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This week TPG reader John asks a question comparing the value of Ultimate Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest points as well as the Starwood and Hyatt programs:
“Do you value Ultimate Rewards points or Starwood points more? Would it be beneficial to use Ultimate Rewards points for airline awards and Starwood for hotel or Ultimate Rewards for hotel and Starwood for airlines? Or put another way, is it beneficial to go for Hyatt status or SPG status and which points are easier to accumulate?”
I think this is a very good question since both Ultimate Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest points are valuable. However I do give a slight preference to Ultimate Rewards points for a couple different reasons.
For airline awards, I personally find United miles to be extremely valuable and they are an instant 1:1 transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards
The reason why I like United is because they are part of Star Alliance, the biggest airline alliance with 27 member airlines. United also has one-way awards, low fees, and a pretty decent website for booking awards. Since I do find their miles to be very valuable my strategy is to use those miles to fly other airlines, as well as to earn Chase points through credit card sign up bonuses like the Sapphire Preferred and Ink Bold cards I carry, and leveraging my Freedom card for 5x spending bonus categories and 10% per-transaction bonuses as well as shopping through the Ultimate Rewards online mall.
In comparison, Starwood transfers points to United at a 2:1 ratio and transfers are not instantaneous. If you are an American Airlines or Delta flyer, SPG points might make a lot more sense for you because they transfer at a 1:1 ratio and you get a 5,000-mile bonus for ever 20,000 SPG points transferred – essentially a 25% transfer bonus. The funny this is that I actually fly American and Delta the most, but still think United miles are more valuable and provide more options for booking award travel.
To answer the second part of John’s question, when it comes to hotels, using Ultimate Rewards is a great way to get potentially huge values through the Hyatt Gold Passport program, where you only need 22,000 points for top-tier hotels around the world. However, from a hotel perspective I think Starwood points are more valuable for a couple different reasons:
-Starwood has more properties around the world – around 960 in its network compared to Hyatt’s tally of just under 500.
-Starwood has a Cash & Points option, which gives incredible value and is one of my favorite ways to book hotels
-As a Starwood Platinum I get upgraded on award stays – something that doesn’t happen with Hyatt award stays.
In the end, for me the ideal situation is to use Chase points for airline awards and Starwood points for hotel redemptions. Even for those of you who don’t travel quite as much as I do – the best part about these points is that you can still participate in both programs, so there is no need to choose one or the other. Especially because both programs offer co-branded credit cards with great sign-up bonuses. So instead of choosing, utilize both to redeem for the awards that make the most sense for you. If (perish the thought!) I had to only participate in one, the edge would go to Chase because I value airline tickets more than I do hotel redemptions as I talked about a few weeks ago when I was asked if I value hotel or airline points more and I do think Chase makes it easier to bank their points vs. the Starwood Amex, since there are multiple credit cards under the Ultimate Rewards programs (= multiple sign-up bonuses and category spend bonuses) and their Ultimate Rewards Earning mall offers huge double dipping potential.