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My Favorite Use of Points Ever? VIP at the Knicks With SPG

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As airlines and hotels programs devalue their points by increasing the amount of points needed for free flights and rooms, redeeming for non-travel experiences is becoming more and more appealing. Especially for road warriors, sometimes a vacation is not traveling. I’m in a similar situation where I have tons of points, but the real pleasure redeeming them isn’t always for a sweet suite- but for amazing experiences that I normally wouldn’t shell out crazy amounts of cash.

To celebrate my dad’s birthday last week, I redeemed 45,000 of my Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints through SPG Moments program for two VIP tickets to for his beloved New York Knicks and the Utah Jazz, with seats in the SPG Luxury Suite at New York City’s Madison Square Garden.

My dad (right) and I celebrating his birthday in SPG style at Madison Square Garden's Center Court, Row 1 for the Knicks vs. the Jazz
My dad (right) and I celebrating his birthday in SPG style at Madison Square Garden’s Center Court, Row 1 for the Knicks vs. the Jazz

Starwood’s SPG Moments program, which allows SPG members to make Starpoints bids or redeem directly for special-access experiences at concerts, plays, sporting events, Vegas shows and more, launched a partnership with major venue Madison Square Garden (MSG) in late 2013, but this game was the first SPG/MSG event that I attended. Within a few minutes of my redemption, I was sent a follow-up email with a comprehensive itinerary that included directions to Madison Square Garden, will call, and SPG Luxury Suite 6 itself.

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Once I redeemed 45,000 Starpoints through SPG Moments for this Knicks/Madison Square Garden experience, I was sent a follow-up email that allowed me to download a comprehensive itinerary.

My dad and I arrived at Madison Square Garden just before 6:30 p.m. and headed to the South Concierge will call at the building’s 7th Avenue entrance, where I flashed my driver’s license to pick up our two premium VIP tickets. You have to pick up your tickets in person between one hour prior to one hour after the start of an event, and must show a government-issued photo ID to prove your identity. There was no line and the suites entry is separate from regular entry- kind of like first class boarding (when it’s actually enforced!). 

The Garden’s SPG Luxury Suite 6 opens at 6:30 p.m., so we went directly there. To give you an idea of its layout and cozy feel, I shot this (slightly shaky) video:

We arrived pretty hungry to a delicious assortment of ravioli, steak, salad, sushi, parmesan chips and hot wings. While we enjoyed our meal, we chatted with the super-friendly reps from IMG (who manages the program on-site for SPG) came over to chat. Everyone there couldn’t have been nicer and made my dad feel really special.

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Just some of the delicious spread available at SPG Luxury Suite 6 at Madison Square Garden

The suite’s wine-and-beer bar opens at 7:15 p.m., just 15 minutes before the 7:30 p.m. start time of most games, so we opted to head to our seats and take advantage of the suite’s hostess service. Seleka, our amazing hostess/bartender for the evening, cheerfully brought popcorn and drinks directly to our seats throughout the entire game.

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The arc of purple at the bottom of this seating chart shows Madison Square Garden’s Madison-level luxury suites – the one my dad and I experienced was #6

Unlike some suites at MSG, SPG Luxury Suite 6 isn’t particularly close to the court, but even though we had to walk down a hall to reach our assigned seats in Row 6, Center Court, our close-up view of the action still made us feel like VIPs. The only seats at MSG with better views are those set courtside! All the while, we had a great time celeb-watching.

Our view from row 1 at Madison Square Garden's Center Court were phenomenal
Our views from Row 6 of Madison Square Garden’s Center Court were phenomenal

The game itself was a real nail-biter, but even though the Knicks ultimately lost, our overall experience was absolutely extraordinary. My dad felt like a rock star, I felt like a thoughtful son, and knowing that our evening didn’t break my bank financially made this over-the-top but not extravagant event feel even more relaxed and fun.

Generally, access to Madison Square Garden’s court-level Madison luxury suites during Knicks games costs between $9,000 and $30,000 per suite, with rates determined by opponent, day of the week, and availability. These suites provide lounge seating for 18 guests, a limited buffet and bar, a dedicated attendant and private restrooms. Individual court-area seats for games at MSG must be purchased separately, and MSG suggests that you reserve them via ticketmaster.com or by calling Ticketmaster New York at (866) 858-0008.

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For the Dec. 7, 2014 Knicks vs. Trail Blazers game at MSG, two Row 6, Center Court tix cost $1,4,13.60

As an example of the worth of my SPG Moments Knicks-game experience at Madison Square Garden, the December 7, 2014 game between the Knicks and the Portland Trail Blazers (including luxury suite access and seats on the Center Court for two) would require a redemption of 45,000 Starpoints, the same amount I used for the Knicks vs. the Jazz. Since I presently value Starpoints at 2.3 cents apiece (though I plan on increasing it because these SPG Moments can be incredible values), the cash worth of this package would be $1,150. For the same December 7 game, rental of a Madison suite alone would cost $20,000, while two Row 6, Center Court seats would cost $1,413.60 (including all taxes and processing fees), for a total of $21,413,60 – a whopping $20,263 more than the worth of an SPG Moments redemption!

The comfy lounge in the SPG Luxury Suite at Madison Square Garden
The comfy lounge in the SPG Luxury Suite at Madison Square Garden

The per-point monetary value on all SPG Moments packages tend to be a bit lower than Starwood hotel redemptions, but some of the available events sound so fun and unique that you might still want to consider spending some of your Starpoints on them. Additional upcoming SPG Moments experiences include similar VIP access for two the Knicks vs. the Dallas Mavericks or the New York Rangers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins, both at Madison Square Garden for 50,000 Starpoints apiece; exclusive access to the Formula One Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in the United Arab Emirates for 101,000 Starpoints; private rounds of golf in South Carolina with big-name pros for 15,000 Starpoints; and a special package for the World Junior Hockey Championship in Montreal, Quebec, Canada for a starting bid of 10,000 Starpoints.

However, in the event that an SPG Moments experience appeals to you but you find yourself short on Starpoints, consider applying for the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express or the Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express, both of which offer 25,000 bonus SPG points after spending, $3,000 (personal card) and $5,000 (business card) in the first three months. 

Have you ever redeemed your Starpoints for an SPG Moments event? Please share your experience in the comments below. 

Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express

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  • Earn 25,000 bonus Starpoints® after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
  • Earn 2 Starpoints® for each dollar of eligible purchases spent on the Card at participating SPG® & Marriott Rewards® hotels. Earn 1 Starpoint for all other purchases.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on International purchases.
  • Receive free in-room, premium internet access. Booking requirements apply.
  • Redeem Starpoints® at over 1,300 participating hotels and resorts in over 100 countries and for flights on more than 150 airlines with SPG flights, all with no blackout dates.
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • Terms and Conditions apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR Regular APR Annual Fee Foreign Transaction Fee Credit Rating
N/A 15.49%-19.49% Variable $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95. 0% Excellent Credit