How to Score Great Savings with Starwood's Birth Year Promotion
Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.
Starwood's "Birth Year" promotion is unique in the hotel industry, giving you an opportunity to save on reservations based on when you were born. Today, TPG Contributor Mitch Berman cuts through the fine print and shows you how to save hundreds of dollars on a stay.
Starwood's Birth Year Promotion is one of the most appealing offers in the hotel industry. The idea is simple: Pay the best available flexible rate for the first night of a stay, and for the second and (sometimes) third nights, you pay only the last two digits of your birth year.
The older you are, the less you pay. It's a great excuse for a family vacation, as any member of your party who's listed on the reservation can have the birth year you pay. So if dad — no, make that grandma — comes along, make sure she's the one who flashes her ID at the front desk.
But no matter when you were born, your savings can be substantial, especially at higher-end properties. A great but little-known feature is that many participating hotels include premium rooms, and some even offer suites.
I'll show you a foolproof way to navigate the promotion's peculiarities, but first let's dive right in with a look at some sample bookings.
How It Works
At the Sheraton Universal Hotel in Universal City, California, you'd pay the flexible rate of $403 ($349 plus taxes and fees) for a Club Floor room the first night, and your birth year number for the second and third nights. Suppose you were born in 1979:
|Sheraton Universal Hotel, Universal City, CA||Sample Stay April 15-18|
|First night, Club Floor room||$403 ($349 + taxes & fees)|
|Second and third nights at Birth Year rate||$182 (2 x $79 + taxes & fees)|
|Total paid using Birth Year promotion||$585 for 3 nights|
|Total paid at best rate without Birth Year promotion||$1,176 — 3 nights at $392 ($339 + taxes & fees)|
|Savings using Birth Year promotion||$591|
As you can see, with this booking you'd save about half on your stay.
For all the examples in this post, I chose the best available premium room. If you choose a lower room category, you'll pay less out of pocket, though naturally your overall savings will also be lower. Also, note that all the prices listed here (even for Birth Year nights) include taxes and fees.
Now let's look at a completely different kind of property, the lovely and historic Liberty Hotel in Boston.
Like many Starwood hotels, the Liberty limits Birth Year bookings to only two nights. Here's the savings breakdown for a sample stay, also using 1979 as the birth year:
|The Liberty, Boston, MA||Sample Stay January 14-16|
|First night, Grand Deluxe room||$1,029 ($899 + taxes & fees)|
|Second night at Birth Year rate||$90 ($79 + taxes & fees)|
|Total paid using Birth Year promotion||$1,119 for 2 nights|
|Total paid at best rate without Birth Year promotion||$2,058 — 2 nights at $1,029 ($899 + taxes & fees)|
|Savings using Birth Year promotion||$939|
Some other premium properties, such as the Royal Palm South Beach, add $100 to the Birth Year amount:
|The Royal Palm South Beach Miami||Sample Stay March 13-16|
|First night, Superior Suite, partial view||$805 ($686 + taxes & fees)|
|Second and third nights at Birth Year rate plus $100||$420 (2 nights at $179 + extra $100 + taxes & fees)|
|Total paid using Birth Year promotion||$1,225 for 3 nights|
|Total paid at best rate without Birth Year promotion||$1,443 — 3 nights at $481 ($399 + taxes & fees)|
|Savings using Birth Year promotion||$218|
Does the $100 extra charge render the Birth Year promotion pointless? Not quite. To paint the clearest possible picture of how you might actually use the program, I compared the Birth Year rates with the best rates that I could find anywhere — even if that best rate was nonrefundable. I found the best rate for the Royal Palm suite on Hotels.com. That did make a difference in the bottom line, but the Birth Year promotion still saves $218.
How to Find Participating Properties
Finding the best Birth Year deals can be complicated — so complicated, in fact, that I was told by an SPG customer service agent that there was simply no way at all to find which properties offer the Birth Year promotion; you just had to get lucky.
Fortunately, that agent had it wrong. Here's an easy step-by-step guide to finding which Starwood properties offer the Birth Year rate, and under which conditions.
First, go to the promotion's splash page:
Then choose the country, state and city where you want to stay. You'll see thumbnails and basic information for all properties that participate in the Birth Year promotion. Pick the hotel you want.
Now, without bothering to choose your dates, go ahead and hit the Book Now button. You should see something like the following:
From here, there are two easy ways to find the dates when the Birth Year promotion is offered — either click Flexible Dates Calendar or the tab that says Flexible Dates.
This will bring up a calendar of Birth Year dates offered by the hotel — in this example, the W New York (like all other W Hotels I checked) allows only two-night Birth Year stays. Pick one of these dates and you'll get something like the following:
|W New York||Sample Stay February 11-13|
|First night, Mega Room||$370 ($319 + taxes & fees)|
|Second night at Birth Year rate plus $100||$208 (1 night at $179 + extra $100 + taxes & fees)|
|Total paid using Birth Year promotion||$578 for 2 nights|
|Total paid at best rate without Birth Year promotion||$740 (2 nights at $319 + taxes & fees)|
|Savings using Birth Year promotion||$162|
Don't be surprised when the final reservation shows the higher flexible rate for your entire stay; Starwood will require you to prove your date of birth at the front desk when you check in. Once you do that, the Birth Year rate will be applied. Just to be sure, check your confirmation email under Rate Details, where it should say "Pay Your Birthyear!" If it doesn't, call Starwood.
A Guided Tour of the Fine Print
Individual hotels control which rooms they offer for the Birth Year promotion, and place other restrictions on how it can be applied. For starters, many hotels don't offer the promotion at all; it's limited to hotels in the US and Canada, and only select properties in these countries participate.
Many hotels offer only two nights, and many of the premium properties add an extra $100 to the Birth Year rate, diluting the savings. You usually have to check in Thursday through Saturday, though some hotels allow check-in on other days. See the full terms and conditions for more info.
Beyond that, some participating hotels aren't exactly in prime locations. If you want Birth Year rates in Washington, DC, for example, your only options are near the airport, or in Falls Church, Silver Spring, Linthicum Heights, Arlington, etc. — not in DC proper. And if you want to stay in San Francisco, that search yields only Emeryville.
But as for that extra $100, the following three W hotels do not tack it on:
|W Hollywood||Sample Stay November 19-21|
|First night, Spectacular Room||$392 ($339 + taxes & fees)|
|Second night at Birth Year rate||$91 (1 night at $79 + taxes & fees)|
|Total paid using Birth Year promotion||$483 for 2 nights|
|Total paid at best rate without Birth Year promotion||$628 (2 nights at $271 + taxes & fees)|
|Savings using Birth Year promotion||$145|
Travelocity and other third-party websites give the best rate on the W Hollywood, which is nonrefundable.
The W Montreal shows great availability through December — almost every day — but, like the W Hollywood and the Méridien Delfina, nothing beyond 2015 is currently showing up.
|W Montreal||Sample Stay December 14-16|
|First night, Mega Room||$319 (CAD $424; taxes & fees, if any, not shown on website)|
|Second night at Birth Year rate||$79 (1 night at $79)|
|Total paid using Birth Year promotion||$398 for 2 nights|
|Total paid at best rate without Birth Year promotion||$550 (2 nights at $269 + taxes & fees)|
|Savings using Birth Year promotion||$152|
Travelocity and other third-party websites give the best rate on the W Montreal, which is nonrefundable.
The best nonrefundable rate I found for the W Chicago City Center was on Travelocity and Hotels.com.
|W Chicago City Center||Sample Stay December 17-19|
|First night, Spectacular Room||$261 ($224 + taxes & fees)|
|Second night at Birth Year rate||$92 (1 night at $79 + taxes & fees)|
|Total paid using Birth Year promotion||$353 for 2 nights|
|Total paid at best rate without Birth Year promotion||$396 (2 nights at $170 + taxes & fees)|
|Savings using Birth Year promotion||$41|
The Méridien Delfina Santa Monica is the only property I found that allowed more than a three-night stay — it lets you book four, provided that you specify a Thursday or Friday check-in.
|Le Méridien Delfina Santa Monica||Sample Stay December 24-28|
|First night, Ocean View room||$467 ($390 + taxes & fees)|
|Second through fourth nights at Birth Year rate||$284 (3 nights at $79 + taxes & fees)|
|Total paid using Birth Year promotion||$751 for 4 nights|
|Total paid at best rate without Birth Year promotion||$1,868 (4 nights at $390 + taxes & fees)|
|Savings using Birth Year promotion||$1,117|
How much will you save?
As you can see, the savings you'll get from this promotion depend greatly on the property. Based on these sample bookings, you'd save only $41 over a nonrefundable room at the W Chicago City Center — but at the Méridien Delfina Santa Monica, you'd save a whopping $1,117 — more than the cost of the stay itself. And though I used 1979 for the birthdate in all these examples, you'd naturally save much more if you have someone older in your party.
Finally, don't forget to use your Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express to pay for your room. If you don't have the card and are contemplating a Starwood stay, now's the time to get it. TPG recommended this card just last month, and it's currently offering an a bonus of 25,000 Starpoints after spending $3,000 in the first three months. Plus, the card can help you earn up to 5 Starpoints per dollar spent on Starwood stays. But hurry if you want this bonus — it's only around for a few more days.
By the way, if you're waiting for your kids to turn 18 so you can check in under their names, you may have a longer wait than anticipated. So far, we have absolutely no idea what Starwood will do when those born after 2000 begin to come of age.
My recommendation? Bring grandma!
How would you use the Starwood Birth Year promotion?