29
Aug

The 6 Best Ways to Use Starwood Points

Posted By Trav

spg hotel

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).

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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

AA planes

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:

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

usairways planes

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:

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

BA Plane Logo

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

Click here to learn more about why these are the best use of BA Avios points.

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:

Starwood Award Chart

The regular Starwood award chart.

Starwood Cash & Points Award Chart

Starwood Cash & Points Award Chart

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!

sheraton hawaii

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

best-ways-to-use-spg-points

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).

They include:

  • 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!

Final Word(s)

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!

Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express (personal)

Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express Open (business)

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!

15 comments

  1. ron says:

    Trav,
    I applied for both cards got the business but did not get the personal, I called the reconsideration line, which is the new accounts line and had no luck, they said a letter had already been sent out and it my 714 was too low. I called back 4 more times and all the people said the same thing, they said to try back in 30 days, that a new inquiry on my credit would further lower my score. I only have a few days to try to get the card before the 30k deadline comes, any suggestions. I did apply for the business first so maybe if I had done the personal first it might have mattered
    ron

    1. Trav says:

      @ron- If you’ve called back multiple times, then there is realistically nothing you can probably do. It’s very strange that you got approved for the business and not the personal, but maybe they have some other reasoning for that.

      I doubt you’d get approved if you applied again, even 30 days after. If I were you, I’d wait for a little bit (maybe 3-6 months) before applying for the personal one again.

      If you want to give it one more shot, you could call again. Good luck.

  2. Kyle says:

    I disagree that transferring miles to an Airline is a good use of these miles for most, and here is why:

    The non-blogger can only realistically rack up 60-70K in SPG points from the two cards, at best, unless they are manufacturing spend. Yes, this is repeatable, but the time between is likely 2 years (hold card for one year(ish), cancel, repeat after closed for one year). These 60-70K SPG are around 75-85K of airline points. Those points can easily be achieved from many other cards. There is no other easy way to get SPG points, other than the cards. Generating SPG points from manufactured spend, is not wise, in my opinion, as you forgo more lucrative category bonuses with other cards.

    SPG has some amazing hotel redemption values that (to the common person) can only accessed via these two signup bonuses. I can get get BA points from MR, UR, or the BA cards. I can get AA miles from several different Citi cards. US Air miles are a bit more difficult, so you could make an argument there I suppose.

    If you only plan to fly, and aren’t interested at all in SPG, I guess you can argue the miles option is viable, but I don’t know many in this game that aren’t interested in hotels as well.

    1. Trav says:

      @Kyle- I think it just comes down to what that specific person wants. For example, I RARELY stay at hotels, even though I have racked up some hotel points because, well, why not? But for me, when I travel, I almost always choose local guesthouses, hostels, or AirBnB properties. This is just a personal preference of mine, but I much prefer to transfer my SPG points to an airline, typically AA.

      Yes, I can get AA miles other ways, and do, but my SPG points are a nice supplement.

      However, I do realize that there are a lot of people out there who love hotels, which is why I put up the best ways to use them for hotel redemptions (Cash & Points, 5th night free, etc). In the long run, everyone has to use them to best suit THEIR needs and their travel plans. I tried to mention all the ways someone could do that.

      What are some of the best redemptions you’ve gotten with SPG points?

    2. David says:

      @Kyle, don’t be too serious about this post. Trav needs referral cash for approved spg amex cards.

      1. Trav says:

        @David- I do get a referral for approved SPG personal cards, but not for SPG biz cards. As always, your support is appreciated. The main push for this post, however, was because I was getting multiple emails asking which airline transfers I thought were best or whether I’d use these points for airlines or hotels. There is no one right answer, since everyone should use them for whatever they want to do, but I do think there are some good ways to maximize value. Those are the 6 listed above!

  3. purcitron says:

    thanks for the info! a few questions:
    “Using Cash and Points to Stay at a Starwood Hotel”

    -“Starwood has some really nice category 4 hotels, which can run between $200-$300, so getting them for $75 is a steal.”..but youre not getting it for only $75. rather 5k points PLUS $75.

    in this case, youre in effect buying 5k points for $75 = 1.5c/pt. is that a good deal? i guess it is if the cash price for the same room is more than 0.015xits points redemption price.

    -i know its not your fault but the the 2 charts (points vs points+cash) are not a direct comparison. are points+cash pricess different for weekends vs weekdays?
    do points only redemptions have “new upgraded rooms” & “suites” prices?
    ——————————————————————

    “Nights & Flights”
    -is this only avialable for cat 3 & 4?

    thanks

    1. Kyle says:

      Think of it this way: Cash+points on a $250 hotel gets you a $175 discount for a 5K points, which is a 3.5 cpp redemption value. You are getting roughly 30% more value for your points doing this for a $250 hotel.

      It all depends on the price of a hotel. Here is a graph:

      http://www.chartgo.com/share.do?id=cd154cdeaa

      It doesn’t tell the whole story though. The straight reward for 10K also means you lose 5K points you can’t easily get without spend or bonuses. I’d argue there is no situation would want the straight redemption for category 4, IF you had the option for cash + points. When the redemption value is comparable, you are looking at a crap redemption value anyway, considering how easy it is to get decent values for SPG points. I got a cat 2 in green bay for a packer game for 4K, on a night where the prices were going $275+.

      1. purcitron says:

        sexy chart.
        but about which SPG redemption category are you responding?

      2. Trav says:

        @Kyle- Thanks for sharing the chart. Definitely comes in handy. Nice breakdown. I agree that SPG points have some really, really nice value and that by saving them, you can take advantage of this (just like you did at the Packers game). Since there are no blackout dates on standard redemptions, you can really get some maximum value!

    2. Trav says:

      @purcitron- You are right, it is $75 plus the 5k points. I just meant, you were only paying $75 out of pocket. And I think 1.5 cents per point is a pretty good deal. You might be able to get better if you make a really good airline transfer, but I generally consider anything over 1.2 cents per point pretty decent.

      I do not believe the Cash and Points are different for weekdays vs weekends, but they do sometimes have blackout dates, whereas standard awards do not have blackout dates.

      I don’t believe you can use your standard awards to get upgraded rooms and suites. You can use points to upgrade a paid reservation, however.

      As far as nights and flights, yes, this is for only category 3 and 4.

  4. jennifernice says:

    I signed up for the personal card and got approved. My goal will be to transfer the points at the end of the year to American Airlines. Do I need to separately sign up for AA’s frequent flier program (sorry if this sounds really naive – the only airline I’ve ever acquired miles for is Alaska Air.) Thank you!

    1. Trav says:

      @jennifernice- Not naive at all…everyone has to start somewhere! Yep, you’ll have to create a free AA frequent flyer number, which can be done right on their site. Then, once you have your number, you’ll use that when you go and transfer SPG points to AA. Just be careful, because transfers can sometimes take 3-10 days.

      1. jennifernice says:

        Thank you so much! I enjoy your helpful emails, blog posts, and am very glad I purchased the program. Can’t wait to report where I go with my first free flight!

        1. Trav says:

          @jennifernice- Awesome! Let me know how I can help…and you’ll be flying for free in no time!

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