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You can often score significant discounts by booking a flight and hotel together. However, many travel providers also allow you to redeem points or miles for these packages. While these aren’t always a great deal, they can definitely provide some solid value when you use them properly. Today, TPG Senior Points & Miles Contributor Nick Ewen continues our series examining these programs. After covering Marriott Rewards’ Hotel + Air Packages, he turns his attention to SPG’s .

Even standard rooms at the Convento do Espinheiro are luxurious
SPG’s Nights & Flights packages can be a great deal, but they unfortunately only extend to Category 3 and 4 properties (like the Convento do Espinheiro in Portugal).

Overview

Starwood Preferred Guest’s Nights & Flights packages allow you to redeem points for a five-night stay in a Category 3 or 4 SPG property and then receive 50,000 airline points or miles to cover your travel. These packages can represent significant point savings when compared with booking a hotel and transferring SPG points to an airline separately. Unfortunately, they are only valid for airlines with a 1:1 transfer ratio. Of the program’s 34 airline partners, only the following aren’t included:

  • Air New Zealand
  • Gol Smiles
  • LAN Airlines LANPASS KMS
  • United MileagePlus

Here’s a quick overview of the costs of the packages, as well as the savings you’d get based on doing the redemptions separately:

 

Category 3

Category 4

Nights & Flights package

60,000 points

70,000 points

Five-night stay (regular price)

28,000 points

40,000 points

50,000 miles (regular price)

40,000 points

40,000 points

SAVINGS

8,000 points

10,000 points

What’s interesting is that the SPG website actually claims the savings are 18,000 points and 20,000 points at Category 3 and Category 4 properties, respectively. However, that doesn’t take into account the fifth night free that SPG provides to members when they redeem points for stays of five nights or longer. You’re still saving 8,000-10,000 points, which equates to $200-$250 (based on TPG’s most recent valuations).

So how do you decide whether these redemptions are worthwhile? As a general rule of thumb, I recommend the following formula:

Total Package Price – Standard Redemption Cost = Cost (in SPG points) of purchasing the airline points/miles.

The additional Starpoints above the standard cost for a five-night award stay are basically being used to purchase the 50,000 airline miles. You’ll need to answer a simple question: Is it worth spending the extra Starpoints to get the airline points/miles, or should you just redeem the points for the five-night stay and keep the rest for future redemptions? In other words, when are the airline points or miles you receive worth more than the additional Starpoints required?

Each of these packages has a different effective conversion rate for using Starpoints to “purchase” airline miles:

  • Category 3 Nights & Flights: 32,000 points = 50,000 airline miles
  • Category 4 Nights & Flights: 30,000 points = 50,000 airline miles

As you’ll see, there are times when it makes sense to pull the trigger and other times when you should stick with a standard award stay and ignore these Nights & Flights packages — and it all depends on how you value both SPG points and your chosen airline’s currency. For the purposes of my analysis, I will use TPG’s most recent valuations to calculate when it makes sense to book these packages for each of the 16 airlines he includes on the list.

Enjoy an alpine-inspired stay at the Sheraton Fuschlsee outside of Salzburg
Enjoy an alpine-inspired stay at the Category 3 Sheraton Fuschlsee outside of Salzburg.

Category 3

As mentioned above, when you book a Category 3 Nights & Flights package, you’re essentially paying an extra 32,000 Starpoints to earn 50,000 miles. These Starpoints are worth a whopping $800 and are good for a one-night stay in a luxurious top-tier property like the St. Regis Bal Harbour. As a result, the 50,000 airline miles you receive should be worth at least that amount in order to utilize this redemption.

Here’s a breakdown of the airlines included in TPG’s valuations (minus those that aren’t a 1:1 transfer partner with SPG), and whether or not this represents a good deal:

Airline/Program

Value (cents per mile/point)

Value of 50,000 miles/points

Good deal?

Aeroplan

1.6

$800

Even

Alaska

2.0

$1,000

YES

American

1.7

$850

YES

ANA

1.5

$750

No

British Airways

1.6

$800

Even

Delta

1.2

$600

No

Flying Blue

1.3

$650

No

JetBlue

1.2 (middle of the range)

$600

No

Miles & More

1.4

$700

No

Singapore

1.5

$750

No

Virgin Atlantic

1.5

$750

No

As you can see, there are only a few cases where these packages make sense from a break-even standpoint (and a couple where you will break exactly even). This makes sense, given the fact that you can take advantage of valuable redemptions on both Alaska and American.

Category 4

When you book a Nights & Flights package at a Category 4 property, the effective purchase price for the 50,000 airline miles is a bit cheaper, setting you back just 30,000 points. That changes the calculation a bit, as now you’re looking for airlines with value of greater than $750. Here’s another table that looks at the calculation for Category 4:

Airline/Program

Value (cents per mile/point)

Value of 50,000 miles/points

Good deal?

Aeroplan

1.6

$800

YES

Alaska

2.0

$1,000

YES

American

1.7

$850

YES

ANA

1.5

$750

Even

British Airways

1.6

$800

YES

Delta

1.2

$600

No

Flying Blue

1.3

$650

No

JetBlue

1.2 (middle of the range)

$600

No

Miles & More

1.4

$700

No

Singapore

1.5

$750

Even

Virgin Atlantic

1.5

$750

Even

Because you’re getting a better ratio of of Starpoints to airline miles/points, the break-even point drops a bit, so you’ll have additional airline currencies that either now make sense or are at least evenly matched.

Other Considerations

Of course, taking a look at the monetary value of the points you’re redeeming and the miles you’re receiving is just one part of the puzzle. There are two other key considerations when it comes to booking a Nights & Flights package with Starwood Preferred Guest.

1. Value of the hotel stay

In the above analysis, I used TPG’s valuations to quantify how much your 50,000 miles are worth. However, this ignored the fact that you might not be getting solid value out of the actual hotel stay. TPG pegs Starpoints at 2.5 cents apiece, the highest of any hotel and airline program out there. While you can definitely get more value out of your points (my recent award redemption at the Equinox Resort & Spa actually gave me a value of almost 8 cents per point!), there are also times when it doesn’t make sense to use your points, either because the property isn’t luxurious enough or the revenue rates are so low that you should just pay for the stay.

For example, let’s say you wanted to visit Las Vegas next summer and stay out west of the strip in the Summerlin area, which I highly recommend as a former resident of Sin City. The Element Las Vegas Summerlin could be a great option and as a Category 4 property, it would be available through the Nights & Flights package. However, I see rates of just $126.62 per night (including taxes) for much of the summer:

Element Las Vegas

In this case, redeeming 40,000 Starpoints for a five-night stay would only give you a value of 1.58 cents per point. It’s essential to check the property to make sure it’s a solid use of points.

2. Award availability

The other big aspect of the Nights & Flights package to consider is availability. The hotel side of things is relatively straightforward – the property either has a room using points or it doesn’t. You can use SPG.com to search this award inventory. Any hotel that shows a standard award available should be bookable through Nights & Flights.

The much more challenging aspect is finding and utilizing award inventory on your flights. In an ideal world, you would book one of these packages, receive 50,000 airline miles/points and immediately lock in your desired flights on your desired dates. The reality is that availability for airline award tickets is far from a science and in some cases is essentially non-existent.

Emirates-first
Emirates first class is one award available on ExpertFlyer.

Fortunately, there are some methods that will help in this search, and my personal favorite is ExpertFlyer. This allows you to search for award inventory on numerous airlines, including the vast majority of SPG transfer partners. For more information, check out my post on how ExpertFlyer alerts can help you find award availability.

Important Restrictions

When it comes to SPG’s Nights & Flights packages, there are a few key restrictions. For starters, they’re limited to Category 3 and 4 properties. This rules out all of the properties I included on my list of nine SPG properties that make for awesome award redemptions, but a few from my list of top low-tier redemptions fall within these two categories. In fact, you’ll have more than 650 properties to choose from across all nine of SPG’s brands, representing over half of the program’s entire portfolio.

Here’s a chart that breaks these properties down by brand and category (all numbers accurate at time of writing):

Brand

Category 3

Category 4

Aloft

35

27

Element

11

6

Four Points

62

32

Le Meridien

14

36

The Luxury Collection

9

14

Sheraton

150

135

St. Regis

1

1

W

0

4

Westin

37

91

TOTALS

319

346

In addition to this limitation, keep the following rules and restrictions in mind if you’re considering booking a Nights & Flights package:

  • These can only be booked by calling SPG, just like when you want to redeem Starpoints for a suite.
  • You must order these awards at least 14 business days prior to the start of your stay for US airlines and at least 30 business days prior to arrival for non-US airlines. This allows time for processing of the airline award.
  • If you cancel, you’ll only receive part of the Starpoints that you spent back: 20,000 points for Category 3 and 30,000 for Category 4. However, the airline miles/points you receive are final and cannot be changed. This (in essence) wipes out any savings you would get from booking these packages.

Boosting Your Starwood Preferred Guest Account Balance

If these packages are appealing to you, there are several ways to quickly rack up the necessary Starpoints. For starters, consider signing up for the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express, which is currently offering a sign-up bonus of 25,000 points after you use your new card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first three months. This isn’t as lucrative as the 30,000-point offer from the summer, but the card does include several nice benefits, such as credits toward elite status, no foreign transaction fees and Boingo wireless access.

Relaxation starts from the moment you set foot in the Palacio del Inka Spa
The Palacio del Inka is a Category 4 property in Cusco, Peru that can be a great option for the Nights & Flights package.

Bottom Line

SPG’s Nights & Flights packages can be a great option if you’re planning a trip to a Category 3 or 4 property. However, be sure to crunch the numbers before deciding which package makes the most sense – or whether to pull the trigger at all! It would be nice if these were eventually expanded to higher categories, but when you factor in the plethora of ways to redeem the miles you’d receive, these packages can open up a world of travel.

Have any of you booked a Nights & Flights package with SPG in the past?

Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express

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.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • 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 on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
15.74%-19.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
Balance Transfer Fee
3.00%
Recommended Credit
Excellent Credit
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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