I love Starwood Preferred Guest points. In many ways, Starpoints are the single most valuable currency. They transfer one-to-one into more airline mileage currencies than any other program, and they add 5000 bonus miles with the transfer when moving Starpoints into 20,000 mile increments. That’s incredible flexibility. Oh, and they can be used for hotels too!
But the one knock on the points, and the reason I ultimately value Starpoints less than I do Chase Ultimate Rewards, is how long they take to transfer to mileage programs.
Whereas Chase is ‘live’ with most of its partners — meaning that points show up in the mileage accounts instantly when you make the transfer — Starwood takes several days to up to a month to put points into a mileage account.
That means you cannot just find award seats and then make your transfer. The award seats could be gone by the time the points show up in your account to secure the seats.
Fewer and fewer airlines allow you to hold award seats than in the past. Delta just eliminated holds altogether.
And hold times have been shortened otherwise, over years United went from 30 days to 14 days to 3 days and now only holds if you don’t have sufficient miles in your account for an award or if you use tricks like pay by phone (when available) or pay by paypal to create a reservation.
Thank goodness US Airways still offers three days and American offers five! Very customer friendly, and American’s hold time is generally long enough to work within Starwood’s transfer times. American transfers from Starwood have actually gotten faster, they now transfer more than once a week.
In other ways, Starwood has slowed processes down. Starwood lets you combine points between member accounts for free when those accounts are registered at the same mailing address. But they’ve imposed a rule that the accounts have to be at the same address for 30 days, so that you can’t just use accounts for manufacturing and combining points and to discourage using Starwood as a means of trading or selling points (change my account to your address to give you points). In other words, they’re trying to combat what they would view as fraud on the program. Unfortunately they’re ‘combating fraud’ by ‘inconveniencing members’. (Aside: Travel with Grant managed to make the transfers between accounts after 26 and 27 rather than a full 30 days)
There’s no fundamental reason that transferring points to miles needs to take so long, perhaps it’s not reasonable to expect that transfers to some of their more obscure partners would be live (remember, they have more transfer partners than others do) but certainly to their bigger partners it should either be live or as frequent a process as it’s become with American. Waiting 14 to 30 days is simply unreasonable.
Years ago, probably sometime in the middle of the last decade, I had been told the transfer process took so long on purpose, also to combat fraud but specifically to combat internal fraud (Starwood employees transferring points out to mileage accounts they controlled). Whether this was a primary reason or a secondary benefit I cannot confirm, and it may even be that this reason has been lost over the years and that the processes in place are there for legacy reasons.
But the one change in Starwood program I would love to see — more than any other — is going live with its transfer partners. That would catapult Starpoints into the clear number one position of most valuable points currencies I think.
Are you satisfied with how long it takes to transfer Starwood points to miles? What s your number one wish for the Starwood program?