Can I Transfer Miles to Earn Airline Elite Status?

Aug 23, 2015

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Today’s newbie question of the day comes from TPG Reader Dave via twitter:

@thepointsguy — “If I transfer 25,000 miles to American Airlines, will I earn AAdvantage Gold status?”

The Starwood Preferred Guest program allows you to transfer Starpoints to miles with over 30 airline partners, including American Airlines. One of the best aspects of the program is that you get 5,000 bonus miles when you transfer 20,000 points, so you end up with 25,000 airline miles. Since that’s the threshold for earning American Airlines Advantage Gold status, you might think that merely transferring those points would be enough. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.

Note: With the current welcome bonuses on the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card and the Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card, you can earn a total of 60,000 points when you meet the minimum spend requirement on both cards, which, when transferred to AA, will net you 75,000 miles.

There are a lot of elite flyers out there, and you don’t necessarily have to fly to earn elite miles. You can also get them through co-branded credit cards — Delta in particular is known for giving out Medallion® Qualification Miles like candy if you spend a lot on the co-branded Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express or the Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express. However, you generally need to fly if you want to earn elite status.

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You can transfer hotel points to Southwest to earn lucrative Companion Pass status. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

One (sort of) exception is the Southwest Airlines Companion Pass, which isn’t exactly an elite status, but is still an amazing benefit.  You can actually transfer certain hotel points into Southwest Rapid Rewards that count toward the 110,000 qualifying points you need to earn the Companion Pass. The transfer ratios aren’t great (sometimes as bad as 10:1), but it can still be worthwhile, especially since the pass is valid for the remainder of the calendar year in which you earn it, plus the entire following year.

A better option is Marriott’s Flight + Hotel awards, which allows you to effectively transfer at a much more favorable ratio when you book an extended hotel stay using points. I did this two years ago when I booked 7 nights at the J.W. Marriott in Cannes during the film festival, and my father came away with enough Rapid Rewards points to earn the Companion Pass. Best of all, his pass was valid for almost two full years, since we booked the trip early in the year.

If you fly Southwest, you need to know about this benefit. It’s almost too good to be true, and will likely end at some point, but until then, maximize it.

In the meantime, if you want airline elite status, then get your butt on a plane!

If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook or send me an email at

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