying out-of-pocket.
Each month, Flying Blue releases promo awards that offer mileage discounts on award flights. Sometimes these discounts can be as much as 50%!
Be sure to check the newest awards to see if they match up with your travel plans. I’ve written about the current promotions from Boston and Dallas.
Even though you’ll pay fewer miles, you’ll still have to pay high fuel surcharges. But this can still be a good choice in certain situations.
I showed you how to redeem Lufthansa miles.
Lufthansa has high fuel surcharges on their own flights. But it might be worth it to save thousands of dollars on a First Class or Business Class award flight.
A Business Class ticket between the US and Europe can cost a lot! Expect to pay over $7,000 to fly from Chicago to Frankfurt in Lufthansa Business Class.
Or you can use Lufthansa miles. A 1-way Business Class flight between Chicago and Frankfurt costs 52,000 Lufthansa miles, but you’ll also pay ~$456 in fuel surcharges.
But if you want to fly in First Class or Business Class, it might be worth it.
You can also redeem Lufthansa miles for award flights at a discounted rate with Mileage Bargains. Sometimes the discounts can be up to 50% off! But the terms and conditions are very specific, and only on certain routes. If you can find a Mileage Bargain that happens to fit your travel plans, you can save a lot of miles.
Lufthansa partners with LOT Airlines, an airline based in Poland. Fuel surcharges are much lower on LOT award flights. If you can find available award seats this can be an affordable way to fly to Europe!
If you want to fly First Class or Business Class, and can find available award seats on an Air Canada flight, consider this option.
Aeroplan also has access to LOT Airlines award seats. So this is another way to take advantage of the lower taxes and fees on LOT Airlines.
Aeroplan charges fewer miles for First Class than Lufthansa because they have different award charts (62,500 Aeroplan miles each way to Western Europe instead of 85,000 Lufthansa miles for First Class). So this is a better choice, depending on which airline you want to fly, and if you want First Class or Business Class.
Business Class to Western Europe is just 45,000 Aeroplan miles each way. If you can find award flights with low fuel surcharges, you can travel in style to Europe!
If you can make an award flight on Singapore Airlines work, it’s a fantastic option.
They have a zone-based award chart, and award flights on their own planes are very inexpensive. They operate a limited schedule, so award flights can be tough to find. But if you can make the dates work, it’s a great deal!
For example, it costs just 17,000 Singapore Airlines miles (including the 15% online booking discount) and ~$179 from New York to Frankfurt in coach when you book online.
You’ll pay 55,000 Singapore Airlines miles for a round-trip coach award on their airline partners (which can’t be booked online), but this is NOT the best use of your Starwood points because fuel surcharges can be high.
Flying Virgin Atlantic could be helpful for some folks.
From the West Coast, you’ll pay 42,500 Virgin Atlantic miles round-trip, which is a good price. But the fuel surcharges can be several hundred dollars. From San Francisco to London, for example, you’ll pay ~$457 in taxes and fees.
Some folks love the in-flight experience, so it’s up to you whether you pay to pay fewer miles and more money in comparison to the other award flight options to Europe.
I flew Virgin Atlantic and had a great flight!
You have a lot of choices, but the best ways are:
- American Airlines’ off-peak award chart (which is valid for 7 months of the year)
- Partner airline awards with British Airways Avios points (like Air Berlin)
- Flying Blue promo awards
- Delta for award flights with low fuel surcharges
The quickest way to earn Starwood points is to sign-up for the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express (personal or small business). Through September 14, 2015, you’ll earn 30,000 Starwood points after meeting minimum spending requirements.
Then you can use Starwood points for Big Travel to Europe!