Maximizing Starwood Preferred Guest Points: Cash and Points Awards

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.

Offer expired September 3, 2013.

I’ve earned hundreds of thousands of Starpoints over the years and my favorite way to use them is with Cash & Points awards. I generally feel like it gives you the most bang for your buck – especially when staying at higher end properties in Europe.

The great thing about Cash & Points is that the cash value is pegged in dollars and most taxes and fees are included.

Key things to understand about these rewards:
-The fifth night free option does not apply to Cash & Points.
-The “no blackout” date rule does not apply – these are capacity controlled, though I’ve been able to book many C+P awards by being persistent and flexible with my plans.
– You do not earn elite status when redeeming Cash & Points (though Platinum members do still get the amenity and all other elite benefits do apply).
– There is a C+P calendar, so you can search for date that have availability. Just click the “Browse Dates/Rates” button on the search and select Cash & Points and you’ll be able to scan by month for C+P availability.
– Often hotels don’t load C+P availability for the entire next year. You’ll see in the example below that the entire month of January is blocked out. Clearly January is not a peak time for Pittsburgh – it’s just a matter of the hotel not loading the inventory.

The C+P calendar view … as you can see many hotels don’t load availability for the next year, so you need to keep checking until its loaded (or contact the hotel and ask them to load it for you)

To see if Cash & Points makes sense for you, I always recommend doing a cost/benefit analysis. With C+P I’d expect at least 3 cents per point in value. For example, let’s check out a high end and lower end example.
Westin Paris for a random date in March: Lowest rate, 395 Euros ($565) or 20,000 SPG or 8,000 SPG and $150 under C+P:

Westin Paris rate options

If we used 20,000 points to save $565, we’d be getting 2.8 cents in value.
If we did Cash & Points, we’d pay $150, so 8,000 points would save us $415 ($565-$150), 5.2 cents in value.
You need to take into account that you don’t earn points or elite status on award stays, but for the sake of these examples, we won’t try to factor in that “lost value” into the examples.

On the other end of the spectrum let’s check out the LAX Sheraton, which is a category 2 hotel: Lowest rate, $119 or 3,000 SPG or 1,600 SPG and $30 under C+P
If we used 3,000 points to save $135 (amount of the room after taxes), we’d be getting 4.5 cents in value.
If we did Cash & Points, we’d pay $30, so 1,600 points would save us $105 ($135-$30) 6.6 cents in value.

Either way, C+P beats out regular points redemptions. This isn’t always the case, but it has been my experience over the years.

These are just two isolated examples, but you can see why serious points enthusiasts love Starwood points. For me, the ability to pay a measly $150 for a world class hotel like the Westin Paris is the reason why I’m in the points game – it opens doors I’d never normally be able to walk through.

Hopefully these examples will help you craft an entry in my 100,000 Starpoints giveaway which ends this Saturday, so submit your entry now!

I also hope this makes you think about the potential value of the 30,000 Starwood American Express limited time offer, which ends August 22, 2011. Those 30,000 points would equal $1,980 if you redeemed them at the C+P rate at the Sheraton LAX!

 

American Express® Gold Card

With some great bonus categories, the American Express Gold Card has a lot going for it. The card offers 4x points at US restaurants, at US supermarkets (up to $25,000; then 1x), and 3x points on flights booked directly with airlines or through amextravel.com. It is currently offering a welcome bonus of 35,000 bonus points after you spend $2,000 in the first three months.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $2,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 3 months.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. restaurants. Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • Earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with The Gold Card at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Shake Shack, and Ruth's Chris Steak House. This is an annual savings of up to $120. Enrollment required.
  • $100 Airline Fee Credit: up to $100 in statement credits per calendar year for incidental fees at one selected qualifying airline.
  • Choose to carry a balance with interest on eligible charges of $100 or more.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
See Rates & Fees
Annual Fee
$250
Balance Transfer Fee
See Terms
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the 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.

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.