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25% Starwood Points Discount and 30% United Miles Discount – Should You Buy Points and Miles?

by on April 16, 2014 · 7 comments

in Buy Miles Promotions, Starwood, United

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There are two buy miles/points promos out there at the moment – one from Starwood and one from United – so I thought I’d cover in case you are thinking of using them to top up your accounts at a discount.

nonCacheableAssetDownloadStarwood 25% Discount

Now through May 31, 2014, you can buy Starpoints at up to a 25% discount either for yourself or for another member. As with more and more of these discounts lately, this one is tiered:

• Get 10% off 500–9,500 Starpoints
• Get 15% off 10,000–14,500 Starpoints
• Get 20% off 15,000–19,500 Starpoints
• Get 25% off 20,000 Starpoints

Starpoints usually cost 3.5 cents each, and to score the full 25% discount, you must buy 20,000 Starpoints. So buying 20,000 with this promo would cost you $525 with the discount factored in – 2.625 cents per point. Per SPG’s terms and conditions, you can only buy up to 20,000 Starpoints per calendar year, and

Let’s figure out exactly what that means, though. If you were to take those 20,000 Starpoints and convert them into airline miles with a partner like American or Delta, you would end up with 25,000 miles – enough for a roundtrip domestic economy award. You would have to be redeeming for an award that’s at least $525 to be worth it in this case.

In terms of hotel redemptions, 20,000 points is enough for an award night in a Category 6 property like several of SPG’s properties in Honolulu and Waikiki including the Royal Hawaiian, the Sheraton Waikiki and the Moana Surfrider. However, as you can see from the rates I pulled up below, you’re only getting between $250-$375 in value from a redemption at these when the 20,000-point award night rate is available.

Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 9.23.38 AMIn each of these cases, you’re getting under 2 cents per point in value, so why buy points at higher rates than that? It might make sense in a couple circumstances if you’re staying at high-category hotels/resorts where room rates are much higher, or to top up your account so that you can book a 5th Night Free Award.

For instance, in the case of the Royal Hawaiian, you could book a 5-night stay from May 3-8 for a total of 80,000 points – 4 nights at 20,000 points and the 5th night free. If you already had 60,000 points in your account and just needed the last 20,000 for the stay, that could be worth it to top up and get not just one more award night, but two.

Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 9.30.46 AMIn that example, it’s like you’re getting $790 of value for your $525 purchase.

You might also score a decent deal with Cash & Points. For instance, at the gorgeous Prince de Galles Luxury Collection hotel in Paris where I stayed in November, rooms later this month are going for 620 EUR ($860), 30,000 Starpoints or 15,000 Starpoints + $275. So let’s say you bought the maximum Starpoints and got the lowest rate on them. You would be paying $394 for those 15,000 Starpoints but getting $585 in value. You’re still shelling out a lot of cash, but saving a couple hundred bucks.

Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 9.40.15 AM

As with all buy points promos like this, I wouldn’t suggest speculatively buying points unless you have a specific upcoming award you want to book and you have done the math for yourself to determine whether it is a good value.

Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 9.33.34 AM

United 30% Discount

If only United would offer discounts and bonuses on buying miles that were comparable to US Airways’ frequent promos, but here’s yet another lackluster promo where you get a bigger bonus the more miles you buy up to a 30% discount. Per the terms of this promo:

Buy 3,000-11,000 miles, get a 20% discount – 3.01 cents per mile
Buy 12,000 or more miles, get a 30% discount – 2.63 cents per mile

Given United’s recent massive devaluation, you might take a pass on this, but let’s take some quick examples. If you were to buy 25,000 miles, it would cost you $658.44. If you think you could find a domestic economy award for a ticket that’s more than that price, you might want to do it. Or you could by 50,000 miles for $1,316.88 and get a roundtrip business class award on United’s transcontinental routes where those tickets regularly go for $3,000-$4,000. However, that’s still a chunk of change to lay out and you’re dependent on award availability.

In general, you might want to consider this to top up your account for a specific upcoming award, but at this price, I wouldn’t buy miles speculatively. Especially because United has offered bigger discounts recently – like a 40% one in February – so if you’re not in a rush for the extra miles, you might want to wait to see if one of those better offers comes around again.

Here are the other offer details:

  • To take advantage of this offer, you must use the order links on this page.
  • Minimum purchase of 3,000 miles required for this promotional pricing.
  • Buy 3,000 to 11,000 miles and receive a 20% discount, or buy 12,000 miles or more for a 30% discount.
  • Miles are available in increments of 1,000 up to a maximum of 100,000 miles, and in increments of 5,000 up to a maximum of 150,000 miles.
  • Purchase up to 150,000 miles per account per calendar year.
  • Displayed price includes all discounts and taxes.
  • Credit card will be billed immediately upon purchase.
  • Mileage rates and other fees and offer terms are subject to change.
  • Allow 48 hours for miles to process and post to your MileagePlus account.
  • Miles are nonrefundable.
  • Promotional offer valid until 11:59 p.m. CT (Chicago local time) on April 23, 2014.
  • Purchased miles do not count toward MileagePlus Premier® status.
  • All MileagePlus Program Rules and terms and conditions apply.

What are your plans? Are you going to take advantage of either promotion?

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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  • Andy

    I just missed this promo by one day. Purchased 7K miles yesterday to reach an award and I could have saved $53! Sent an e-mail to United hoping they might refund the difference but I’m not holding my breath…

  • thepointsguy

    Never hurts to ask!

  • FDV

    Totally agree with you Prince De Galles Example.. Did Five nights last October there and cost was 120k points.. Rooms were running over $1k per night and used SNA upgrades to get a Maccassar suite.. I like stacking the awards and getting real value..

  • Nelson

    Hay Brian,
    if you buy the 20k points at 25% discount and take advantage of the 5k bonus to any airline partner, it works out to be 2.1 cent for the 25,000 points.

    However, do airline partners (sometimes) offer bonuses to transfer SPG to them, like they do with credit card companies?

  • Michael K

    We were looking at October nights at the Paris Westin where the US currency one-night price is about $755, but as a Cat 6 hotel the award price is 20k Starpoints. So with the promo, we can save about $230.

  • Robert

    I may actually need to buy these 20K with a discount if the semifinal Champions League match bids higher than 100K I currently have on my account :))

  • victoria

    I’m a very frequent flyer (nearly every week) who lives in Minneapolis, which used to be a great place to fly out of for day trips just about anywhere in the US. Once the NWA and Delta merger was complete my lifestyle changed dramatically. Minneapolis is now a “wannabe” International airport, and the non-stop prices are sky high to non-top 4 airline hubs. My million miler status earned before I was 30, has become a worthless badge of honor. Besides Delta, now I’m at the 1st or 2nd FF rung on United, AA, US Air, SWA, which sucks because I rarely get upgraded anymore. I could no longer live here and work in NYC, my husband is now my ex because his job based in CA became a challenging commute (well, that’s not the only reason but it’s a good one and I’m sticking to it) and I’m thinking about moving to Chicago. I was just trying to book a flight to London and the times and prices are WAY better out of Chicago. Windy City here I come.

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