Starwood Changes Singapore Airlines Mileage Transfer Ratio – Without Notice

Starwood has – without notice – changed the transfer ratio of Starpoints into Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles. Instead of a 1:1 ratio the ratio is now 2:1. This change apparently went into effect yesterday.

Starwood will say it’s a function of the particular airline contractual arrangement. And it’s possible that Singapore insisted on this, they haven’t been particularly friendly or generous partners with anybody really. And they’re profitable, perhaps they don’t need to be.

On the other hand, none of Starwood’s transfer arrangements have been improving for members over the past few years. United and Continental also moved to 2:1 ratios, though it also made sense in those cases that the changes were more or less dictated by those airlines’ credit card partner (Chase) who didn’t like the Starwood American Express offering a better deal for earning their partners’ miles. Still, those haven’t been the only changes.

Gone are the days of Qantas 1:2 (which prior to the Qantas award chart devaluation was an amazing deal). Strangely LanChile’s LanPass 1:2 still remains and is an interesting value for thos einteresting in familiarizing themselves with that oneworld airline (partners of American, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, etc).

Some time ago when Starwood was in the process of considering its own hotel point devaluation prospects, I predicted that airline transfer devaluations would have to happen as well. Hotel redemptions, during times when a hotel’s occupancy is below 90%, are less expensive for Starwood than airline mileage redemptions. Devalue the hotel awards and you would expect more airline redemptions. Thus the perverse consequence of a hotel award devaluation being higher rather than lower costs. The only logical extension is a concommitant devaluation in airline mileage transfers.

I’d like to believe that the Singapore change is not part of a larger pattern, but in order to be convinced of this I’d think there would either need to be a clear commitment on the part of Starwood to maintain the underlying 1:1 transfer ratio that represents real value for the program or at least a couple of improvements in the transfer value proposition.

Make no mistake, Starwood still offers 1:1 transfers with most programs. It’s still my favorite currency. And I don’t have any inside knowledge in this case with which to sound any sort of alarm. But the no-notice change with Singapore underscores the tenuousness with which even the best currencies offer a store of value. When you want an award it’s best to redeem it, because tomorrow’s value is unlikely to be better than today’s.

Many readers will think of a change in transfer ratios with Singapore as a non-issue. For me, it’s a significant issue. Singapore is somewhat stingy with redemption opportunities for their partners, in particular almost never offering their partners more than one first class award seat on any route on a single aircraft at a single time. (They almost never offer their partners any first class award seats on their newest generation of aircraft in First — no refitted 777s and certainly no Airbus 380s.)

On the other hand, it is possible to redeem more than one first class award seat on a 747 using Singapore miles. So my strategy for my next award trip to Asia is to find flights with 2 first class award seats, redeem one with miles from another Star Alliance program and redeem one with miles transferred into a Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer account. I’ll no longer want to transfer Starpoints in order to accomplish this.

Fortunately — for now, and I have no idea whether there’s risk of change here — American Express Membership Rewards remains a transfer partner at 1:1 with Singapore.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Coming hot on the heels of Starwood ending its relationship with Qantas as well (though at least there’s notice on that one) it seems Starwood isn’t exactly looking to court growth in SE Asia/Australia (as also evidenced by the decreasing number of hotels under Starwood brands in the region as well).

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