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. (EXPIRED Offer)

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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