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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 30,000 point personal and 30,000 point business card. This offer ends on September 3, 2013.
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 Keep Secret of Nights & Flights
- Part 5: Starwood Elite Status
- Part 6: Regular Starwood Hotel Redemptions
- Part 7: Using Points for Upgrades
You can also use Starwood points to upgrade your paid stay in a Starwood hotel. However, this can’t be done for stays booked through a third-party like Priceline. In general, you can only upgrade a stay that earns Starwood points and stay credits.
This isn’t a great value, but could be useful for some. Starwood also lets you use points to upgrade to a premium room or suite if you pay the number of points needed for a free night and the points for an upgrade.
You also have to make your upgrade within five days of your hotel stay and you must call (888-625-4988) to apply the upgrade.
You have to pay extra points per NIGHT of your stay, so this can get very expensive. In contrast, Hyatt lets you upgrade to a Club Room for only 3,000 Hyatt points total for up to 4 nights and to a suite for only 6,000 Hyatt points total for up to 4 nights.
One “Room Upgrade” gets you 1 room category or one price-bracket higher than what you booked (though some hotels could be more generous).
You can usually find out the different type of rooms on a hotel’s website. Click on “Rooms” or “Rooms and Suites” or “Guest Rooms” (depending on the hotel).
Or you can make a “dummy” cash reservation and to see rooms listed in ascending order, starting with the lowest category room and moving up towards the highest, as seen in the photo below of the Prince De Galles Paris.
To make sure you’re seeing all possible room types, search several dates a few months in advance. This allows you to make sure you’re not missing anything because the hotel is sold out of certain room types because of holidays, conferences etc.
Let’s see what kind of point per dollar “value” we could get by using our points this way.
The price difference between these two rooms is $133, so when we divide that by 1,500 points (low season) and 2,750 points (peak season), we get 4.8 cents to 8.9 cents per point.
If you want a specific room, but don’t want to pay the cash price, you can book a room which is 1 category cheaper than the one you want and upgrade the room using points.
Or you could use a suite upgrade. The interesting thing about a suite upgrade is that it is the SAME price as a regular room redemption using Starwood points.
So you could get 2 rooms or 1 suite for the same number of Starwood points!
You’ll have to do a little investigating to decide whether or not the suite upgrade is worth more to you than a second room would be. For example, perhaps a suite comes with lounge access or is much bigger than two single rooms. If you’re a family, perhaps you’d prefer for the kids to have their own room instead of sharing a suite with you.
You can always email the hotel in advance to inquire about what kind of suite you would receive with your upgrade.
Using the Prince De Galle hotel in Paris, let’s see what the point value would be for a suite upgrade if we book the Art Deco room, and use a suite upgrade for a Mosaic suite.
The price difference between these two rooms is $1,017, so when we divide that by 30,000 points (and 35,000 points) we get a value of 2.9 to 3.3 cents per point.
This is much lower than the value we get for just a room upgrade.
Do some research before applying a suite upgrade. Perhaps the room one upgrade above a basic room is a club room which gets you the lounge access you want. Or perhaps their lowest category suite is huge. Look for the upgrades that will get you the most, but don’t expect to upgrade to something like the Presidential Suite since specialty suites are excluded.
Also when upgrading a room to a suite you could just get a junior suite (i.e. a living area not in a seperate room). Make sure to check out the room categories of a hotel first by doing “dummy” searches for paid stays on a few nights in the future to avoid missing the room options that are sold out.
For example, when searching 6 months in advance for a room at the Chatwal New York City a junior suite is the lowest level suite.
It doesn’t hurt to email the hotel in advance to see exactly what suite they’re willing to offer you, but know that you usually will get only the base level suite.
It is nice to have the option to use Starwood hotel points to upgrade to a suite, but you have to pay extra points per night of your stay, and you can get an extra room instead of the suite.
In contrast, Hyatt lets you upgrade a stay for a flat rate of only 6,000 points up to 4 nights.
PS: I’m on vacation until September 10, 2013, so won’t be able to get to the comments quickly.