Star Alliance Award Sweet Spots and Transfer Partners

In some cases, Star Alliance partner airlines have cheaper award flights than United Airlines.
Elina Geller
By Elina Geller 
Edited by Kevin Berry

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Star Alliance is the largest airline alliance, home to 26 members, including the likes of United Airlines, Air Canada and All Nippon Airways. The breadth of this network means that you can reach more than 1,300 destinations in 195 countries by using one member airline’s miles to fly on another member airline. Flying on an airline using a partner airline’s miles can be particularly appealing if you can find a sweet spot opportunity in the award chart.

Although you cannot easily transfer miles from one member airline to another, you can transfer convertible credit card points (i.e., Chase Ultimate Rewards®, American Express Membership Rewards) to a participating loyalty program. By leveraging transferable credit card points, you could take advantage of the following example scenario: You want to book a United flight but it is not available using United MileagePlus miles. However, you are able to find that flight available using Aeroplan (Air Canada’s loyalty program) points. That allows you to transfer your American Express Membership Rewards points to Aeroplan and book the United flight.

The scenario illustrates the value of holding a transferable point earning credit card and using them in combination with airline alliances so you are not limited to collecting rewards with only one airline.

Here are some of our favorite award ticket sweet spots on Star Alliance airlines.

Use ANA Mileage Club Miles for awards to Japan

All Nippon Airways, or ANA, is Japan’s largest airline and offers nonstop flights from Tokyo to Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, San Jose and Seattle. ANA awards can only be booked round-trip, and the airline treats all of North America as one region. Award prices vary by high, regular and low season, and for North America, certain dates correspond to the seasons.

Even during regular season, a round-trip business class award is excellently priced at 85,000 miles.

For example, a round-trip award from Houston to Tokyo-Haneda is 85,000 miles plus $59 in taxes.

Comparatively, the exact same award costs a whopping 176,000 United miles plus $57 in taxes.

Transferring to ANA

ANA is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy. Points transfer at a 1:1 ratio from AmEx and 3:1 ratio from Marriott with a 5,000-mile bonus on transfers of 60,000 points. Getting a credit card that earns AmEx Membership Rewards points will be your best bet in earning ANA points given the transfer ratio.

Use Avianca LifeMiles for awards to Southeast Asia

Avianca is a Colombian airline with a region-based award chart that has some favorable redemptions, particularly from North America to Southeast Asia, at 39,000 and 78,000 miles for a one-way economy and business class ticket, respectively.

Based on our most recent analysis, NerdWallet values Avianca LifeMiles at 1.2 cents each.

For example, a one-way business class flight from Newark to Bangkok is 78,000 miles plus $23 in taxes.

Comparatively, the same award using United miles would set you back 99,000 miles plus $25 in taxes in business class.

Given the long duration of the flight, splurging on a business class experience could be worthwhile, and you’ll save 21,000 points in the process if you book through Avianca.

Transferring to Avianca

Avianca is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, Capital One, Citi ThankYou and Marriott Bonvoy. Points transfer at a 1:1 ratio from AmEx and Citi ThankYou, at a 2:1.5 ratio from Capital One and 3:1 ratio from Marriott. Collecting Avianca miles is relatively easy due to the multitude of cards that allow you to earn points with any of these transferable programs.

Use Singapore KrisFlyer miles for awards to Hawaii

Singapore Airlines has a region-based award chart for Star Alliance awards booked with KrisFlyer miles and again offers advantages if you’re comparing the redemption to an airline with dynamic award pricing. NerdWallet values Singapore KrisFlyer miles at 1.1 cents each.

KrisFlyer prices one-way awards from North America to Hawaii at 17,500 miles (half of the 35,000 miles listed on its chart representing round-trip rates), which is fairly affordable.

For example, a United flight from Denver to Honolulu would cost only 17,500 KrisFlyer miles if booked on the Singapore Airlines site.

In comparison, if you booked this flight on the United site, it would set you back 22,500 MileagePlus miles.

Transferring to Singapore KrisFlyer

KrisFlyer is a partner of all five transferable point programs: Chase Ultimate Rewards®, American Express Membership Rewards, Capital One, Citi ThankYou and Marriott Bonvoy. Points transfer at a 1:1 ratio from Chase, AmEx and Citi, a 2:1.5 ratio from Capital One and a 3:1 ratio from Marriott, which offers a 5,000-mile bonus when you transfer 60,000 Bonvoy points. Due to all the transferable options, KrisFlyer is essentially one of the easiest programs to earn miles with.

The bottom line

Star Alliance’s expansive network provides plenty of sweet spot opportunities with many different airlines. Many of the airlines are partners of several transferable point credit cards offering many possibilities for finding the best redemption in miles. Looking for inspiration? Check out our latest list of the best travel credit cards.

How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2023, including those best for:

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