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Why I Made a Speculative Transfer From SPG to AAdvantage

First things first: All mileage transfers from SPG are speculative. Why? Because they are not instant. If I had a specific plan and date in mind, SPG is not a program I would rely on. A lot can change in  2 or 7 days it takes for the transfer to go through. For most families, SPG is really best for topping off an account (specifically AAdvantage) or redeeming for category 1 or 2 hotels.

However, I don’t really have any immediate redemption coming up. In fact, I don’t see myself using those miles for at least 3 years. The award chart could be gutted by then. So why did I do it then? Four reasons:

1) There is a 25% bonus on transfers to AAdvantage through July 31st. It’s relatively rare for it to take place. That amount is on top of the built-in 25% you get by transferring 20,000 points. So your 20,000 SPG points convert to 30,000 AAdvantage miles.

2) AAdvantage miles are hard to earn. Unless you got in on the 100K offer (I didn’t), you can only get them through CITI AAdvantage credit cards or SPG points. At this time, you can only churn regular CITI cards every 18 months to 2 years.

So it really limits your ability to collect this currency. Due to the fact that all of my spending goes towards sign-up bonuses and the Amex new rule of one bonus/per card/per lifetime, my ability to get AAdvantage miles is very restricted.

Other than Southwest points (not an SPG partner), I consider AAdvantage miles to be the most valuable, even with some recent changes. Mostly, it’s due to the fact that currently I can book a ticket from Europe for my mom for only 36,000 miles roundtrip in the off-season, due to 10% rebate with a CITI card.

3) We have a LOT of IHG hotel points at the moment. Since my husband only has a few weeks off per year, it will  take us a long time to go through the stash. Plus, many times we reserve  rentals through VRBO. SPG has some Category 2 properties (3,000 points on weekends) I want to try out.

Fortunately, I’ll have 35,000 points to work with once I meet the minimum spending requirements on my card. My husband still has 15,000 points left after the transfer.

4) This is actually the main reason. I’ve written before   that it’s important to have an “emergency miles” account. I just used up most of my Avios (British Airways currency) to go to Europe next year. I burned over a quarter of a million miles, and have 50,000 Avios left.

I have close to 300K miles in a US Airways Dividend account. They eventually will become part of my AAdvantage miles stash.

Both AAdvantage and Dividend programs belong to One World alliance. However, there is one significant difference: AAdvantage allows one-way redemptions, while Dividend program doesn’t.  If a crisis occurred, I most likely would need a one-way ticket, since it’s hard to predict what happens, especially if it has to do with health issues.

My Avios  can be redeemed on Aer Lingus, which is not a part of One World alliance, so it provides diversification and  a backup plan for my main stash in AAdvantage and Dividend mileage accounts. However, flights to Dublin are limited and availability from Orlando  is scarce at times.

That’s why AAdvantage is a logical choice. Here are the balances I had in our accounts before the transfer:

Mine: 56,000 Miles

My husband’s: 35,000 Miles

Here are award ticket requirements for a one-way ticket USA-Europe through AAdvantage:

Economy:

20,000 miles Saver off-peak

30,000 miles Saver peak

65,000 miles AAnytime award on American (highest requirement for economy). 

Business:

50,000 miles Saver level

First :

62,500 miles Saver level

Those are the only levels that would make sense.  Otherwise, I would just pay cash. I’ve mentioned before that One World partners don’t fly to Minsk, my country’s capital. That is technically not the case. S7 Airline does fly from Moscow, just not every day. Plus, the route is somewhat convoluted, since I would have to fly backwards.

map

Still, it would be an option.  Checking on Kayak.com and assuming the same day departure,  it would cost me a total of $1,100 for a one-way economy ticket from Florida to Minsk. If you look at my balances, I technically have enough miles for 1 economy + 1 business one-way saver tickets. Not good enough.

If I want to be prepared for the worst-case scenario, I really need to have 65,000 miles in at least one of our accounts for AAnytime economy. As long as I land in Europe, I can always buy a separate ticket to Warsaw or Vilnius (Lithuania), then drive to Belarus. Those are usually not super expensive, even last minute. It’s not ideal, but  I would rather pay 65,000 miles+$150 taxes (including $75 close-in ticketing fee)+ $100 for intra-european flight versus $1,100 for a revenue ticket.

Plus, there is no guarantee that it wouldn’t cost much more when I need it. I’ve said before that I value 1 mile at around 1 cent, so as long as I can get a little more than that out of it, I wouldn’t hesitate to use them. The goal is to conserve our limited savings, not achieve a spectacular redemption. Of course, I would much rather redeem my miles for a one- way First-class saver seat at 62,500 miles. But I have no control over what will be available at the time I have to fly home.

That’s why I decided to transfer 20,000 SPG points to my husband’s account, so it gave him a total of 65,000 miles. It took only 2 days, not bad at all. BTW, you can combine your points for free with those who live in the same household, but both accounts have to be 30 days old. I’ve decided not to transfer SPG points to my AAdvantage account. Why?

As long as I have enough for my one-way ticket to Europe, I can transfer them to AAdvantage before my flight to Europe to make sure I have 65,000 miles needed for the worst-case scenario. Since it takes a few days, it will be there by the time I need to redeem the miles for my return ticket.

Should you speculatively transfer your SPG points? 

It depends. If you have relatives in other states and American (or US Airways, since you can redeem due to merger)  is your preferred airline, it is something to consider. Take a look at the requirements:

Travel Between Cabin MileSAAver AAnytime
Level 1 Level 2 Level 1 Level 2 Level 3
U.S. 48
Economy 12,500 20,000 30,000 *
Business / First 25,000 45,000 55,000 *
First 32,500 85,000 95,000 *

If you need to fly within the Lower 48, it might make sense to have at least 32,500 miles, which would cover several levels, including Saver First class. Everything else would probably be better covered by paying out-of-pocket. If you have flexible points that transfer instantly, like Membership Rewards or Ultimate Rewards, you may not need to go through with it.

The bonus on AAdvantage transfer is very attractive, but remember, SPG points are the hardest ones to earn. I’ve mentioned  before that  Avios (British Airways currency) will help you get the same AA flights, sometimes at a  lower cost. However, you can only use Avios when a Saver (lowest) level ticket is available on American. So that’s something you should take into consideration.

Readers, who is  doing this transfer and why?

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Map is provided courtesy of Great Circle Mapper

Author: Leana

Leana is the owner and founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.

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10 thoughts on “Why I Made a Speculative Transfer From SPG to AAdvantage

  1. I really wish that SPG points transferred to Southwest =(
    I am keeping my 87K SPG points per now. No plans for them yet, but I’m sure we’ll come up with something in the next year or so. We have something like 500K AA miles (or we will once I meet the minimum spend on our final Citi Exec card), so I’m good there for now. What I really want more of is UR points. That is where I plan to focus next.

    • Holly, if I had 500K AA miles, I wouldn’t even consider transferring my SPG points. I honestly debated if I should go ahead with it, but decided that we have enough hotel points for the next few years. Plus, I hope to sign up for Club Carlson card, since there is a property near Dublin that I want to try out. My mileage supply is a bit low now, so I figured might as well.

  2. I am also keeping my points, I guess because I trust SPG a little more than AA/US. It is worth mentioning that SPG has a “Nights & Flights” redemption for 60K which gives you 5 nights @ cat3 hotel + 50K air miles OR 70K for 5 nights @ cat4 + 50K air miles. That results in a decent discount vs. booking hotel nights/transferring points to miles separately. SPG points are hard to earn but I feel they are among the most valuable, not only for miles, but because the Starwood portfolio tends to skew towards the luxury side. Therefore, in expensive cities you can get a lot of value for your points. I saved myself at least $2K last month by using 48K SPG points for 5 nights at the Westin Sydney (a cat5). Because the hotel was located in the CBD, we could walk to many attractions/shopping/dining thus which also saved money on transportation. They assigned us to a huge double room so it was perfect for our family of 4 (note: Australia is similar to Europe in that it can be hard to find hotels with standard rooms that allow an occupancy of more than 3 people).

    • Erik, I completely understand your reasoning on this. Westin Sydney sounds like a nice hotel, and I hope to check it out someday. The whole occupancy thing is a huge problem for families of four. I was looking into Westin Dublin, but it appears, it only fits 2 adults and one child.
      As far as “nights and flights ” benefit, yeah, I did mention it a couple of times in my blog. That’s the reason I hesitated doing this transfer. I think I did the right thing, though. I am mostly interested in Cat. 2 hotels, and those don’t qualify.
      We can always use more miles. For me, bringing my parents from Europe is not a luxury, but necessity. I feel like we should be able to find 2 seats on one flight in the future, even if they cut back on availability tremendously.
      Four people is another story. That said, I just got 4 of us booked to Europe and back, completely on miles AND on the same flights. So it can be done, at least for now.

      • If you haven’t already done so, I would contact the concierge at Westin Dublin to see if a standard double room with 2 double/queen beds can accommodate 2 adults and 2 young children (provide their ages) using existing bedding. What I find frustrating is that “maximum occupancy of 3” can mean different things depending on the hotel and their interpretation of corporate policy or the local fire code as it applies to the building. Sometimes it means 3 people and that’s it. Or it can mean 3 adults (but 2 adults, 2 children are OK with existing bedding. Sometimes they have an age restriction like “2 children under 12”). We spent 1 night at the Holiday Inn Melbourne in a double room which was listed as max3, but I e-mailed the hotel before our trip to confirm it was acceptable for 2 adults, 2 children. They replied that it was OK and amended the reservation. I prefer to get the confirmation by e-mail because then I have written evidence if there is trouble at check-in (our stay was fine, no problem!).

    • @Erik I think the rooms have two single beds, though I will check into it, for sure. At this point I’m not even certain on how many nights we will stay. The Westin is pricey at 16,000 points, but does look nice. I would probably splurge for one night. If we stay two nights, I would be seriously tempted to get Club Carlson Visa and get this property http://www.radissonblu.ie/sthelenshotel-dublin
      It looks unique and quirky, right up my alley! Plus, the second night would be free.

  3. I think each of us will transfer enough SPG to get our Alaska accounts to 120K for their stopover rules and the Cathay to Australia option. But we have more AA miles than we know what to do with and not very good AA availability from home to hubs.

    • @KennyB Makes perfect sense. That’s why this game/hobby is highly individual. What works for me will not work for another person. It depends on many factors: Where you live, how often you travel and so on. Traditional miles are not the best currency for large families who insist on flying together.
      If it wasn’t for the fact that I have parents in Europe, I wouldn’t have made the transfer. I try to plan ahead, because I also might have to fly them here last minute if we have a crisis (hopefully not something I have to ever deal with).

  4. I have just over 40,000 SPG points right now, which would give me 60,000 AA miles. Right now I have 166,132 AA miles and my husband has 241.224 (well….after the spend on the new AA Exec card is done) and for about a second I thought about doing the SPG transfer. Once the merger with US Airways is done, we will add about 100K more to that total. I think I’m good with that for now and will hang on to those SPG points. Many people don’t like using SPG points for SPG hotels, but I have gotten some great deals! Like you, I am pretty flush with hotel points right now, but I still think I’m going to hang on to my SPG points….no matter how tempting that 25% bonus is!!

    • @Laura I agree. I don’t think I would do the transfer if I were in your shoes. It sounds like you have a lot of AA miles. Plus, you have 3 in the family, so less tickets to worry about.
      If you like SPG hotels, then for sure hang on to those points. You can always get more AA miles. I’m trying to go through my IHG stash at the moment, and will probably participate in Big Win if it ever comes around again. I love IHG, especially PointBreaks hotels.

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