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:
20,000 miles Saver off-peak
30,000 miles Saver peak
65,000 miles AAnytime award on American (highest requirement for economy).
50,000 miles Saver level
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.
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:
|Level 1||Level 2||Level 1||Level 2||Level 3|
|Business / First||—||25,000||45,000||55,000||*|
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
Leana is the 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.