How to Earn & Use Starwood Points: Part 1 – Earning, Transferring, and Preventing Your Points From Expiring

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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.

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

How to Earn & Use Starwood Points:

Earning Starwood Points

Unfortunately, there aren’t many ways to earn Starwood points which is one of the reasons why they are valuable.  There is no shopping portal or lucrative transfer partner to make it easy to earn Starwood points.  This means that the best ways to earn Starwood points are with credit cards and spending at Starwood hotels.

1.   Starwood Credit Cards

You get 30,000 Starwood points after spending $5,000 within 6 months with the Starwood personal and business credit card.

You earn 1 Starwood point per $1 for regular purchases and 2 Starwood points for every $1 spent at Starwood hotels.

This may seem like a low earning rate, but the low and mid-tier Starwood hotels are under 16,000 points per night.  However, the top-tier Starwood hotels are over 35,000 points a night and usually require more spending than top tier hotels in other hotel chains.

Starwood Points

The Low and Medium Tier Hotels are a Good Value

Starwood top-tier hotels are much nicer than other chain’s top-tier hotels in my opinion.  For example, check out Mystique in Santorini, Greece but it does currently require ~39,000 points or ~$1,000 a night.  This is a temporary discount and the original rate was 60,000 points!

If you’re a Big Spender, it is hard to find nicer hotels than Starwood hotels.

Starwood Points

39,000 Starwood Points or $1,000 a Night at the Mystique in Santorini, Greece

Unfortunately, the card has a foreign transaction fee, so I wouldn’t use it for purchases in foreign currency.

2.   Starwood Hotels

While many hotels let you earn 5 to 10 points per $1, Starwood only gives 2 points per $1.  But Starwood points are usually more valuable than other hotel points.

You earn:

In addition, you get an extra 2 points if you pay with either the Starwood personal or business credit card.

So your net earning at a Starwood hotel per $1 if you pay with the Starwood credit card is:

  • 4 Starwood points per $1 if you’re a regular member (2 points from being a member and 2 points for using the credit card)
  • 5 Starwood points per $1 if you’re a Gold or Platinum elite member (3 points from being an elite member and 2 points for using the credit card)
  • 6 Starwood points per $1 if you’re a Platinum elite member with 75 nights (4 points from being an elite member and 2 points for using the card)

But I wouldn’t use the Starwood card outside the US because of the foreign transaction fee.

3.   Food & Drinks at Starwood Hotels

You also earn Starwood hotel points on food and drinks in Starwood hotels even if you’re NOT staying in the Starwood hotel.  You earn the same number of points as you would at a Starwood hotel (#2).

4.  Membership Rewards & Diners Club

You can transfer American Express Membership Rewards Points (which you earn from cards like the Premier Rewards Gold, Business Rewards Gold, or Platinum) to Starwood hotels.

Starwood Points

Bad Transfer Ratio When You Transfer AMEX Membership Rewards Points to Starwood Points

However, the transfer ratio is terrible because for 1,000 Membership Rewards points you get only 333 Starwood hotel points or a transfer ratio of 1: 0.33.  Membership Rewards occasionally has transfer bonuses which are higher, but still not a great value.

You can also transfer Diners Club points to Starwood hotels, but this is of very limited use because you can’t get a Diners Club card anymore!

5.  Delta Crossover Rewards

If you’re a Starwood Platinum or Gold elite member, you earn 1 Starwood hotel point for every $1 you spend on Delta flights.

You get Gold elite status if you spend $30,000 a year on the Starwood personal or business card or if you have an American Express Platinum card.

But you have to register for Crossover Rewards on this page first.

Starwood Points

1 Starwood Point for Every $1 You Spend on Delta Flights if You’re a Starwood Gold or Platinum Member

6.   Buying Points

You can also buy Starwood points for 3.50 cents per point which isn’t a great value unless you know that you’d use them at a hotel for more than 3.50 cents per point and would have otherwise paid cash for that hotel room.

7.   Broadway Tickets & Car Rentals

You can also earn points for buying Broadway tickets,  and renting cars from Avis and Sixt.

Transferring Starwood Hotel Points

Starwood lets you transfer points – for free! - between accounts as long as both the receiver and the giver share the same household address.  The last names do NOT have to match, but the addresses do!  And the addresses have to be the same for the last 30 days.

There is no minimum or maximum amount of points which you can transfer and the transfers are free.

However, I do NOT recommend changing addresses just to transfer points because you could lose the points in your account if Starwood finds out that you changed addresses just to transfer the points.

Why Transfer Points?

1.   Not enough miles for an award.  If Emily has 2,000 Starwood points in her account, and I have 8,000 Starwood points, I can transfer Emily’s points to my account and then book 1 night in a category 4 Starwood hotel for 10,000 points.

2.    25% bonus when transferring to airlines.  You get a 25% bonus when you transfer Starwood points in increments of 20,000 to airlines.  So it makes sense to consolidate your points with your partner before transferring Starwood points to airlines.

If Emily and I each apply for the up to 30,000 point American Express Starwood credit card, we can each transfer 20,000 out of the 30,00 points to an airline to earn the 25% transfer bonus.  But we will have 10,000 points left in each of our accounts.

So I can transfer my 10,000 points to Emily’s Starwood account, and then have her transfer them to an airline along with her (say American Airlines) to get the 25% bonus or 5,000 extra airline miles.

Or I could just transfer my entire 30,000 points to her account and have her transfer the points along with her 30,000 points (so a total of 60,000 points) to an airline and make the most of the 25% transfer bonus.

3.   Transfer Starwood Hotel Points to Someone Else’s Airline Account.  You can’t usually transfer Starwood points to someone else’s airline account.

For example, Emily can’t transfer her Starpoints into my American Airlines account.  But she can transfer her Starwood points to my Starwood account and I can then transfer them to my American Airlines account.

4.   Elite Status.  If one person sharing the same household address has gold or platinum elite status, you can transfer points into the account of the member with elite status and have the member with elite status book the room to get the elite status benefits.

However, Starwood does extend elite benefits to an elite member even if the member with elite status hasn’t booked the room provided the elite member lets the front desk know that he/she is a Starwood elite member.

But it could just be easier to book the hotel room from the elite member’s account.

How to Transfer Points?

You can call Starwood at 888-625-4988 and ask for an internal transfer of points.  The rep will verify information and confirm the same address and process the transfer of points.

The rep told me that it would take up to 5 business days to complete my transfer, but it happened in only 3 days.

Starwood Points

You Can Transfer Starwood Points for Free to Someone at the Same Address!

Or you can complete the transfer request online.

Prevent Your Points From Expiring

Starwood points will expire after 12 months if you have not stayed in a Starwood hotel or if you have not earned or redeemed any Starwood hotel points.

  •  “Starpoints earned or otherwise obtained by an SPG Member will forfeit without notice if the SPG Member becomes Inactive, even if the SPG Member has achieved SPG Lifetime Gold or SPG Lifetime Platinum status.

  • An SPG Member is considered “Inactive” if during a 12 month period: (a) the SPG Member has not had an Eligible Stay at an SPG Participating Hotel; (b) the SPG Member has not earned or redeemed any Starpoints, or (c) the SPG Member’s account has been cancelled.”

But is pretty easy to keep your Starwood points active by following these tips on how to keep your hotel points from expiring without staying in a hotel.

And don’t forget that AwardWallet will track your Starwood points and expiration date.

Bottom Line

Starwood hotel points are not as easy to earn as other hotel points, but that’s why they are valuable.  The easiest ways to earn Starwood hotel points are with the Starwood personal or business cards and by staying in Starwood hotels.

It is very nice to be able to easily transfer your Starwood hotel points to anyone else who shares the same address as you!

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63 Responses to How to Earn & Use Starwood Points: Part 1 – Earning, Transferring, and Preventing Your Points From Expiring

  1. Do you have any experience with the Preferred Business accounts, do chains upgrade you just as likely as if you were SPG Gold? I have both but may not requalify for Gold.

  2. Do you know whether transferring points from one SPG account to another resets the expiration clock? It’s not clear to me whether a transfer counts as either earning or redeeming… Thanks!

  3. @Matt – You do get slightly better rooms with Gold, but I don’t have experience with the Preferred Business accounts.

    @Doug – It should reset it on both accounts, but I haven’t personally verified this.

  4. BlueHorseShoe

    Just as an FYI- Mystique is one of those ‘all-suite’ properties that normally requires 60K points per night, not 35K.

    However, during the reduced price promo, it’s come down to 39K (35% off).

  5. @BlueHorseShoe – Thanks!

  6. Having been Gold and now just made Platinum with SPG I have never been “upgraded” off the “preferred” floor in my 12 years with SPG. I hear people saying they have gotten upgrades, but they haven’t fallen my way. This hasn’t stopped me from staying at a SPG hotel, I’m usually at a Four points which in some ways is much better then the Sheraton’s I have stayed at. I started flying DL because of the SPG connection, which has given me over 15K points since they started this relationship. I cherish my SPG points if people do not have this card they really are missing out..

  7. How does booking travel with Starpoints through the Starwood site compare to transferring points to the airlines and using the airlines miles programs? Which is the better value? I recently chose to book a trip with Starpoints and seemed like a better deal than using AAdvantage miles.

  8. paula gulbicki

    We purchased a timeshare at Westin Desert Willow in Palm Desert and were offered a 1000,000 Starwood points package for $1,900. I know that we could use the points with either the hotel or airlines or both. What I don’t know is the economics of this. Can you tell me if this is a good value. You often equate points with monetary value (i.e. one point equals .07 or $1). With their airline trade bundle (transferring 20,000 points at a time), does it make sense to spend $1,900 for those points? I’m sure that we would use them one way or another. I just don’t know if we should be paying for points. I’ve never paid for points before. We open credit cards and use certain hotels/airlines and gain points with stays and flights. Thanks for your feedback. Paula

  9. Are you sure, the Mystique in Santorini, Greece costs just 3900 points or is it 39000 points?

  10. My bad, I misread

  11. Hey Darius, thanks to you, I went to san francisco 2 months ago, for the price of 1 Six cent jelly bean sold by the pound at a grocery store. My wife ,grand daughter and I stayed for 4 days 3 nights. Parking and taxes all paid with 10,000 starwood points that cost me a whole 6 pennies !!!! Thats only 2 cents a night !!! LOL !!!! I love this game !!!! BIG TRAVEL SMALL MONEY BABY !!!!

  12. Also last week my wife and I stayed at the Hilton MEGA RESORT in KONA HAWAII for free , well we had to pay 22.00 a day for parking. NOT BAD !!!! That was 7 days , 6 nights, from 6 citi Hhonors cards. After spending 1,000 dollars on each card we recieved 40,000 points per card and only needed 32,000 points per night in HAWAII !!!! Big travel LITTLE MONEY BABY !!!! Thanks Darius !!!!

  13. Oh by the way, we are going for CANCUN in JANUARY !!!! I have it all planned out for a free week using SPG cards. It will cost me 3 jelly beans for 7 days 6 nights on 3 different 10,000 point cards after one purchase !!!!

  14. I wish this article was published before I applied for the SGP card. I got the card but this seems like it’s expensive to up keep along with the annual fee. I think I’m more suitable for the chase business ink.

  15. @Mike – You get more flexibility when you book through the Starwood website, but lower value because you could transfer to miles and use for business or more expensive tickets. But you lose flexibility when you use your miles.

    @paula gulbicki – It depends on what your travel goals are and how you’d use the points, but you’re paying 1.9 cents per Starwood point which could be worth it in some instances.

    @Smh – The Starwood card has a lower annual fee than the Ink and is a good card for everyday spending, but not for bonus categories.

  16. paula gulbicki

    Thanks for your reply. 1.9 cents per starwood point seems high compared to many of other evaluations of points that I have read about on travel blogs. I’m assuming that what you mean by “could be worth it in some instances means using the points for high end travel (first or business class and expensive hotels). We’ve never flown first or business class, we have always used our points for coach/economy seats. Is that what you meant by worth it in some instances? Thanks for your help.

  17. Kevin Matthews

    I do not have an SPG AMEX but I do have the AMEX Platinum card. When I click on the link I am taken to a page that says I am a current AMEX cardholder and therefore am not eligible for the offer. Instead I am offered 10,000 points instead of the 30,000 referenced here. Any ideas how to get around this? I am surprised that having one type of AMEX excludes me from a totally different product offer.

  18. Hey Big D,

    One more way I have earned points is via the nice phone reps. I had trouble twice and both times the SPG rep offered me a few thousand points (forget how much) for the inconvenience. One was doing a referral to get wife a card (on top of the 5k referral), the other was it took months for the second half of the sign-on bonus to be deposited in my acct. PS As gold, I have gotten one nice upgraded room at the VA BCH oceanfront. Their W hotels rock! The DC W overlooks the White House from the balcony of a bar!

  19. Can you get both credit cards to get 60,000miles? or is it only one or the other?

  20. @paula gulbicki - It could be worth it if you redeem for a Starwood hotel and get a value of more than 1.9 cents (and you’d have paid cash for the room). Or if you redeemed for first or business class for international trips, or even for some coach trips internationally. You’ve got to crunch the numbers for the trips you want to take.

  21. Wondering if this happened to anyone… I applied for the Business version today, it was approved online, but on the same approval screen in smaller print, it says:

    “For your security, a customer service representative may contact you in the next 5 business days to verify your information. Once this information has been confirmed, you will be formally approved. …”

    Notice the language “formally approved” ? I would appreciate feedback for anyone with similar experience. Thank you for your time!

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  25. Is there a limit on this card? Meaning, if I had it and cancelled, what is the timeframe to reapply and receive the bonus again? Or is it a one trick pony?

  26. @lisa – They could just be taking extra precautions.

    @Jamie – The terms say that you shouldn’t have had the card in the last 12 months to get the bonus.

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  28. I received a personal and business SPG card within 7 days of each other. I also reached the spending limit on both cards within a week of getting each card. Do you think I will receive bonuses for both cards.

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  31. If my wife transfers all her spg points to me, then closes her two accounts because the annual fee is coming due, those transferred points are safe, and will not be cancelled, right?

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  35. Milwaukee Nick

    With limited babysitter options and two Disney trips on the horizon (Thanksgiving this year and cruise in February 2014) — I am looking to use 70,000 Starwood points before they expire. Any ideas? I guess it would have to be within the next 12 months (by October 2014). …or we can just stay at an SPG hotel to keep the points from expiring.

  36. @Milwaukee Nick – Spending on the card will keep the points from expiring. It depends on what you like doing and whether you want to stay close to home or not. I’d try to stay at least 4 nights so that you get the 5th night free.

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  38. Darius, I have points expiring soon and dont have a Starwood card. I’d like to stop in for a Beer to prevent my points from expiring. Can this be done?

  39. @paula gulbicki
    here is a real world example. You buy 100,000 SPG points for $1,900. You transfer them to Alaska Air at 1.25 = 125,000 AS miles. You get a Alaska CC and score the 25,000 bonus, now you have 150k miles. Next go to AS and book yourself a Business class one way ticket on Emirates Air via Dubai for you and yours LAX to Milan, Barcelona, or Capetown, or? Use other points to get back.

    Question, is it worth $1,900 to fly you and partner home from far away? If yes, it makes sense, if not skip it.

  40. Thanks for all of the info about SPG. Ive been staying with them quite a bit the last few months (28 nights) and I noticed that I only get points based on the room rate (without taxes). Am I entitled to get points on my room service, hotel restaurant charges on my bill?

    Thanks for helping me understand this.

  41. @Marc – You don’t get points on the tax you pay, but should get points for food and beverage. “Eligible room rates (see ineligible charges for further details) food & beverage charges, laundry & dry cleaning, telephone & in-room faxes, in-room movies & in-room video games.” Here’s the link to the Starwood page explaining eligible charges.

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  43. Daraius, I have the Starwood personal card and love the points – but will spend them all next month in Kyoto.
    Before the annual fee comes due, I want to apply for the Business card and cancel the personal card. Does this work, can I avoid the annual fee and still get the signup bonus points? If so, I’d like to keep switching cards annually. What should be my timing? Cancel one card and then apply for the other? Should I transfer all my Starpoints out before cancelling a card?
    Thanks so much for sharing all your knowledge!
    Brooke

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  60. Darius, I had the SPG in the past for over 10 years, a very loyal SPG member and Starwood Vacation Owner. I cancelled my card and reapplied earlier this year, for a 25,000 point bonus. Although the site said previous/current card members may not be eligible, I CONFIRMED the offer when I activated the card (exactly what I needed to spend, by when, and what I would receive). Over $25,000 in charges later, in just 2 months, they won’t honor the point bonus — even though they confirmed it. What a disappointment — in not getting the points, and that AMX and SPG won’t stand behind their representative who told me otherwise. Just thought I would let the community know about this.

  61. Karen, I just had the same thing happen to me with SPG. Should I have recorded the phone call? Would it make a difference?! Amex is going to regret this decision. Advantage Chase.

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