Big news in the frequent flyer world last week was Delta’s new partnership with Starwood Preferred Guest.
Delta and Starwood top elites will receive what amounts to entry-level elite benefits on the other travel provider.
And all elites in each program will be able to earn points in their ‘home’ program in addition to the usual points for their travel with the other partner.
Delta elites will earn one Delta mile per dollar spent with Starwood, and Starwood elites will earn 1 Starpoint for every dollar spent on Delta tickets (some tickets will earn a flat 500 points per segment).
But this last is not a good benefit, and not one most people should take advantage of. Because Delta elites can and should do better.
In fact everyone, Delta elite or not, already should be doing better.
Everyone who has a Chase Ultimate Rewards-earning credit card, such as Chase Sapphire PreferredSM or Ink Bold or Ink Plus, can earn two points per dollar spent on airline tickets when you start at the Ultimate Rewards Mall shopping portal and buy through Travelocity.
Two Chase points can be transferred into 2 miles with United, British Airways, or Korean AIrlines. Two Chase points can be transferred into 2 Hyatt points. (Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, Priority Club, Southwest, and Amtrak are transfer partners as well.)
But the new Starwood benefit won’t apply to tickets purchased through an online travel agency.
That means you have to give up your 2 United miles or 2 Hyatt points in order to book, say, at Delta.com and earn 1 Starpoint.
And while Starwood points are a valuable currency I consider two United miles (and 2 Hyatt points for that matter) to be worth more. You have to give up those points to earn the 1 Starpoint, and it’s just not worth it. So while more options are better, this isn’t actually an improvement over the status quo — provided you have or can get a Chase Ultimate Rewards point earning credit card, and are willing to book through an online travel agency.
You can earn these Ultimate Rewards points on any most airline’s ticket, not just Delta tickets.
In some ways it’s interesting that Starwood has this new exclusive relationship with Delta, while you can thus earn 2 Hyatt points per dollar or 2 Marriott points per dollar with any airline. And I bet that those programs didn’t even realize they had such broad-based partnerships!
And it isn’t just Travelocity that earns points through the Ultimate Rewards Mall. So does Expedia, at just one point per dollar. But Expedia bookings can double dip with Expedia Rewards as well.
The Starwood-Delta partnership provides reciprocal elite benefits too (for each program’s top elites, Delta Platinums and Diamonds and Starwood Platinums) but they’re bottom-tier benefits. So I doubt they’ll move the needle a ton in terms of first choice of travel provider.
While the points-earning seemed potentially the most lucrative, I don’t see earning 1 Delta mile per dollar at Starwood as a huge driver of Delta elite business for SPG. The ability to earn 1 Starpoint per dollar on Delta tickets seems like a big deal (consider picking up say 5000 Starpoints on a business class ticket) it really isn’t because you give up more valuable points to get those Starpoints.
So the more I think about the partnership, the less valuable it seems. It doesn’t take anything away from travelers, really, and it’s more benefits — so no complaints — but as I said last week it isn’t a game-changer.
(Note that the links to the Chase cards — which I listed last week as having the very best signup bonuses of any points-earning credit cards currently — do offer referral credit to me if you’re approved for the cards, which I greatly appreciate.)