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Last week I had to book a last-minute trip to New York City, which was right in the middle Fashion Week so I knew hotels were going to be expensive…if available at all. The cheapest SPG option I could find was the Element Times Square which was a whopping $507 per night with all taxes included, which I wasn’t about to pay for a non-luxury hotel. Since the Element Times Square is only a Category 5 (most NYC properties are now Category 6 or 7), it was only 12,000 points per night and there was a standard room available for the two nights I needed, so 24,000 points later I saved myself $1,014 – or 4.2 cents per point. This is the reason why I love my Starpoints!
Starwood recently made the change to count award stays now count toward elite status and this stay actually put me over 75 nights with Starwood this year, so I can now take advantage of the 4 Starpoints per dollar earning ratio and the Your24 check-in benefit where you can check in anytime during the day and have the room for 24 hours, which is great when arriving late in the evening. For anyone wondering how I got to 75 nights, a big portion of it was the 10 free elite nights that I got for having the Starwood American Express Personal and Business credit cards. Each awards cardholders 2 stays/5 nights towards elite status qualification.
This 40-story hotel has 411 rooms which include studios and one-bedroom suites. The hotel is located on 39th street between 8th and 9th ave, so close to Times Square, which makes it a convenient location to the subways, however by no means a high-end location.
My studio included a Westin Heavenly Bed, a 32-inch plasma TV and large kitchenette area with a refrigerator, microwave and dishwasher with all the dinnerware to go along. Since Starwood touts this as an eco-friendly property, the shampoo/conditioner/shower gel were in wall dispensers, which I don’t mind at all. A unique aspect of this hotel is that they only offer king-sized beds. They claim that this is due to space limitations so if you are in need of two beds a rollaway bed or sofa bed, you are out of luck.
Overall, I was comfortable in my room and was mostly satisfied that I was able to save so much cash by using points. The main downsides of my stay were pretty minor: the elevators were small and slow at times and my showerhead was broken and had to be fixed, though maintenance took care of it very quickly.
The hotel provides free breakfast to all guests so I chose 250 SPG Points as my Platinum amenity. (I had totally forgotten that Element properties only give 250 points amenities, in addition to Aloft and Four Points by Sheraton Hotels).
This was my first stay at an Element property, and while I would consider for the future if I needed a place to crash for the night or two, I would like to see SPG to rethink the SPG Platinum member upgrade policy for Element hotels. I think Platinum members should be eligible for suite upgrades since this hotel does have many one-bedroom suite options available. However, I did think several other signature Element amenities were nice, like complimentary WiFi and a continental breakfast for all guests, and free beer, wine, and hor d’oeuvres in the evening Monday-Thursday, so I definitely think I got a lot of bang for my point, especially in an expensive hotel city like New York City during a very busy week.
Even after the introduction of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is still a fantastic choice if you want to avoid the Reserve’s $450 annual fee, earn 2x on all travel & dining and earn a 50,000 point sign up bonus.
- Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- Named Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, July 2016
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
- No foreign transaction fees
- 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
- No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards