We analyzed the Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) rewards program in order to show consumers the best value and use-cases for various redemptions. On the whole, we found that the average value of a single Starwood rewards point (called Starpoint) is $0.016 - though the actual figure varies from $0.01 to $0.024, depending on how you use them. This guide will help consumers get a handle on Starwood point redemptions, and figure out what is their optimal use-case.
Recently, it was announced that Marriott has acquired Starwood for $12.2B. This is likely to have a huge impact on the program - though changes are not likely to occur until mid-to-late 2016. One of the biggest questions around the merger is whether the two Starwood-affiliated Amex credit cards will be discontinued.
Redeeming Starpoints can be broken down to 5 different categories - hotel stays, room upgrades, airline transfers, car rentals, and gift cards. Generally speaking, consumers will be best off by redeeming their points for free nights at Starwood properties. Airline transfers carry the second best value with them, though are a little bit trickier because airline miles tend to vary in price according to a number of different factors.
On average, across all redemptions, Starpoints are valued at about $0.016. However, the better average to consider is $0.022 - this one only considering the best two redemption options, hotel stays and airline transfers. When it comes to airline transfers, we advise caution. There are roughly 33 different airlines you may transfer your Starpoints over to. Depending on which one you transfer to, and the specific itinerary you will book with it, you may end up with 'per point values' well over $0.03 or lower than $0.01. We recommend that consumers who chose this option, take the time to plan. We explore airline transfers, in greater detail below.
|Airline Transfers||$0.01 - $0.03+|
|Booking Flights Directly||$0.013|
Unless absolutely necessary, we advise consumers against using their Starpoints on things such as gift cards or direct purchases of Delta Airlines tickets. Using your points will devalue your points, sometimes by a much as 50%.
Starpoints can be used to book stays with anyone of the hotels within the Starwood portfolio - Four Points, Sheraton, Aloft, W Hotels, Meridien, Westin Hotels & Resorts, St. Regis, Tribute, Design Hotels, Element, The Luxury Collection, and Le Meridien. Each of these properties falls into 1 of 7 different categories, which are determined by the number of amenities they provide, and location. Category 7 hotels, for example, will be the most luxurious, and require the most Starpoints per booking.
When you use Starwood points to book 4 award nights, you may receive the 5th one free. This benefit is available only for hotels belonging to categories 3 through 7. Altogether, this results in a savings between $66 and $770 - depending on where you stay.
|Category||Number of Properties||Avg. Point Value||Standard Room|
While category 1 hotels may provide consumers with the best 'per point value', you should note that there are far fewer of these properties by comparison - just 67 worldwide. Category 3 and 4 hotels are the most common - at well over 300 properties in each, they account for over 50% of the entire Starwood portfolio.
While the price in dollars for a Starwood hotel rooms fluctuates on different dates, the price in Starpoints is fixed by category. As a result, you will get more value out of your points, when you use your Starpoints to book stays that would be most expensive with cash. Generally speaking, weekday stays tend to be more expensive than weekend ones - both domestically and internationally. On top of when you book your travel, location also plays a huge role on point value. More popular central locations, such as New York City or London, tend to be more expensive. If you use your points to book stays at these places, you are likely to get a better-than-average deal.
As a rule of thumb, when you use points to book hotel stays, you should aim to get a point value no less than $0.02. Otherwise, it is likely that you may get a better deal by simply looking at other dates or properties around your travel destination.
Where Are Starwood Hotels Located?
A good measure of the strength of the Starwood Preferred Guest program, is to look to the number of properties throughout the world. North America, Europe, and Asia are the epicenters of the hotel chain, accounting for a majority of hotel's fleet. If you are one to travel to other parts of the world, we recommend you check with the Starwood website, to see if your frequent vacation spots have one of these hotels. Major cities within each continent are well covered - with a Starwood property in most capital cities.
As for the United States, there is at least 1 Starwood hotel in 48 of the 50 states. Idaho and Wyoming are the only states which remain unserviced. California, Texas, and Florida have the best coverage - together they have 223 properties between them.
Most category 1 and 2 hotels can be found in Asia, whereas Europe and North America hold a majority of the Category 6 and 7 ones.
The Starwood program is partnered with over 30 different airlines, allowing you to transfer Starpoints to frequent flyer miles. Most of these redemptions can be made at a 1:1 ratio. Between the different airlines partnered with Starwood, all the 3 major Airline Alliances are covered - Oneworld, SkyTeam, and Star Alliance. This means that after transferring your points, you may be able to fly to most airports throughout the world. The flexibility this gives, makes the Starwood rewards program all the stronger.
The table below shows all the Starwood transfer partners, and their ratios. For example, a single Starwood point will get you 65 Air New Zealand miles, or 2 United Mileage Plus miles. Furthermore, if you transfer 20,000 Starpoints at one time, you will receive a 5,000 mile bonus. Therefore, transferring 20k Starpoints to British Airways, will result in 25k Avios points.
Keep in mind that these transfers are one way only. That is, after you move your Starpoints to one of these programs, you cannot move them back to Starwood. Therefore you should only transfer points you intend on using.
|Airline||Transfer Ratio||Airline||Transfer Ratio|
|Aeromexico Club Premier||1:1||Etihad Airways||1:1|
|Aeroplan / Air Canada||1:1||Flying Blue||1:1|
|Air Berlin||1:1||Gol Smiles||2:1|
|Air China||1:1||Hainan Airlines||1:1|
|Air New Zealand & Air Points||65:1||Hawaiian Airlines||1:1|
|Alaska Airlines||1:1||Japan Airlines||1:1|
|Alitalia MilleMiglia||1:1||LAN Airlines||1:1.5|
|All Nippon Airways (ANA)||1:1||Miles and More (Lufthansa)||1:1|
|American Airlines AAdvantage||1:1||Qatar Airways||1:1|
|Asia Miles||1:1||Saidi Arabian Airlines||1:1|
|Asiana Airlines||1:1||Singapore Airlines||1:1|
|British Airways||1:1||Thai Airways International||1:1|
|China Eastern Airlines||1:1||US Airways||1:1|
|China Southern Airlines||1:1||United Mileage Plus||2:1|
|Delta Air Lines||1:1||Virgin Atlantic||1:1|
|Emirates Skywards||1:1||Virgin Australia||1:1|
The value of these miles varies greatly, which makes transferring your Starpoints questionable in certain circumstances. As mentioned previously, a single Starpoint is valued at $0.022 in the best use case. A single American Airlines mile is, on average, estimated to be worth $0.019. Therefore if you transfer 1 Starpoint to 1 AA mile, you will be losing a value of 15%. This changes if you transfer your miles in increments of 20,000, thanks to the bonus. We estimate 20k Starpoints to be worth $440 (20,000 x $0.022). If you transfer them to AA, you will end up 25k AA miles, which comes out to a value of $475 (25,000 x $0.019) - an increase of $35.
If you are planning on 1 particular flight, and wish to use your Starpoints to pay for it, we recommend looking at several different airlines, in order to see which one will requires you to use the least points. For example, a flight from New York to San Francisco costs 17,500 Delta miles, and just 12,500 Alaska Airline miles. Since both of these transfer with Starpoints at a 1:1 ratio, we'd recommend moving your points over to Alaska Airlines, since it will require you to use fewer miles.
Outside of transfers, you may also book flights directly using your Starpoints - though doing so will also result in a point devaluation. When booking flights directly, you will receive a value of $0.014 at best. By booking directly, you would also be missing out on the 5,000 point bonus, mentioned above.
For travelers who are planning a vacation of at least 5 night, Starwood offers a special promotion called 'Nights & Flights'. Through this deal, 5 nights at a category 3 hotel plus 50,000 miles will cost just 60,000 Starwood points. The same deal for a category 4 hotel, would cost 70,000 points. This results in a total discount of 8,000 and 10,000 points respectively (a value of $176 and $220).
For a category 3 hotel, you would normally need 28,000 points (4 x 7,000 + 5th night free). The 50,000 miles would require just 40,000 Starwood points (as you would receive 10,000 bonus points from the transfer). Therefore, the whole transaction would ordinarily cost 28,000 + 40,000 points = 68,000 points. With 'Nights & Flights', it comes out to just 60,000. A similar calculation can be carried out to see the savings on a Category 4 hotel deal.
There are two credit cards that help individuals earn Starpoints - both are issued by American Express - the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express. We consider both to be some of the best travel rewards credit cards available. How many points you'll earn, and whether the cards are worth the annual fee they come with, depends on how much you charge to your cards. Our interactive tool helps determine how many rewards you can expect out of these two cards.
|Card||Annual Fee||2-yr Net Rewards Rate||Bonus Value||2-yr Rewards Value|
|Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express|
|$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.||3.69%||$1,329|
|Graph Card||Read Review||
Terms and Limitations Apply
Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months
|Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express|
|$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95||2.02%||$729|
|Graph Card||Read Review||
Terms and Limitations Apply
Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months
Overall, Starwood customers who stick to redeeming their points of hotel redemptions will get the best value out of their rewards points. All other redemptions can lead to varying results, and will require individuals to do more planning, if they hope to get a decent deal.
Always a Good Redemption:
- Domestic free hotel nights weekdays and weekend (> 2 cents/point)
Sometimes a Good Redemption:
- International free hotels weekdays and weekend (1.5- 2 cents/point, could be over 2)
- Transferring miles to a high value miles program ie: Alaska Airlines (1.5-2 cents/point)
- Booking through Starwood if it requires less Starpoints than miles from that airline
Bad Redemption Deals:
- Booking through Starwood if it requires more Starpoints than miles for that airline
- Transferring to an airline with a miles value of less than 1.5 cents/point
- Car Rental (1.43 cents/point)
- Gift Cards (1.10 cents/point)
Remember to always compare between hotels and airlines to see where you will be able to get your point value at least above 1.5 cents/point, but really strive for that over 2 cent/point redemption. They’re out there.
Comments and Questions
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