Although I like Amex Membership Rewards points and I really like SPG’s Starpoints, there are very few cases when you should transfer Membership Rewards to Starwood. The problem is a huge devaluation because it takes 3,000 MR points to get 1,000 Starpoints. While Starpoints are one of the most valuable rewards currencies, they aren’t that valuable.
Now American Express is providing a 50% bonus on transfers to Starwood Preferred Guest. Between now and November 30 you need only transfer 2,000 MR points to get 1,000 Starpoints.
You can book some free night awards with Starwood for as few as 2,000 points. But there aren’t too many of those properties. You could redeem your Starpoints for a nicer hotel, but those can be quite expensive. A typical Category 6 property (they go up to Category 7) might cost 20,000 points. So that is still 40,000 Membership Rewards points per night. I would prefer instead to wait for a transfer bonus to British Airways Avios, where you might have enough for a couple round-trip tickets.
Would you prefer two round-trip flights or a single night in a hotel? I guess it really depends on the flight and the hotel. Starwood does offer a Nights & Flights option, so I guess the choice isn’t mutually exclusive.
But still, it’s not a great deal, even with the 50% bonus. Most of the time it does not make sense to transfer Membership Rewards to Starwood even though Amex runs both credit card programs. But it might still make sense to transfer some of your MR points during this limited window. Why?
Starwood has a reputation for more transfer partners than almost any other program (see my tables of transferable rewards currencies). If you have Starpoints, you can move those points to dozens of different airlines. That’s useful because sometimes one airline has award space but another doesn’t. Or maybe two airlines have access to the same award space (because they’re partners) but one has a much better price because of peculiarities of its award program. A transferable points currency like Starpoints can be helpful.
American Airlines is one of those programs that doesn’t partner with any other transferable currencies. It doesn’t work with ThankYou Rewards or Ultimate Rewards or Membership Rewards. But it does work with Starpoints. View from the Wing mentions a few other examples like Lufthansa’s Miles & More and Alaska’s Mileage Plan. A bonus offer like this one can make it a little more palatable to move your Membership Rewards to Starpoints and then onward to an airline. They’ll be devalued, just not as much. And it could make the difference in whether you’re able to book a great award redemption or not.