What is the Value of Ultimate Rewards Points vs. SPG Points?

by on June 15, 2014 · 14 comments

in Starwood, Sunday Reader Questions, Ultimate Rewards, Video Blog Post

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This week TPG reader Stephen asked a question via Twitter:

@ThePointsGuy how much do you value Ultimate Rewards Points vs Starwood points? I know you value Starwood at about 2.5 cents”

In this day and age of airline programs and hotel programs constantly moving the needle, changing how many points or miles you need for an award it can be hard to come up with one set number for what a mile or point is worth. Each currency is different especially as they gain new partners and lose key partners, so the value of those miles and points change.

Last month I started a series on the valuation of various miles and points.

Last month I started a series on the valuation of various miles and points.

Just last month I launched my first monthly point valuation analysis and went through each of the major programs thinking about if they had gained or lost value over the past year. TPG reader Stephen had tweeted me asking what I value StarPoints as versus Chase Ultimate Rewards points which are my two most valuable point programs. Although Stephen mentions that I value Starpoints at 2.5 cents each, in 2014 I actually value them at 2.1 cents a piece. To put it simply, on a 10,000 point Starwood redemption I’m looking to get at least $210 in value or more, but generally I get a lot more than that.

I think Chase points are very close in value at 2.2 cents a piece. They just added Singapore Airlines as a new transfer partner, so now they have a total of 11 transfer partners. In the upcoming valuation this month Chase will probably increase a little bit simply because there are some amazing values with Singapore KrisFlyer, but you just need to know how to leverage these points and awards.

Unfortunately, Starwood transfers can take days or even weeks.

Unfortunately, Starwood transfers can take days or even weeks.

In general I do think Starwood is the most valuable points program out there. The one key thing that I would like to see is quicker transfers to airline partners. We did a series a couple years ago testing out the transfer times of different Starwood transfer partners and found that generally it can take a couple days or weeks for the transfer to complete.

That being said, Starwood teams up with some really unique partners that no other transferable point programs transfer to. Jason Steele who is one of our contributors, just wrote a post on maximizing the unique transfer partners of the program. I personally really love the fact that Starwood points transfer to Alaska Airlines, which I think is probably the most underrated program out there. Lastly, for every 20,000 points you transfer you get a bonus of 5,000 airline miles so it builds in a 25% bonus. This alone makes the Starwood Amex one of the best all around built in credit cards.

So overall even though I currently value Chase points a little bit higher than SPG points, when you take into account other aspects of the programs I would say that Starwood is number one for me right now. If you have additional questions, please message me on Facebook, tweet me @ThePointsGuy, or send me an email at [email protected]

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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  • Todd (Orlando, Florida)

    I agree on value, it’s just much easier for someone not business traveling to earn UR points. With the 2x categories on CSP and the 5x categories on the Freedom, I have a hard time finding a spot to use SPG card. (I use my Amex Everyday Preffered for 1x points purchases because I’m bumping those to 1.5x when I meet the 50% bonus threshold.)

  • Mark

    So, are you saying for everyday spend (1 point per dollar) if you had ONLY CSP and SPG AMEX to pick from, you would reach for the AMEX card?

  • Mark

    Different Mark here. I tend to use the SPG Amex for large 1x purchases that aren’t feasible for me with my methods of purchasing other items. Also, anything with moving parts goes on the SPG Amex because of my satisfaction with the purchase protection Amex offers. The large number of transferrable partners allow me to utilize frequent flier mile programs that I might not otherwise use, which can be useful as well. Finally, strategic use of the offers on Amex Sync (buying gift cards for certain retailers on Amex Sync whenever they’re offered – think Staples, Home Depot, Lowe’s) more than cover the annual fee for the card. In a nutshell, it’s a keeper.

  • Mark

    Obsolutely a go to card for daily spend, plus I do take advantage of Sync offers. However, if I’m buying gift cards at Staples without a Sync offer, the Chase INK card and it’s 5 UR Pointss per dollar is without question the card to pull out. My question however, pertained to daily spend that DOES NOT qualify for any bonus points; just either one Starpoint or one Ultimate Reward Point per dollar spent. The point Mark 2.0 makes about using the AMEX SPG card on anything that might break for the purchase protection is well taken.

  • Ed

    CSP is clearly the more valuable of the two as you can earn orders of magnitude more points with CPS than with SPG.

  • thepointsguy

    Yes because Amex has really good purchase protection/extended warranty as well

  • Mark Thomas

    True on bonus categories like dining/travel, but not true on everyday spend like shopping at the grocery store. Guess that’s why many of us have them both. The point of the article and subsequent discussion is which one do you use for everyday non-bonus category spend when you have them both.

  • Advertise This

    While SPG points may be more valuable, UR points are, by far, much easier to earn.

    I’m near the point where none of my spending earns me less that the equivalent of 2% cash back. I don’t have enough 1x spend to justify having a card just for that purpose — especially one with a fee.

  • jasmine

    Only thing UR points got better is a instant redemption for last minute award flights. SPG is better value but some of there transfer can take almost 3 weeks.

  • bentley

    Any travel related expenses are better done on the Sapphire.

  • Jason

    I’ve come to love the Barclaycard Arrival for non-bonus categories. Granted the points can only be redeemed for travel, but to me its essentially 2.2% cash back. I was able to use it to pay for several home construction projects and cut half the cost from our family vacation to the Keys.

    For bonus categories I rotate CSP, Amex Premier Gold, and Chase Freedom

  • David

    I can’t wrap my mind around how you think SPG points are more valuable, and yet you value them at a slightly lower value than CSP. Am I losing my mind here, or is there some cognitive dissonance in your message? If there are “other aspects” of the SPG program that increase the value of SPG points, shouldn’t those aspects be incorporated into your per-point value? I know that putting a value on points is tough, but if you think that SPG points are more valuable, shouldn’t your per-point values be consistent with that thought?

  • outbeyond

    UR rewards are definitely easier to earn and easier to stick with. What’s with Starwood? You get the signup bonus, you use the points and then…what? You start thinking about ditching the card. With Chase, you get the signup bonuses and you realize you can keep earning more points quite easily with those cards. So you don’t ditch them. Starwood needs to get with the program and find incentives like quarterly bonus categories and routine specialty bonus areas like office supply stores or dining or grocery stores or whatever to keep us interested. Otherwise it’s take ‘em and run…

  • ABeagleKnots

    Has anyone ever negotiated with Amex SPG to get bonus miles after the first year? I spend 6 figures annually, and have used the card for years.

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