How to earn 1.8 SPG points per dollar, or 5.76 Choice points per dollar

The Diners Club card is back.  This is a credit card with a long and interesting history (read details at View from the Wing, here).  I’m interested in all new opportunities to earn points and miles, and this one has a few very interesting aspects:

  • Points are transferrable to a number of airline and hotel programs.
  • The Elite version of the card ($300 annual fee) offers 3 points per dollar at gas stations, drug stores, and grocery stores, with no cap.

DinersClubCardElite

There are, of course, many ways to spend money at gas stations, drug stores, and grocery stores and to get your money back.  The question is whether those 3X Diners Club points are worth as much as other alternatives such as 5% cash back.

The Free-quent Flyer posted a quick analysis of this card over the weekend.  He concluded that you would have to value Diner’s Club points at about 1.7 cents each for it to be worth it.  His math looks right to me.  He also added these wise words:

it’s not worth earning the transferrable points if you occasionally redeem them for high-value awards – you need to value all the miles you earn, on average, at over 1.67 cents each.

What’s this SPG 1.8 cents per point thing?

The Free-quent Flyer found this info about Diners Club point transfers on Flyertalk:

Unless otherwise indicated the Diners Club USA to partner transfer ratio is 1000:1000.

  • OneWorld: British Airways (USA issued corporate accounts are also able to transfer to American Airlines)
  • SkyTeam: Delta Airlines, Korean Air.
  • Star Alliance: Air Canada, Eva Airways, SAS, South African Airways, Thai Airways.
  • Independent: Alaska Airlines, El Al Airlines, (1000:20), Frontier Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Iceland Air, Southwest Airlines (1500:1200), Virgin Atlantic.
  • Hotels: Best Western (1250:3300), Choice (1250:2400), Hilton (1250:2000), Hyatt (1250:750), Intercontinental Hotel Group (1250:1500), Marriott (1250:1500), Starwood (1250:750).
  • Rail: Amtrak.

As you can see above, assuming the information is correct, most transfers to airlines are 1 to 1.  Transfers to hotels vary by chain.  The Free-quent Flyerbook pointed out that the Starwood transfer ratio isn’t so bad.  He wrote:

What caught my eye here is the not-totally-unreasonable hotel transfer ratios, particularly the “mere” 40% penalty you incur transferring your points to Starwood Preferred Guest. At 0.6 Starpoints per Diners Club rewards point, you can earn 1.8 Starpoints per dollar spent at drug stores.

For Starwood fans, this is a bit of a revelation since there are only two other options for earning more than 1 Starpoint per dollar from spend, uncapped:

  1. Spend money at SPG properties for 2X
  2. Spend with a 5% cash back card and then buy SPG points.  The usual price to buy SPG points is 3.5 cents each, so you would earn the equivalent of 1.4 Starpoints per dollar with this technique.  When SPG offers discounts on purchased points, you can do better.

So, at 1.8 Starpoints per dollar, you would have to value Starpoints at over 2.7 cents each to make it worth using the Diners Club card in this way (when compared to a 5% cash back option).  I would only recommend that for SPG fans who know they will get outsized value from their points.

Choice what?

Another interesting hotel transfer option, in my opinion, is Choice Hotels.  With the 1250 to 2400 point transfer ratio, you would earn 3 X 1.92 = 5.76 points per dollar with the Diners Club Elite card at grocery stores, drug stores, and gas stations.  This recent Travel Is Free post shows why that might be of interest to many travelers.  Note, though, that there are ways to earn more than 5.76 Choice points:

  • Earn 3X with Diners Club card and transfer to Amtrak.  Then, transfer from Amtrak to Choice at a 1 to 2 3 ratio.  Result: 9 points per dollar (requires Amtrak elite status or Amtrak credit card)
  • Earn 5X with Chase Ink Plus or Ink Bold card and transfer to Amtrak.  Then, transfer from Amtrak to Choice at a 1 to 2 3 ratio.  Result: 15 points per dollar (requires Amtrak elite status or Amtrak credit card)

Conclusion

For most people, I don’t think the $300 fee for the Diners Club Elite card is worth it, but for some who highly value airline miles, SPG points, or Choice points, this could be a great option.

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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Comments

  1. Earning SPG at 1.8x ignores the cost of acquisition. My only decent option is grocery (drug OV cards are extremely finicky trying to cash out at WM). So I’d pay $5.95 per 1518 x .6 = 0.65cpp SPG after conversion.

    I can do significantly lower cost at 1x with SPG at mall, and save significant $ in AF costs as well, plus avoid the hassle of transferring, plus save a hard pull to get a wonky, unproven card (one wonders how MSing will be viewed by DC). Perhaps some might prefer a higher earn rate and much bigger AF, but you’d pay a significant penalty to do so.

    • Yep, good points. I do think it is accurate to say 1.8X, just as it is accurate to say that the Diners Club card earns 3X Diners Club points at grocery stores, etc. But, in deciding whether it is a good idea to manufacture spend this way, you’re 100% correct that looking at fees and other costs (annual fee, credit inquiry, etc) is key.

  2. Not sure if anyone tried that, but it would be interesting to know if loading Visa Buxx is processed as a credit or cash advance.

  3. I’m assuming that Diners Club points do not count toward companion pass status when transferred directly to SW. If that is not the case, could be useful in achieving CP.

  4. Be careful, people. 3x gas deal only AT THE PUMP

    “Diners Club Card Elite earns three Club Rewards points for every eligible dollar charged at grocery stores, supermarkets, drug stores, pharmacies and automobile fuel service stations when you pay at the pump.”

  5. A 5% option is great, but there are few to no cards that still offer this long term. Starwood points at 1.8 per dollar equals 2.25 miles after bonus for SPG airline partners. Outside of Ink at office supply stores, this is one of the better deals available. The $300 annual fee is a lot, but so are the opportunities. On the Choice front, transfers from Amtrak are only after spending $200 for credit card holders, and even then you can only transfer 25,000 per year, for 75,000 choice points.

    • “Enrollment

      2. The Program is based on a point system. Subject to section 3, your Account must be enrolled in the Program, Open, and in Good Standing in order to earn or redeem Points. If you have a Professional Card your Account is automatically enrolled in the Program. Corporate Card Accounts may be enrolled only if authorized by your Employer and upon payment of an annual Club Rewards fee.”

      This was copied and pasted from their terms and conditions. Only if you have a Corporate card through your employer do you need to pay a fee.
      I also read in the FAQ that other than the Corporate accounts there are no other fees for participating in the rewards program.

      • Corey’s statement should be correct. I work for a corporation that has had access to Diners Club MC for some time now (the Corporate Overlords are based in the UK). Enrolling a corporate card in the Rewards program requires an annual fee.

  6. @Paul……..I won’t be doing $6.95 at CVS……I’ll be doing $3.95 which translates into 0.26 ccp SPG after conversion. I’d love to hear if you have a better deal than that……
    My comment from the Gary Leff post laid it out for everyone

    JustSaying said,

    Very interesting…..if I was doing MS at a drugstore with SPG to get JAL to book Emirates outside US I would be earning 1.25………with the Diner’s I would earn 3X at the drugstore and then I could convert them to SPG at a .6 rate ending up with 1.8 versus 1.25………Am I calculating correctly then this could be a good deal as I don’t have the “old” 5X drugstore card??……….

  7. Wondering if the $75 fee is spelled out in detail anywhere……….seems if true you would want to wait until you had a big redemption and then bite the bullet……….and does Diner’s limit how many points can be transferred in a year or at one time?

  8. Dov’s $75 comment may be for a business card account but Diner’s Club Rewards confirmed with me today there is NO FEE to do a redemption and they also indicated there is no limit to the number of points to do at any time………their number for Club Rewards (which is a separate entity from Diner’s is 866-579-2341………..

    • Hey JustSaying:

      Glad to hear some targets count as grocery.
      Have u been MSing with Redbird or gift card?
      How is the customer service for the card?

      Best,
      Henry

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