A trick to use SPG to transfer your Amex points to AAdvantage miles

GUIDE: Using Points
DIFFICULTY: Hard
TIME TO READ: 6 minutes
POSTED: April 10, 2017
UPDATED: August 26, 2018
LOYALTY PROGRAMS: American Express Membership Rewards
STATUS: SPG was merged into Marriott Rewards in August 2018. This content is now out-of-date but has been kept on the site for informational purposes

American Airlines’ AAdvantage frequent flyer program offers some good-value redemptions for Australia-based travellers, and this trick to transfer your Amex points can come in handy when you need to top up your AAdvantage balance.

When you should use this trick

If you are looking at a redemption on a oneworld airline such as Qantas, Cathay Pacific or Qatar Airways, and both your Asia Miles and AAdvantage balances are (close to) zero, then the results here will show you why you should probably transfer your Membership Rewards points to Asia Miles instead but only if you have access to Amex Ascent points.

If you have access to Amex Gateway points, it’s on a case-by-case basis, and this guide will teach you how to compare your options.

If you have picked up some AAdvantage miles in a buy miles promotion and need to top up your balance, then this trick to convert your Amex points into AAdvantage miles may come in handy.

How to get your hands on the points in the first place

For Australians, there are just two ways to earn AAdvantage miles from credit card spend, and this guide covers the first one: earning points with American Express Membership Rewards cards and transferring them first to Starwood Preferred Guest and then onto AAdvantage.

The other card alternative is the relatively unused Diners Club account option, having a Diners and MasterCard, which can earn AAdvantage miles directly.

It is possible to earn American Express Membership Rewards points here in Australia through either the standard American Express Membership Rewards program or David Jones Membership Rewards and transfer them to Starwood Preferred Guest whenever you wish.

The sign-up offer for 100,000 Amex Membership Rewards points for the American Express Explorer until 15 May 2017 would get you 62,500 AAdvantage miles through this transfer method, plus an ongoing effective earn rate of 1.25 AAdvantage miles per $ spend on the card (see how it shapes up against other Amex cards below.)

Transferring Membership Rewards points to Starwood Preferred Guest

The transfer rate from Amex Membership Rewards is 1 Membership Reward point = 0.5 Starwood Preferred Guest points, with a minimum transfer of 1,000 Membership Rewards points.

The transfer rate for both Membership Rewards programs is the same, which is not the case with every other Membership Rewards partner where David Jones Membership Rewards offers a worse transfer rate. This makes the comparison in this guide easier, thankfully!

You’ll need to link your Starwood account to your Membership Rewards account when logged into the American Express Membership Rewards website before making the transfer.

I have found the transfer from Amex to SPG usually takes 1-2 business days, with the points arriving in your Starwood account reliably around this time.

There’s no need to transfer a specific amount of points from Membership Rewards over to Starwood to maximise any bonuses – the transfer rate is a simple 1:0.5, and I have never seen a bonus promotion from Amex over to Starwood in the last few years, so transfer them whenever you have need to move them – no need to hold off.

For this case study, let’s say we start off with 40,000 Membership Rewards points, transferring over to 20,000 Starpoints.

Transferring from Starwood Preferred Guest to American Airlines AAdvantage

This is where things get a little more complex but for the better – SPG points ordinarily transfer to AAdvantage at 1 Starpoint = 1 AAdvantage mile, a simple conversion rate.

However, on top of this, a 20,000 point transfer to AAdvantage will also yield an additional 5,000 bonus miles, like with Starwood’s many other frequent flyer partners.

This is a bonus you won’t want to miss by making transfers of less than 20,000 miles unless you absolutely have to.

Also, you can only transfer a maximum of 79,999 points to miles every 24 hours out of your Starwood Preferred Guest account.

Because the 5,000-point bonus only kicks in for transfers of 20,000 Starpoints, that means three transfers of 20,000 points per day is the sweet spot – for a total of 60,000 SPG points transferred to 75,000 airline miles.

Here are some example transfer figures:

  • 10k SPG = 10k airline miles (e.g. AAdvantage miles)
  • 20k SPG = 25k airline miles (20k + 5k bonus)
  • 30k SPG = 35k airline miles
  • 40k SPG = 50k airline miles (40k + 10k bonus)
  • 50k SPG = 60k airline miles
  • 60k SPG = 75k airline miles (60k + 15k bonus)
  • 70k SPG = 85k airline miles
  • 79,999 SPG = 94,999 miles (79k + 15k bonus)

You’ll also need to consider that the name on the Starwood account has to match the name on your frequent flyer account – no swapsies with friends or family member accounts here.

Having said that, you can transfer points between household members within SPG, with more on that in the Starwood Preferred Guest buying points guide.

Combining the two transfers to convert American Express Membership Rewards points to AAdvantage miles

Back to our 40,000 Membership Rewards point example:

  1. 40,000 Membership Rewards points will transfer to 20,000 Starpoints
  2. 20,000 Starpoints will transfer to 25,000 AAdvantage miles
  3. Therefore, the effective transfer rate of American Express Membership Rewards points to AAdvantage miles is 0.625 AAdvantage miles per Membership Reward point

This allows us then to look at the effective earn rate of American Airlines miles from spend on different Membership Rewards cards.

Redemption comparisons when using this method

This table shows some example best price redemptions for oneworld airlines and frequent flyer programs.

It’s by no means complete – the intention is to highlight the cheapest redemption options (in red) for the example routes, across Asia Miles, Qantas Frequent Flyer, and AAdvantage when transferred over via SPG.

If you’ve got Ascent points, look for the winner in red; if you’ve got Gateway points, look for the winner in bold.

  MR to Asia Miles at 1:1MR to Asia Miles at 1:0.75MR to SPG to AA at 1:0.625Qantas FF
Cathay PacificFirst Class
Hong KongTaipei25,00033,333 MR > 25,000 AM52,000 MR > 32,500 AA26,000
Hong KongBangkok30,00040,000 > 30,00052,000 > 32,50038,000
Hong KongTokyo40,00053,333 > 40,00064,000 > 40,00056,000
Hong KongNew York130,000173,333 > 130,000176,000 > 110,000144,000
QantasFirst Class
MelbourneDubai105,000140,000 > 105,000160,000 > 100,000144,000
SydneyLos Angeles105,000140,000 > 105,000128,000 > 80,000144,000
SydneyNew York130,000186,667 > 130,000128,000 > 80,000192,000
British AirwaysFirst Class
LondonNew York70,00093,333 > 70,000136,000 > 85,00078,000
LondonTokyo105,000140,000 > 105,000144,000 > 90,000126,000
LondonSydney160,000213,333 > 160,000184,000 > 115,000192,000
QantasBusiness Class
MelbourneSingapore45,00060,000 > 45,00064,000 > 40,00060,000
SydneyLos Angeles70,00093,333 > 70,000128,000 > 80,00096,000
SydneyLondon110,000146,667 > 110,000136,000 > 85,000128,000
Qantas DomesticBusiness Class
SydneyPerth30,00040,000 > 30,00032,000 > 20,00036,000
MelbourneAuckland30,00040,000 > 30,00040,000 > 25,00036,000
PerthAuckland (via Sydney)45,00060,000 > 45,00040,000 > 25,00050,000

One easy conclusion we can make is that:

  • AAdvantage redemptions are generally cheaper outright than through Asia Miles and Qantas but

it depends on whether you have access to Amex Ascent points through the Platinum Charge or Platinum Edge (transferring to Asia Miles at 1:1) or Gateway points through the Explorer (transferring to Asia Miles at a lower 1:0.75).

If you have Ascent points then:

  • Asia Miles wins in most cases except when you are travelling from one extreme end of a region to the opposite side of another region, e.g. Perth to Auckland or Australia to New York
  • even then, the difference between the more expensive Asia Miles pricing and the cheaper AA one is so little that it might make sense to just forgo the extra MR points to save having to wait to have the double transfer take place, i.e. MR > SPG > AA

However, if you have Gateway points then:

  • it’s a mixed bag – some redemptions will be cheaper through Asia Miles and some through AAdvantage and there doesn’t seem to be a hard-and-fast rule to this, meaning you should check how much the redemptions cost on the Asia Miles and AAdvantage award charts

Effective AAdvantage miles earn rates on Membership Rewards cards

Here’s how some different Membership Rewards cards stack up in terms of effective AAdvantage mile earn rates:

Membership Rewards CardSpend categoryMembership Rewards earned per $Starpoints earned per $AAdvantage miles earned per $ (maximised)
Platinum EdgeSupermarkets31.51.875
Platinum EdgeFuel211.25
Platinum EdgeAll other10.50.625
Platinum ChargeRestaurants31.51.875
Platinum ChargeOverseas211.25
Platinum ChargeTravel211.25
Platinum ChargeAll other10.50.625
ExplorerAll except government spend211.25
ExplorerGovernment spend0.50.250.3125
David Jones PlatinumDavid Jones422.5
David Jones PlatinumSupermarkets31.51.875
David Jones PlatinumFuel31.51.875
David Jones PlatinumAll other10.50.625
David JonesDavid Jones211.25
David JonesSupermarkets31.51.875
David JonesFuel31.51.875
David JonesAll other10.50.625

For comparison purposes, I’ve assumed that you maximise your AAdvantage miles by only transferring Starpoints out in 20,000-point chunks.

Taking out the more niche David Jones Amex, the winners for the highest effective AAdvantage earn rates in each category are:

  • general spend: Explorer
  • supermarkets: Platinum Edge
  • restaurants: Platinum Charge
  • fuel: Platinum Edge and Explorer
  • overseas: Platinum Charge and Explorer

The same maths, of course, applies to other airline programs which transfer out in a 1:1 ratio from Starwood, but these aren’t the focus of this guide, so I haven’t listed them explicitly.

Summing up: why you should know about Membership Rewards → Starwood Preferred Guest → AAdvantage transfers

The Membership Rewards → Starwood Preferred Guest → AAdvantage transfer route is a bit convoluted, but once you understand how the earn and transfer rates work for your specific card and each program, that can help make a better call on how you redeem your points.

The key takeaways are:

  • That you have access to a wide range of overseas frequent flyer programs through your Membership Rewards-linked card and Starwood Preferred Guest program
  • That these overseas Frequent Flyer programs, like AAdvantage, often offer lucrative miles purchase programs, meaning these accounts can be topped up from your Membership Rewards balance if needed
  • AAdvantage has some redemption sweet spots for Australian travellers
  • If you have access to Ascent points, it’ll usually make sense to transfer to Asia Miles over AAdvantage via SPG
  • If you have access to Gateway points, you’ll need to compare the redemption values between Asia Miles and AAdvantage on a case-by-case basis
  • Different Membership Rewards cards have category-specific spend bonuses that, if taken advantage of, increase your Starpoint and AAdvantage earn opportunities
  • Try to take advantage of the 5,000 mile transfer bonus for transfers of 20,000 Starpoints

Links to American Express cards mentioned in this guide

American Express Platinum Edge - $200 Travel Credit

American Express are offering a $200 travel credit each year for new cardholders of the Platinum Edge. Includes travel insurance, earns 3 points per $ at supermarkets, and 2 points per $ on fuel.

  • $200 travel credit each year which can be used for flight, hotel or rental car bookings with Amex Travel
  • Travel and purchase protection insurances (PDS)
  • 3 Membership Rewards points earned per $1 spent at supermarkets
  • 2 Membership Rewards points earned per $1 on fuel
  • 1 Membership Rewards point per $1 on all other purchases, excludes spend at government, utilities, insurance and telecommunications
  • 0.5 Membership Rewards point per $1 on government, utilities, insurance and telecommunications spend
  • Point redemption rates will change as of 15 April 2019.
  • 0% p.a. on balance transfers for the first 12 months, with a 1% establishment fee - maximum balance transfer is $10,000 or 70% of your approved credit limit, whichever is less
  • Annual fee: $195 p.a.
  • Card Members who currently hold or who have previously held any Card product issued by American Express Australia Limited in the preceding 60 day period are ineligible for this offer. Previous and existing bank-issued American Express companion cardholders are eligible for this offer.

Find out more or apply →

Point Hacks receive a maximum of $150 per applicant for this card. More about this →

American Express Platinum Charge - Up to 80,000 Membership Rewards points

With 80,000 Membership Rewards points bonus available on sign up, the American Express Platinum Charge Card is a great card for those who want to earn Membership Rewards points on everyday spend with lots of new and enhanced additional benefits. Read the Point Hacks guide for the full rundown.

  • 80,000 Membership Rewards points, when you spend a minimum of $3,000 on eligible spend in the first 3 months of approval
  • $450 travel credit annually
  • Unlimited access to over 1,200 lounge across 130 countries - including Virgin Australia Domestic, Delta, Priority Pass and American Express lounges globally
  • Access to American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts perks & discounts
  • Complimentary status & memberships with a number of hotel loyalty programs including Accor Plus Membership valued at $395 per year
  • Complimentary The Australian Financial Review Premium digital subscription
  • Complimentary Travel Insurance cover extended to additional card members (PDS)
  • Until 14 April 2019, earn 3 Membership Rewards points per $1 at restaurants in Australia, 2 points per $1 spent on travel and overseas, and 1 point per $1 spent on everything else (except those in the 0.5 points category)
  • From 15 April 2019, you will earn to 2.25 Membership Rewards points per $1 on all eligible purchases, except for spend with government bodies, for which you will earn 1 point per $1 spent
  • Annual Fee: $1450 p.a.
  • Charge card, not credit card - balance requires payment in full each month but with no pre-set spending limit - more about this
  • Card Members who currently hold or who have previously held any Card product issued by American Express Australia Limited in the preceding 18 month period are ineligible for this offer. Previous and existing bank-issued American Express companion cardholders are eligible for this offer.

Find out more or apply →

Point Hacks receive a maximum of $300 per applicant for this card. More about this →

American Express Explorer - 100,000 Membership Rewards Gateway points

American Express 'Explorer' card has 100,000 bonus Membership Rewards Gateway points on offer. Includes $400 travel credit each year, free American Express lounge access plus a range of insurances and high points earn rates on spend.

  • 100,000 Membership Rewards Gateway points, when you spend a minimum of $1,500 on eligible purchases in the first 3 months of approval
  • $400 travel credit every year
  • Up to US$75 credit when you book two consecutive night's stay with The Hotels Collection
  • Free access to the Sydney or Melbourne Airport American Express lounge twice a year
  • Earn 2 Membership Rewards Gateway points earned per $1 on all purchases except government bodies where you will earn 0.5 point per $1 spent
  • Point redemption rates will change as of 15 April 2019
  • Included Insurances - smartphone screen insurance and various travel insurances (PDS)
  • 0% p.a. on balance transfer for the first 12 months - A one-off credit plan establishment fee of 1% applies
  • $395 p.a. annual fee
  • Card Members who currently hold or who have previously held any Card product issued by American Express Australia Limited in the preceding 18 month period are ineligible for this offer. Previous and existing bank-issued American Express companion cardholders are eligible for this offer
  • Offer expires: 7 January 2019

Find out more or apply →

Point Hacks receive a maximum of $250 per applicant for this card. More about this →

David Jones American Express - 15,000 Qantas Points or 20,000 DJ's MR points

There's 20,000 DJ's Membership Rewards points for new applicants - could be transferred to 10,000 Starpoints or 15,000 Qantas Points. This card is a high earning Qantas Point card for Supermarkets & Fuel spend, with $99 annual fee.

  • Choose 20,000 David Jones Membership Rewards points or 15,000 Qantas Point signup bonus
  • Exclusive benefits at David Jones, including free standard delivery for online purchases, free gift wrapping, 4 years interest free on big ticket items
  • 3 David Jones Membership Rewards points per $ at Supermarkets/Fuel, 2 points per $ at David Jones, 1 point per $ everywhere else OR
  • 2.25 Qantas Points earned per $ at Supermarkets/Fuel, 1.5 Qantas Points per $ at David Jones, 0.75 points per $ everywhere else
  • $99 annual fee
  • Minimum income requirement of $40,000 pa
  • Only available to new David Jones American Express customers within the last 18 months
  • Eligible for signup bonus after 3 transactions outside of David Jones in first 3 months of holding the card

Find out more or apply →

Point Hacks receive a maximum of $150 per applicant for this card. More about this →

David Jones Platinum American Express - 30,000 Qantas Points or 40,000 DJ's MR points

The David Jones Platinum Amex has 40,000 DJ's Membership Rewards points or 30,000 Qantas points on offer for new applicants plus excellent ongoing bonus points for spend at David Jones, Supermarkets and on Fuel. It's a useful card for earning either Qantas Points, or Starwood Preferred Guest points.

  • Choose 40,000 David Jones Membership Rewards points or 30,000 Qantas Points sign up bonus
  • Free access to the Sydney or Melbourne Airport American Express lounge twice a year
  • Exclusive benefits at David Jones, including free standard delivery for online purchases, free gift wrapping, 4 years interest free on big ticket items
  • 4 David Jones Membership Rewards points per $ at David Jones, 3 points per $ at Supermarkets/Fuel, 1 point per $ everywhere else, OR
  • 3 Qantas Points per $ at David Jones, 2.25 Qantas Points earned per $ at Supermarkets/Fuel, 0.75 points per $ everywhere else
  • $295 annual fee
  • Minimum income requirement of $65,000 pa
  • Only available to new David Jones American Express customers within the last 18 months
  • Eligible for bonus points after 3 transactions outside of David Jones in first 3 months of holding the card

Find out more or apply →

Point Hacks receive a maximum of $180 per applicant for this card. More about this →

A trick to use SPG to transfer your Amex points to AAdvantage miles was last modified: August 26th, 2018 by Matt Moffitt