How to Earn & Use Starwood Points: Part 2 – 11 Ways to Use Your Starwood Points

Disclosure: Emily & I get a commission for links on the blog. You don’t have to use our links, but we’re very grateful when you do. 

Update:   This offer is no longer available, but check the Hot Deals for the latest offers!

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:

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

Link:  Starwood Hotel Redemption Chart

Link:  Starwood Hotel Category Chart

Starwood Preferred Guest hotels includes AloftElementFour PointsLe MeredienSheraton,  St Regis,  The Luxury CollectionWestin and W brand hotels.

Starwood’s award chart has good options for hotel redemptions at the lower and medium categories.

Starwood Points Value

Starwood Points are Best Used at Low and Medium Tier Hotels

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!

Starwood Points Value

I’d Rather Pay 10,000 Points Instead of $250 a Night to Stay Here!

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.

Starwood Points Value

You Can Get 5 Nights at a Category 5 Hotel with the Starwood 30,000 Point Offer

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.

Starwood Points Value

2 Nights at The Sheraton Waikiki For Only 20,000 Points & ~$360

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.

Starwood Points Value

Redeem Points for 4 Nights & And Get Your 5th Night Free

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.

Starwood Points Value

You Can Transfer Your Starwood Points To Airline Miles

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!

Starwood Points Value

Redeem Your Starwood Points Via Nights & Flights For Airline Tickets & 5 Free Nights

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.

Starwood Points Value

You Can Use Starwood Points To Book A Flight

There are no blackout dates AND in most cases, you can earn frequent flyer miles (but you should verify with the airline to confirm.)

Ticket Price
Starpoints Required
up to $15010,000
$150 to $21515,000
$215 to $28020,000
$280 to $34525,000
$345 to $41030,000
$410 to $47535,000
$475 to $54040,000
$540 to $60545,000
$605 to $67050,000
$670 to $73555,000
$735 to $80060,000
$800 to $86565,000
$865 to $93070,000
$930 to $99575,000
$995 to $1,06080,000
$2,880 to $3,140235,000
$4,960 to $5,220395,000
$9,000 to $10,160775,000

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.

But for those same 60,000 Starwood Points, you could stay 3 nights in a Category 6 hotel like the W New York Times Square which costs an average of $400 a night.

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

Link:  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.

Starwood Points Value

Check out the auctions page to see a list of events and experiences

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.

Starwood Points Value

Single Package Auction For A Suite At Wrigley Field

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.

Starwood Points Value

Fixed Price Auction For SPG Members Only Paloma Faith Performance

For example, you could pay 2,500 Starwood points to play softball at Wrigley Field which would be a cool experience!

Starwood Points Value

SPG Softball Tournament At Wrigley Field

8.   Gift Cards

Link:  Gift Cards

Use “Redeem with Partners” and you can redeem your points for gift cards to Amazon, Starbucks etc.

Starwood Points Value

Redeem Starpoints Via SPG Merchandise Partners

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.

Starwood Points Value

You Could Redeem Starpoints For Starbucks Gift Cards

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.

Starwood Points Value

Instant Awards at The Sheraton Diana Majestic In Milan

10.   Upgrades

Link:  Upgrades

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.

Starwood Points Value

Room Upgrades Award Chart Per Night

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!

The only real way to find out the RACK rate is to call (phone numbers are here) or chat (found when highlighting “Customer Support” in the top right of starwoodhotels.com).

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.

Starwood Points Value

The Rack Rate for the W New York was $889 Compared to $287 on the Starwood Website!

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.

Bottom Line

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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These responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

65 Responses to How to Earn & Use Starwood Points: Part 2 – 11 Ways to Use Your Starwood Points

  1. Thanks for the summary. Will use it in the future.

  2. Can starwood points be transferred to Southwest, and if so, do they count towards the companion pass? I know you can get much more value by using them for hotel rooms, but I need to top off the SW account to get the companion pass….

  3. Bostonwalker

    @SK: Marriott has promotion right now. Buy their gift cards and earn southwest points.

  4. Again Daraius, thank you for a thorough analysis. If only you were to throw a $50 gift card there would be more comments :))

  5. I’ve had a Starwoods card in the past, which has been cancelled for a while, and received bonus points for that. How long do I have to wait before I can qualify for bonus points again with a new card.

  6. @Lively @Robert – Glad you found it useful!

    @SK – Unfortunately, you can’t transfer them to Southwest.

    @tobin – You have to wait 12 months from when you cancelled the card to be eligible again per the terms and conditions in the application.

  7. If I am thinking of applying for the card, but I am currently not in the States, would that be possible?

    And just mail the card to my US address, and have people send me the card information so I can begin using the card electronically?

    Also, are you aware of any referral bonus similar to the one they ran last year?

  8. Thinking about applying for both the personal and business. Do you recommend doing at the same time or does it matter? Trying to avoid 2 hard pulls. Or maybe AE only allows one application per certain amount of time?

  9. I didn’t know that you went to Portugal before.

    How did you enjoy it?

  10. @Bostonwalker: Thanks for the tip!I did some googling and it looks like the marriott gift cards don’t count towards companion pass points. Unless someone has had a different experience?

  11. I currently have the SPG card, and my wife (we got married a month ago) and I want to have a joint CC. Will AMEX honor the 30,000 points if she joins (she’s never owned an AMEX before) but joins with me? Or is there a way to do this so she can join and then we can share the card later?

  12. The 5th night perk for free is nice, but I hate staying in one hotel for 5 days. It’s way too long! The best use of SPG pionts are 1 or 2 nighters. 3 nights is not too great because for one more night you can get 2 nights. The SPG card is more of a long term card. You won’t build up a huge balance very soon… but overtime you can.

  13. @Collin–She can’t “join with you” but have her apply & get her own card and then SPG will let you merge the points (you-her or her-you). Just takes a phone call. Easy as long as you have the same address.

  14. So I am unfamiliar with the SPG program as I have always been a Marriott person. But wanting to have some diversity I decided to have my husband get this card so we can see if we like their properties. I made sure to go their website via yours. Thanks for all of the information you provide – I find it helpful!

  15. Do the Starpoints expire? I’m planning on using them for a trip to Hawaii in the next 1-2 years (my wife is pregnant, so timing is up in the air.) Also, do they offer a shopping portal to get bonus points? I have the Chase Sapphire Preferred, and I earn a ton of extra miles going through that. Thanks D, or anyone who can answer.

  16. @Brian, points usually expire in 1.5 years but the expiration date keeps moving as you earn or redeem points. My points expire 2/5/2015. As long as you use your card every so often, your points will never expire.

  17. Can you get one if you already have one from them?

  18. Not me…just used this benefit to get a 5th night free at the beautiful Hotel Pulitzer in Amsterdam. Still wasn’t enough time in this beautiful city. The program really cut the point total of my stay at this primo property. It was a great “base” for our daily activities. – Just spent the evenings and early mornings at the hotel. But, the comfort and location/ambiance were fantastic! IMO – the 5th Night free is a great, free perk.

  19. I have the SPG AMEX card, and it is now due for its first annual renewal (with fee), so I am planning on cancelling it this month. Do you recommend cancelling it and waiting the 12 months to re-apply, or is this a card you suggest holding onto?

  20. @Kyle – That may be possible. There is no referral bonus like there was last year.

    @Kent C - Some folks do get instant approval for 2 at the same time, but many folks have to call in to get them to process the 2nd application.

    @Steve @ Canadian Travel Hacking - It was very nice, laid-back and relaxing (and a bit cheaper too!)

    @SK – They didn’t count towards the Companion Pass last year either.

    @Rob - Why don’t you start a FT thread and speculate? :)

    @Collin – Adding your wife as an authorized user means that she can get the bonus as well. But she won’t get it if you add her as a joint user.

    @rom – I agree, though there are a few times when a 5 night stay is in order.

    @Betty Facey – Thanks for using our link! It doesn’t hurt to try out a new hotel chain and see if you like it!

    @Brian D – You need to have some activity every 12 months. Unfortunately, there is no shopping portal and the main way to earn SPG points is via the SPG card or staying in hotels.

    @ken – The terms say that you have to have cancelled the card for more than 12 months to be eligible again.

    @David from LAX – It depends on your spending patterns. If you are a big spender, this is one of the best cards for spending because you earn 1.25 air miles for every $1 that you spend (if you transfer SPG points to airlines in increments of 20,000 points).

  21. Last time Starwood did the 30,000 signup bonus for their credit card, I sold the points to rewards2cash for $435.00

    http://rewards2cash.com/SPG?tracking=4f8fb6a3e7219

    The company has positive reviews on yelp, facebook, fatwallet and slickdeals.

  22. I have the biz card. Can I open another biz card in someone elses name but with same EIN and still get the bonus?

  23. can you transfer spg points to air new zealand for a 65:1 ratio? meaning that if i was to transfer my 25000 points i would have 1625000. is this true?

  24. @john your math is backwards…

  25. @Miler – I’m not sure with AMEX. I know that they don’t give you the bonus for 2 businesses – if you use your SSN and EIN in separate applications.

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  32. I’m spending I nt at a spg property; I paying for the room because I’ll be reimbursed; I don’t have a SPG AmEx, what’s the best credit card to put the charges on for the maximum amt of pts. I have most of the other major cc.

  33. Christine Pincince

    I love this blog. every time I read it I either see things from a completely different angle or am reminded why I followed the advice in the first place.i.e. Starwood points..thank you

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  35. @juanita – I’d use the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Ink Plus/Ink Bold because you’d get double points for hotel stays.

    @Christine Pincince – Thanks for reading!

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  38. SPG Question: I’ve decided to book a four night SPG hotel in Milan, Italy (I’m paying a discounted rate of $140/night as I’m booking 75 days in advance); I’m also planning on staying one night in US, all before 12/15/13 to double up rewards. I know I’ll pay foreign transaction fees with SPG credit card, but I think it might be worth it for the extra points if I use my SPG AmEx rather then a no fee card. What do you think? Thanks, Tio.

  39. @Tio – Only if you value Starwood points at 2.7 cents per point (the foreign transaction fee) which is usually a high price!

  40. Thanks Daraius, for keeping it simple. Paying a foreign transaction fee only buys me the extra points at 2.7 cents per point. Tio.

  41. I just reserved a 2-double-bed room using startpoints for a night in Hawaii for two couples, not thinking about the maximum occupancy and not even changing the number of adults per room from 1 to 2. After reserving, I noticed fine print about standard occupancy. I called the hotel to ask about a fee for more than 2 adults, and they said it is an extra $70 per person, per night at a category 5 property. This is excessive to me!

    Does anyone have any experience trying to get this waived, or know if they are strict about enforcing?

  42. @Sierra – Your friends can always just meet you in the room…

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  44. Daraius–do you know if an offer like nights and flights can be redeemed across multiple properties? Say three nights in one hotel and two in another along with the miles?

    Thanks.

  45. @Gaurav – The nights have to be used at the same hotel.

  46. Do cash and point rooms count toward your annual nights/stay requirements for gold status?

  47. @Jim – I believe they will count towards elite status credit.

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  50. Brooks Kincaid

    How rigid is the points to dollar value table you provided? Delta sometimes offers flights on SkyMiles for substantially less than the dollar value of the flight (e.g. CA->MI for 30K points vs. $600+). Would I get access to the same point deals offered by Delta via Starwood’s 1:1 point transfer program?

  51. @Brooks Kincaid – You should get access to any flight available for sale!

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  53. I just had a bummer trip on American. When I write to them should I be extremely short or give more detail on my complaint. Tom

  54. @Tom – I’d keep it short and professional.

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  56. Dana McMaster

    Daraius, how does using SPG AMEX compare to accumulating Barclay’s Arrival Plus card points? As you know, the Arrival points can be used on anything related to travel. I’m tempted to pull the trigger on the SPG card at 30,000 points but am wondering if it’s just smarter to just keep plugging away with the Arrival card.

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  64. @Dana McMaster – It depends on your goals. I prefer spending on the Barclays Arrival for domestic travel and the SPG for international travel.

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