Star Alliance is the world’s largest airline alliance, home to big names like United Airlines, Lufthansa, Air Canada and Singapore Airlines.
Earlier this year, the world’s first airline alliance celebrated its 25th birthday. In recognition of the special occasion, Star Alliance launched its own HSBC cobranded credit card and points currency in Australia, called Star Alliance points.
Interestingly enough, Star Alliance doesn’t have any member airlines in Australia. But we’ve seen Virgin Australia partner with many Star Alliance carriers over the years, including Air Canada and United. Many of these partnerships include reciprocal elite benefits, which means that Australians can make use of the card’s Star Alliance Gold benefits on domestic flights too.
Star Alliance hasn’t come forward with any plans for a card for the U.S. market yet, but it’s an exciting prospect nevertheless. And as a Star Alliance loyalist myself, the program and its cobranded credit card have a few interesting perks that I’d like to see come to the U.S.
Here’s why I’d be excited to see a Star Alliance credit card in the U.S., should Star Alliance offer a card here.
Star Alliance Gold status
The Australian Star Alliance credit card provides cardholders with Star Alliance Gold status. Some of the benefits of Star Alliance Gold status include Gold Track security, an increased baggage allowance, priority boarding, priority baggage handling and, most of all, Star Alliance airport lounge access.
The Australian Star Alliance credit card, which has just opened to applicants, offers Star Alliance Gold status to all cardholders for the first year after spending $4,000 Australian dollars (about $2,670) in the first 90 days of cardmembership. To extend Star Alliance Gold status for subsequent years, cardholders must annually spend AU$60,000 (about $40,000) on the card.
Customers can select Star Alliance Gold status from Air Canada Aeroplan 50K, Air New Zealand Airpoints Nominated Gold, EVA Air Infinity MileageLands Gold, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Elite Gold, South African Airways Voyage Gold, Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus Gold or United Airlines Premier Gold. This is a pretty neat feature, as travelers can pick status with a program that works best with their travel habits.
For those who already have Star Alliance Gold status, you can decline your credit card Star Alliance Gold status — by declining it, you’ll be given 40,000 Star Alliance points. For reference, United Premier Gold, Premier Platinum, Premier 1K and Global Services members all have Star Alliance Gold.
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While annual spending of $40,000 is no drop in the bucket for most credit card holders, for existing Star Alliance Gold high-spenders, it could be appealing to have 40,000 transferrable Star Alliance points year after year for spending $40,000 on a cobranded credit card. Or put differently, that’s like receiving an extra point for each dollar spent.
Star Alliance points can be transferred to seven Star Alliance airlines. These seven airlines represent 92% of Star Alliance’s Australian flights, according to Renato Ramos, Star Alliance’s director of loyalty:
Except for Air New Zealand, Star Alliance points transfer to the member airlines at a 0.8:1 ratio. Incidentally, at the time of writing, 1 U.S. dollar is equivalent to 0.67 Australian dollars, though it has oscillated between 60 and 80 cents per U.S. dollar over the past five years. This makes me wonder if Star Alliance could offer 1:1 transfers if a U.S. credit card is launched, but more on that later.
This is similar to what we see with some transferable points programs outside of the U.S., where transfer and earn rates are often adjusted for lower interchange fees and the local currency. For example, many international American Express Membership Rewards points transfer at a 3:2 ratio to airline partners.
What I’d like to see from a US Star Alliance credit card
Expanded transfers across the alliance
First and foremost, to offer a credit card that would really be a differentiator, Star Alliance points would ideally transfer to all airlines in the alliance.
Transfer partners like Avianca LifeMiles, Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles and ANA Mileage Club offer some of the best Star Alliance redemptions, often at a fraction of the same seat’s price in a program like United MileagePlus.
There are plenty of sweet spots in lesser-known Star Alliance point currencies. For example, you can fly Lufthansa’s first class from the United States to South Africa for just 75,000 Aegean miles one-way. Giving members access to all Star Alliance loyalty programs would open up many high-value redemptions currently unattainable to those based in the U.S.
While the seven transfer partners available on the Australian card represent almost all of the Star Alliance flights to and from Australia, most Star Alliance member airlines serve the Americas. After all, if Star Alliance is going to offer a credit card, shouldn’t its points be the key to the alliance?
Better earning rates
The Aussie HSBC Star Alliance credit card offers 1 Star Alliance point per dollar spent in a statement period on the first $3,000 and 0.5 points thereafter. When each statement period closes, cardholders earn 1 Star Alliance point on the next $3,000…
Read More: The Star Alliance credit card launched in Australia. Here’s why I hope it comes to