Great Starwood To American Airlines Conversion Bonus…But You Should Probably Ignore It

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Great conversion bonuses don’t normally come with huge caveats attached to them but when it comes to describing any kind of conversion to American Airlines AAdvantage miles a health warning should always be attached….and in big letters too.

Right now American Airlines is running a promotion in which travelers can earn a bonus of up to 30% when converting Starwood Starpoints to AAdvantage miles.

Convert Starpoints To AAdvantage Miles

How Things Normally Work

For those new to miles & points allow me to start off with a few bullet points which will help you out here:

  • Starwood’s Starpoints normally convert to AAdvantage Miles at a ratio of 1 : 1
  • For every block of 20,000 Starpoints you convert to airline miles Starwood awards you a bonus of 5,000 miles. This is not a promotion, it’s what happens in the normal course of things.
  • You cannot convert more than 79,999 miles in a day so you should always max out at 60,000 to ensure you get the 5,000 mile bonuses (all three of them).

American Airlines/Starwood Fall Promotion

American Airlines has resurrected its annual Starpoints promotion and is allowing travelers to earn up to 30% bonus miles on transfers from Starwood.

Here’s how American explains the promotion (emphasis is mine):

From September 1 through October 15, 2017, convert your Starpoints® to AAdvantage® miles and earn up to 30% additional AAdvantage® miles from the conversions. How this works:

  1. Earn 20% bonus with each conversion
  2. Earn an additional 10,000 AAdvantage® miles for every 100,000 AAdvantage® miles received from conversions.

As always, for every 20,000 Starpoints® transferred within the same transaction, SPG® will automatically add another 5,000 Starpoints®. The 20% bonus will apply after this addition.

The Math For The 20% Bonus

Per the promotion, every 20,000 Starpoints you convert to AAdvantage miles will earn you a 20% bonus after you calculate what you would normally have received.

Under normal circumstances 20,000 Starpoints would convert to 25,000 AAdvantage Miles (1:1 ratio + 5,000 mile bonus) so, with an added 20% bonus on top of all this, you can expect to receive a total of 30,000 AAdvantage Miles.

The Math For The 10,000 Mile Bonus

The wording is key here – the 10,000 mile bonus is payable “for every 100,000 AAdvantage Miles received from conversions

Don’t confuse that with having to convert 100,000 Starpoints to get the bonus because that’s not what the promotion means.

So, to get the 100,000 bonus using the minimum number of Starpoints this is what the math would look like:

  • Convert 60,000 Starpoints to 90,000 AAdvantage Miles
  • Convert 10,000 Starpoints to 10,000 AAdvantage Miles

Total Starpoints converted is 70,000 while the total number of AAdvantage miles received is 110,000 (100,000 + 10,000 bonus).

That comes out to a ratio of 1 : 1.57

If you’re prepared to part with a few more Starpoints you can improve that conversion ratio a bit.

  • Convert 60,000 Starpoints to 90,000 AAdvantage Miles
  • Convert 20,000 Starpoints to 30,000 AAdvantage Miles

Total Starpoints converted is 80,000 while the total number of AAdvantage miles received is 130,000 (120,000 + 10,000 bonus).

That comes out to a ratio of 1 : 1.625

That’s the best ratio you can achieve with this promotion and is decidedly better than the 1 : 1.25 ratio that is normally available.

Why You Probably Shouldn’t Convert Starpoints To AAdvantage Miles

As I’m fond of reminding readers, AAdvantage Miles are very hard to use economically nowadays and there is no sign of that situation changing.

If you’re happy to pay exorbitant surcharges on awards you can use your AAdvantage miles to book British Airways Business Class and First Class awards…but then you’re simply overpaying for products that are considerably worse than what we have come to expect on premium airlines.

Yes, if you can find award space on the likes of Cathay Pacific, Etihad or Qatar Airways (you can forget finding SAAver Awards on American’s own aircraft) you can book some very nice cabins indeed…..but the key word in that last sentence is “if”.

  • Awards on Cathay are available between Europe and Asia but they’re getting harder and harder to find out of North America.
  • Awards on Etihad can sometimes be easy to find but then you have the complication that most of the time American Airlines staff can’t see award availability even when it’s there on the screen in front of you! (there has been a workaround for this but recent reports suggest it may be on its way out)
  • Qatar Airways is another great airline on which to spend your hard-earned miles but premium cabin awards on Qatar are definitely not in the “easy to find” category (in my experience).

Starwood’s Starpoints are one of my favorite currencies and you can get some incredible value out of them if you transfer them tactically (I wrote about one great option just the other day). You can also use them for hotel stays (obviously) or you can spend them on some pretty cool experiences with SPG Moments.

So why convert them to a devaluing currency that is only getting harder to use?

It’s all very well American Airlines offering a sweet conversion bonus but if you end up converting a highly usable currency into a currency you struggle to use economically it’s a complete waste of time.

There’s another thing too….

Even if you can see award availability online right now there’s no guarantee that you be able to book it before it disappears.

Look what’s buried in the T&Cs:

Bonus miles will be posted by American Airlines to the Member’s account within 7 business days after the initial Conversion activity has been posted by the Member.

American Airlines allows you to hold awards for 5 days….but that may not be long enough to allow all your miles to post so the award may have disappeared by the time you have enough miles to book it.

Of course you could always transfer your Starpoints across and hope for the best but that’s a risk too far for me.

Bottom Line

I can’t see how transferring Starpoints to American Airlines could possibly be a good idea for the vast majority of people – if you have a decent number of Starpoints they’re so much more versatile than AAdvantage miles and they’re not a depreciating currency (yet!).