Transferring SPG Points to Japan Airlines

Starwood Preferred Guest has a stable of over 30 airline transfer partners. Most transfer at a 1:1 ratio and SPG throws in a bonus 5,000 for every individual block of 20,000 or more points transferred. Some of these, like Japan Airlines (JAL), do not have transfer arrangements with other US-based credit cards or promotions.

The big downside is transfer speed is inconsistent among airlines and can take weeks. I hope someone researches the heck out of this to get the most accurate state of play for all SPG partners. Here is what I learned for JAL.

Why transfer to JAL? Travel is Free conveniently just provided his trademark great ideas to maximize JAL’s distance-based awards with up to 7 stopovers.

I wanted a much less dramatic redemption on their discount on partner Bangkok Airways, these must be booked on phone, see promotion details on Travel Codex. The promotion has been extended to March 31, 2016. Bangkok Airways is great for trips to Angkor Wat and also flies as far as the Maldives, see their destinations. Some are routes with tons of low-cost competitor options, others are more expensive, so compare awards to revenue ticket alternatives.

JAL Bangkok Airways

Here’s the transfer timeline from what I pieced together from calling both programs repeatedly:

  1. SPG transfers to airline within a few days.
  2. JAL processes in one weekly batch, between overnight Tuesday and Wednesday, Japan time.

In my case I submitted the request on a Sunday and SPG confirmed to me they transferred to JAL on a Tuesday, missing JAL’s weeky cutoff.

JAL processed my points the following week, showing up overnight Wednesday to Thursday, Japan time.

The SPG Tuesday transfer was bad luck as it just missed JAL’s weekly cutoff, and my transfer took 12 days from initiation to receipt. In the Travel Codex example his transfer just took a few days because the points got to JAL before the weekly cutoff.

It seems best to initiate transfer no later than a Friday to hope to receive by Wednesday the following week.

There’s more…the cutoff for redeeming awards.

Most JAL awards must be redeemed 4 days prior to departure. In typical Japanese fashion, the cutoffs are needlessly elaborate:

JAL Award Deadline

I lucked out by losing out.

The transfer took so long that by the time I could book it was too late and my wife had already totally changed our trip mid-stream. If I had bought revenue tickets I would have been out of luck. Now I have 25,000 JAL miles that expire in 3 years. Time to find something fun to do with them.

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  • John

    Similar to my experience, only that I am sitting on 75k JAL miles that I have no idea what to do with now.

    Bangkok Airways is great for trips to USM from BKK though.

  • John

    holy cr@p! just realized that my two-stopover Xmas trip could have been booked with my JAL miles at the same price as my Avios-based ticket.

    I had been so focused on using JAL miles on Bangkok Airways or for JAL’s PE product that I forgot about their oneworld award chart.

    Do you recall whether date changes are permitted on JAL awards?

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @John -Here is how they phrase it: “It is eligible in changing the flight date and flights to ones within the same sector. When changes are made to flight number or flight date, member may be requested to pay for the difference between the old and new fuel surcharges, insurance surcharges, and other charges.”

  • Nick Knight

    Transfered a medium handful of miles to LAN 5 weeks ago for a specific award and still waiting for them to show. Just sent my second email to SPG support asking why this is taking so long.

  • jackie

    A more recent data point:
    I initiated the transfer on 1/28/2016, last Thursday afternoon PST, and I didn’t see the points on 1/29 and given the data points you had, I didn’t bother to check over the weekend. This morning(2/1/2016) when I just checked our of curiosity, the points are there already. So JAL might have a different batch time now or ?

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @jackie – thanks for the data point, it could be that they have changed. The JAL Mileage Bank Americas website has had most functionality out of commission for a while now, supposedly to be restored this month, so it is possible that they are doing a revamp of everything.