Update: The deadline to initiate the transfer from Starwood to USAirways and still qualify for the bonus is this Saturday, 03/31:
Originally posted on 03/12:
-USAirways Star Alliance Award Chart
-Getting to Israel with Starwood Starpoints
The blogosphere is all talking about the new Starwood to USAirways transfer bonus running through 03/31/12.
A 20,000 Starpoint transfer to USAirways normally takes about a week and earns 25,000 miles. For transfers made until the end of this month USAirways will add 50% more miles, for a total of 37,500 miles per 20,000 Starpoints transferred. Don’t count on it happening too quickly though, USAirways says it can take 6-8 weeks for them to add the 50% bonus.
Is it worth it? Well that depends on how you value Starpoints and how you value USAirways miles. Personally I’d peg a value of about 2.2 cents on Starpoints and 1.7 cents on USAirways miles, though that number will be highly variable for different people.
As 20,000 Starpoints becomes 37,500 USAirways miles, let me break it down like this for transfers of Starpoints in 20K increments:
(SPG=Starwood Starpoints, US=USAirways miles, cpp=cents per point, cpm=cents per miles)
-If you value SPG at 1.8 cpp then it’s like getting US at 0.96 cpm.
-If you value SPG at 2.0 cpp then it’s like getting US at 1.07 cpm.
-If you value SPG at 2.2 cpp then it’s like getting US at 1.17 cpm.
-If you value SPG at 2.4 cpp then it’s like getting US at 1.28 cpm.
-If you value SPG at 2.6 cpp then it’s like getting US at 1.39 cpm.
-If you value SPG at 2.8 cpp then it’s like getting US at 1.49 cpm.
USAirways occasionally sells their miles for 1.9-2 cents each instead of the usual 3.76 cents each (after fees). Even if you value your Starpoints at 3.5 cents each this promotion would still be getting USAirways miles at less than 1.87 cents each. (3.5 cents if the top amount that Starwood charges for Starpoints, though Starwood themselves often has sales to drop that down to 2.8 cents each)
In summary I think it’s a pretty good deal no matter how you value your Starpoints. Look at the mileage uses section below and see how you can take business or first class trips that would normally cost $5K, $10K, or even $20K for less than the cost of buying a coach ticket at a cost of about 1.17 cents per mile (i.e. 90,000 miles round trip to Hong Kong in business class for $1,050 at a cost of 1.17 cents per mile if you value Starpoints at 2.2 cents each)
Don’t have enough Starpoints? If you have a Starwood credit card you can call up American Express and borrow Starpoints!
Another option would be to transfer American Express Membership Rewards points into USAirways miles via Starwood. For this month only you can transfer 1,000 Membership Rewards points into 500 Starpoints. So that would mean 40,000 Membership Rewards points transfer into 20,000 Starpoints which transfers into 37,500 USAirways miles. In other words you will earn .9375 USAirways miles for each Membership Rewards point. That’s not incredible, but it’s not the worst usage of Membership Rewards points. You can also borrow Membership Rewards points by calling American Express.
There is an unclear rule in the promo terms that says, “Dividend Miles members will earn only one bonus when they transfer hotel points into Dividend Miles during the promotion.” Apparently this means that you will only earn the 50% bonus for the first transfer made during the promo period, though that vague statement can also be read in different ways. To be safe though you’ll probably just want to make a single transfer.
Transferring more than 60K Starpoints:
20,000 Starpoints will earn 37,500 miles, 40,000 Starpoints will earn 75,000 miles, 60,000 Starpoints will earn 112,500 miles. You can transfer up to 79,999 Starpoints in a day, which would earn 142,499 miles, but you only earn 1.5 miles per Starpoint on the last 19,999 Starpoints transferred instead of 1.875 miles per Starpoint on the first 60,000 Starpoints transferred. Still that’s better than the normal 1.25 miles per Starpoint on transfers of 20K.
What if you want to transfer more than that? Well you can transfer Starpoints into anyone’s USAirways account, and the limit of 1 bonus is on the USAirways account, not on the Starwood account, so you can make 60,000 point transfer into multiple USAirways accounts and get the full bonus on each account.
USAirways is a Star Alliance member so you can use their miles on all partner airlines. While you can’t search for Star Alliance awards on USAirways.com, you can search for Star Alliance awards on other sites like United, Air Canada, and ANA and then call USAirways to book those flights. Remember that partners can only book saver awards.
-Domestic: United operates premium service 3 class planes between JFK and LAX. While United themselves charges 70,000 miles round-trip for lie-flat First Class on their 3 class p.s. planes, USAirways only charges 50,000 miles for First Class within the US and Canada even on United’s 3 class planes. Dividing that 1.875 means that it will cost the equivalent of about 26,667 Starpoints to go round-trip between JFK and Los Angeles in first class. Or fly in coach round-trip for 25,000 miles, or about the equivalent of about 13,333 Starpoints.
-Hawaii: While United charges 80,000 miles in First on 2 class planes or BusinessFirst to Hawaii or 100,000 miles in first on a 3 class plane, you can go on the same United flights in BusinessFirst or first on a 3 class plane for just 70,000 USAirways miles. Dividing that 1.875 means that it will cost the equivalent of about 37,333 Starpoints to go round-trip to Hawaii an any premium class. Or fly in coach round-trip for 40,000 miles, or about the equivalent of about 21,333 Starpoints.
-Israel: It takes 80,000 USAirways miles to fly to Israel round-trip in coach and 120,000 in business class. Dividing those numbers by 1.875 means that it will cost the equivalent of about 42,667 Starpoints to go round-trip to Israel in coach or 64,000 in business class.
-North Asia (China, Japan, etc): It takes 60,000 USAirways miles to fly to North Asia round-trip in coach and 90,000 in business class. Dividing those numbers by 1.875 means that it will cost the equivalent of about 32,000 Starpoints to go round-trip to North Asia in coach or 48,000 in business class.
-Australia: It takes 80,000 USAirways miles to fly to Australiaround-trip in coach and 110,000 in business class. Dividing those numbers by 1.875 means that it will cost the equivalent of about 42,667 Starpoints to go round-trip to Australia in coach or 58,667 in business class.
-Off-Peak awards: USAirways also has off-peak award pricing when flying on USAirways. Fly bwteen North American or Hawaii to Europe or South America for 35K in coach (about 18,667 Starpoints) or 60K in business (about 32,000 Starpoints) or fly between the US48/Canada and the Caribbean for 25K in coach (about 13,333 Starpoints) or 50K in business (about 26,667 Starpoints)
Other things to know before investing in USAirways miles:
-Besides for the dozens of Star Alliance partners you can also use USAirways miles on Bahamasair, Jet Airways, Hawaiian, and Virgin Atlantic.
-It’s worth noting that USAirways and United are in the same alliance, but that doesn’t mean you can just combine their miles. They’ll be happy to book you on each other, but you are subject to the rules of the airline that you have the miles with.
-Although United allows you to book one-way awards with their miles (even for travel on USAir), USAirways does not allow you to book one-way awards with their miles (even for travel on United).
-Although United allows free date changes on awards at least 21 days in advance of the new flight you want, USAirways charges $150 for all changes once you ticket your award.
-Although United allows changes to award tickets at anytime, you can’t make changes to award tickets on partner airlines booked by USAirways once you depart on your first flight.
-USirways and United never charge fuel surcharges, but USAirways does charge a processing fee of $25 for awards in the Continental U.S./Alaska/Canada, $35 for Latin America/Caribbean, and $50 for awards to Hawaii/Europe/Middle East/South America. Still that’s better than the hundreds of dollars in fuel surcharges that many foreign carriers charge to use their miles. The nice thing is that at least USAirways does waive the phone fee for Star Alliance awards as those can’t be booked on their website.
(In other words USAirways miles are not as good as United miles, but as there’s no good way to convert Membership Rewards or Starpoints into United miles anymore it’s sort of a moot point. You can still get United miles from Chase Ultimate Rewards points)
-USAirways will hold an award for you for 3 days, and if you make changes to the award it gets extended for another 3 days each time, definitely a nice feature.
-USAirways does allow a free stopover and will allow you to cross over the Atlantic or the Pacific. Their agents are pretty flexible about booking crazy routings, so that’s definitely a plus.
So, will you be transferring points?
HT: Yosef, via DDF