Related: Starwood AMEX Linky (Best credit card out there!)
The thing I love about Starwood is exactly what confuses so many. There are just so many ways to use Starwood points that it’s hard to know which usage is best.
This much I can tell you, on stays of less than 5 night the Cash & Points redemption option is awesome.
Background information (SPG experts, feel free to skip this part!): There will always be a debate on whether you are better off using your Starwood Starpoints on hotel stays or transferring them into miles.
When you transfer them into miles you get a 25% bonus, so 20,000 Starpoints becomes 25,000 miles on dozens of airlines. You are better off earning Starpoints with credit card spending than earning miles on traditional mileage credit cards as you will earn more miles by transferring Starpoints into miles than you will by just earning miles. Plus you’ll have the flexibility to choose from dozens of airlines. And there are some crazy mileage redemption options like where 20,000 Starpoints will net 50,000 LAN kilometers, enough 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. Or 20,000 Starpoints can become 25,000 Air France/KLM Flying Blue miles, enough for a Round-trip ticket to Israel during promo periods, albeit saddled with a few hundred dollars of European-style fuel surcharges. Or pump them into AA to help you get to your goal of lifetime elite status with free systemwide upgrades….I can go on and on but for that you’ll have to check out dansdeals.com/forums
Yes, there are truly tons of mileage options, and with each airline having dozens of partners it can definitely get overwhelming.
Or you can redeem for hotel stays that can be even more lucrative then miles. And they’re often fully refundable until the day of the stay!
-The traditional Starpoint hotel usage allows you to book a room at any hotel without any capacity controls. Even if it is peak season (think Vancouver during the Olympics!) and rooms are a small fortune, you can still redeem the same amount of Starpoints for a room, starting at just 2,000 Starpoints per night depending on what category (1-7) the hotel is in. Plus when you redeem 4 nights with points in this manner, the 5th night is free!
-Another variation is the nights and flights option where you get 5 free nights and 50,000 miles for less Starpoints than it would normally cost to book both separately. A great option for those needing miles and hotel rooms.
-Finally there is one of my favorites, the Cash And Points option which is often a bargain. I’ve gotten $500 rooms for just 2,800 Starpoints + $45 for a night with Cash And Points. Do the math, that’s a value of over 16 cents per Starpoint! ($500-$45=$455/2,800 Starpoints=16.25cpp. And that’s not even counting the upgrade from the room into a 3 balcony suite normally costing over $1,500 per night!) There are some truly amazing values out there with Cash And Points.
The only problem with Cash And Points is that unlike with the traditional Starpoint hotel usage the rooms are capacity controlled.
Unfortunately Starwood’s website, SPG.com, will often not display Cash And Points nights even when they are available.
Case in point, I was just trying to book a night for my brother at the Sheraton Detroit/Novi for tonight. The lowest available prepaid rate is $170 with tax. The traditional Starpoint rate for the Category 2 property is 4,000 points, or a value of 4.25 cents per Starpoint, not bad. SPG.com showed no availability for Cash & Points, in fact it says “Cash & Points is currently unavailable at this hotel.” Participation in the Cash & Points program is indeed voluntary for Category 1 and 2 properties.
However my brother called the hotel which confirmed that they do participate in Cash & Points. A phone call later to the Platinum concierge desk and he was booked for just 1,600 Starpoints+$30. That’s a value of $170-$30=$140/1,600 Starpoints=a whopping 8.75 cents per Starpoint!
Yes, it would be nice if SPG.com would show the correct availability, but don’t forget to call up Starwood to see if Cash & Points is available for your dates! With rates starting at just 1,200 Starpoints + $25 they can be too good to pass up!
Even if Starwood over the phone tells you that there is no Cash & Points availability, I would still recommend calling up your desired hotel and ask for the reservations manager. Try to appeal to them to open up a Cash & Points room for you. If they are not full, there is a good chance they’ll do it for you. Anecdotal reports on the Dansdeals Forums show that members have had success with this tactic.
Good luck and keep on earning and spending those Starpoints wisely!