According to One Mile at a Time, Starwood Preferred Guest will no longer permit transfers of its Starpoints to the Virgin America Elevate program as of January 6, 2017. This is completely expected given that Virgin America will join Alaska’s Mileage Plan loyalty program. (It remains unclear what will happen to Virgin America itself as a standalone brand, but two carriers sharing a single loyalty program is not unprecedented.)
…SPG has decided to focus its partnership on Alaska Mileage Plan and end its partnership with Virgin America’s Elevate program. This means SPG members will no longer be able to earn Elevate points on hotel stays, or directly transfer Starpoints into Elevate accounts after January 6, 2017.
SPG members will be able to use Starpoints to travel on Virgin America by transferring Starpoints to Alaska Mileage Plan miles and redeeming them for Virgin America flights on alaskaair.com starting January 9, 2017. Furthermore, SPG members can continue to transfer Starpoints to Alaska Mileage Plan at a 1:1 ratio – and earn a 5,000 bonus miles when they transfer 20,000 Starpoints to Alaska Mileage Plan.
This news matters because SPG currently allows you to transfer Starpoints to both Alaska Mileage Plan and Virgin America Elevate at a 1-to-1 ratio, but during the integration of these two loyalty programs you can also convert Alaska miles to Elevate points at a 1-to-1.3 ratio. Moving your Starpoints to Elevate first means you can get more Alaska miles than if you move them directly to Mileage Plan.
If you transfer 20,000 Starpoints at once, you can get a 25% bonus for a total of 25,000 miles/points. Transferring 20,000 Starpoints to Elevate could provide you with 32,500 Alaska miles.
There is a cap on the number of Starpoints you can transfer in a single day. Practically speaking you would want to transfer either 20K, 40K, or 60K Starpoints and then wait a day to transfer more. If you have a spouse or other family member who has lived at the same address for more than 30 days, remember that you can also consolidate Starpoints between accounts for free. That means two people who each have 10,000 Starpoints could consolidate them before transferring to an external airline, taking advantage of the 25% bonus for transferring 20,000 points at one time.
I’ve historically avoided transferring Starpoints to airline miles — not because it’s a bad deal but because I had enough miles and valued the points more for hotel stays. But with Starwood facing its own integration with Marriott, sitting still is not really an option. Starpoints will eventually be converted to Marriott Rewards points at a 1-to-3 ratio. Transferring them to Alaska Airlines instead, with Virgin America as a go-between, seems like a much better deal.