2013 Platinum Challenge Followup

After our writeup of how we obtained Platinum status for about $500, we would like to update you about the challenge’s status.

The final stay was on January 21, 2013, and just last night, this email popped into the inbox:


With the Challenge now complete and Platinum status obtained, I’m looking forward to these perks during my upcoming trip through Europe and Southeast Asia.

So You Are Going to Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans?

After two exciting games today, Super Bowl XLVII is set. You’ve got your tickets, right? Well with the San Francisco 49ers vs. the Baltimore Ravens a mere two weeks away, where are you going to stay in the Big Easy during Super Bowl Week? Trying to stay in the same hotel as one of the Harbaugh brothers?

Fortunately, Starwood has a strong grasp of the New Orleans market, and there are many options.


Here’s a few of the top options:


1. Sheraton New Orleans Hotel (Cat 3: 7,000 a Night, Rates are…..


OH WAIT, it is Super Bowl week, and as a result all availability looks like this…

Screen Shot 2013-01-20 at 1.14.40 PM


In the true city that never sleeps, maybe you could just hop from party to party (or bar to bar) for the whole weekend.


Starwood Options in Accra, Ghana

The #4 place to visit in 2013 suffers the same fate as its earlier brethren. No Starwood options in this beautiful coastal city. This might be a tip for Starwood to expand into some of these hot markets. If you plan to use your SPG Starpoints in Ghana, you will be shutout yet again as no Starwood properties exist in this waterfront hotspot.

Despite this, Accra is still a place to visit, so why don’t we learn a little about it?

First off, where is Accra, Ghana?

Screen Shot 2013-01-20 at 10.15.31 AM

How about I zoom in…

Screen Shot 2013-01-20 at 10.15.56 AM

Now that you know about its location, how’s the weather in Accra?

Screen Shot 2013-01-20 at 10.16.23 AM

As you can see, it gets quite toasty in Accra. Don’t forget to wear proper clothing/suntan lotion so you don’t get too sunburned. Also don’t forget to have fun on the capital of Ghana’s beaches.

New Starwood Cash & Points Redemptions

Starwood just announced new Cash & Points Redemption options. Unfortunately, it looks like rates are going up, but they have also added options to redeem for suites and upgraded rooms.

The switchover occurs on March 5, 2013, so redeem wisely.


Rate Changes

Category 1: +$5 & 300pts

Category 2: +$5 & 400pts

Category 3: +$10 & 700pts

Category 4: +$15 & 1,000pts

Category 5: +$20 & 1,200pts

Category 6: +$30 & 2,000pts

Category 7:  No Change



New Cash & Points Rates/Redemption:



Old Redemption Options:


Starwood Options in Nicaragua

Unfortunately, Starwood is absent in the third place to see in 2013. Nicaragua by all accounts is a beautiful place to visit, but if your goal is to stay at a Starwood property, you will be sorely dissapointed.

The lack of Starwood properties is not a Nicaragua specific issue. Starwood only offers two properties in the non-American owned territories in the Caribbean. The first property is The Westin Resort & Casino located  in Aruba. The second property is located in Nassau, Bahamas, and it is named the Sheraton Nassau Beach Resort & Casino.

To counter this lack of properties in the Caribbean, Starwood offers many properties in Puerto Rico. At present, Starwood offers five properties in Puerto Rico, with many of them receiving high accolades.

Starwood Options in Marseille

The #2 city to visit this year is Marseille, France. Sadly, this wonderful culture capital of Europe is shutout from Starwood options. The closest Starwood option is about 200km away in Nice:

Nice to Mareseille

As you can see from the map, this is quite an adventure, and it would never be an option to stay in Nice to commute into Marseille. In fact, upon further review it appears that Starwood, Hilton, Marriott and Hyatt are not present in this major city. Of the big hotel providers, only Intercontinental is present.



Starwood Powerup Promotion (Jan. 15 – Apr. 15) – Earn 18,000 Points

Today marks the kickoff of the Starwood Powerup Promotion. This is Starwood’s spring promotion, and if you play it right, you could walk away with a bonus of 900 additional points per night. While not as lucrative as previous promotions that award Free Nights, free Starpoints are free Starpoints and should never be thrown away.

Here are the Benefits:


Here are the Terms and Conditions:

SPU Terms

You’ll notice very quickly that you can maximize this deal with 18,000 bonus points if you hit the 20-night threshold. This would create a 900 pt/night bonus. This is not a bad deal for some free extra points. My recommendation is to combine this promotion with a Starwood American Express card (for 2x points per dollar spend at Starwood properties). Moreover, if you can do your Starwood Platinum Challenge (as discussed here) during this period, you can extract even more value.

In addition, it is possible to combine this promotion with the Le Méridien promotion that runs through February 28, 2013. It can be quite lucrative if you target your stays at Le Méridien properties.

The terms:

Unlock limitless earnings with Le Méridien Hotels and Resorts across North America and French Polynesia

Register now to discover your earning potential with Le Méridien in North America and French Polynesia and earn more Starpoints® the more you stay.

  • 1,000 Starpoints on 1st eligible stay
  • 2,000 Starpoints on each following stay

Register between December 3, 2012 and January 15, 2013 and stay through February 28, 2013, to earn unlimited Starpoints at Le Méridien Hotels and Resorts throughout North America and French Polynesia.



Now that we’ve discussed the various promotions, let’s run through a hypothetical that combines the Le Méridien promotion with the Powerup promotion.

Assumptions are as follows (conservative and not maximized):

  1. You stay at a Le Méridien property for all 20 nights.
  2. These 20 nights are spread across 5 stays.

With these assumptions, we can conservatively net 27,000 Starpoints:

Stay Cumulative Nights Powerup Bonus Le Méridien Bonus Total Bonus Points Cumulative Bonus Points
1 4 2,000 1,000 3,000 3,000
2 8 2,000 2,000 4,000 7,000
3 12 2,000 2,000 4,000 11,000
4 16 2,000 2,000 4,000 15,000
5 20 10,000 2,000 12,000 27,000
27,000 27,000


Quick Points

-Earn 2,000 bonus Starpoints for every four eligible nights you stay (up to 8,000 bonus points over 16 nights).

-When you hit the 20th Night, you will be awarded a 10,000 Starpoint bonus.

-Note: These are accumulated per four-night period, and that each stay does not have to be four nights to earn the bonus.

-Note: You must be registered at http://www.spg.com/powerup and registration is free.


Don’t forget to sign up today!

Starwood Options in Rio De Janeiro

The number one place to visit in 2013 is Rio De Janeiro, Brazil according to the New York Times. However, the number one place to visit in 2013 is not a hotbed of Starwood activity. While it will be the host of the next Olympics and World Cup, other hotels have a much stronger presence in this market.

With only two hotels in this large market, if you want to stay at a Starwood property, you are quite limited in your selection. Fortunately (or unfortunately) if you are using points, they are both Category 5 properties that will cost you the same 12,000-16,000 points per night. One must be warned, both properties are not close to all of Rio De Janieiro’s attractions and events.


The first option is the Sheraton Barra Hotel & Suites, and while it appears to be generous to Platinum members, it appears to be a little far from the traditional Brazilian atmosphere. From the local attractions, it is much more situated for the corporate/business traveller than the tourist looking to soak up some sun and culture. Also, there have been some complaints about the local traffic during the week in the peak rush hours (complaints not seen with the Sheraton Rio).


The second option (and the better Starwood property) is the Sheraton Rio Hotel & Resort. Key word here is beach. This property offers a (almost) private beach and provides the luxury that one would expect from a Brazilian resort. While not Thai level of service, the scene is quite beautiful.

The private beach provides amazing views from many of the hotel’s rooms. Lately the rooms have shown some age, but if one wishes to stay in a Starwood property for their beach getaway, this is the place to reserve.

According to Platinum members, this hotel can be generous with suite upgrades and is not as stingy as Starwood’s American brethren. Many say the club lounge at this location is one of the best in the system.


For a great non-Starwood option (albeit quite expensive), a traveller should check out the Copacabana Palace Hotel. I will let this single image do the talking:

Screen Shot 2013-01-13 at 8.17.11 PM

General Rio Tips

1. If you are traveling here, you must plan ahead and be ready to spend money. It now costs $160 for the entry visa. However, if you plan to visit Brazil a lot, it isn’t a terrible deal as it is valid for 10 years.

2. Don’t forget, the language is Portuguese – not Spanish- and you should know enough of it to get around as not everybody knows English.

3. Rio businesses are tourist friendly and credit card acceptance (especially Visa/Mastercard) is widespread – even more so than some parts of America.

4. The timezone is UTC -3, or in layman terms, three hours ahead of the EST.

5. The weather patterns are:

Screen Shot 2013-01-13 at 8.39.21 PM

Top 3 Attractions to Visit

1. Cristo Redentor (Statue of Christ the Redeemer)

2. Sugar Loaf Mountain (Pao de Acucar)

3. Copacabana Beach

Starwood Hotels in the 46 Places to Go in 2013

The New York Times recently released a list of places to visit in 2013. Over the next few weeks, we will be analyzing the Starwood options in each of these places and providing tips about the local hotel market.


Here is the list of places to see in 2013 according to the New York Times:

1. Rio De Janiero
2. Marseille
3. Nicaragua
4. Accra, Ghana
5. Bhutan
6. Amsterdam
7. Houston
8. Rossland, BC
9. New Delhi
10. Istanbul
11. Singapore
12. Montenegro
13. White Salmon River, Wash
14. Hvar, Croatia
15. Mongolia
16. Big Island, Hawaii
17. Philippines
18. Vernazza, Italy
19. The Kimberley, Australia
20. Ningxia, China
21. The Adirondacks, NY
22. Oslo, Norway
23. Constantia, SA
24. Lithuania
25. Burgos, Spain
26. Lens, France
27. Changbaishan, China
28. Porto, Portugal
29. Puerto Rico
30. Koh Phangan, Thailand
31. Kalpitiya, Sri Lanka
32. Jackson Hole, Wyoming
33. Bangkok
34. The Jeseniky, Czech Republic
35. Waiheke, New Zealand
36. Yucatan, Mexico
37. Charlevoix, Quebec
38. Pecs, Hungary
39. Republic of Congo
40. Ireland
41. Getaria, Spain
42. Mergui Islands, Myanmar
43. The Falkland Islands
44. Washington, D.C.
45. Casablanca, Morocco
46. Paris