The Marriott-SPG Merger Paves Way For Australians To Get United MileagePlus Via Amex MR: 38k Amex = 25k United

WHY BOTHER WITH HOTEL PROGRAMS

OK this is an eco-tourism blog so I don’t keep up with all the issues regarding elite status and 5 star hotels.  I prefer smaller independent hotels & eco-lodges.  But what I do need is airline miles to get to those amazing birding hotspots preferably through ordinary everyday spending.

The most popular program in Australia is American Express Membership Rewards and most Aussies in The Hobby are familiar with 40,000 Amex MR = 20,000 SPG = 25,000 AA or other SPG partner airline miles.  You can earn up to 3x MR per AUD (Amex Edge supermarket spend) which equates to 1.5 SPG per AUD.  Normal un-bonused spend gets 1 MR per AUD which equates to .5 SPG per AUD.

There is usually a lucrative promo in August or September to get 20% bonus when transferring to AA so you end up with 40,000 Amex = 20,000 SPG = 30,000 AA.

GETTING UNITED MILEAGE PLUS IN AUSTRALIA

The one elusive program for Aussies has always been United MileagePlus as the SPG ratio is 2:1 rather than 1:1 plus bonus 5000 for transferring 20,000 SPG points.

Since the Marriott-SPG merger went through yesterday, they have released details of how to link your Marriott & SPG accounts.  You can transfer back and forth at the rate of 1 SPG = 3 Marriott.

The sweet spot for airline miles collectors is the preferred rates Marriott has with United Airlines.  (HT: Dan’s Deals for this section).

marriott-ua

As you can see from the image, you can exchange 56,000 Marriott for 25,000 United MileagePlus.

With the new merger, that means that you can now transfer 38,000 Amex MR to 19,000 SPG which will get you 57,000 Marriott; that you can transfer into 25,000 United Mileage Plus with 1000 Marriott left over.

AMEX – SINGAPORE

Don’t forget that you can also transfer Australian Amex MR to Singapore Krisflyer at 1:1 but SQ does have pretty hefty YQ “fuel” surcharges whereas United doesn’t have this surcharge.  So if you are after a Star Alliance award, you need to weigh up your options on the SQ and UA award charts and see if the cheaper transfer rate directly to SQ is better or if you would rather spend more Amex MR to save the “fuel” surcharges.

RECAP OF AUSTRALIAN AMEX MR OPTIONS

Amex 40,000 = 25,000 AA or other SPG partner in batches of 20k SPG

Amex 38,000 = 25,000 UA via SPG/Marriott

Amex 40,000 = 40,000 SQ (or VA, CX, MH, EK, EY).  But watch the surcharges!

WHAT WE DON’T KNOW

We still don’t know how long Marriott will keep SPG as a separate program.  We also don’t know if the Australian Amex MR will partner with Marriott if/when SPG disappears.  Conventional wisdom says the full integration of SPG to Marriott should happen around 2018 and we would be given fair notice so we can do any last transfers required.

It’s Back: Convert Starpoints & Earn 20% Bonus Miles From August 1 – September 14, 2016

I’m not sure about the USA but this promo is very popular with Aussies and I have been watching for it since last month!  We can collect Amex Membership Rewards and transfer them to SPG at a 2MR = 1 SPG ratio, then transfer them onwards to AAdvantage to get award tickets which in most cases have no fuel surcharges.

40,000 Australian Amex MR = 20,000 SPG

20,000 SPG = 25,000 American AAdvantage miles

SPG AA 2016

I got a lot of free AA miles last year which helped me book the award tickets in J class from Windhoek to Brisbane for next year’s trip!  Starwood will be merging into Marriott later this year so I doubt this promo will be back next year so take AAdvantage of it while you have the chance!

 

Best Uses Of Flexible Points (USA) For Eco-tourists

I’m a big fan of flexible points because they give so many options for flights to the more remote, exotic locations eco-tourists want to visit.  Here are a few of my favourite uses.

CHASE ULTIMATE REWARDS

Flex Chase UR

Mostly I transfer points to United as the award chart is still pretty good to get to Asia and Africa.  They are also useful for routes within Central & South America on Avianca & Copa.  Singapore Krisflyer can be used for the same routes as United as they are also Star Alliance but beware of surcharges on routes between Australia & Asia & Africa.  I use British Airways for shorthaul economy within South Africa and on LAN flights in South America.

CITIBANK THANK YOU POINTS

Flex Citi Thankyou

I’ve been using Thank You points mostly on Flying Blue for an upcoming redemption on Kenya Airways within Africa.  They can also be used on Garuda to many birding hotspots in Indonesia.

AMEX MEMBERSHIP REWARDS (USA)

Flex Amex MR

I had a Premier Rewards Gold a few years ago and made good use of the points with a transfer to Flying Blue for Kenya Airways redemptions.  A few stray Amex MR also went to Singapore & British Airways.  You can only get any American Express card bonus once in a lifetime so I won’t be getting this card again.  I cancelled the one I had before the annual fee was due.  Considering that other cards also transfer to most of these partners and Amex isn’t as widely accepted as Visa or Mastercard, this would be a last resort card to get.  The Australian version of the Membership Rewards cards is a better option (for my Australian readers) as there aren’t as many cards to compete with it.

SPG

Flex SPG

SPG points are extremely valuable as they have so many airline partners but unfortunately their credit card is issued by American Express and it’s another one of those “once-in-a-lifetime” cards.  I’ve highlighted the partners I use them on and they were extremely useful transferred to LAN to top up the miles from the LAN Visa so we could get free tickets to the Galapagos.  When Starwood is merged into Marriott, these options are likely to go away.

Win Starpoints With Free Online Game

Every once in a while SPG comes up with these cute online games in which you can win Starpoints or other prizes – and what’s especially nice is that Aussies and other nationalities can play too!

1. ELIGIBILITY: Get in the Game with SPG® (the “Game”) is open only to legal residents of the United States (including the District of Columbia), Canada (excluding Quebec), Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, China, Czech Republic, Egypt, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, the Philippines, Portugal, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and Vietnam who are eighteen (18) years of age or older and have reached the age of majority in their respective jurisdictions at the time of entry and are a member of the Starwood Preferred Guest® program (“SPG”) and at all subsequent times throughout the Game Period.

Full T&Cs Here

So CLICK HERE, Sign in with you SPG account and have a go, you could win an instant prize or 10,000, 5000 or 1000 SPG points!  The last time they had a game like this my husband won 10,000 SPG so anything is possible!

I’m not a sports fan so I just chose 2 teams with birds on them.

SPGMLB1

Two strikes so far!

SPGMLB2

Third ball was hit and caught, no points for me this time.  But I’ll be back tomorrow to try again and so should you!

SPGMLB3

Australians Suffer Double Whammy With New American Airlines Devaluations

Right on the heels of the prospective Marriott-Starwood merger that will probably see the end of Aussies’ only transfer route to American Airlines, AA (one of my Top 8 recommended programs) has now advised their new award chart which affects awards booked on/after 22 March 2016 – and it ain’t pretty!

In a nutshell:  Not only will American Airlines miles be harder to get,  the ones you already have are being devalued!

I am going to focus on the award redeeming area since this blog doesn’t cater to business travelers and anyone who is concerned with earning status or crediting miles from paid tickets.  You can read all the details of the new program here.  My target audience is the average Joe/Jane who wants a free trip to someplace that has amazing birding and wants to get miles from their everyday spending on credit cards and sign-up bonuses.

This is the old chart which is in effect until 21 March 2016. I have highlighted the most popular long-haul redemptions for Aussie eco-tourists:  Central/South America & Africa.  I am leaving Asia out of the equation since there are easier options with low-cost carriers such as Air Asia.

AA old chartHere’s the new chart effective for flights booked on or after 22 March 2016.

AA 2016 chartAs you can see there is a modest increase on the Central/South America reg 1 in economy, somewhat worse increases on South America reg 2 and Africa in economy and huge 35-40% increases in business class to everywhere!  First class is even worse, though I have never really considered first as an option as long as I can get some sleep in a lie-flat business class seat.  Business class to Central/South America on the Qantas & Lan trans-Pacific flights are a moot point as they are rarer than hens’ teeth!

ONE SILVER LINING

Awards within the South Pacific region – mostly on Qantas and Fiji Airways are going down from 20,000 to 15,000 in economy so that can be good if you are looking at Fiji, Tahiti, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu & New Caledonia.  Australia – New Zealand is going up from 10,000 to 15,000.

ONLY AN OPTION UNTIL LATE 2016

If all your American Airline miles come from your Amex Membership Rewards points via SPG, I expect that option will end in late 2016 after Marriott acquires SPG.  It is widely expected that the Marriott Rewards program will swallow the SPG program.

MY ADVICE

If you are an Aussie who wants to go to Africa or Central/South America before early Feb 2017 you should transfer your Amex to SPG and on to AA before the new charts take effect.  Before you move your Amex points, check that the availability is there as you won’t be able to move them back to Amex.

Breaking News – Marriott To Acquire Starwood

You may be wondering why people reading an eco-tourism blog care about luxury hotel chain mergers?  In this case, it’s not about the hotels or the elite status.  It’s concern over what will happen to the highly valuable transfer to airline miles with the 5k bonus if you transfer 20k SPG that has me worried.

The deal is expected to close in mid-2016, the companies said.

Forewarned is forearmed.  Full story here.  Worst case scenario is that the SPG program goes away and is absorbed into Marriott Rewards and we lose the transfer option – at those rates anyway.

We have time so no need to rush into anything but if you have been counting on SPG to get the miles you need for a specific trip you may have to prioritize those miles.  I know just this year I had to use the SPG option to top up LAN for a one-off redemption to the Galapagos.

For Aussies (unless you are a dual citizen and can get USA credit cards), if SPG goes away, so does our chance to get miles in AAdvantage, British Airways and Flying Blue.  That’s just from my list of Top 8 Airline Miles programs.

Free SPG Online Game – Win Points & Rooms

SPG is running an online game that for once is open to people other than USA residents!  It is free, only takes a couple minutes a day so why not go for it?  Click on the link to play, you’ll need an account if you don’t already have one.

Online Prize(s)
• One Free Night Award: 33 Awards available for any SPG participating category 1-5 hotel or resort. Approximate Retail Value (ARV) $171.00. Award will be available in the SPG member’s account within three weeks from the Game Period end date. Award must be consumed by March 31, 2016.
• Starpoints: 561 Awards Available: 25,000 Starpoints: ARV $625.00; 10,000 Starpoints: ARV $250.00; 5000 Starpoints: ARV $125.00; 1000 Starpoints: ARV $35.00.
• Starpoints will be added to member’s account within three weeks from the Game Period end date. Use and expiration of Starpoints is pursuant to the terms and conditions of the SPG Program.
• American Express $10.00 Gift Card*: 165 total Awards. One (1) per winner.
• Amazon $25.00 Gift Card*: 330 total Awards. One (1) per winner.
• Amazon $50.00 Gift Card*: 825 total Awards. One (1) per winner.
*Gift Cards are only available to US residents. Gift Card will be sent via mail to the address member has provided on their SPG profile at www.spg.com. Allow three to four weeks for Gift Card delivery from Promotion Period end date.

Complete T&C’s

Screenshots from the game – my last unsuccessful attempt!  Play twice a day and don’t forget your friends & family members!

spg1 spg2 spg3 spg4

20% Bonus On SPG Transferred To AA Extended Through 31 Aug

Good news especially for Aussies who rely on Amex MR to SPG then to AA to build up their accounts!   This is the best way to get award flights on OneWorld members without the ridiculous YQ surcharges that Qantas imposes!

Offer Extended! Earn more miles toward your next trip with the American Airlines AAdvantage® and Starwood Preferred Guest® programs.

Now through August 31, 2015, convert your Starpoints® to AAdvantage miles and earn a 20% bonus on the amount of AAdvantage miles you receive from the conversion.

As always, for every 20,000 Starpoints transferred within the same transaction, SPG® will automatically add another 5,000 Starpoints.

With the additional 20% mileage bonus offered by the AAdvantage program, you’ll receive 30,000 miles from the transaction.

20,000 Starpoints = 20,000 AAdvantage miles
5,000 Standard SPG bonus = 5,000 AAdvantage miles
AAdvantage 20% mileage bonus = 5,000 AAdvantage miles
Total = 30,000 AAdvantage miles

Converting your Starpoints into AAdvantage miles will bring you closer to reaching your dream destination faster.

Convert now >>

Terms and Conditions

 

SPG 50% Bonus When Transferring To AAdvantage

This promo will be especially welcome if you aren’t American and can’t get the AAdvantage co-branded credit cards.  If you have an Aussie Amex MR you can change 40k MR to 20k SPG, then transfer then to 30k AAdvantage.  We still don’t know what the AAdvantage program will look like when the dust settles after the merger so don’t go too crazy.  Just transfer enough to cover your needs for the next 18-24 months.  I’m only transferring 40k Amex this time just in case J space opens up on next year’s plans.

SPG AA dealConverting your Starpoints into AAdvantage miles will bring you closer to reaching your dream destination faster.

Convert now >>

Terms and Conditions:

 

AAdvantage® Bonus Mile Offer Terms and Conditions

To qualify for this AAdvantage® bonus mile offer, member must initiate the AAdvantage mileage conversions with the Starwood Preferred Guest® program between 12:00 am Central time July 1, 2015 and 11:59 pm Central time August 7, 2015 (the “Promotion Period”), and be in good standing in the AAdvantage program. Members can convert multiple times during the Promotion Period.

To earn the 20% conversion bonus, member must convert points from the Starwood Preferred Guest program. This offer is non-transferable and non-reversible.

Bonus miles will be posted by American Airlines to the qualifying AAdvantage member’s account within 7 business days after the initial conversion activity has been posted by Starwood Preferred Guest. Bonus miles earned in this promotion do not count toward elite status qualification.

American Airlines, AAdvantage, the Flight Symbol logo and MileSAAver are marks of American Airlines, Inc.

 

Starwood Guest Preferred Transfer to Miles Terms and Conditions

Starwood Preferred Guests can transfer up to 79,999 of their Starpoints® per transaction per program within a 24-hour period to the American Airlines AAdvantage® program. Plus, for every 20,000 Starpoints transferred within the same transaction, Starwood will automatically add another 5,000 Starpoints! This means that up to 94,999 Starpoints can be transferred into your AAdvantage account.

There is no minimum Starpoint transfer requirement for Platinum Preferred Guest members. Gold Preferred Guest members have a minimum transfer requirement of 1,500 Starpoints, and Preferred Guest members have a minimum transfer requirement of 2,500 Starpoints.

Transfer maximums are based on a combination of member Starpoints and the Starwood Preferred Guest airline transfer transaction bonus. Only one airline transfer transaction per member per 24 hour period is allowed; multiple transfer transactions within the same 24 hour period will reject. Both the Starwood Preferred Guest and AAdvantage account must have identical member names in order to complete this request; different names will cause the transfer to reject. Airline transfers are one-way, non-reversible, and non-refundable.

 

Using Points To Stay In Mauritius

Any way you look at it, Mauritius is not a cheap place to stay, even on points!  Only 4 hotel chains are represented here so you don’t have a lot of options.  If you have gotten hotel points via credit cards, these could be a great use of the points as cash rates are very high.  For the examples below, I did a quote for 1 night Saturday 9 May.

ACCOR LE CLUB

With Accor, every 2,000 points acquired results in €40 off your bill. If you have enough points your stay could be free, or simply pay the remaining balance using your credit card.  For the first hotel you would need 24,000 Le Club points and 12,000 points for the 2nd one.  You have to add taxes to the rates below.   MRU Sofitel

HILTON HONORS

There is only one Hilton property in Mauritius and if you can snag a capacity controlled cash&points award this can be a really good deal! MRU HiltonIHG REWARDS

The Intercontinental would be an excellent use of a Chase free night certificate!  They also have a new hotel near the airport which could be a good idea if you have an early flight out.  The traffic can be horrendous!

MRU IHGSPG

Cash & Points looks like a pretty good deal!

MRU SPGBOOK NON-CHAIN HOTEL & EARN MILES

If you don’t have enough hotel points or prefer to pay cash, there are lots of options on both Pointshound & Rocket Miles that allow you to earn in a wide choice of airline programs.  If you use the links I posted, you and I both get a bonus after you complete your first booking.  This is currently 1000 miles!