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Sunday Reader Question: Why Can’t I Find Any SPG Cash and Points Availability?

by on January 20, 2013 · 6 comments

in Starwood, Sunday Reader Questions

TPG reader Rebecca asks:

“I’m trying to redeem SPG starpoints for a trip in late March for either San Francisco or San Diego. It looks like cash & points isn’t offered…like ever. Do you find this a lot, and can you call to see if there is actually C&P availability?”

Let me first start out by saying, that currently Starwood Cash & Points has to be one of the best hotel redemption values out there, especially if you’re a little short on points but have some extra cash sitting around, and because you can use this option at over 1,000 Starwood properties all over the world. Even though you are spending some money, you’re generally still getting a ton of value out of your points and saving a lot more cash than you’re spending.

Current SPG Cash and Points rates if booked before March 1st.

Current SPG Cash and Points rates if booked before March 1st.

The current redemption rates are:

Category 1: 1,200 Starpoints + $25 offered at Asia-Pacific, US and Canadian hotels only.
Category 2: 1,600 Starpoints + $30 offered at Asia-Pacific, US and Canadian hotels only
Category 3: 2,800 Starpoints + $45
Category 4: 4,000 Starpoints + $60
Category 5: 4,800 Starpoints + $90
Category 6: 8,000 Starpoints + $150
Category 7: 15,000 Starpoints + $275 (this is a relatively new redemption level)

However, Starwood announced this week the rates will be increasing for bookings after March 1, 2013:

Category 1: 1,500 Starpoints + $30
Category 2: 2,000 Starpoints + $35
Category 3: 3,500 Starpoints + $55
Category 4: 5,000 Starpoints + $75
Category 5: 6,000 Starpoints + $110
Category 6: 10,000 Starpoints + $180
Category 7: 15,000 Starpoints + $275

The first thing to understand about Cash & Points availability, though, is that it can be hit or miss since it’s up to the property to decide whether they want to offer it or not, and it’s often capacity controlled in a much stricter way than regular award nights SPG Free Nights,which are always available if the hotel is selling a standard room.

So the “no blackout” date rule does not apply. However, I’ve been able to book many Cash & Points awards by being persistent and flexible with my plans. Personally, I’ve had good luck redeeming Cash & Points at the Westin Cape Town, the Westin Palace Madrid,the Sheraton Edinburgh and the Westin Excelsior Rome in the last year.

However, in Rebecca’s case it doesn’t seem like she’s having much luck at any of the properties she’s looking at, and that could be because she wants to head to San Francisco or San Diego at a generally popular time of year. While you can call on the phone, generally the phone agents can only see the same availability that is showing online.

Using the flexible date calendar, I was able to see what dates in March, the W San Francisco had cash and points availability for.

Using the flexible date calendar, I was able to see what dates in March, the W San Francisco had cash & points options.

The first thing I’d recommend if you’re having trouble finding C&P availability is to take a look at the Cash & Points calendar, so you can look at two month’s worth of availability at once to search for dates that have availability. When entering  your dates to make your reservation click the “Browse Dates/Rates” button on the search and select Cash & Points and you’ll be able to scan by month for Cash & Points availability. If nothing is coming up at your preferred hotel, keep trying because oftentimes availability isn’t loaded more than one or two months in advance, so you might have to wait until finding some redemptions that work for you, and you can even get some good Cash & Points deals last minute.

The new rates for SPG Cash & Points redemptions.

The new rates for SPG Cash & Points redemptions.

However, Starwood seems to be aware that there isn’t as much Cash & Points availability as members would like, which could be one of the reasons they announced the new change in redemption levels, including new pricing levels for Cash & Points redemptions for standard rooms. At first, you might think its bad that the redemption levels are going up (which I go agree about since it will make finding high-value redemptions more difficult) but these new prices are supposed to make it more appealing for hotels to start offering Cash & Points, so hopefully we will see a much greater amounts of hotels participating.

In addition, Starwood is adding the ability to redeem Cash & Points for upgraded rooms and suites, which means that if the hotel doesn’t have any standard rooms available, SPG members won’t necessarily be out of luck, since they can now redeem for room type options. To see if Cash & Points makes sense for you, I always recommend doing the math and making sure you’re getting enough value from your points to make it worth it to you. With Cash & Points I’d expect at least 3 cents per point in value, even with the new redemption levels, so crunch the numbers for yourself before booking and make sure that a redemption makes sense for you.

However, you can always call the hotel and ask the rooms manager to release C+P availability- they have the flexibility to do so and as I always say- it never hurts to ask. Starwood is also really active on social media and you can always try Tweeting @spg. They can get you in contact with the hotel and try to make something work for you. Otherwise, you can make an award or paid reservation and keep checking for cash and points- they may release more availability as time goes on.

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.

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  • http://twitter.com/jamucsb Jamison

    i dont like the devaluation

  • Pricesquire

    I don’t like the devaluation either, but it still seems like one of the best redemption programs out there.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1540200072 Rebecca Duvall

    Thanks Brian! I looked at the new table for redemptions when I’d want to go anyway, and it looks like it’d be more advantageous for me and my friends just to pay cash for the room (and get the Starpoints to use a cooler property anyway!)

  • Mileswhore

    I’ve also tried making various reservations – I think the inflexibility of availability makes them useless – I’ll end of transferring them out to an airline and be done with the nonsense

  • http://StarwoodGuide.com/ Starwood Guide

    Because every property treats it differently, it is smart to scope out the properties on a case by case basis. On an upcoming trip to Italy, I noticed a few target properties tended to open up availability about 45-60Days out.

    As a result, I sit waiting for this time period in the same way we wait for Lufthansa first class seats to open. Keep hunting!

  • Jennifer

    I noticed this past Fall that Cash & Points were already all gone at my favorite Starwood properties, even when I searched up to a year from now.

    I phoned last month and a Starwood supervisor told me they won’t be reloading Cash & Points availability for those properties yet because Dec/Jan is when they annually determine whether each hotel’s Category will be changing for the coming year. Once the Categories are all set, then they Reload all of the Cash and Points into the program for those properties. I believe she said it would be complete by Jan. 31 and loaded by Feb. 1 for this year.

    She said their phone reps don’t even know this, so this is why they weren’t able to help.

    Bottom line, I decided to be patient and just check back once they are loaded up for 2013.

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