Starwood Preferred Guest is a
Andy Shuman is a freelance travel blogger and the author of the Lazy Travelers Handbook series. He is also a miles and points aficionado with a strong knowledge of frequent flyer and hotel loyalty programs. Most of all, he is a travel junkie who wants to be on the road as much as possible.
Loyalty programs: American, United, US Airways, Delta, Alaska Airlines, Southwest, Jet Blue, Virgin Atlantic, British Airways, Iberia, LAN, Japan Airways, Air Nippon, Bangkok Airways.
Favorite program: American Airlines. It is still the best despite some shortcomings.
Favorite travel destinations: Latin America, Southeast Asia.
Most memorable trip: Argentina/Brazil 2005. Buenos Aires, Iguassu Falls, Oktoberfest in Blumenau and short resort stay in Camboriu.
Travel rewards credit cards: Chase Sapphire Preferred, Amex Platinum, Chase IHG Club, Citi AAdvantage, Chase Ink Bold, Chase Ink Plus, Barclays Arrival, etc. I’d better stop right here or it will take up the whole page.
Favorite rewards: Chase Ultimate Rewards. You can transfer your points to several airline and hotel programs, book travel, or redeem for cash. It’s a very versatile program.
Starwood Preferred Guest is a
You’re probably already familiar with the three big credit card award programs: American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards and Citi ThankYou. They’re great because you can transfer the points you earn directly to frequent flyer programs. But there’s another very flexible program you should know about that also offers transfers to airlines partners: Starwood Preferred Guest.
Here’s the scoop on how to earn status on an alliance and not just an airline. The oneworld alliance may be smaller the other two major ones, but its 14 members (plus 21 affiliated members) can literally take you anywhere in the populated world.
If you regularly fly on Air Berlin, American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Qantas, Iberia, Finnair, Japan Airlines, LATAM Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Qatar Airways, Royal Jordanian, S7 Airlines, or SriLankan Airlines, it’s a safe bet that you might benefit from oneworld tier status.
Did you know you can get elite status on an alliance? Well you can. Here’s how to achieve it on SkyTeam. There are 20 member
Virgin Atlantic can be a fantastic airline to transfer your Citi ThankYou points to. The airline has 10 redemption partners of its own, so finding a good value is not an issue. You just need to be strategic and do your homework before transferring your points to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. Transfers are usually instantaneous, and you can even transfer your points while on the phone with an agent.
Unlike Chase which partners with United, and American Express which partners with Delta, Citi doesn’t have a major U.S. airline partner. But it does have many foreign airline partners that you can transfer ThankYou points to and book one of the three domestic legacy carriers.
The Citi ThankYou travel rewards program is very similar to the American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards programs. Just like those two, Citi ThankYou allows you to book travel through its own portal or transfer your points to airline partners if you have a premium card.
American Express has almost 20 airline partners, and you can transfer your Membership Rewards points to any of them. Two of the best Amex airline partners you might consider are Cathay Pacific and Etihad, but like other airline frequent flyer programs there are some sweet spots and some that may not be worth the transfer.
We explained the best and worst redemptions for American Express Membership Rewards through the Amex Travel Portal. Now we look at the
The American Express Membership Rewards program offers members the ability to redeem points for all kinds of rewards. Like similar credit card rewards programs such as Chase Ultimate Rewards and Citi ThankYou, the best Membership Rewards value usually comes from transferring points to an airline partner. However, there are some exceptions that are worth considering like booking tickets through the Amex travel portal. Here’s a rundown of when that makes sense and when it doesn’t.
British Airways Executive Club is a great program that can really stretch the value of your Ultimate Rewards points. Since BA is an airline partner of UR you can transfer points to Execuive Club, the airline’s frequent flyer program. While British Airways is not a U.S. airline, you can use Avios to fly on its partner airlines, which include American or Alaska.
Also, unlike most U.S. based airline programs, British Airways Executive Club is a distance-based program, and it works best on relatively short, non-stop flights. Redemption levels start at 7,500 Avios per one-way flight (15,000 roundtip) in the U.S. and 4,000 Avios (8,000 roundtip) elsewhere.
Ultimate Rewards to British Airways: Best Redemptions
Short flights in the U.S.Nonstop flights for distances up to 1,150 miles in the U.S. are priced at 7,500 Avios one way, which is a much better rate than reduced United flights priced at 10,000 miles for distanced up to 700 miles. The next level is 10,000 Avios for distances between 1,151 and 2,000 miles.
1) For travel originated or terminated in the U.S., consider transferring your Ultimate Rewards points to BAEC if:
- You hold a Sapphire Preferred card and your desired roundtrip ticket costs $187.50 or more on the Ultimate Rewards site or
- You hold a Sapphire Reserve card and your roundtrip ticket costs $225 or more on the Ultimate Rewards site.
2) For travel not originating or terminating in the U.S., consider transferring your Ultimate Rewards points to BAEC if:
- You hold a Sapphire Preferred card and your desired roundtrip ticket costs $112.50 or more on the Ultimate Rewards site or
- You hold a Sapphire Reserve card and your roundtrip ticket costs $135 or more on the Ultimate Rewards site
A few examples of flights under 1,150 miles are: NYC – Miami, Toronto/Montreal, Washington, Chicago or Bermuda or Los Angeles to Seattle on the West Coast. You can find the distance between cities with this free tool.
West Coast to Hawaii on Alaska or AmericanFlights between the continental U.S. and Hawaii cost 22,500 one way, but the West Coast lies well within a 3,000-mile distance from Honolulu, so if you transfer your Ultimate Rewards points to BAEC, you can fly between the West Coast and Honolulu on American or Alaska for 12,500 Avios or 25,000 per roundtrip.
Boston to Dublin on Aer LingusOne of the most amazing Ultimate Rewards values is redeeming Avios between Boston and Dublin on a British partner Aer Lingus for 25,000 per roundtrip. Even a business class ticket (redeeming Avios for business class tickets are not usually recommended) for 75,000 Avios per roundtrip is a good deal compared to United’s 100,000 miles price tag.
Northeast to Western Europe on Airberlin or IberiaTransfer your Ultimate Rewards points to BAEC and fly from New York to Berlin/Dusseldorf for 40,000 Avios on Air Berlin (per roundtrip), or to Madrid for 34,000 Avios on Iberia. United charges 60,000 miles for flights between the U.S. and Europe.
London to Europe on BAWe generally discourage people from using Avios to fly British Airways over the ocean due to high fuel surcharges, but short- and medium-haul flights between London and Continental Europe can be a real bargain. The fees on intra-Europe BA flights are capped at £35 (which is slightly above $45 with current exchange rates), so you can connect anywhere in Europe for cheap. You can fly to Marseilles or Copenhagen for 9,000 Avios per roundtrip, Rome, Ibiza and Budapest for 15,000 Avios, or Moscow, Athens and Istanbul for 20,000.
Save even more by flying BA off-peakBritish Airways has discounts if you don’t mind flying off-peak with them. Your savings for short-to-medium-haul one-way flights are as follows:
- 4,000 Avios vs. 4,500 for Zone 1
- 6,500 Avios vs. 7,500 for Zone 2
- 8,500 Avios vs. 10,000 for Zone 3
- 10,000 Avios vs. 12,500 for Zone 4
Intra-South America on LAN/TAMIntra-South American flights can be prohibitively expensive; a one-hour flight between Lima and Cuzco (a gateway to Machu Picchu) can cost hundreds of dollars. However, the same flight can be yours for 4,500 Avios one way. Same 4,500 Avios can get you between other popular cities, for example, Sao Paulo and Iguassu Falls or Rio and Florianopolis. Or you can fly from Buenos Aires to Santiago de Chile for 7,500 one way.
Intra-Australia flights on QantasQantas holds a virtual monopoly on intra-Australia flights, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a 1.5- hour flight between Sydney and Melbourne can cost $300-400 sometimes. Instead, transfer you Ultimate Rewards points to BAEC and book the same flight for 4,500 Avios and a few dollars of taxes.
Sydney – Auckland on LANThis is a rare instance when we can recommend paying slightly more for a business class flight. This route is served by South American LAN on the way to/from Santiago and features Premium Business class with lie-flat seats. This 3.5 hour flight will cost you 20,000 Avios in business or 10,000 Avios in economy (one way).
Intra-Asia on Cathay Pacific and intra-Japan on JALYou can fly from Hong Kong to Hanoi or Taipei for 4,500 Avios and to Chiang Mai or Siem Reap for 7,500 Avios one way. You can also use other oneworld partners Malaysia and SriLankan, but both add some fuel surcharges to their award tickets. Or you can redeem 4,500 Avios for any intra-Japan one-way flight on JAL from Tokyo – be it to Fukuoka in the South or Sapporo in the North.
Ultimate Rewards to British Airways: Worst RedemptionsThis list is amazingly short.
Avoid connecting flightsThe way Executive Club is designed is that any extra segment adds costs. So if there isn’t a non-stop flight or if you can’t find a nonstop availability, the system will usually (although not always) charge you for two segments instead of one.
For example, the flying distance between New York and Tampa, is just a hair above 1,000 miles which means it would cost 7,500 Avios per one-way flight if there was a non-stop flight between these two cities on American. Unfortunately, there isn’t, so when the computer routes your flight via Miami or Washington, DC, it adds an extra segment, meaning that you end up paying 15,000 Avios instead of 7,500. That makes transferring to United or booking your trip with Ultimate Rewards points a better option.
Once again, this is not always the case, so try to price your itinerary on the British Airways website first.
Avoid redeeming Avios for premium class travelWith some exceptions, using Avios to book first, or even business class is rarely a good deal. The BAEC scheme operates with a premise of a four-class configuration.
- Premium Economy
While redeeming Avios for a business class seat may be a decent value (like our Boston-Dublin and Auckland-Sydney examples), in general, the best value of the BAEC program is in short trip redemptions. There just isn’t much value in spending a lot of points for a two to three-hour flight. If you’re interested in business or first, save your Ultimate Rewards points for another day and transfer them into a program providing a much better value for long-haul premium class travel.
Tickets to Asia are usually north of $1,000 and sometimes close to $2,000. You can use Citi ThankYou points to fly there free by booking your flight with the Citi Travel Center or by transferring the points to one of the Citi’s airline partners. Booking through the travel portal is rarely a good deal though, due to the high cost of the ticket. Transferring points to a frequent flyer program is generally a more prudent choice. We give you the lowdown on which programs are the best transfer options.
When you think about ultra-long hauls we usually think Asia, the Middle East and Oceania. But flights to South America can be almost as long. A nonstop journey between Los Angeles and Sao Paulo is clocked just under 13 hours. That’s even longer than a flight from the west coast to Seoul. A journey from the east coast can be almost as tedious – about 12 hours for flights to Buenos Aires or Santiago de Chile. That’s a long time to spend in a cramped economy seat.
United is arguably the most popular Chase airline transfer partner, and transferring Ultimate Rewards points to United often makes sense when the price in points on the Ultimate Rewards website is too high compare to what you could pay for the flight using alternative currencies —
Chase Ultimate Rewards is a great program with many fans. Just like the American Express Membership Rewards and Citi ThankYou programs, Ultimate Rewards offer multiple ways to redeem points. It is the only program that allows easy cash redemption at 100:1, but it mostly shines on travel redemptions.
The South Pacific encompasses much more than Australia and New Zealand. It includes exotic islands like Fiji, Tahiti, Vanuatu and Palau. You can take your pick of these bucket list destination at any time by booking an award ticket on the airlines you have miles with including American, United and Alaska. Unlike Europe or South America though, what is classified as the South Pacific can vary by airline. Here are some tips to avoid confusion.
If you have seen people at the airport sleeping on the floor, shaving in the restrooms, and generally looking as if they have spenT hours and hours at the airport, they probably have. Some of these situations might be due to long layovers, but some of them are caused by flight cancellations and lengthy delays. The US DOT Bureau of Transportation Statistics states that so far in 2016, almost 458,000 flights have been delayed, almost 35,000 flights have been canceled, and almost 7,000 flights have been diverted, and that only includes the data for the U.S.
The time to think about downgrading a premium credit card is when your annual fee is due and you don’t feel that the benefits you’re getting from the card are worth it anymore. There are many reasons to downgrade instead of just closing your account.
The Citi ThankYou program has 12 airline transfer partners, but none of them would be considered household names by Americans. Citi has members like Malaysia Airlines, Eva, Singapore and Virgin Atlantic, and many people don’t quite understand how to use these airlines to fly from the U.S. But this is where airline alliances are especially helpful.
When we are talking about air travel, positioning can mean one of two things.
In the aviation industry, a positioning flight occurs when an airline needs to send a plane to another place for conducting a flight. It can be a passenger or cargo plane that ended one flight in one airport, but must start another commercial flight in a different airport. In the past, these flight used to be conducted without passengers, but that has changed. There is a whole underground science of spotting these flights because many people believe airlines sell discounted tickets for them. But for award flights, it’s different.