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Award travel enthusiasts often focus on earning first class flights and five-star hotels, but sometimes the best value can be found further down on the award chart. Today, TPG Senior Points & Miles Correspondent Nick Ewen shares his favorite redemptions for lower-tier properties in the Starwood Preferred Guest program.
The “top” awards tend to be the most expensive, but that doesn’t mean they offer the best value. While premium flights and hotels are memorable, many travelers aren’t interested in these “aspirational” redemptions, and are instead focused on keeping cash in their pockets. I’ve covered top Hyatt, Hilton, Starwood, Marriott, and IHG properties for using your points, but in this post I’ll change directions by kicking off a new series on lower tier redemptions with a look at Starwood Preferred Guest and its best Category 1-4 properties.
In compiling this list, I utilized a number of factors to determine which lower-tier SPG properties offer the “best ” value:
- Typical revenue rates
- Uniqueness (amenities, location, etc.)
One thing to keep in mind for Starwood stays is that you can extend the value of your awards even further simply by holding The Platinum Card from American Express, which offers automatic SPG Gold status (check out my post on the value of SPG Elite Status for more info). This gives you bonus points, a welcome amenity, and possible room upgrades, among other benefits. SPG also joined the free Wi-Fi party last month, giving all guests complimentary internet when you book your stay through official channels (which by definition includes award stays).
Note that the values below include room rates plus all taxes and fees that are covered on an award reservation. I’ve also noted those insidious resort fees for which you’d still be responsible (where applicable). Many of the rates are prepaid and non-refundable, so if you book a flexible rate, you may get even more value from your stay.
Finally, remember that Category 1 and 2 properties have different redemption rates during the week than they do on the weekends:
- Category 1: 2,000 points on the weekend, 3,000 points during the week
- Category 2: 3,000 points on the weekend, 4,000 points during the week
I’ve included both rates in my calculations; the first number shown below is the value during the week, while the second is the value for a weekend stay.
Of course, you likely have a different way of defining what makes a redemption valuable, so feel free to include your favorite low-tier SPG properties in the comments below! These are my picks:
If you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-path beach vacation, consider Mauritius and a stay at Le Méridien Ile Maurice. TPG enjoyed his time on the island back in 2011, and Le Méridien offers terrific value for your points. Located on a kilometer of white sand beach on the northwest coast of Mauritius, the property provides guests with sweeping views of the mountains and Indian Ocean. You can relax by the lagoon-style pool, dine at one of four on-site restaurants, or indulge in a treatment at the Explore Spa. Rooms start at 517 square feet and include balconies or terraces, separate sitting areas, minibars, and separate tubs and showers.
This is a Category 2 property, requiring 3,000 – 4,000 points for a free night. Paid rates in June start at €165 ($184) per night, giving you a value of 4.6 – 6.1 cents per point.
Orlando is high on the list of vacation destinations for many families, and the Sheraton Lake Buena Vista can make the trip more affordable by offering great award redemption value. The hotel is just a few blocks from the entrance to Walt Disney World Resort, though you can get there in style with complimentary scheduled shuttle service. A recent $26 million renovation updated the 486 guest rooms and suites and expanded the pool area, which today includes a 79-foot water slide, private cabanas, and family-friendly activities like s’mores and dive-in movies. You’ll also have access to an on-site spa and two restaurants.
This is a Category 2 property, requiring 3,000 – 4,000 points for a free night. Paid rates in June start at $122.63 per night (plus a $19.95 resort fee), giving you a value of 3 – 4.1 cents per point.
Europe has its fair share of luxurious SPG properties, but a hidden gem is the Convento do Espinheiro, a Luxury Collection property in Portugal. Just an hour outside Lisbon in the town of Evora (a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1986), the resort spans 20 acres on the grounds of a 15th century convent, and consists of just 92 guest rooms and suites, all of which include traditional, elegant furnishings blended with modern comforts and technology. Dining options include Divinus Restaurant in the convent’s ancient wine cellar, and Claustrus in the historical courtyard. You can also stay busy by visiting the Diana Spa, lounging by the outdoor pool, or grabbing a game of tennis right on property.
This is a Category 3 property, requiring 7,000 points for a free night. Paid rates in June start at €198 ($227.58) per night, giving you a value of 3.25 cents per point.
The Four Points brand isn’t synonymous with luxury, but this location in Punta Cana offers terrific value for redeeming Starpoints. Located directly in front of Punta Cana International Airport (PUJ), the hotel consists of 124 rooms and suites, and includes amenities like a water sports park, outdoor pool and 24-hour fitness center. The on-site Six Senses Spa has eight indoor rooms and two outdoor suites, and you can grab a bite (or use the chain’s Best Brews program) at ARA Lounge. You can walk to nearby Puntacana Village or take the hotel’s complimentary hourly shuttle to the beach, golf course, and Eco Park.
This is a Category 1 property, requiring 2,000 – 3,000 points for a free night. Rates in June start at $123.38 per night, giving you a value of 4.1 – 6.17 cents per point.
Aloft is the “hippest” brand in the SPG portfolio, and the Bangkok location is no exception. Just steps from dining, shopping, and nightlife hotspots, the hotel is also a short stroll from the Skytrain and subway stations, giving you easy access to the entire city and its major attractions. If you prefer to stay even closer, you can grab a bite at Crave Wine Bar & Restaurant or a drink at W XYZ bar. Each one of the 297 loft-inspired rooms features Bliss Spa bath amenities, an oversized shower, and a plug-and-play station to connect all of your electronics. Don’t miss the rooftop Splash pool, open from 6 am to 11 pm daily.
This is a Category 2 property, requiring 3,000 – 4,000 points for a free night. Rates in June start at 3,295.60 THB ($100.35) per night, giving you a value of 2.51 – 3.3 cents per point.
Summer is a terrific time to visit British Columbia, and the Westin in Vancouver is another SPG property with low redemption rates. Situated right on the water in the northern section of downtown, the hotel blends the convenience of a centralized location with the luxurious amenities of a resort, including two on-site restaurants, an indoor and outdoor pool, and the 5,000-square foot Vida Spa. The 511 guest rooms and suites start at 312 square feet and are newly decorated, including floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors, many of which lead to private balconies. Many top sites (like Stanley Park, the Vancouver Aquarium, and Gastown) are nearby and can be accessed on foot or by hotel shuttle.
This is a Category 4 property, requiring 10,000 points for a free night. Rates in June start at CA$441.54 ($368.69) per night, giving you a value of 3.7 cents per point.
If your travel plans include the land that inspired the Sound of Music, consider a stay at the lakeside Sheraton Fuschlsee-Salzburg. Just 15 minutes from the city center, the property looks like a rustic countryside manor from the outside, but the 143 rooms and suites include all the luxuries you’d expect on the inside. On-site amenities include the Jagdhof Wellness Spa, two restaurants (both with sun terraces), a bowling alley, and a 9-hole golf course that’s free for overnight guests. You also have access to numerous hiking trails and activities on Lake Fuschl, while ski areas are just a short drive away.
This is a Category 3 property, requiring 7,000 points for a free night. Paid rates in June start at €125 ($139.25) per night, giving you a value of 2 cents per point.
Old world meets new world at Le Méridien Pyramids Hotel & Spa, a beautifully landscaped, contemporary hotel less than 1 km from the Sphinx and Pyramids of Giza. The 641 rooms and suites are outfitted with Egyptian-inspired decor and modern amenities like safes and minibars, and most include views of the pyramids. You can choose from several on-property dining options or enjoy a treatment at the Explore Spa, which includes a sauna, steam room, and jacuzzi tub. After a day of exploring the ancient history of the area, relax by one of two free-form pools, both of which offer pyramid vistas.
This is a Category 1 property, requiring 2,000 – 3,000 points for a free night. Paid rates in June start at €61.26 ($68.25) per night, giving you a value of 2.3 – 3.4 cents per point.
Our final low-tier property is the Palacio del Inka, a Luxury Collection Hotel in the heart of Cusco, Peru. Occupying a five-centuries-old mansion, the hotel makes it easy to explore what was the center of the Incan Empire, including the Koricancha Temple, Stone of the 12 Ages, and the main square, all of which are less than half a mile from the property. The 203 guest rooms include traditional Peruvian decor plus modern amenities like LED TVs and the signature Luxury Collection bed. The Palacio del Inka Spa uses indigenous techniques and wellness secrets of the Inka to create blissful relaxation, while Inti Raymi Restaurant serves up locally inspired cuisine for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
This is a Category 4 property, requiring 10,000 points for a free night. Paid rates in May start at $272 per night, giving you a value of 2.7 cents per point.
Between the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express, partnerships with Uber and Caesars Hotels, and the SPG/Delta Crossover Rewards program, there are plenty of ways to earn Starpoints, and this post features just a few of the great ways to redeem them. The list could go on and on, demonstrating that airline transfers aren’t the only reason TPG lists Starpoints as the most valuable loyalty currency.
What are your favorite lower-tier Starwood properties for award redemptions? There’s no telling how much longer these cards will be around and available for new applications because of the Marriott takeover, so now might just be the perfect time to apply. Apart from hotel redemptions, you can transfer Starpoints to over 30 airline partners, and now also transfer points from Starwood to Marriott Rewards at a 1:3 ratio, opening up even more redemption options.
There’s no telling how much longer these cards will be around and available for new applications because of the Marriott takeover, so now might just be the perfect time to apply. Apart from hotel redemptions, you can transfer Starpoints to over 30 airline partners, and now also transfer points from Starwood to Marriott Rewards at a 1:3 ratio, opening up even more redemption options.