Redeeming Starpoints for Maximum Value
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Thanks to a wide variety of high-value opportunities to redeem your points, Starpoints top TPG's monthly valuations list. If you're looking to redeem your rewards, though, it helps to know how each of the SPG program's many redemption options stack up. Below, TPG Senior Points & Miles Contributor Richard Kerr ranks them all.
More than a year ago, we looked at the best ways to use your SPG Starpoints, highlighting some of the top partners and specific redemption options. Today, I’ll take into account loyalty program changes over the past year to revisit the strategies you should consider when it comes time to put your hard-earned Starpoints to use.
There haven't been too many changes to Starwood's program over the last 18 months, but the future remains murky with the Starwood-Marriott merger moving forward. The good news is that nothing major is likely to change immediately; you can feel reasonably confident that the below methods for redeeming your Starpoints will remain available for the foreseeable future.
There are more ways to earn Starpoints than you might think:
|Earning Method||Earning Rate|
|Hotel Stay – No Status (Including Caesar’ s Entertainment Properties)||2 points per dollar|
|Hotel Stay – SPG Gold/Platinum||3 points per dollar (4 points per dollar for 75+ Platinum Elite)|
|Delta Crossover Rewards – SPG Gold/Platinum||1 point per dollar|
|Emirates Your World Rewards – SPG Gold/Platinum||1 point per dollar|
|Buy Broadway Tickets||50-1,900 Starpoints per ticket|
|Avis/Budget Rental Cars||50 points per day|
|Sixt Rental Cars||250 points per rental|
|Buy Starpoints||3.5 cents per point|
|Transfer to SPG from Amex Membership Rewards||3:1|
|Transfer to SPG from Diner’s Club Rewards||1,250:750|
|Uber (everyday)||1 point per dollar|
|Uber (during stay, no status)||2 points per dollar|
|Uber (during stay, SPG Gold/Platinum)||3 points per dollar|
|Uber (during stay, SPG Platinum with 75 nights)||4 points per dollar|
In addition, Starwood has two co-branded credit cards that can earn you additional Starpoints: the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express and the Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express. The personal version earns you 25,000 points after you spend $3,000 within the first three months, and the business version currently offers 25,000 points after you spend $5,000 in the first three months. These cards periodically offer larger welcome bonuses of 30,000 points after completing the minimum spending requirements. You’ll earn 2 points per dollar for all spending at Starwood properties, and 1 point per dollar on all other spending.
As you can see, there are plenty of avenues for earning these points, but due to the limited credit card options, it can be harder to collect a significant stash of these rewards in a short time, compared to programs like Amex Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards.
Now that you know all the options to earn Starpoints, let's look at poor value, acceptable value, and maximum value redemption options.
POOR-VALUE REDEMPTION OPTIONS
SPG Flights — You can use Starpoints to book any flight with an open seat on over 150 different airlines. You're charged a fixed amount of Starpoints based on the revenue cost of the ticket. The problem is you only get ~1.25 cents per Starpoint when booking tickets here, so you should avoid this option.
Redeem for gift cards, Broadway tickets or Amazon credit — At most, you'll receive 1 cent per point, but many times even less. As with most loyalty programs, you should avoid redeeming your points in this manner.
DECENT-VALUE REDEMPTION OPTIONS
Cash & Points — You can save Starpoints while subsidizing hotel stays with SPG's Cash & Points redemption option. Book standard rooms, upgraded rooms or suites utilizing cash and points.
While you can find great value using cash and points across all seven SPG categories, I find it's easiest to get great value at Category 4 and 5 properties due to the minimal increases in the amount of points and cash required from one category to the next.
For example, The Four Points by Sheraton Manhattan Chelsea is a Category 5 property with a $264 per-night rate for July 21. This gives you a redemption value of 2.6 cents per point if you utilize 6,000 Starpoints and $110 instead of 12,000 points or $264 plus taxes for the stay. Similarly, the Westin Long Beach is a Category 4 property with rate of $284 per night on July 21 or only 5,000 Starpoints and $75. This gives you an incredible redemption value of 4.2 cents per point .
Upgrades and Suite Upgrades — The value of this redemption depends on your personal preference; an upgrade means a lot to some travelers, while others couldn't care less. An upgraded room could mean a lot of things depending on each individual property. It could only mean a larger room at some properties, while at others it could be a room on the club floor with club access.
Upgraded rooms and suite upgrades at some of the lower-category properties can be tremendous deals, especially at properties in Southeast Asia like the Category 2 Le Meridien Angkor.
Free Nights/5th Night Free — As long as you find the properties which give you ~ 2 cents per point when redeeming for free nights, you'll be getting acceptable value from your Starpoints. Redeeming for five nights is even better, since the last night will cost you no additional points (Category 1 and 2 properties excluded). A few properties that stand out as fantastic options to use points for free nights.
Starpoints for Charity — I usually wouldn't consider donating my points and miles to charity, mainly because most programs value points at 1 cent each and I'd rather just give the charity the equivalent money or my time and save my points. SPG, however, has a unique partnership with Clean the World which could be worth taking advantage of. For just 500 Starpoints, you can donate an entire month's supply of soap and hygiene education to a classroom. Assuming Clean the World follows through, this is an incredible use of 500 of your Starpoints. Also don't forget about The Points Guy's new Points For Peace initiative.
MAXIMUM-VALUE REDEMPTION OPTIONS
Nights & Flights Packages — Receive five free nights at a Category 3 or Category 4 SPG property and 50,000 airline miles in a frequent flyer program with a 1:1 transfer ratio. This saves you 8,000-10,000 Starpoints per package you book. A Category 3 package will cost 60,000 Starpoints, and a Category 4 property 70,000 Starpoints.
SPG Moments — Not only do some of these packages provide opportunities we normally wouldn't even have access to experience, like VIP access at an NBA game, but they often cost far fewer Starpoints than you may think. The Points Guy deems SPG Moments as his favorite use of points ever, and I often find myself cruising the website to see what's up for auction. You can choose from culinary, culture, music or sports events.
1:1 Airline Program Transfers — You'll also get incredible value from your Starpoints when you move them to airline programs with a 1:1 transfer ratio. For every 20,000 Starpoints you transfer, you'll receive 5,000 bonus miles. You can only transfer 79,999 Starpoints in a 24-hour period. This means I'd never transfer more than 60,000 in a day to keep my next 20,000 miles intact to transfer the next day to again receive 5,000 bonus miles. Not only does the value here lie with the 5,000 bonus miles, but also in the sheer number of programs you can accrue miles with that would otherwise be difficult to utilize.
You can transfer Starpoints to programs that have sweet spots for redemptions like Japan Airlines and Asiana (80,000 miles round-trip business class to Europe), which otherwise would be very difficult for US-based members to utilize. Virgin America recently became the 35th airline transfer partner of SPG, and it has an impressive 1:1 ratio, compared to the 2:1 ratio of transferring Amex or Citi points to Virgin America.
If you want to get the most value out of your Starpoints, transfer them to an airline program with a 1:1 transfer ratio — and preferably a program with sweet spots in its award charts — and maximize the 5,000-mile bonus for every 20,000 points you transfer. That said, don't overlook other high-value redemption options such as SPG Moments and Nights & Flights packages. Redeeming Starpoints for free hotel nights could be a solid option as well, especially if you can maximize the fifth night free benefit. Still, given how difficult it is to accrue large amounts of Starpoints, you should be extra cautious when it comes to using them; you want to make sure you receive the maximum value for your account balance.
What are some of your favorite Starpoint redemptions?