As part of my Award Booking service, I'm often asked the best way to use SPG points (Starwood Preferred Guest points), since some folks have built up hundreds of thousands of these points with credit card spend and stays at Starwood hotels. Overall, the highest value use of SPG points is transferring to airline partners, especially since the Starwood Cash & Points Devaluation. SPG offers a ton of airline transfer partners, and if you transfer SPG points in increments of 20,000 points, you receive a 25% transfer bonus, yielding you 25,000 miles (for most partners). So here are a few pros and cons of SPG points:
Pros of SPG Points
- 25% transfer bonus when you transfer in increments of 20,000 SPG points
- Many airline transfer partners, including American Airlines and Singapore KrisFlyer
- No excise tax even when transferring to U.S. airline programs, unlike AMEX Membership Rewards points
Cons of SPG Points
- Transfer is not instant–tends to take 1-2 weeks, so you do need to transfer without being able to put an award on hold
- Much more difficult to earn large numbers of SPG points, compared to Chase Ultimate Rewards or AMEX Membership Rewards points
- Forget transferring to United MileagePlus, since this is at a 2 SPG point: 1 United mile ratio
1. Cathay Pacific First Class to South Africa via Hong Kong for 140K Alaska Miles Roundtrip: Transfer SPG Points to Alaska Mileage Plan
For 112,000 SPG points, you can fly Cathay Pacific First Class to South Africa via Hong Kong, using Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles. If you don't already have a stockpile of Alaska miles, the SPG transfer option to Alaska is very handy, and you can even book when Cathay Pacific's own award calendar opens, unlike American, where you have to wait for American's award calendar.
While Cathay Pacific's First Class isn't the newest or an enclosed suite product, I still find it the most comfortably padded first class bed, and I love how wide the seat is, and that there are only 6 seats in First Class.
2. Cathay Pacific First Class to Asia via Hong Kong for 135K AA Miles Roundtrip: Transfer SPG Points to American AAdvantage
Ever since British Airways devalued its award chart, the best deal to fly Cathay Pacific First Class to Asia via Hong Kong has been using American AAdvantage miles. And now, with the BankDirect Devaluation and No More 50K Citi AA Credit Card Offers it's become harder to earn AAdvantage miles, so the SPG transfer option to American AAdvantage could come in handy. It doesn't hurt that taking into account the 25% transfer bonus, it comes to just 108,000 SPG points for the roundtrip
3. Singapore Suites to Asia from NYC for 187K Singapore Miles Roundtrip: Transfer SPG Points to Singapore KrisFlyer
Singapore Suites is a great way to get to Asia as well, although it is more expensive compared to redeeming AA miles for Cathay Pacific: 150K SPG points for the roundtrip. That said, by transferring to Singapore KrisFlyer, you get access to full Singapore KrisFlyer award availability when the calendar opens.
4. Emirates First Class to the Maldives for 155K JAL Mileage Plan Miles Roundtrip: Transfer SPG Points to Japan Mileage Plan
If you want to experience the only in-air shower aboard a commerical aircraft, that would be Emirates First Class. A good route to try is via Dubai to the Maldives (MLE), which is 155,000 Japan Airlines Mileage Plan Miles, or 124,000 SPG points for the roundtrip. And if you're flying to the Maldives, I highly recommend staying at the Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa!
5. Etihad First Class to the Maldives or India for 180K AA Miles Roundtrip: Transfer SPG Points to American AAdvantage
Etihad is a non-oneworld partner of American Airlines, and Etihad First Class offers a true enclosed suite product, with turndown service, great pajamas (at least for women), an onboard chef, and complimentary Six Senses spa treatment in its First Class Lounge, not to mention complimentary Etihad Chauffeur pickup and dropoff service. It will take 144K SPG points when transferring to AA vs. 124K for Emirates via JAL Mileage Plan, but Etihad award availability tends to be a bit better.
6. Singapore Suites to Europe for 115K Singapore Miles Roundtrip: Transfer SPG Points to Singapore KrisFlyer
While often overlooked as a means to getting to Europe, you can fly Singapore Suites or business class to Frankfurt from JFK. Yes, you'll forego access to the Lufthansa First Class Terminal, but the great thing is that you can book Singapore Suites and Business Class in advance, whereas you can only book Lufthansa First Class up to 15 days in advance with United or other Star Alliance miles. This award will run you 92,000 SPG points, taking into account the 25% transfer bonus.
7. Cathay First Class NYC to Vancouver for 75,000 Avios Roundtrip: Transfer SPG Points to British Airways Avios
9. United Economy U.S. to Hawaii or Central America for 35,000 Singapore Miles Roundtrip: Transfer SPG Points to Singapore KrisFlyer
I haven't decided yet on my 10th choice for top uses of SPG points–what do you think it should be?