The 6 Best Ways to Use Starwood Points
The Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) card is one of the most coveted cards among frequent flyer and has been a favorite for many years.
And with good reason…
SPG points are some of the most valuable points out there.
Much of this has to do with how flexible they are, as they offer transfers to 30 different airline partners, far more than both American Express or Chase.
In addition to having tons of transfer partners, they also offer a 25% bonus for every 20K SPG points you transfer, no matter what partner it is!
Those 20k SPG points just became 25k miles in an airline of your choice!
Also, they can offer tremendous value if you use them to stay at Starwood hotel property.
[box style=blue] Of course, the best way to get a large amount of points at once is to apply for a Starwood credit card (or both).
- Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express (personal)
- Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express Open (business)
So if you’ve got a nice cache of Starwood points (or will soon after signing up for the cards), here are some of the best ways to use them.
Transferring to American Airlines
SPG points transfer to American Airlines at a 1:1 ratio but like all airline transfers, also has a 25% bonus for each 20k transferred.
Having 60k SPG points really means you’ll be getting 75k AA miles, which is quite the haul!
AA is a great airline to have miles for three main reasons:
- 1. They have really generous routing rules that allow you to add free one-way tickets on to your trip (Hello, Hawaii)!
- 2. They rarely charge a fuel surcharge on award tickets (with British Airways being the exception).
- 3. They have awesome off-peak awards, which means you can get to Europe or South America for 40k roundtrip or Japan for 50k.
The SPG card is by far the best option to earn AA miles because with the 25% bonus, you are earning 1.25x per $1 you spend.
Compare this with the Citi AA cards, which earn 1x per $1 spent, and you’ll see it s a no brainer.
Transferring your SPG points to AA is one of the best option out there, and is the one I personally use the most.
Transferring to USAirways
Until USAirways and AA merge, this remains a great option.
USAirways is part of the Star Alliance, which is the largest airline alliance in the world and provides coverage to almost anywhere you can imagine.
Like AA, USAirways is a great airline to have miles. A few of the reasons include:
- 1. USAirways allows stopovers and open jaws on their award tickets, meaning you can get 2 or 3 vacations for the price of 1.
- 2. USAirways also has off-peak awards, including first class to South America or Hawaii for 50k roundtrip!
- 3. USAirways never charges a fuel surcharge on any of their flights, so you can fly on any partner and not have to worry about.
- 4. USAirways has lower redemption rates that other airlines for certain awards. One of the best deals out there is their 90k roundtrip business class ticket between North America and Asia, especially since you can route through Europe and stopover there.
USAirways is another airline that can be difficult to earn miles with, since their only co-branded credit card is the Barclays USAirways card, which earns you 1x per $1 spent.
The SPG, with the transfer bonus, will earn you 1.25x per $1 spent, making it a far better option.
Transferring to USAirways can offer tremendous value, especially if you can if you make use of a stopover or the off-peak awards.
Transferring to British Airways
Transferring SPG points to British Airways Avios points is a good option for very specific trips, such as:
- Short haul domestic trips within North America
- Trips to South America on LAN
- From the West Coast of the US to Hawaii
- From the East Coast of the US to the Caribbean
- From Boston or New York to Dublin
I would not recommend transferring to British Airways if you aren’t taking one of the above type trips, but if you are, this can be a major score.
For example, a flight between New York and Toronto would only cost 9,000 BA Avios points but would cost 25,000 AA miles.
One other great thing about BA is that they don’t charge close-in booking fees (usually $75-100 on other airlines), which makes them great for last minute travel.
If you have American Express points, I’d transfer them to British Airways first, since they have less attractive transfer partners than SPG.
However, if you only have SPG points, make sure you know how to properly use BA Avios points before transferring and once you do, reap the rewards!
Using Cash and Points to Stay at a Starwood Hotel
The Starwood Cash & Points option is an awesome way to streeeetch your Starwood points and still pay only a small amount to stay at some great Starwood properties.
In case you couldn’t guess by the name, Cash & Points allows you to pay a smaller amount of points than you would for an award night and pay a little bit of cash.
If we take a look at the regular award chart vs. the Cash & Points chart, you can see there is some great value:
A standard Category 4 room would cost 10,000 SPG points using the regular award chart. Using the Cash & Points option, you’d pay $75 but only use half the amount of points, at 5k.
Starwood has some really nice category 4 hotels, which can run between $200-$300, so getting them for $75 is a steal.
If you want to stretch your points and have more stays without breaking the bank, consider using Cash & Points.
As an additional perk, Cash & Points nights DO count towards elite status (as do regular award stays).
Longer Stays at a Starwood Hotel- 5th Night Free!
If you do choose to use the regular Starwood chart, a longer stay at the same Starwood hotel is by far the best value.
That’s because if you stay 4 consecutive nights, the 5th night is free!
This is not available for Category 1 or 2 properties or if you choose to use the Cash & Points option.
In my mind, the mid-level Category hotels (3 or 4) traditionally offer the best value. 5 nights at a category 3 will only set you back 28,000 SPG points (4 x 7,000…with the 5th night free).
At a category 4, you’d only be paying 40k SPG points for 5 nights.
When you consider that some of these hotels can run $300/night (not that I’d ever pay that), you’re looking at a savings of well over $1,000!
Nights & Flights
Another interesting option that only Starwoods offers is a Nights & Flights package.
With Nights & Flights, you guessed it…you’re booking a hotel and transferring to an airline at the same time.
But here’s the kicker: the miles don’t have to be used in conjunction with your hotel stays.
Once the points are transferred to your airline account (whether it be AA, USAirways, etc.) you can use the miles anytime!
Basically, you’re getting great value by booking a hotel and transferring to an airline at the same time, even though they don’t have to be used together!
By doing this, you’ll save some serious points.
The Nights & Flights option is available for either Category 3 or Category 4 hotels (which I think are the best value anyway).
- Category 3: 50,000 airline miles + 5 nights at a Category 3 for 60K SPG points
- Category 4: 50,000 airline miles + 5 nights at a Category 4 for 70k SPG points
If you didn’t use Night & Flights, you’d normally pay:
- Category 3: 40k SPG points for 50k airline miles (because of the 25% transfer bonus) + 28k for 5 nights = 68k SPG points
- Category 4: 40k SPG points for 50k airline miles (because of the 25% transfer bonus) + 40k for 5 nights = 80k SPG points
That means that you are saving 8k SPG points for the Category 3 option and 10k SPG points for the Category 4 option!
To book a Nights & Flights award, you’ll need to call in, since these can’t be booked online.
So if you are sure that you want to make a transfer and have to book a hotel stay with SPG, you might as well combine them and save yourself points!
The two most expensive parts of any trip are getting there and then finding a place to stay.
SPG points are awesome because they offer you great value no matter how you choose to use them, whether it’s transferring to an airline partner or staying at one of their great hotels.
And the best way to earn large chunks of SPG points is to sign up for the SPG personal credit card and the SPG business credit card.
By doing this, you’ll be well on your way to free airline tickets or free hotels…with SPG, the choice is yours!
If you do decide to apply for either credit card and use my links, I’ll get a referral fee. Thank you for your support!