Starwood 25% Discount on Purchased Points – Worth It?

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Update: The offers mentioned below for the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Cards from American Express have expired. View the current offers here –personalbusiness.

Now through December 13, 2013, Starwood is offering discounts of up to 25% on purchased points when you buy 5,000 points or more. Here’s how it breaks down:

Screen shot 2013-11-06 at 10.05.02 AM

Buy 500-4,500 Starpoints: No discount
Buy 5,000-12,500 Starpoints: 20% discount
Buy 13,000-20,000 Starpoints: 25% discount

Normally Starpoints cost 3.5 cents apiece (no tax or processing fee), but if you take advantage of this promotion, that cost per point will come down to 2.625 cents. Just to give some more cost context, though, remember that when you transfer 20,000 Starpoints to the program’s 31 airline partners, you get a 5,000-point bonus, so 20,000 Starpoints becomes 25,000 airline miles with carriers like American, Delta, US Airways and more – a 25% bonus that brings your per-mile cost down further to 2.1 cents per mile – well below what many airlines will sell you their miles for, but still not a great deal.

Worth It?

As with all buy miles and points promos, you have to crunch a few numbers to see if it is worth it for you. In terms of straight-up hotel redemptions, getting 2.625 cents per Starpoint in value is a pretty good redemption, but a lot of times, even if regular room rates are high, you’re not getting quite that much value.

To take an example, let’s look at hotel rooms in New York City next week. The W New York is offering rooms for $529 or 20,000 Starpoints – a value of 2.645 cents per point.

Screen shot 2013-11-06 at 10.14.23 AMTo purchase the 20,000 points it would take you to book this room, though, it would cost you $525 with this promo, so you’re pretty much breaking even. Likewise, the Chatwal is offering rooms for $595 or 30,000 Starpoints, an even worse 1.98 cents per point – a situation where purchasing points wouldn’t be worth it.

I tend to find the most value from my Starpoints when I use them for Cash & Points redemptions despite a devaluation of them (raising both the cash and points copays of the awards) earlier this year. Let’s say you wanted to book a room in Paris later this week, here is the availability at some of the Starwood hotels there:

Screen shot 2013-11-06 at 10.21.01 AMAs you can see, the Westin is going for $471 a night or 20,000 Starpoints – a value of about 2.1 cents per point – or Cash & Points for 10,000 points plus $180, bringing your per point value to 2.91 cents – just a bit above the discounted purchase point.

The value is even better at the Prince de Galles, where room rates are $835 or 30,000 Starpoints (2.8 cents per point) or 15,000 points + $275 (3.7 cents per point). So in this case, it could be worth purchasing the points – however, you will be dependent on usually limited Cash & Points award availability, so it’s a gamble.

In terms of airlines, like I mentioned, purchasing 20,000 Starpoints would cost $525 and then you could transfer them to an airline like American and end up with 25,000 miles – enough for a roundtrip domestic economy award. If something like that is your plan, then I would just be certain that the awards you’re hoping to redeem for are more than the $525 purchase fee and that there is plenty of award availability.

So as usual, whether a discount on purchased points is worth it depends on what you are planning to do with those points. A 25% discount isn’t that much, especially considering you have to buy at least 13,000 points to get it, and remember, you can only purchase 20,000 Starpoints per account per year, so you would use that up by maxing out this promo.

All in all, I’d say unless you have a specific redemption in mind that you need to top up your account for, that this might not be a promo worth taking advantage of, but again, crunch the numbers for yourself and see if it makes sense for your individual needs. Also remember that if you’re looking for bonus Starpoints, both the personal and business versions of the Starwood Amex offer a sign-up bonus of 25,000 points when you spend $5,000 in 6 months.

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