Two Things You Should Not Do In Miles and Points

There are some things I’ve covered in the past but that have tripped up readers in the past week so I thought I’d highlight them again.

Starwood Points Don’t Transfer Instantly to Airlines

Don’t transfer Starwood points to a non-U.S. airline less than 2 weeks before intended travel.

Even if points ‘normally’ transfer within a week based on data points others have shared, if Starwood isn’t promising that as transfer time there’s always the risk that the transfer won’t go through as-planned. And since you’re inside the promised time, it’s tough to get anyone to force the issue.

I find you can put an American AAdvantage award on hold for 5 days, transfer Starpoints, and then issue tickets. And transferring points to Korean Air is great since their policy is to hold an award on their own flights for at least a month, sometimes until a few days prior to departure, and holds can be extended.

But if you’ve got Korean Air travel two weeks out, you make a reservation, and then transfer Starpoints things may very well work out. Points usually transfer in under a week. But what if they don’t? You haven’t waited the amount of time Starwood says transfers will take, so chasing down a transfer is going to be difficult.

Starwood transfers to foreign airlines isn’t great for last minute bookings.

Air France KLM Flying Blue Will Sometimes Freeze New Accounts After Points Transfers

Don’t open a new Air France KLM Flying Blue account, immediately transfer points in, and book an award ticket — especially in someone else’s name.

Sure, they’re your spouse. But Flying Blue is reasonably likely to audit your account and cancel the ticket even after you’ve paid for it. You’ll probably be cleared… on French investigative time… but at that point it may be too late for travel, and the award space you wanted may be gone. It’s a good idea to open an Air France KLM Flying Blue account now, just in case you need it later, if only to reduce the likelihood that the out of control (and run amok, really) auditors in Paris do that.

Or maybe they’ll just let you get through the online booking process and at the end say you have to go to an airport to ticket, which isn’t super convenient if you don’t live in an Air France gateway city — which is why using a brand new account you’re likely to have better luck ticketing by phone.

Air France KLM Flying Blue has genuinely out of control auditors, and though it seemed for awhile like they had gotten better or brought the dogs to heel, apparently they haven’t.

My suggestion is that if you don’t already have an Air France KLM Flying Blue account open one now so it’s not brand new when you need it — and that you issue your first redemption by phone.

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 »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. I would also add another don’t do in the points and miles world. Don’t be loyal to an airline and go out of your way to earn points, if the points earned/value earned don’t come close to your set limit.

    For example suppose there is a flight leaving at roughly the same time/same class of service etc on Delta or American but the American flight costs $300 more. Don’t pay $300 more to fly AA if that flight doesn’t give you $300 more value in points.

  2. “Starwood Points Don’t Transfer Instantly to Airlines

    Don’t transfer Starwood points to a non-U.S. airline less than 2 weeks before intended travel.”

    It is one of the many reasons why I never understood the constant hyperventilating about the purportedly transcendental “transferability” advantage of starpoints. Earning 1x to 2x (UA tickets) on the UA Explorer made infinitely more sense than earning 1x on the SPG AMEX and transferring the points to miles of gazillion airlines, many of which one would not even consider flying on.

    For anyone who does about average revenue flying, earning 2x miles for tickets purchased with the Explorer easily makes up for the 5k bonus miles on every transfer of starpoints of 20K. On the other hand, UA miles can be used to book award tickets INSTANTLY on any of 28 *A carriers to travel to any corner of the planet (which, btw, is round and has no corners!). Moreover, if there is a limited-time deal (e.g., Air China offering a JFK-PEK business class award ticket for just 30K miles), I would be able to jump on it immediately with UA miles without waiting for anything to transfer. If one had to do a starpoint-to-mile transfer to get such a deal, one’d miss out….every single time.

    Where is the beef?

  3. “I would also add another don’t do in the points and miles world. Don’t be loyal to an airline and go out of your way to earn points…more value in points.”

    “Don’t pay $300 more to fly AA if that flight doesn’t give you $300 more value in points…”

    Misguided advice. In that scenario, you’ll easily get more than $300 in value if you are loyal to AA and here’s why.

    The reason to be loyal to one airline is to earn status, which pays for itself several times over. Last year to early this year, I cleared Y to J cabin upgrades seven (7) times, mostly on TPAC trips. Check the price differential between Y and J round trip tickets to fly NYC-LAX-MEL, consider that I paid for Y and traveled in J, and it’s clear that loyalty does not seem so bad or even cost that much …

  4. Where is the beef?
    The beef is: the airlines that you can transfer Starpoints to that you can’t use UA miles for. There are many top airlines that you can’t use UA miles for.
    Surprised that you didn’t know that. I would rather fly a top Skyteam or OneWorld airline any day over United or Air China.

  5. Thanks for a very useful post. I’d heard about FB locking up accounts, but not that opening one well in advance would help to avoid that.

    I just opened a FB account, and will find a way to put at least few miles into it soon.

  6. The slow points transfer is the only drawback with Starwood. I did one recently with an airline I couldn’t put on hold, and it was nerve-wracking. It only took a couple days, but I had no idea how long it would take. But the whole value proposition in SPG points is in being able to keep them flexible until you need them. I’m sure it’s not a technology problem so why don’t they just commit to fast points transfers the way UR does?

  7. Thank you for this article. I just opened a flying blue account based on your article although I don’t know much about the program. I want to book a trip after I get my 100k signup award from my chase sapphire reserved and I believe flying blue is a chase partner so its good to have all options available for redemptions just in case.

  8. @Jason — Anyone who is unable to use UA miles and the *A network (or the miles of any carrier affiliated with a global airline alliance network) to go to anywhere on the planet has issues that have nothing to do with miles or points.

    You can abstract the serious disadvantages of starpoints I pointed out above if you wish to justify continuing to get them (while they last) but the reason you provided is not much of a justification. Moreover, the introduction of rewards cards like Chase Sapphire Reserve (even the CSP) that award more the 1 point/$, took away any justification for spending on the SPG AMEX to earn just 1point/$, especially when the lack of instant transfer is figured in.

  9. @bill of course you need to book what you need to book, but here is something to consider. Since Flyingblue is a transfer partner for most transferable currencys I would consider using my chase points for one of those hotels/airlines which are otherwise less accessible (Hyatt / Korean air etc) as it seems to be able to outsize the value there.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.