By combining a purchase of Starpoints from Starwood Preferred Guest, who are offering a 30% discount on Starpoint purchases until June 30, you can leverage these points fairly easily into Business Class flights with their airline partners.
While Starwood is a hotel loyalty program, they have a number of airline transfer partners – including those which will allow you to book with Qantas, in British Airways Executive Club or American Airlines AAdvantage.
As a result, buying Starpoints can have you sitting in Qantas Business Class for your travel in Australia and to New Zealand for much less than paid fare – typically around 50% of the usual cash price.
There’s a full guide to buying Starpoints here – so I won’t cover of ALL the details in this guide, but will go into more detail on how to leverage Starpoints and Starwood’s airline transfer partners for travellers in Australia and New Zealand.
The key knowledge you need when it comes to Starwood for this particular technique, is that:
- When you transfer 20,000 Starpoints to airline points, you’ll receive an additional 5,000 points (increasing the value of your Starpoints / decreasing the cost of purchases when buying 20,000)
- There’s usually a maximum purchase of 20,000 Starpoints per account, but that can be circumvented using multiple Starwood Preferred Guest accounts for your household and combining into one account
- To maximise your transfer allowances, you should transfer no more than 60,000 Starpoints per day to frequent flyer programs.
All of these are outlined in more detail in the Starwood points purchase guide.
The focus of this guide is for transfers to British Airways Avios and American Airlines AAdvantage, both of which have a 1 Starpoint = 1 airline point/mile transfer ratio.
That said, it is also possible to transfer your Starpoints to Velocity for redemptions with Virgin Australia, which could be an option for domestic trips in Virgin Australia Business Class too.
Using purchased Starpoints for Qantas Business Class
Qantas Frequent Flyer are not a transfer partner of Starwood, but as a oneworld member airline, are frequent flyer program partners of plenty of airlines which do partner with Starwood.
These partnerships open access to (almost) the same Qantas points seat availability as you’d find on Qantas.com, resulting in a number of opportunities to purchase Starpoints for immediate flight bookings.
Here’s a summary of routes and costs with some of the different partners.
|Example routes||Points/Miles needed||Optimal frequent flyer program to use||Cost of transferred points (USD) in current promo|
|Sydney - Melbourne||9000||BA Avios||$163.8|
|Melbourne - Adelaide||9000||BA Avios||$163.8|
|Adelaide - Sydney||15000||BA Avios||$273|
|Brisbane - Melbourne||15000||BA Avios||$273|
|Sydney - Townsville||15000||BA Avios||$273|
|Melbourne - Cairns||20000||AA Advantage||$364|
|Brisbane - Perth||20000||AA Advantage||$364|
|Sydney - Auckland||25000||AA Advantage||$455|
|Melbourne - Auckland||25000||AA Advantage||$455|
|Perth - Auckland||25000||AA Advantage||$455|
Here are the key qualifications / assumption for the pricing in this table:
- All prices are in USD, I’m not factoring in the exchange rate
- The cost shown is assuming the optimal cost per point by using the 20,000 point transfer with 5,000 point bonus, although admittedly it won’t be simple to use exactly 25,000 Starpoints (or multiples of)
- I’m not including taxes in the total cost. Typically these are minimal on domestic Business Class redemptions.
- I’m using the current AAdvantage domestic and AU/NZ pricing, i.e. the new award structure for bookings made after March 22nd.
When and how to use British Airways Avios or AAdvantage with a Starpoint transfer
You can see from the table above that longer flights are best redeemed with AAdvantage, while shorter flights are best redeemed with British Airways Avios.
Both can book Qantas reward flights on their respective websites, so there’s no other real differences between using either program (AAdvantage cancellation fees are more expensive at $150 USD rather than £15 GBP for BA Avios, but that’s about it).
The exact distances for which British Airways Avios redemptions are competitive are for flights up to 650 miles at 9,000 Avios one way in Business Class, and for flights up to 1,149 miles which cost 15,000 Avios one way in Business Class.
One of the easiest ways to look up Avios pricing is using Wandering Aramean’s Avios pricing tool here.
This will show you all the lowest band routes (in green) and the second tier (in orange).
For example, green cities from Brisbane costing 9,000 Avios one way, or orange 15,000 Avios one way (in Business Class):
Or the same from Perth:
Above these distances, Avios starts pricing at 20,000 Avios or more – so for longer domestic Australian redemptions or for flights to New Zealand, you’re best to start using AAdvantage which has a fixed price of 20,000 AAdvantage miles for domestic Australian or 25,000 for flights to New Zealand.
When it comes to multi-stop / indirect flights when using British Airways, the summed cost of all flights is used to determine the final price, so for multi-stop itineraries you’ll need to look at AAdvantage (18,000 Avios minimum here, versus 20,000-25,000 AAdvantage required).
Finally, some Australian cities don’t play well with the British Airways search tool (Hobart, for example) despite showing as a city you can search itineraries for. For these, you’ll need to call BA to make the redemption.
Searching for award availability
The methodology to research availability, transfer points and book flights using this deal is as follows:
- Identify the route you are likely to want to redeem for and check you are comfortable with the current pricing of Starpoints for that redemption, and that you understand the additional taxes
- Do some research on availability for your intended travel dates
- Ensure you have signed up for a Starwood Preferred Guest account, or multiple for your family members if more than 25,000 points are required
- Ensure you’ve signed up for a British Airways Executive Club* and/or AAdvantage account.
- Transfer over the Starpoints to your BA or AA account first of course, which can take 24-48 hours
- Make the redemption booking on the BA or AA website
*BA Executive Club accounts require an address in Europe. Pick a friend or family member who lives overseas, they should receive one piece of physical mail only with your membership card.
You can use Qantas.com as normal to search for award availability. You then hop over to the British Airways or American Airlines websites, log in using your BA Executive or American Airlines AAdvantage membership details, and book your Qantas award flight online.
An example redemption – Qantas Points vs British Airways Avios
I took a look at a Sydney – Melbourne redemption, for which I’d use Avios given the price of 9,000 Avios one way in Business Class.
I researched availability on Qantas.com, where the Sydney – Melbourne flight on an A330 would cost 16,000 Qantas Points plus $30.29 in taxes.
I would then head over to britishairways.com to make the booking using my Avios – for a cost of 9,000 Avios plus £6.
On purchasing your flight using Avios, you are also given the option to top up your Avios account at the following rates.
This is not a great deal but is usable if you are a few thousand Avios short of a redemption.
Maximising your transfer bonus for best value
In addition to the transferred points to British Airways and American Airlines from Starwood at a 1:1 transfer rate, the 5,000 point bonus for 20,000 Starpoint transfers is a key way to earn the most value from your Starpoints when moving them to frequent flyer programs.
Given this, I would plan to buy 20,000 Starpoints (or an amount of Starpoints that results in you having 20,000 Starpoints in your account) to earn the 5,000 bonus points with the transfer.
All the redemption costs calculated in this guide assume you maximise the transfer bonus in this way to reduce the total cost of a redemption.
This may mean you end up with a points overage left in your frequent flyer account, but I will assume that you will be able to use these for another similar redemption in future, either from one or more of the following:
- Another Starpoint purchase promotion
- Buying points directly from the airline in a future promotion
Here’s the key things to take away from this guide:
- Starpoints are a very useful currency for domestic and Australia-NZ redemptions on Qantas flights using British Airways and AAdvantage
- Sign up for the relevant loyalty program accounts now if you think you’d like to take advantage of this technique – there are limitations on Starwood account age for buying points, and having your accounts ready to use eases the admin pain
- Use British Airways for shorter flights, AAdvantage for longer flights and trans-tasman