According to Loyalty Lobby, Starwood Preferred Guest has taken new position on transferring points between accounts. The first change is that you can only transfer points in increments of 1,000. Fine. The second change appears to limit how many points you can transfer between other SPG accounts. I’m less clear on if this is a real change.
Previously you could transfer an arbitrary number of points between two accounts as long as both members had registered their accounts at the same address for 30 days or more. It made it easy to earn and even buy points across multiple accounts before moving them to just one account for either an award redemption (perhaps that one account has elite status) or an external transfer to an airline loyalty program.
I’ve never tried to circumvent the rule on purchasing more than 30,000 points in a year. Even Starwood Lurker seems a little unclear — suggesting this is how the rule was explained to him and that it always functioned this way.
So, while it can probably be requested to move 30K in purchases from one household account to the other that has also gotten 30K in purchases, I’m not sure the request will ever be fulfilled.
The terms and conditions don’t say anything about a limit on how many points you can transfer between accounts. In fact, the marketing tagline up above says “no strings attached.”
SPG Members Who Reside at Same Address. In Starwood’s sole discretion, an SPG Member may be permitted to transfer Starpoints in 1000 point increments only from one SPG Member account to another SPG Member account under specific conditions. Generally, Starpoints may transfer if both SPG Members are active, consent to the transfer, and share the same residential mailing address that is not a P.O. Box, APO or SPO address for a minimum of 30 days prior to requesting the transfer. SPG Members may be required to provide proof of residency prior to Starwood transferring the Starpoints between the two accounts. Elite Preferred Guest Membership Status and the related benefits will not transfer to the recipient of the Starpoints.
But maybe this is a sign that Starwood plans to enforce the 30,000 limit differently. It’s worth warning readers because I’ve written about several good opportunities for buying and using extra Starpoints, and there’s even a current sale offering a 35% discount. I’ve only ever bought them once myself. I have enough already that it just wasn’t necessary.
There are others who use Starpoints as a key component in their travel rewards strategy, buying or earning thousands, consolidating them in one account, and then transferring them to any of a couple dozen airline loyalty programs as needed to book a flight. These people might find it more difficult to accumulate enough Starpoints in the future.
JAL Mileage Club is a program that has attracted a lot more attention recently as a path to booking inexpensive awards on Emirates. Previously people used Alaska Mileage Plan. These airlines, as well as American AAdvantage and Lufthansa Miles & More, are transfer partners with SPG but not with the other three big transfer programs: Ultimate Rewards, Membership Rewards, and ThankYou Rewards. That made Starpoints especially valuable for accumulating points with those programs.
Why would Starwood make this change, or as it claims, enforce a policy that already existed? I can only speculate.
This policy doesn’t go after people who manufacture spend or churn credit card bonuses — two categories that seem more likely to be classified as, if not fraud, then at least “misuse” of the program. Selling points is a lucrative business, and I can’t imagine Starwood was losing money from people who bought more than 30,000 points and then moved them to an airline.
Still, I know several airlines and hotels that frown on people using their programs as an loyalty marketing equivalent of an entrepot. Buying more points to make a large redemption is fine if it means you get to use the other points earned through normal stays at a Starwood hotel. That fosters brand loyalty. But buying and moving thousands of points through the program without ever booking a stay just makes SPG look like a tool.