The Most Valuable Points Out There – And How to Earn Them
In the world of points, programs like Chase’s Ultimate Rewards and Amex’s Membership Rewards are widely regarded as some of the most valuable. This is mostly to do with the fact that the points in these programs are flexible. They can be redeemed for airline miles, hotel loyalty points across different brands, or even, in certain circumstances, against travel purchases of all kinds, through points-to-cents redemptions. But which type of points are the most valuable?
The Most Valuable Point Type
You might be surprised to know that the points widely regarded as the most valuable out there aren’t directly from a credit card issuer at all. They’re Starpoints – Starwood Hotels’ own currency for their loyalty program, Starwood Preferred Guest. And it turns out that their program is among the most flexible out there, period – credit card issuer’s included.
This fact is great news for a bunch of reasons. To start, it’s another family of points to be earned, giving consumers more options as they look to find the points that are most valuable to them. It’s also a great program to move towards when sign up bonuses for other point programs run dry. Finally, with the recent Marriott and SPG merger, you can now instantly transfer points between Marriott and Starwood. This significantly increases the value of both currencies, and gives consumers more opportunities to earn points for either program.
Let’s learn a bit more about how to earn and redeem Starpoints, shall we?
Perhaps contributing to their value is the fact that Starpoints are notoriously hard to accumulate in the first place! Indeed, on an ongoing basis, there are only two ways to earn Starpoints: by staying at Starwood properties, and by spending on the SPG or SPG Business cards offered by American Express. The former will net you 2-3 Starpoints per dollar spent, depending on your status with Starwood. While the latter, on the other hand, will earn you a single Starpoint on all purchases, and 2 Starpoints on SPG and Marriott stays.
Sign up bonuses are where you can really boost your point pools, however. To start, you can sign up for either (or both) of the SPG cards that American Express offers. For these, you’ll net a cool 25,000 Starpoints. Admittedly, in a world of 100,000 points offers, that might not sound like much. But those 25,000 points can go a very long way, as I’ll show in a bit.
Thankfully, those aren’t the only sign-up bonuses you can earn. Due to the aforementioned Marriott-SPG merger, points between each hotel chain’s loyalty program can be transferred at a 1 (Starwood):3 (Marriott) ratio. Consequently, the signup bonuses for each of the Marriott Personal and Business cards can indirectly net you Starpoints. And it’s a lot of Starpoints to net right now: the Marriott Personal card is currently offering a 100,000 point sign-up bonus, while the Business version is offering 80,000. Once you transfer those to SPG, they’ll be worth 33,333 points and 26,666 points, respectively.
Somewhat ironically, this means that the current bonuses on each Marriott card are actually worth more Starpoints than the bonuses for Starwood’s own cards!
Starpoint Airline Redemption
This is where Starpoints really start to shine. As I mentioned before, Starpoints are super-flexible, and this becomes very apparent when you see how impressively thorough the airline partner list is (with the transfer ratio appended to each):
Aegean Airlines 1:1
Aeromexico Club Premier 1:1
Aeroplan/Air Canada 1:1
Air Berlin 1:1
Air China Companion 1:1
Air New Zealand & Air Points 65:1
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan 1:1
Alitalia MilleMiglia 1:1
All Nippon Mileage Club 1:1
American Airlines AAdvantage 1:1
Asia Miles 1:1
Asiana Airlines 1:1
British Airways Executive Club 1:1
China Eastern Airlines 1:1
China Southern SkyPearl Club 1:1
Delta Air Lines SkyMiles 1:1
Emirates Skywards 1:1
Etihad Airways 1:1
Flying Blue 1:1
Gol Smiles 2:1
Hainan Airlines 1:1
Hawaiian Airlines 1:1
Japan Airlines Mileage Bank 1:1
Jet Airways 1:1
Korean Air Skypass 1:1
LAN LANPASS 1:1.5
Miles and More 1:1
Qatar Airways 1:1
Saudi Arabian Airlines Alfursan 1:1
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer 1:1
Thai Airways RoyalOrchidPlus 1:1
United Mileage Plus 2:1
Velocity Frequent Flyer 1:1
Virgin America Elevate 1:1
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club 1:1
Since you can transfer miles from these airlines to partners, you can effectively transfer to over 150 airlines. That’s more than any other program out there, card issuers’ programs included. Better yet, Starwood gives a 5,000 miles bonus to point transfers made in increments of 20,000. This effectively makes each Starpoint worth 1.25 miles in your preferred mileage program.
Other Ways to Redeem Starpoints
Of course, you can also use those points to – naturally – book award stays. And here, SPG provides tremendous value as well across their spectrum of properties. At the budget range, award nights can be booked for as low as 2000 points for a Category 1. For decidedly higher-end booking at a Tier 5, meanwhile, award nights start at 12,000. Don’t forget, too, that you can transfer those points to Marriott at a 1:3 ratio. That dramatically increases the utility of Starpoints for award stays, since you now have many more locations with which to redeem those points.
Finally, SPG and Marriott are unique in that they offer some interesting packages and other redemption opportunities. Starwood and Marriott both, for instance, provide travel packages which yield five nights and a bundle of airline miles for a fixed number of points. Further, SPG (and recently Marriott) have introduced “experience” redemptions, where boatloads of points can net you some pretty insane opportunities, from first pitches at baseball games to some time with famous performers and artists.