Best Ways to Europe Using Starwood Points

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Best Ways to Europe Using Starwood Points

Million Mile SecretsBest Ways to Europe Using Starwood PointsMillion Mile Secrets Team

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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!

Best Ways To Europe Using Starwood Points
Paris, London, or Rome? Use Your Starwood Points to Get to Europe Cheaply

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.

Best Ways To Europe Using Starwood Points
Don’t Transfer Your Starwood Points To United Airlines, GOL, or Air New Zealand! The Other Airlines Have Better Transfer Ratios

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. 

American Airlines

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.

Best Ways To Europe Using Starwood Points
American Airlines Charges 20,000 American Airlines Miles Each Way to Europe in Coach From October 15 to May 15, and There Are Lots of Open Award Seats!

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.

Best Ways To Europe Using Starwood Points
Save Nearly $2,000 by Using 20,000 American Airlines Miles From Chicago to Barcelona This November

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!

British Airways

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!

Best Ways To Europe Using Starwood Points
You Can Use British Airways Avios Points to Book Award Seats on British Airways Partner Airline, Air Berlin. There Are No Fuel Surcharges!

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!


Delta is a good choice because it’s only 30,000 Delta miles each way to Europe, even from the West Coast, where award seats can be hard to find.

And Delta has several airline partners from the US to Europe, like Air France, Alitalia, and KLM.

Best Ways To Europe Using Starwood Points
Fly from Chicago to Paris for 60,000 Delta Miles and ~$84 Round-Trip in Coach

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.

Flying Blue

Flying Blue is the loyalty program of Air France and KLM.

Best Ways To Europe Using Starwood Points
Flying Blue Promo Awards Are a Terrific Way to Visit Europe for Fewer Miles!

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.

Best Ways To Europe Using Starwood Points
A 1-Way Ticket From Chicago to Frankfurt in Lufthansa Business Class Would Cost ~$7,295

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.

Best Ways To Europe Using Starwood Points
The Same Flight Costs 52,000 Lufthansa Miles…but You’ll Pay ~$456 in Fuel Surcharges

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.

Best Ways To Europe Using Starwood Points
Save up to 50% Off Award Flights with Lufthansa’s Mileage Bargains!

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!


Aeroplan is the loyalty program of Air Canada.  Like Lufthansa, they have high fuel surcharges on their own flights 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.

Best Ways To Europe Using Starwood Points
You’ll Pay 30,000 Aeroplan Miles and ~$88 for a Direct Flight From Chicago to Warsaw on LOT Airlines

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!

Singapore Airlines

If you can make an award flight on Singapore Airlines work, it’s a fantastic option.

Best Ways To Europe Using Starwood Points
It Costs 17,000 Singapore Airlines Miles and ~$179 From New York to Frankfurt

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.

Virgin Atlantic

Flying Virgin Atlantic could be helpful for some folks.

Best Ways To Europe Using Starwood Points
It’s 42,500 Virgin Atlantic Miles Round-Trip From San Francisco to London, but Watch Out for High Fuel Surcharges

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!

Bottom Line

Starwood points are incredibly valuable for getting to Europe cheaply by transferring your points to several airline partners.

You have a lot of choices, but the best ways are:

You can also transfer to Aeroplan, Lufthansa, or Singapore Airlines for more flight options!

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!

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Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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A question on Starwood preferred guest referral bonus. I am not trying to compete with you, but I’ve got a few friends I’m trying to convince to proceed into the land of frequent flyer miles. I’ve run into a glitch with the referral link from American express. Several friends say they never got the link even after repeated tries. I’ve had a similar problem with Chase Ink.

Here’s my question: Will this work?

I generate a referral link and email to myself.

I click on “apply”

I save that webpage

I forward it onto a friend who wants to apply

The friend uses that webpage to apply for the card

Will this work for SPG or Chase Ink? Will I still get the referral bonus?

I’m kind of afraid to try, in case there is some wrinkle that loses the referral link.

Please let me know if you know.

thanks as always for your help and insights. And, I apply for any new cards I can through your website. I’ve also referred people to your website where there is no referral bonus available for me.


Hi Darius. Quick clarification…the terms & conditions on the SPG business Amex state that eligible purchases to reach the $5000 spend for the 30k points “do NOT include purchases or reloading of prepaid cards or purchases of other cash equivalents.” Are we out of luck buying cards & loading Bluebird, etc, to help reach the minimum spend? Thanks so much.

@FEV – Thank you for the reminder!

As you have pointed out in the past, another reason not to transfer AmEx Membership Rewards to any US airline (Delta, United) is that you will be charged an Excise fee (up to $99). You wrote about it here:

Do You Pay a Fee to Transfer American Express Membership Rewards Points to an Airline?