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I’ve been digging into the Starwood hotel program because of the once-a-year up to 30,000 point bonus on the Starwood personal and business card. This offer ends on June 30, 2014.
How to Earn & Use Starwood Points:
- Part 1: Earning, Transferring, and Preventing Your Points From Expiring
- Part 2: 11 Ways to Use Your Starwood Points
- Part 3: The 9 Best Airline Transfer Partners
- Part 4: The Best Kept Secret of Nights & Flights
- Part 5: Starwood Elite Status
- Part 6: Regular Starwood Hotel Redemptions
- Part 7: Using Points for Upgrades
We’ll go through the different ways you can redeem Starwood hotel points in future posts, but here’s a quick overview of 11 different ways to use Starwood hotel points.
1. Regular Hotel Redemptions
Starwood’s award chart has good options for hotel redemptions at the lower and medium categories.
For example, Emily and I have stayed at the Convento do Espinheiro Hotel & Spa in Evora, Portugal. It is a beautiful old monastery, but is only a category 4 hotel. So you can pay 10,000 points for 1 night or ~$250 per night!
I don’t like redeeming Starwood hotel points for high category hotels like the Category 7 or select Luxury Collection hotels because they are overpriced and cost 30,000 to 35,000+ points per night.
That said, Starwood does have some fantastic high-end hotels, and if you’re a big spender or have a very special occasion, you could splurge for them!
2. Cash & Points
Link: Cash & Points
Cash & Points is a great way to s-t-r-e-t-c-h your points for a free night. That’s because these awards are half the cost in points (compared to the regular award chart) and the amount you pay in cash tends to be much less than the value of the points you are saving. That said, I don’t think the upgraded rooms or suites are a great cash and points value.
Unlike standard award redemptions, cash and points redemptions are capacity controlled which means that it is sometimes hard to find cash and points rooms available.
For example, you could get 2 nights at the Sheraton Waikiki (a category 6 Starwood hotel) for 20,000 Starwood points & $360 + tax.
It would cost 40,000 to 50,000 Starpoints if you redeemed for a regular award.
3. 5th Night Free
Link: 5th Night Free
You get a 5th night free when you book 4 award nights. Unfortunately this is NOT available for category 1 and 2 hotels or for ANY reservation with Cash & Points.
The free night doesn’t qualify for any promotions or elite night credits.
4. Transfer To Miles
Link: Transfer to Miles
Starwood is the only hotel program which lets you transfer hotel points to many airlines in a 1:1 ratio. The most useful transfer partners to me are American Airlines, US Airways, Alaska Air and a few others. Note that transfers to United aren’t a good value because they are in a 2:1 ratio.
Some folks have never redeemed Starwood Points for hotel nights (they prefer to stay in hostels or smaller hotels), but use them for flights instead.
What makes this even better is that Starwood transfers another 5,000 points for every 20,000 points you transfer to an airline. This means that you are earning 1.25 airline miles per 1 Starwood point transferred (if you transfer in increments of 20,000 Starwood hotel points).
So up to 30,000 Starwood points from either the personal or business credit card will transfer to 35,000 air miles. Transfers aren’t instant, and sometime can take ~10 days (though they are often sooner).
5. Nights & Flights
Link: Nights & Flights
Nights & Flights is a great redemption for long category 3 and 4 hotel stays.
5 free hotel nights AND 50,000 airline miles will cost you:
This may seem like a lot of Starwood points, but remember that you will get 35,000 Starwood points with either the personal or business Starwood card once you complete the minimum spending requirements.
Don’t forget that you can transfer Starwood points for free (as long as you share the same address), so your partner could apply for 1 card and you could apply for 1 card and you’d have 70,000 Starwood points!
50,000 airline miles would ordinarily only cost you 40,000 Starwood hotel points (remember that you get 5,000 extra points transferred with every 20,000 Starwood points).
But also consider that you would normally get your 5th night free (#3 above).
So you’re paying:
- 20,000 points for 5 nights at a category 3 hotel (otherwise 28,000 points)
- 30,000 points for 5 nights at a category 4 hotel (otherwise 40,000 points)
This means that you get a:
- 8,000 point discount (29% discount) for 5 nights in a category 3 hotel
- 10,000 point discount for 5 nights (25% discount) in a category 4 hotel
This is a good deal if you would have used your points for a 5 night stay and were planning on transferring 40,000 points to miles already.
However, you have to book night and flight awards on the phone. You can’t book these online.
6. Flight Awards
Link: Flight Awards
You can use your Starwood points to buy airline tickets on over 150 airlines.
There are no blackout dates AND in most cases, you can earn frequent flyer miles (but you should verify with the airline to confirm.)
|up to $150||10,000|
|$150 to $215||15,000|
|$215 to $280||20,000|
|$280 to $345||25,000|
|$345 to $410||30,000|
|$410 to $475||35,000|
|$475 to $540||40,000|
|$540 to $605||45,000|
|$605 to $670||50,000|
|$670 to $735||55,000|
|$735 to $800||60,000|
|$800 to $865||65,000|
|$865 to $930||70,000|
|$930 to $995||75,000|
|$995 to $1,060||80,000|
|$2,880 to $3,140||235,000|
|$4,960 to $5,220||395,000|
|$9,000 to $10,160||775,000|
I like the option of being able to use Starwood points for flights, but I don’t think it’s the best value. Starwood even agrees in their Flight Awards FAQs!
However, the greatest value of Starpoints will always be for Free Night Award stays at Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide.
For example, it would cost you 60,000 Starwood Points for a ticket that cost between $735 to $800.
So those 60,000 Starwood Points that would get you $735 to $800 in airline tickets, would get you ~$1,200 in hotel stays.
7. SPG Moments
The auctions page lists events and experiences for which you can redeem your points. Events and experiences vary from concerts and Starwood member-only performances to VIP access to sporting events and opening night theater tickets.
You can bid on two types of auctions: single package auctions and fixed price auctions. Single package auctions will be awarded to the highest bidder.
Fixed price auctions are not auctions in the true sense. Fixed price auctions have a fixed price and you can redeem your Starwood points for these experiences. There can be more than one winner.
For example, you could pay 2,500 Starwood points to play softball at Wrigley Field which would be a cool experience!
8. Gift Cards
Link: Gift Cards
Use “Redeem with Partners” and you can redeem your points for gift cards to Amazon, Starbucks etc.
You get ~1 cent per point, so you’d get~$300 in gift cards for 30,000 Starwood points. This is less than what you’d get with a hotel redemption or transferring Starwood points to miles, so it isn’t the best value for using Starwood hotel points.
9. Instant Awards
Link: Instant Awards
You can redeem your points for meals or credit towards other amenities like spa treatments at Starwood hotels.
In general, this also has a value of ~1 cent per point, which is low. Sometimes the hotel website will also list the amenities available for instant awards.
You can upgrade a paid stay with points, including suite upgrades. The big problem is that these upgrades can only be confirmed within 5 days of your stay. And the price in the chart is per night, which will add up, and doesn’t seem worth it to me.
The other issue is that the price of a suite upgrade costs as much as redeeming points for a separate room! So it may be better for you to get a second room rather than a suite if you simply want more people to stay in the room!
11. 50% Off Rack Rates
Link: 50% Off Rack Rates
For 1,000 points you can get 50% off the RACK rate (up to 5 nights). The rack rate is the published rate for a hotel room.
The rack rate doesn’t take into account any discounts, promotions or other offers and can often be more than four times higher than the lowest price you can find on the hotel website!
Via chat I asked about the rack rate for the W and Westin Times Square. I was told:
A Wonderful room with 1 king bed is 889 (USD) per night plus tax at W New York - Time Square. How does that sound? The Westin New York at Times Square has a Traditional room for 1,949 (USD) per night plus tax.
This means that you could pay $287 online at the Starwood website for the W hotel. Or you could pay 1,000 points and half of the RACK rate or$445 (Rack Rate of $889 X 50%.
With the Westin you could pay $205 online or pay 1,000 points and half of the RACK rate or $975 (Rack Rate of $1,949 X 50%).
I can’t imagine why this is a deal, because it is anything but a deal. In this case (and in most other cases), you’re paying 2 to 5 times the price online AND paying 1,000 points!
That said, this could be helpful if you HAVE to stay in a Starwood hotel that is only selling rooms at the rack rate. Here is a FlyerTalk thread where people post hotels with best uses of the 50% discount.
There are many ways to use your Starwood points. But the best value is redeeming for the nights and flights, cash & points redemptions, regular redemptions or transferring to airlines.
But it is your points so use them in a way which gives you the best value! How do you use your Starwood points?
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