(Video) Sunday Reader Question: Best Strategy- Chase Ultimate Rewards vs Starwood Amex vs Hyatt

by on September 16, 2012 · 16 comments

in Starwood, Sunday Reader Questions, Ultimate Rewards

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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.

Disclaimer: The responses below 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.

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  • Grant Thomas

    I agree with both parts. Wish SPG would give u a free night each year, then it would be perfect. Currently staying at the Westin by ATL

  • jeffrey

    Great post, as always. But just to clarify . . . I have 4 nights award at Grand Hyatt Hong Kong. If I do their Diamond challenge, I would not be eligible for suite upgrade?

  • PJ

    in case you are a big spender : Hyatt card came out with sweetner : 20K annual spending get you 2 more anywhere hyatt and another 20k get you another 2 anyhere hyatt dining is 2 % no FX fees plus one free night up to category 4 is awarded with annual fees paid ..I value Hyatt card is a card to have and to Hold

  • PJ

    did u get 4 nights on 2 Hyatt cards sign ups? lol

  • jeffrey


  • PJ

    DOs: 1. hop on 30K SPG sign on bonus and also pocket the 5K referal bonus ie spend 5 K to rake in 40K SPG points , which is worth about $1000 to me a 20% kick back 2. when rebate is only 1% and Amex is welcome, charge it on SPG on signon bonus ( i am on 4th one) otherwise on Visa or Master card with Sign on bonus as well >>ie always work on signon bonus one AMEX SPG or AMEX with big bonus AND one from VISA Master card camp.

    DONTs: say no to 3 AMEX MRs to 1 SPG ( 2 to 1 about ok) no to 2 UA to 1 SPG no to 20K to 25K ie no to any transfer of SPG to anything unless with huge bonus.

    personally I value one UR= 1.5 cents one SPG=2.5 cents

  • John

    Thanks for the answer TPG. The question was raised because I have a lot of business spending, and I wanted to know if I should be putting the vendor on my Bold Ink vs Amex SPG business, though I guess in the end, your preference is go even spending on both cards throughout the year…cause “why not have them all” =D

  • Wj1207

    I didn’t hear about the 20k spending getting an additional two nights. Can you tell me where to get that info?

  • thepointsguy

    It’s a new perk for Hyatt Visa Credit Card members. See the post here with more info

  • thepointsguy

    Unfortunately, Hyatt Diamond upgrade certs can’t be used on award nights

  • Lively

    Great video. It’s usually against my religion to watch a video on a site like this….because I read faster than I can listen. But it was informative and entertaining. Keep up the traveling.

  • thepointsguy

    Thanks- I do the video just for something different. But I always keep the key content in the post for those who still want to quickly get the info.

  • thepointsguy

    Diversification is key.. but if you foreee a big SPG trip coming up, just switch spend to that card. Both annual fees are reasonable compared to the benefits each card offers, in my opinion

  • PJ

    I was telling parents of newly weds to be: 4 parents + newly weds to be= 6 Hyatt cards= 12 anyplace hyatt nights so far none acting on my advice

  • Scott

    to clarify- its NOT 2 additional free anywhere nights (like you get for sign up for the card) for the 20k spend, its 2 stays / 5 nights CREDIT towards Diamond status… and an additional 3stay/5nts for 40k spend….

  • PJ

    see correction by Scott below; I did not read well

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