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Starwood Preferred Guest Rewards: Best Uses of Starpoints

Contents

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.

An Overview of Starpoint Redemption Options

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.

Redemption  Value/Starpoint 
Hotel Stays $0.024
Airline Transfers $0.01 - $0.03+
Rental Car $0.014
Booking Flights Directly $0.013
Gift Card $0.010
Average $0.016

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%.

Redeeming Starpoints for Hotel Stays

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
1 67 5.28 3,000
2 207 2.96 4,000
3 322 2.35 7,000
4 348 2.05 10,000
5 246 1.84 12,000-16,000
6 85 1.78 20,000-25,000
7 36 1.94 30,000-35,000

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.

starwood

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. 

Transferring Starpoints to Airlines

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.

Nights & Flights Redemptions

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.

Credit Cards That Earn Starpoints

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.

Assumptions Based On Monthly Spend of: $1,430 Edit
General:
U.S. Gas Stations:
U.S. Supermarkets:
Airlines:
Hotel:
U.S. Restaurants:
Office:
Utilities:
Computing:
Card Annual Fee 2-yr Net Rewards Rate

The Net Rewards Rate is equal to the Rewards Value over two years divided by the total spending. The total spending is equal to the values entered into the tool and multiplied by 24 months. See the rewards Value note to see details on how it is calculated.

The estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone. They are not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. All estimates are based on the spend assumptions entered above (which you can edit).

Bonus Value

The bonus field shows our estimate for the value of the card’s welcome bonus. If the bonus is point or mile based, we multiply the total bonus points/miles by our estimate for their value to arrive at a dollar equivalent. We display $0 if there is no bonus or if the user doesn’t qualify for the bonus based on the current spending entered into the tool. All estimates are based on the spend assumptions entered above (which you can edit).

The estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone. They are not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer.

2-yr Rewards Value

The Rewards value is calculated by adding together the rewards earned from charging purchases to the card over two years and any welcome bonuses (if applicable). They are then multiplied by our estimated point/mile value, with any annual fees (if applicable) subtracted. All values are based on our own estimates for the dollar value of any points, miles or bonuses earned using a card and on the spend assumptions entered above (which you can edit).

The estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone. They are not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer.

Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express
$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95 2.41%
$100
Earn a $100 statement credit after you make $1,000 in purchases on the Card within your first 3 months of Card Membership.
$829
Graph Card Read Review More Details and Value Calculation

Terms and Limitations Apply

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Point Value Rewards Value
Spending Rewards 34,320 x $0.024 = $824
Bonuses
0 x $0.024 = $100
Less Annual Fees -$95
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 829

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95
APR 16.99% - 20.99% Variable
*Rates and Fees

Card Details

  • Earn a $100 statement credit after you make $1,000 in purchases on the Card within your first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Plus, earn an additional $100 statement credit after your first purchase on the Card at a participating SPG® or Marriott Rewards® hotel within your first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • From now through July 31, 2018: Earn 2 Starpoints® for every dollar of eligible purchases on the Card at participating SPG® and Marriott Rewards® hotels. Earn 1 Starpoint for all other eligible purchases.
  • Note: On August 1, 2018, SPG will convert every one Starpoint in a loyalty member account to three points. In general, corresponding redemption changes will occur. Visit members.marriott.com for details.
  • Effective August 1, 2018: Earn 6 points for every dollar of eligible purchases on the Card at participating SPG® and Marriott Rewards® hotels.
  • Earn 4 points at U.S. restaurants, U.S. gas stations, wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers, and on U.S. purchases for shipping. Earn 2 points for all other eligible purchases.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on international purchases and $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees

Bottom Line: How to Use Starpoints

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

* See the online credit card application for details about terms and conditions. Reasonable efforts are made to maintain accurate information. However all credit card information is presented without warranty. When you click on the "Apply Now" button, you can review the credit card terms and conditions on the issuer's website.

Info about the following cards: American Express® Gold Card, Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express, Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card, Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express, Hilton Honors Surpass® Credit Card, American Express® Blue Sky, American Express® Green Card, The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express, The Plenti® Credit Card from Amex, Blue from American Express®, Platinum Card® from American Express Exclusively for Mercedes-Benz, Bluebird, Centurion® Card from American Express, Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express Luxury Card, and American Express Cash Magnet℠ Card has been collected independently by ValuePenguin. The issuer did not provide the details, nor is it responsible for their accuracy.

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program. 

These responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

How We Calculate Rewards: ValuePenguin calculates the value of rewards by estimating the dollar value of any points, miles or bonuses earned using the card less any associated annual fees. These estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone, not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer.

Advertiser Disclosure: Some of the offers that appear on this website are from companies which ValuePenguin receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where offers appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). The site does not review or include all companies or all available products. For more information please see our Advertiser Disclosure.