The Starwood Preferred Guest credit card recently offered their lucrative 30k point sign-up offer (ended June 30th, 2014) and they are following it up with a bang! Until July 31st, US Airways and American Airlines will throw in an additional 5k (25%) per 20k points that you transfer from your SPG account to either your Dividend Miles or AAdvantage account.

This could be a great opportunity to earn extra US Airways miles in combination with The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® that is currently offering 40,000 bonus miles after the first purchase. Also, remember that the Citi Executive AAdvantage Card is still offering an amazing 100k point bonus sign-up offer, but has a $10,000 spending requirement.

Currently, only American Airlines and US Airways are participating in such a bonus offer.

SPG_US_AA_Bonus_Offer

Recall that SPG already throws in a 5k points bonus for every 20k points (25%) that you transfer to any of their 32 airline partners. Assuming you met the minimum spend on the 30k SPG offer, you should have at least 35k SPG points which could result in:

  • Points transferred to US Airways / AA = 20k
  • Transfer bonus from SPG = 5k
  • Transfer bonus from US Airways / AA = 5k
  • Total miles transferred to US Airways / AA = 30k
  • Remaining SPG points = 10k (still enough for 3 nights at category 1 hotel)

Since you will receive 10k bonus miles total for the 20k that you originally transferred, your transfer bonus rate is now 50%!

SPG_US_AA_Bonus_Offer_TnC

Terms And Conditions

As with any bonus offer, its always important to go over the terms and conditions thoroughly since all transfers with SPG are irreversible! The good news here is that T&Cs of this offer are very straight forward and the miles community should count this as a rare win in recent times. Here is a quick summary of the terms:

Until When Will This Promo Last?

Transfers have to be between July 1st 12:00AM CST until July 31st 11:59PM CST. The points have to come from your Starwood Preferred Guest account.

When Will The Bonus Points Post?

Bonus miles will post within 7 business days. SPG has caught a lot of slack for this as all the competitors are near instant. Transfers from SPG can sometimes take up to 2 weeks!

This could be a deal killer if there is a high demand award you need to book right now.

How Much Can I Transfer?

You can transfer up to 79,999 SPG points per airline partner in a 24 hour period. This can be either US Airways or American Airlines or both if you have enough points.

How Many Times Can I Earn The Extra Transfer Bonus?

You are allowed to earn the extra transfer bonus on as many transfers as you can do until July 31st. Of course you can only do one transfer in a 24 hour period.

How Much Should I Transfer To Maximize The Bonus?

Be sure to only transfer 60k points per frequent flier account, per day, to take full advantage of the bonus miles since 79,999 per transaction yields only 94,999 miles. Breaking up the 80k transfer into two transactions (60k on day 1 and 20k on day 2) will yield:

  • 60k + 15k bonus (SPG) + 15k bonus (US / AA) = 90k
  • 20k + 5k bonus (SPG) + 5k bonus (US / AA) = 30k
  • Total = 120k

Can I Undo My Transfer?

All airline transfers are non-refundable and irreversible.

Can I Transfer To My Spouse’s / Dad’s / Mom’s account?

The name on both your SPG account and your Dividend Miles / AAdvantage account have to match exactly, therefore you cannot transfer your points to any other person’s mileage account.

Which Partner Airline Should You Choose?

While the merger has been official for well over 6 months now, both American Airlines and US Airways continue to maintain their separate frequent flyer programs as well as different award charts. This means it’s imperative that you find the sweet spot in both programs and determine which destination, if different, is on your upcoming list.

US Airways

USAirways_OneWorld_AwardChart

For US Airways, I will only analyze their OneWorld partner award chart since those are guaranteed at this point. For a look at their former Star Alliance partners, check out their award chart.

Right off the bat, you can notice that from the U.S. to South and Central Asia is only 120k miles in business class. This means you can book the SFO / LAX > HKG (Hong Kong) > BOM (Mumbai) trip in Cathay Pacific business class for just 120k roundtrip or 60k one way.

CX_SFO_HKG_BOM_gcmap

This differs from American Airlines because their archaic routing rules only allow awards to India via the Atlantic. This is a very important point to consider because routing via London can lead to fuel surcharges up to $1000! There are other options such as Etihad and Qatar Airways but it’s hard to pass up Cathay Pacific business class for just 60k one way.

US Airways also has more lenient stopover routing rules. You are allowed one stopover or open-jaw per round trip award only at any of the One World international hub cities or the American gateway city, if traveling by US Airways.

Going back to the Cathay Pacific flight from before, you can actually stop for a week or two in Hong Kong en route to your next flight to Mumbai for the same price of 120k.

Another great award is the U.S to Africa for 110k in business class. A great sample flight can be LAX > SYD > JNB with a stopover in Sydney, Australia.

OW_LAX_SYD_JNB

The return leg can either be the same way or come back JNB > JFK > LAX but the price remains the same at 110k.

American Airlines

American Airlines, while having some stringent routing rules, has some of the best non-alliance partners to go along with a competitive award chart.

AA_other_partners

 

One partner of great value here is Air Tahiti Nui which serves Tahiti, French Polynesia daily from Los Angeles. Here is the Oneworld and Other partner airline award chart for American Airlines:

AA_OneWorld_AwardChart

For 125k miles you can book a round trip award to French Polynesia in business class, which is also a direct flight from the US! This is a great redemption rate for one of the most sought after islands to visit in the world.

While you can book a round trip flight from LAX to PPT (Tahiti, French Polynesia), I always feel like I am missing out on something without somehow getting a stopover included in a trip. With this award example it’s possible to hop from Tahiti to Easter Island on a flight operated by LAN, a One World partner.

Since stopovers are not allowed using AA miles it is not possible to have a week in French Polynesia and continue on the same award. However, British Airways is a great choice for distance based travel on One World routes. British Airways routing rules allow multiple segments and stopovers since the award is priced out by distance traveled.

This means you could potentially fly this itinerary:

  1. Fly to Tahiti using American Airlines miles from Los Angeles
  2. Hop over to Easter Island a week later using British Airways Avios
  3. Fly to Chile using British Airways Avios a day or two later
  4. Return to LAX from Santiago, Chile with a connection in Lima, Peru using American Airlines miles

OW_LAX_PPT_IPC_SCL_LAX_gcmap

Although the entire trip isn’t funded by American Airlines miles, the award cost of only 137.5k total miles is hard to beat for a trip that covers French Polynesia, Easter Island and Chile, Santiago. Here is a breakdown of the total award price:

  • 62.5k American Airlines miles one way (business class) from LAX to PPT (Tahiti, French Polynesia)
  • 12.5k British Airways avios one way (economy) from PPT to IPC (Easter Island)
  • 12.5k British Airways avios one way (economy) from IPC to SCL (Santiago, Chile)
  • 50k American Airlines miles one way (business class) from SCL to LAX
  • Total American Airlines miles required = 112.5k
  • Total British Airways avios required = 25k
  • Total miles needed for this itinerary = 137.5k

This is a great example of how having the right airline miles and partners can offset stringent routing rules.

There is one way to make an even more cost efficient trip. Recall that British Airways avios are a partner of all three major flexible / bank points accounts such as Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards and Starwood Points. If one has credit cards that correspond to each of those bank points, then BA avios should be fairly easy to accrue.

If you look closely you will see that American Airlines treats South America as two zones.

AA_SouthAmericaZones

Zone 1 includes Belize, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Venezuela.

Zone 2 includes Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile (excluding Easter Island), Paraguay, Uruguay.

The last leg of the itinerary is a flight from Santiago, Chile to Los Angeles with a connection in Lima, Peru in business class. If you were to book the SCL > LIM leg using British Airways avios in economy and book the LIM > LAX in business class the new cost would be:

  • 10k British Airways avios one way (economy) from SCL to LIM
  • 30k American Airlines miles one way (business class) from LIM to LAX
  • Previous cost for this leg only = 50k total miles
  • New cost for this leg only = 40k total miles

Although the SCL to LIM leg was in business class in the previous calculation, it’s a very short flight when compared to the LIM to LAX leg. The question then remains if you can tolerate a 4 hour flight in economy to save 10k American Airlines miles.

Quick Recap

One aspect to this game that we play is earning miles and points for cheap but redeeming for the best value is just as important. Thus it is essential for understanding how to maximize those miles.

Think of airline miles as a monetary currency where different airlines’ miles have their own unique value. This value of course depends on your travel destination. As I showed you in this post, timely transfers can increase your earnings while using the right partners to transfer to can get you the best value per mile.

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2 Comments

  • Signed up for US airways and SPG in June…haven’t earned my full 30k but if I transfer the 10k bonus it’ll put me at 52k points for US Airways. That’s just 3k miles away from a full roundtrip to Europe or South America. Might be a great deal to take advantage of international stop over before the merger is complete with American.

    • Jose, congrats on the 30k miles! And your spot on about taking advantage of the stopover rules and current award chart before the merger is complete.