How to Earn & Use Starwood Points: Part 6 – Starwood Hotel Redemptions

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I’ve been digging into the Starwood hotel program because of the once-a-year 30,000 point bonus on the Starwood personal and business card.  This offer ends on June 30, 2014.

HOW TO EARN & USE STARWOOD POINTS:

Link:   Regular Redemption Chart

The simplest way to use Starwood hotel points are for hotel redemptions.  You can book them easily online and can pay in full using points.  You don’t pay taxes on award nights when you use your Starwood points, though some hotels may charge a resort fee.

Starwood hotels have no blackout dates, so if there is a standard room available for sale, you can book it using points!

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Hotel Redemptions Start at 2,000 Starwood Points

Hotels are divided into 7 categories.  However, some hotel categories cost more points on weekdays and some hotel categories (category 5 & above) charge a different number of points depending on whether you book in peak season or not.

The Sheraton Sharm Hotel, Resort, Villas & Spa in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, is an example of a Category 1 hotel.  It sells for  ~$130 a night, but costs only 2,000 points on weekends and 3,000 points on weekdays.

Category 1 Hotel in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt

Category 1 Hotel in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt

On the other end, the Prince de Galles, Paris is a Category 7 hotel and costs ~$1,000 a night and 30,000 to 35,000 points per night.

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Category

I wouldn’t redeem Starwood points for the high end hotel categories, and prefer to use my Hyatt points (instead of Starwood points) where the top hotel categories cost only 30,000 points a night.

Starwood points are good for the lower and middle category hotels.  That said, Starwood has some of the nicest top-end hotels and could be worth a splurge if you have the points.

How To Book A Starwood Hotel

You can book Starwood hotels with points online or via phone.

Step 1 – Enter Your Search In The box

Sign-in to your Starwood hotel account, and enter your destination and dates of travel in the search box.

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Step 1 – Enter Your Search in The Box

Step 2 – Click On “Compare Rates.”

Click on the “Compare Rates” tab.

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Step 2 – Click on “Compare Rates”

The price in points will be displayed in a column to the right called “SPG Free Nights” as shown in the picture below.

For example, I searched for hotels in New York City at the end of September and found the following hotels.

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12,000 to 35,000 Starwood Points for 1 Night in New York

If your preferred hotel says “Please contact us to redeem your Free Nights,” try searching for a standard room using cash.  If you can buy an entry-level room with cash, you should be able to use your points for a free night (though it may require a phone call to do so).  That’s because Starwood guarantees no blackout dates for an entry-level room if you pay in full using points.

If there are no standard rooms available for cash it could mean that the hotel is sold out, so try changing your travel dates.

Step 3 – Select Your room Type

Select your room type.

You can usually cancel Starwood hotel night redemptions for free up to a day or two before-in.  But be sure to check the fine print when you make your reservation, because some hotels require more notice to cancel a reservation.

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You’ll See The Cancellation Policy When You Make Your Reservation

Starwood Hotel Pros

Starwood hotels has a strong presence in many  major world cities.  And sometimes there are nicer Starwood hotels in a city than any other type of hotels.  Starwood hotels has lots of hotels in Paris, Rome, Bangkok, Hawaii, etc.

1.  Rome

When searching for hotels in Rome, Italy, I found 5 Starwood hotels…

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Starwood’s Great Hotel Options for Rome

…and no Hyatt hotels (just a suggestion to stay in Nice ~300 miles away!)

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Hyatt Says I Should Stay in Nice instead of Rome!

2.  New York City

In New York, Hyatt has Category 6 hotels for 25,000 a night and a Category 5 hotel for 20,000 points.

However, Starwood has a few hotels in New York City, for example the Sheraton in Times Square for 12,000 points.  

Starwood seems to have nicer hotels than most other top-end hotels, but Starwood’s mid tier hotels are still quite nice.

The St. Regis hotels are very nice, but for 35,000 points you’ll be paying for that quality!

What Can Starwood Points Get Me?

On the other hand, you can stay in Disney World and redeem your points at The Swan or Dolphin.  One night costs 10,000 SPG points or ~ $240 after taxes.

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Use Your Starwood Points to Stay at the Walt Disney World Swan

Using 10,000 Starwood points saves you $240.  So 1 Starwood point is saving you 2.4 cents if you would have paid cash for the room ($240/10,000 Starwood points)

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The DisneyWorld Swan Hotel for $240 or 10,000 Starwood Points

There is no rule of thumb for what makes a good redemption.  To me, the best redemptions are the ones which wouldn’t have been possible without miles and points.  Going to see family in Ohio is as worthwhile a hotel redemption as going to Paris (I’ve used points for both).

I usually try to get at least 2 cents towards the retail cost of a hotel, per Starwood point, if not more.

This means that if you take the cost of the room (say $200) and divide it by the number of points required (10,000 points), you should get at least $0.02 (2 cents).

But part of what makes a hotel great, is the location, not just the price tag.  So if you’re a family going to Disney, it could make sense to book a Starwood hotel for even less than 2 cents per point if it means saving time and having a better vacation.

Why Do I Try To Get At Least 2 Cents Towards The Retail Cost Per Starwood Point?

Because Starwood points could save a lot more money in other places.  London is a great example because it’s such an expensive city.

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Starwood’s great award prices for London

For example, The Park Lane Hotel, London sells for $550 (360 GBP) or 12,000 Starwood points.  I’m getting 4.6 cents towards the retail cost ($550/12,000 points).

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The Park Lane Hotel for Only 12,000 Points A Night

I’m paying 2,000 more points compared to the 10,000 points needed for 1 night at the Swan in Disney World.

But I’m getting a room that’s more than double the price of a room in Disney.

On the other hand, this doesn’t matter if you don’t plan on visiting London, but want to visit Disney.

Do what you’re comfortable with and what makes sense for you!  Use your points in the way that matters most to you!

5th Night Free

You get your 5th night free (in category 3 to 7 hotels) if you book 4 nights in a Starwood hotel using points.

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Award Chart for 5th Night Free

To book online, you simply select 5 nights and that’s it.

The price should automatically be adjusted.  In the picture below, the Bangkok Le Meridien is normally 7,000 points…

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Price of the Bangkok Le Meridien selecting 1 night

but the free 5th night free comes through in a reduction in the number of Starwood points you pay for 4 nights.

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Price per night of the Bangkok Le Meridien selecting 5 nights

Note that if you book 4 nights, you will pay the regular price for 4 nights.

And if you book 3 nights in one hotel and 2 nights in the same hotel after a few days, you won’t get the 5th night free.  You have to book 5 consecutive nights to get the 5th night free.

Bottom Line

Using Starwood points for hotel stays can save you lots of money and make lots of happy memories.

But Starwood points aren’t the best to use for their highest category hotels because you need a lot of points!

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14 Responses to How to Earn & Use Starwood Points: Part 6 – Starwood Hotel Redemptions

  1. You left something important out Yes, 30,000 is a bunch, but in lots of travel to Europe, I have only ONE occasion where I did not get a suite upgrade. Same with NY hotels. In the US I occasionally have to gently argue the point but the results speak from themselves.

    Hyatt does not offer suite upgrades on award stays. But I am registerd at the PH Paris Vendome next June and we used 33,000 points for a suite guarantee.

    So I would say that while Hyatt is cheaper, you won’t usually get a suite on an award stay unless you pay more points, whereas with Starwood, it can and does happen.

  2. If you transfer 80,000 points to an airline, you get 100,000 miles. That’s a business class ticket to Europe or Asia which I value at at least $4000. I actually value those tickets higher because they are flexible. Flexible J tickets are very expensive.
    I agree with Steven, if you are platinum, it’s a good deal to book hotels on points, but if not, I prefer airline transfer.

  3. @Steven S - I’m assuming you’ve got Platinum (or higher) SPG status. But if you haven’t and have got close to a 100% upgrade rate with Starwood on award stays, I want to know how you do it!

    @Andrew @ LenticularTravel – Nice observation, but it again comes down to everyone’s personal travel needs.

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  10. The Four Points by Sheraton in MidTown/Times Square is a great redemption value at 12,000 (reg. price $460/night). The location was pretty good–just a half block off Times Square and the rooms were small but very nicely upgraded.

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