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

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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.

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