How to Use 35,000 Starpoints from the SPG Amex Card

Mar 8, 2016

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Currently, the SPG Amex and its business version are offering increased sign-up bonuses of 35,000 Starpoints after meeting minimum-spend requirements. Below, TPG Senior Points & Miles Contributor Nick Ewen explores some great options for redeeming those points.

As we covered last week, American Express recently announced an increased sign-up bonus that allows you to earn 35,000 Starpoints on both the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card after $3,000 spent within the first 3 months and Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card after $5,000 spent within the first 3 month. This is a terrific opportunity to take home a big haul of points that regularly top TPG’s monthly valuations. Today I want to go through some great ways you can make the most of this sign-up bonus.

Though Starwood Preferred Guest has some terrific award redemptions on both the high end and low end of the category spectrum, I want to give some broader suggestions for how to maximize your 35,000 points. I’ll still highlight specific properties, but if your travels aren’t taking you to those destinations, hopefully you can find a similar hotel or resort elsewhere.

So, how can you use 35,000 Starpoints? Here are some suggestions:

1. Nine Nights at a Category 2 Property

An outdoor terrace at the Aloft Bangkok, which starts at 3,000 points per night.
An outdoor terrace at the Aloft Bangkok, which starts at 3,000 points per night.

Some of the best values in Starwood’s award chart can be had in the lowest categories, as these properties only require a modest number of Starpoints. Category 2 is a particularly attractive option, with 200 properties across 7 of SPG’s brands and a redemption rate of just 4,000 points per weeknight and 3,000 points per weekend night. If you started your stay on a Friday and checked out the following Sunday, a nine-night stay would set you back just 32,000 points at properties like the following:

  • Aloft Bangkok Sukhumvit 11: The Aloft brand is one of the “hipper” ones in the Starwood portfolio, and this property is in a great location to live up to that vibe thanks to the nearby shopping, dining and nightlife hotspots. You’re also just a short walk from the Skytrain and subway stations, though you’ll also enjoy on-property amenities like Crave Wine Bar & Restaurant and the rooftop pool. Room rates in March start at 3,766 THB (~$106) per night, giving you a value of 2.98 cents per point.
  • Le Meridien Angkor: TPG visited this property back in 2012 and had a terrific stay, and it’s easy to see why. Located between Siem Reap and the area’s famous temple ruins, the hotel boasts an intimate on-site spa, expansive outdoor pool and peaceful tropical gardens. Room rates in March start at $132 per night, giving you a value of 3.7 cents per point (note that this rate is prepaid and nonrefundable; booking a flexible rate of $306/night bumps your value to 8.6 cents per point!).

2. Three Nights at a Category 5 Property

The Westin Palace Madrid.
The Westin Palace Madrid is one terrific Category 5 option.

Moving up the value spectrum, the haul of points from the SPG Amex — the sign-up bonus plus the points you’d earn by meeting the $3,000 spending requirement — could also score you three nights at a Category 5 property. However, you’ll need to find availability during the hotel’s “low season” in order to lock in the redemption rate of 12,000 points per night. In high season, these properties jump to 16,000 points per night, which can still be a great value (though not nearly as lucrative). Here are some examples of these redemptions:

  • The Westin Palace, Madrid: This property is one of TPG’s go-to spots in Madrid and for good reason. Occupying a building originally commissioned by King Alfonso XIII in 1912, the Westin Palace is near the Prado along with numerous popular restaurants. Despite its not-so-modern origins, all 467 rooms and suites have contemporary and luxurious amenities, including the chain’s Heavenly Bed and Heavenly Bath products. Room rates in March start at 263 euros (~$286) per night, giving you a value of 2.38 cents per point.
  • The Nines, a Luxury Collection Hotel: If your travels take you to the Pacific Northwest, the Nines in Portland, Oregon is a great spot at which to redeem your Starpoints. Situated in the heart of downtown, the hotel combines contemporary elegance with the historic nature of the building in which it resides. All 331 rooms boast modern works of art, and the rooftop Departure restaurant boasts an Asian-inspired menu with a nautical decor and unique cocktails. Room rates in March start at $285 per night, giving you a value of 2.38 cents per point.

3. Six Nights at a Category 3 Property

Le Meridien Ile Maurice Featured
The beautiful pool area at Le Meridien Ile Maurice.

One of the nice features of Starwood Preferred Guest is the fifth night free benefit, applicable to Category 3-7 hotels. At the low end of this range, Category 3 properties will set you back just 7,000 points per night, so a 35,000-point sign-up bonus could get you six nights (since you’ll only need to use points to cover five of the nights). Here’s a sampling of where you could take advantage of this sweet spot:

  • Le Meridien Ile Maurice: TPG visited Mauritius back in 2011 and actually inspired me to go a couple of years later. You can get great value from your points at Le Meridien on the northern part of the island. This property is (unfortunately) no longer Category 2 as of March 1, but you can still enjoy a stunning beachfront location with the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean just steps from your room. Room rates in March start at 265 euros (~$288) per night, giving you a value of 4.94 cents per point.
  • Sheraton Lake Buena Vista Resort: This is another property that just moved from Category 2 to Category 3, but it can still give you some great value for your points when visiting Disney World courtesy of the complimentary scheduled shuttle service. The 486 guest rooms benefited greatly from a recent $26 million refurbishment, though you can also visit the on-site spa or pool area (complete with a 79-foot water slide). Room rates in March start at $223 per night, giving you a value of 3.82 cents per point.

4. Seven Nights at a Category 4 Property (using Cash & Points)

The waterfront location of the Westin Bayshore Vancouver is an ideal jumping off point for exploring the city.
The waterfront location of the Westin Bayshore Vancouver is an ideal jumping off point for exploring the city.

It’s important to remember that straight-up award nights using Starpoints are just one way to get value from your redemptions. The program also has the Cash & Points option, and depending on your desired destination, it may be quite lucrative to take advantage of these award rooms. Category 4 properties are just 5,000 Starpoints + $75 per night for this option, and here’s an example of where that equates to some great value for the sign-up bonus:

  • Westin Bayshore Vancouver: Situated on the the water in the northern section of downtown Vancouver, the Westin Bayshore boasts 511 rooms and suites with floor-to-ceiling windows along with numerous amenities like an indoor and outdoor pool along with a 5,000 square-foot spa. Many of the city’s top attractions are just a short walk or drive away. Room rates in March start at CA$304 (~$225) per night, so when you factor in the amount you’d save by redeeming Starpoints through Cash & Points (roughly $138 per night), you’d get a value of 2.76 cents per point.

5. One-Way Emirates Business-Class Flight from New York to Milan

An Emirates business-class flight is within reach using the sign-up bonus

If you don’t have a need to redeem your Starpoints for a hotel stay, you can always convert them to airline miles with one of the program’s 30-plus partners (Aegean was the most recent addition). With every 20,000 Starpoints you transfer, you’d get 5,000 bonus miles. One particularly attractive option is Japan Airlines’ Mileage Bank program thanks to its distance-based award chart. If you transfer the 35,000-point sign-up bonus plus another 2,000 points you earned from hitting the minimum spend, that would translate into 42,000 JAL miles. It just so happens that 42,000 miles would get you a one-way business-class flight on Emirates from New York-JFK to Milan.

Keep in mind that a round-trip flight on the route would only set you back 63,000 miles when booked through JAL (which you’d get from transferring 53,000 Starpoints), so you could also wait until your SPG account was higher to get to Italy and back. Still, snagging an award like that through a single sign-up bonus is a steal in my book!

6. SPG Luxury Suite for a Lakers or Clippers Game

The SPG Moments program opens up luxurious experiences at sporting events, concerts and more.
The SPG Moments program opens up luxurious experiences at sporting events, concerts and more.

This way to redeem Starpoints is completely outside of the world of travel, yet can still represent a fantastic value: the SPG Moments program. This option provides both bidding-style and fixed-value auctions for a variety of experiences in music, sports and entertainment. TPG redeemed Starpoints for VIP tickets to the New York Knicks with his dad back in 2014, and there are currently similar packages available for later this year at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. 30,000 Starpoints will get you two seats in the SPG Luxury Suite for a Clippers game, while you’ll need 35,000 points for the same package at a Lakers game.

Remember that these are time-sensitive offers, but the site is updated regularly with new experiences, so be sure to bookmark the page and see if your favorite artist or team pops up!

Bottom Line

The increased sign-up bonus on the SPG Amex card is a great opportunity to take home a large haul of Starpoints, widely regarded as the most valuable loyalty currency out there. A lot of this comes from the myriad of ways you can redeem them, and I hope that this post has given you some inspiration for how to make the most of the 35,000 points that many of you will (hopefully) soon have coming your way!

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