-Starwood AMEX Linky
The US Mint should be able to help you there in no time!
-Starpoints Rewards Catalog Linky
-dansdeals.com/forums, where experts will tackle your mileage questions.
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Starwood points are easily the most valuable mileage currency that exists today. The main reason for that is their flexibility and myriad of uses. The Starwood AMEX card is generally the best credit card for spending because the Starpoints that you earn from spending are just that good!
So what do you usually use them for?
Use 1: Unrestricted hotel rewards with no blackout dates.
This is the traditional award use in the Starwood program and why people like the hotel reward system more than the airline reward system. Award flights are not always available, you have to be flexible and you need to be good at checking availability on partners. During peak times you may just need to pay double miles for a flight if you are not flexible. Whereas if a hotel is selling a standard room you can use the same amount of points for it no matter the time of year. Even if there’s a major event in town and paid rates are a fortune, you can still redeem the same amount of points for a room.
Starwood divides unrestricted hotel room rewards into 7 different hotel categories, generally based on their average rates.
Category 1: 2,000 points weekends, 3,000 points weekdays.
Category 2: 3,000 points weekends, 4,000 points weekdays.
Category 3: 7,000 points, 5th night free.
Category 4: 10,000 points, 5th night free.
Category 5: 12,000 points, 5th night free.
Category 6: 20,000 points, 5th night free.
Category 7: 30,000 points, 5th night free.
(When you redeem for 5 nights using an unrestricted hotel room award for hotels in categories 3-7 the 5th night is free!)
Use 2: Cash & Points hotel rewards
Unlike the traditional unrestricted award, cash and points are capacity controlled. To make matters worse the online availability is often wrong and you need to call up Starwood to book cash and points. For category 1 and 2 hotels there is almost never availability shown online and you will need to call up Starwood. Sometimes even if Starwood shows no availability you can still call the hotel and try to get them to book you a cash & points stay.
It’s a lot of work, but cash & points can offer an incredible value when available. I’ve gotten $500 rooms for just 2,800 Starpoints + $45 for a night with Cash And Points. Using a traditional category 3 award that would value each Starpoint at 7.1 cents each ($500/7,000 Starpoints), but with Cash & Points that’s a value of over 16 cents per Starpoint! ($500-$45=$455/2,800 Starpoints=16.25 cents per point. And that’s not even counting the upgrade from the room into a 3 balcony suite normally costing over $1,500 per night!)
Category 1: 1,200 points+$25
Category 2: 1,600 points+$30
Category 3: 2,800 points+$45
Category 4: 4,000 points+$60
Category 5: 4,800 points+$90
Category 6: 8,000 points+$150
Category 7: N/A
Use 3: Transfer them into airline miles.
You can transfer Starpoints into miles with dozens of airlines. 20,000 Starpoints becomes 25,000 miles on most of them. Plus there are a few gems like:
-LAN (OneWorld) where 20,000 Starpoints becomes 50,000 kilometers. That’s enough kilometers for 4 round-trip tickets between London and Paris on BA or 3 round-trip tickets between NYC and Toronto or Montreal without any fuel surcharges.
-ANA (Star Alliance) where 20,000 Starpoints becomes 25,000 miles. You can redeem fly to Israel on Star Alliance partners ContinentalUnited or USAirways for just 60,000 miles round-trip in coach or 90,000 in business without any fuel surcharges.
-Air France/KLM Flying Blue (Skyteam) where 20,000 Starpoints becomes 25,000 miles. 25,000 miles enough for a round-trip ticket from rotating North American cities to Europe, Russia, or even Israel during promo periods, albeit saddled with a few hundred dollars of European-style fuel surcharges.
-AA (OneWorld) where 20,000 Starpoints becomes 25,000 miles. AA has amazing award availability, one-way tickets on all redemptions, no fuel surcharges, and awesome OneWorld “Round-The-World” awards. They’re also partners with El Al so you can redeem AA miles to fly to Israel on El Al, even if you just need a one-way. It’s just 20,000 miles one-way between Europe and Israel on El Al or 45,000 miles one-way between the US and Israel. Plus AA still counts all miles earned, even miles transferred in from Starwood, to help you get to 1 million total lifetime miles when you get goodies like lifetime elite status with free systemwide upgrades with an international address.
-Air Canada (Star Alliance) where 20,000 Starpoints becomes 25,000 miles. 80,000 miles miles are enough for a round-trip Business Class ticket and 100,000 miles are enough for a First Class ticket on any Star Alliance airline to Europe. Or 100,000 miles are enough for a Business Class ticket and 120,000 miles are enough for a First Class ticket to Asia and Europe as you can cross over both the Atlantic and the Pacific for a Round-The-World style ticket. Air Canada allows you to take 2 stopovers in addition to the final destination on award tickets which make for a great redemption value. There are also no fuel surcharges on Star Alliance award ticket redemptions.
-USAirways (Star Alliance) where 20,000 Starpoints becomes 25,000 miles. This can be a good option for Star Alliance redemptions as they have extremely lax routing rules and very generous award hold policies. There is a small award redemption fee, but at least they don’t charge a phone redemption fee for Star Alliance tickets. A Star Alliance round-trip ticket to Israel is 80,000 miles in coach and 120,000 miles in Business.
There are dozens of other point transfer options…likely each loaded with gems still waiting to be discovered!
Use 4: Nights & Flights Combo Award.
With this great redemption option you get 50,000 miles (or 100,000 LAN kilometers) and 5 nights of unrestricted hotel nights. It’s only good for category 3 and 4 hotels. For 50,000 miles and 5 nights in a category 3 hotel it costs 60,000 Starpoints. For 50,000 miles and 5 nights in a category 4 hotel it costs 70,000 Starpoints.
There are tons of other Starpoint uses that I’m not a big fan of, including:
-Transferring to Amtrak Points
-SPG Moments Auctions
-50% Off Rack Rate Award
-Gift Card Redemptions
The reason I’m not a big fan of these options is because it is hard to get the same value out of your points using these methods as you can using the other methods. Feel free to sound off in the comments if you disagree!