Starwood Launches Free Resort Night Promo

Apr 16, 2011

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Starwood was the last major hotel chain holdout to announce a second quarter promotion, so I was hoping they’d decide to do a free weekend night promotion similar to their Q2 promo last year (which awarded a free Fri/Sat/Sun night award for every 3 stays). They did decide to do a similar “stay three, get one free night” promo, but this time there are two changes: 1) The awards can be redeemed for any night of the week, but 2) they can only be redeemed at one of 200 resort properties. Registration link, FAQ, List of resorts eligible for redemption.

So while we gain flexibility to redeem the awards during the other 57% of the week, the list of properties for eligible redemptions is reduced by roughly 80%. The redemption period is also until December 21, which is 4 days later than last year’s deadline of December 17.

I usually redeem for nights at expensive resort properties, so personally I like this promotion. I usually go to Miami the weekend after Thanksgiving and the W South Beach’s current daily rate is $609 a night. With this promo, I can save 40,000 Starpoints for the two day W South Beach stay, by staying 6 times – in essence a 6,667 point bonus per stay, which is very generous.

In fact, I’ve been focusing a lot on Hyatt this year, so I need 21 stays to requalify for Starwood Platinum. I’m half tempted to buy 21 single-night stays at cheap Starwood hotels to pick up 7 resort nights and solidify my Starwood Platinum until February 2013.

Let’s pretend like I have a 7 day vacation coming up at a Starwood resort where the daily rate is $400. A week will cost me $2,800,  however, if I can  find Starwood nights for $100 at a local Four Points by Sheraton hotel, the math would favor doing mattress runs (buying cheap hotel room nights just to get the points) versus paying for the resort stay:

21 stays x $100 = $2,100 and in return I’d get:

2,100 x 2 Starpoints for base earning
+ 2,100 x 1 for Platinum bonus
+ 2,100 x 2 for using my Starwood American Express, which I do for all Starwood stays
+ 250 x 21 for Platinum amenity, assuming these nights will be at Four Points which offer 250 point amenity
= 15, 750 Starwood points, 7 free nights at a resort (like the $609 a night W South Beach) and Starwood Platinum status for another year- all for $2,100

Now, I’m not really going to spend over $2,000 on hotel stays I don’t need and I don’t have the time to do mattress runs since NYC is such an expensive city and finding cheap hotels in the region would be too time consuming. However, I will do some mattress runs (buying hotel nights just for the points) during this period- especially when I’ll already be in a cheap city. Just how many will depend on a) how many regular Starwood stays I’ll have and b) how easily I can find cheap hotels.

Below is a list of the participating resorts where free nights can be redeemed and there are some stellar properties, including W South Beach, W Retreat Bali,  St Regis Princeville, St Regis Punta Mita, Sheraton Maldives, Le Meridien Fishermans Cove Seychelles and Marques de Riscal in Spain. I’ve highlighted some of the ones I’m most interested in redeeming. If you want to check if a resort has award availability, go to SPG.com, search for the city where you want to stay and if it shows availability under “SPG Free Nights” then you will be able to use a free night certificate there. However, free nights are popular hotels go quickly, especially during these promotions, so you may want to book a room using points now and then switch it out for free night certificates once you’ve earned them. I’ve done this several times in the past with success, though understand some may frown on this speculative booking strategy, so you should not abuse it.

Overall, if leveraged property, this promo can be extremely lucrative and provide you with a vacation you though you’d never be able to afford. I personally recommend the Starwood American Express, because it gives you an additional two Starpoints per dollar spent at Starwood hotels. Plus it also gives you 5 nights or 2 stays per year towards elite qualification, For a limited time you can get 10,000 Starpoints just for signing up for the card (no annual fee for the first year, $65 thereafter (See Rates & Fees), plus 15,000 more when you spend $15,000 within 6 months).

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