Winter SPG Point Sale: Buy your way to a night at the St. Regis in Rome?

Rome

From time to time, Starwood will reduce the price on SPG points. Well my friends, that time is now and you can save up to 25% off the regular price. Through December 13, 2013, the following reduced prices will be in effect:

  • Pricing Group 1: Buy 500 through 4,500 points and you shall receive…NOTHING (no discount for this group) [3.5 cents per point].
  • Pricing Group 2: Buy 5,000 through 12,500 points and you will receive a 20% discount (not too shabby) [2.8 cents per point].
  • Pricing Group 3: Buy 13,000 through 20,000 points and you will receive a 25% discount (the king of the mountain) [2.625 cents per point].

Is it worth it for you? It depends on your needs, and we will explore the options below.

 

The Discount Option Comparison

To help your buying decision, I’ve broken down the options into the following groupings:

  1. Convert to Airline Miles and get the 5,000 Mile Bonus
  2. Category 6 Redemption Option (Pure Point Redemption)
  3. Category 6 Redemption Option (Cash & Points)
  4. Category 2 Redemption Option (Pure Point Redemption)
  5. Category 2 Redemption Option (Cash & Points)

 

Option 1: Convert to Airline Miles (and get a double bonus!)

Converting SPG points to airline miles can be quite lucrative. When you transfer 20,000 points to a Starwood transfer partner, you receive a 5,000 mile bonus. In this case, your 20,000 SPG Points would convert to many carriers (like American Airlines, Alaskan Airlines) at a 1:1 ratio. Effectively you would buy 25,000 airline miles for $525.00. This is a nice rate at 2.1 cents per mile.

How does this compare with current pricing of miles ?

Program Total Cost  Cost Per Mile Notes
SPG Transfer $525.00 0.0210
Alaskan $550.00 0.0212 Currently offering bonus miles for purchase. This is actually 26,000 miles for $550.
American $577.50 0.0231 Currently offering bonus miles for purchase.
Delta $875.00 0.0350

 

As you can see, the airline transfer option beats buying miles outright. However, Alaskan’s current promotion barely misses the Starwood level. If you were thinking of transferring to Alaskan, you would be better off just buying the miles from Alaskan Air. Why use your Starwood miles for almost the same value when you are limited to a low 20,000 SPG Points per year?

 

Option 2:  St. Regis Here I Come (w/ Points)

Like all Category 6 properties, the St. Regis in Rome requires 20,000 points (off-peak). This is a great comparison category because it shows us the possible value of buying the maximum 20,000 points for $525. Right now, a room at the St. Regis will cost you $445 a night (with the same flexibility of a points redemption). Without calculating anything, you can see this is a terrible value at 2.225 cents per redeemed point.

 

Option 3:  St. Regis Here I Come (w/ Cash &  Points)

How does the St. Regis fare with Cash and Points? For a Category 6 property, you will need 10,000 points plus $180.00. If you were to buy the maximum amount, you could get 2 nights for your 20,000 points and $360.00.

In this redemption option, you will receive better value at 2.65 cents per point.

 

Option 4: Give me a Category 2 Hotel (w/ Points)

If you don’t demand the luxury of a Category 6 property, a Category 2 can offer you great value. Category 2 properties need 3,000 points per weekend night and 4,000 points per weekday night.  In this example, we will use the Le Meridien Vilnius (Lithuania) and we will use the weekend night cost of 3,000 points (as we used the off-peak pricing in our prior example).

The flexible rate at this property will cost $114.50 for the same date as the St. Regis Rome. This would net you a value of 3.082 cents per point. A nice value.

 

Option 5: Give me a Category 2 Hotel (w/ Cash & Points)

Category 2 properties require 2,000 points and $35 per night. Basically, you are buying those 1,000 points for $35. In our example with the Le Meridien Vilnius, this would be a poor redemption option because you would be saving those same 1,000 points at a purchase price of $26.25 while “buying” them for $35.00. At the Le Meridien Vilnius, the value would be 3.975 cents per point. While at first blush this may appear to be a good value, its value is reduced when you remember that you “bought” those last 1,000 points for a much higher price.

 

Conclusion

 If you plan to convert these points to airline miles, it can be very lucrative. Before buying the miles with this plan, you need to check the pricing of each airline. Some airlines, like Alaskan Air, are offering holiday sales which offer almost the same pricing.

If you plan to stay at a Starwood property, my advice is to stay at a Category 2 or 3 rather than a Category 6 because of the better values that the lower tiered properties can offer.

 

The Fine Print

  • Points may only be purchased in 500-point increments.
  • Your SPG account needs to be activated for at least 14 days (so if you are signing up for an account, you will need to create a new account by November 29, 2013).
  • Only a maximum of 20,000 points may be purchased within a calendar year (if you anticipate purchasing miles in early 2014, it might be a good idea to buy now so you have the freedom to buy an extra 20,000 points in 2014).

The Great Maze: Use Your American Express Platinum to Get Delta Perks

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If you were one of the lucky people to grab the 100k point American Express Platinum offer, you might be missing out on some hidden Delta perks via Starwood.

As discussed earlier on this website, Delta and Starwood have united to offer perks to each others elite members. This, combined with American Express Platinum’s free SPG Gold status, can yield some nice little perks on Delta (if you don’t have the requisite Delta status or credit card).

First, what can you get on Delta if you are a SPG Gold member?

  1. Unfortunately, you will only get the extra Starpoints for your Delta flights.
  2. If you were a Starwood Platinum, you would get a free checked bag, priority boarding, and priority check-in

It never hurts to get extra Starpoints, so if you have an AMEX Platinum, follow the below listed steps:

  1. Register for an SPG account (if you don’t already have one).
  2. Call the phone number on the back of your Platinum card (1-800-525-3355).
  3. Tell them that you would like to get your Starwood account upgraded to Gold Status.
  4. At this point, they will ask for your Starwood account number and then place you on hold while they connect to Starwood.
  5. About 5-10 minutes later, you will be upgraded to complementary SPG Gold status.

 

 

Starwood Teams Up With Delta Airlines: Use Your Starwood Status for Delta Perks

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Starwood is about to announce a big partnership with Delta Airlines. With the new program, called Crossover Rewards,  you can use your Starwood Gold and Platinum status to get perks reserved for Delta elite members.
The official terms are listed below. If you travel to a Delta hub like Atlanta and Minneapolis a lot, this could be extra motivation to switch your business to Delta over a rival airline.

 

Registering for Crossover Rewards: To receive Crossover Rewards Benefits, members must be a member in good standing with both the Delta SkyMiles program and Starwood Preferred Guest to be eligible for benefits and link their accounts. If not an existing member of both programs, member must join both programs before opting-in. To opt-in to Crossover Rewards, members must register and link their Delta SkyMiles® and Starwood Preferred Guest accounts via delta.com or spg.com/crossover rewards. The first and last names on both accounts must match. Members should expect a delay of 24 hours between opt-in and qualification for benefits. Members qualify for benefits based on status at check-in, not at ticketing.

Benefits Eligibility:  Members that are both SPG Platinum and Delta Medallion will not receive first bag free, Priority Boarding, priority check-in, and Complimentary Upgrades as part of Crossover Rewards but will continue to receive these benefits as a Medallion member. SPG Platinum members that are Delta SkyMiles American Express cardholders will not receive additional checked bags or priority boarding benefits through Crossover Rewards but will continue to receive benefits as a Delta SkyMiles American Express cardholder. Starpoints on Flights and Complimentary Upgrades are eligible on paid tickets only.

Starpoints on Flights: SPG Platinum, and Gold Members will receive 1 Starpoint per dollar spent on tickets (excluding taxes and fees) on flights that are both Delta marketed and operated flights. All legs of the ticket must be both Delta marketed and operated for the ticket to qualify for Starpoints. If one leg of the ticket is flown with one of Delta’s partner airlines, the full itinerary will not be eligible for Starpoints. Special fares often referred to as unpublished fares including, but not limited to, consolidator fares, tour, groups, merchant marine and cruise packages will earn 500 Starpoints per leg rather than 1 Starpoint per dollar spent. Corporate Sales, Military, and Government fares are eligible for Starpoints but will earn either 1 Starpoint per dollar OR 500 Starpoints per leg dependent on the organization’s contract with Delta. Tickets booked with Online Travel Agencies including but not limited to Orbitz, Cheaptickets, Expedia, Priceline, Travelocity, Hotwire, or their subsidiaries will not be eligible for Starpoints. All tickets must be eligible for mileage accrual with the SkyMiles program based on SkyMiles program rules in order to be eligible to earn Starpoints. Starpoints will be posted to your SPG account within 4 to 6 weeks after the activity date.

First Bag Free: Benefit is limited to SPG Platinum members who are not also Delta Medallion members. Reservation must include the SPG member’s SkyMiles number. Fee waiver also available for passengers traveling in the same reservation as the SPG member. Maximum four waivers per reservation. Waiver is only for normal first checked bag fee, if any fee applies, for a bag that is not overweight and not oversize under Delta’s applicable rules as set forth in Delta’s contract of carriage. Additional checked bags will be subject to the applicable baggage fees as outlined by Delta’s rules and the purchased fare as set forth in Delta’s contract of carriage. The first checked bag fee waiver will only be applied on flight segments which originate on a Delta or Delta Connection® carrier when you  check-in with Delta for both a Delta marketed and Delta operated flight. Les vols en partage de code ne sont pas éligibles. The first bag fee waiver will be applied to the reservation at check-in when checking-in with Delta.  Please refer to delta.com/baggage for more details.  Modalités de l’offre soumises à des changements. D’autres restrictions peuvent être en vigueur.

Priority Boarding: SPG Platinum Members will receive Zone 1 Priority Boarding on Delta flights. Reservation must include the SPG Member’s SkyMiles number. Priority Boarding is also available for passengers traveling in the same reservation as the SPG Member. Maximum nine passengers per reservation receive Priority Boarding. Priority Boarding will only be available on Delta and Delta Connection® carrier operated flights. Delta does not offer Priority Boarding on Delta Shuttle® flights.

Priority Check-In: SPG Platinum members should show their SPG card to gain access to designated Silver Medallion and SkyTeam elite check-in areas where Delta offers this service which currently includes Atlanta, Boston, Detroit, Los Angeles, Memphis, Minneapolis, New York City – JFK, New York City – LGA, Salt Lake City , and Tokyo –Narita. In airports where Delta doesn’t offer designated check-in for Silver Medallion and Sky Team elite customers, the Sky Priority check-in lanes should be used.

Complimentary Upgrades: SPG VIP or Platinum members are eligible for day of departure upgrades on Delta or Delta Connection flights within the United States. Free upgrades are subject to availability and conditions may not be available on all flights or in all markets. Free upgrades are not available on flights affected by our product BusinessElite ®, with the exception of flights between New York / JFK and Los Angeles or San Francisco. Upgrades are not eligible on Award or Pay with Miles tickets. Medallion members may request an SPG VIP or Platinum member as their companion upgrade which would allow clearance at the Companion level up to 24 hours prior to departure.

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:

plat1

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.

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.

How I Became a SPG Platinum Member for $500 (ok, it was really $533.52)

 

Intro

I’ve been a Starwood SPG Gold Member for a while thanks to my American Express Platinum Card. For years, I’ve obtained the occasional upgrade and bonus points but never felt the urge to obtain SPG Platinum status.

That all changed when I booked the trip of a lifetime using United frequent flyer miles. My trip would span multiple continents and have me making stops in Germany, Lithuania, Italy, and Thailand. Thailand in particular is known for being generous to SPG Platinum members. With dreams of suite upgrades and being treated like royalty (grandiose I know), I formed my plan of attack.

On January 21, 2013, I will have met my goal.

 

Process

Step 1: Contact Starwood Platinum Liaison to Check Terms of Platinum Challenge

First, I contacted the Starwood Platinum Liaison to get up-to-the-date terms of its Platinum Challenge (platinum.liaison@starwoodhotels.com). I was quickly contacted by a Platinum Liaison, and his response is presented below (before attempting a challenge, contact Starwood for current terms if they have changed):

Thank you for your interest in our Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) Platinum membership level. We are pleased to offer you an opportunity to reach that level sooner through our Platinum status challenge.

The Status Challenge allows SPG to provide you the opportunity to accelerate your ability to earn Platinum status by meeting eligible night requirements within a specific time frame. You must post 18 eligible nights within three consecutive months. Please keep the following in mind:

You may only register for one status challenge per month. For example, if you registered for a status challenge this month, but you realize you prefer a different set of three months to challenge, you must contact us next month to be re-registered for another month.

You may select the three consecutive months you prefer from the ones listed below, including retroactively counting nights already stayed for the first two months of the three month window. Once you are enrolled in the challenge, a confirmation letter will be automatically sent to the email address listed on your account.

Eligible nights are only paid nights in an eligible paid stay with Starpoint eligible room revenue which posts to your account. Although this offer assists you with reaching an elite level, SPG Award nights do not count toward this offer, as this offer is a promotion.

Once the challenge is met (18 nights within the three month period) it takes 7 to 10 days from the date the 18th night is posted before the Platinum Status upgrade will be automatically applied to your account. You will be contacted at the email address listed on your account when you have completed the challenge.

You cannot be registered for a Platinum Status Challenge after successfully meeting a prior status challenge. Members who have been Platinum in the past are not eligible to enroll in the status challenge.

Through the end of November, you may select one of the following three consecutive month combinations:

October 1, 2012 to December 31, 2012

November 1, 2012 to January 31, 2013

December 1, 2012 to February 28, 2013

Please note that you are not registered in the platinum status challenge until we receive your reply. If you would like to participate please provide which time frame you would like to enroll in so we can document your account accordingly.

 

Step 2: Isolate Your Target Hotel

Now that I knew my requirements for Starwood Platinum, I had to target which hotel would be getting my business. Of course, that meant completing a search on the Starwood website for all Category 1 and Category 2 properties within 50 miles of my zip code.

After an hour of searching, my target was discovered. An unidentified Category 2 Hotel (to protect the innocent) was offering an astounding $26.00 per night rate over a certain period. It even included breakfast for two people in the rate. I quickly snagged two stays because the rate was only active over certain day ranges. Period 1 would accumulate 14 nights (from 01/01-01/15), and Period 2 would accumulate 4 nights (from 01/17-01/21).

The total cost for my Platinum Challenge would be an astounding $533.52. Moreover, it would set me on the right path to accumulate 50 Nights during 2013 so that I could get my 10 guaranteed suite night upgrades for 2013-14.

With my nights booked, I contacted the Starwood Platinum Liaison and confirmed my time period for the challenge.

Here’s the confirmation email:

 

Starwood

 

Step 3: Checking In

On January 1, I checked into my hotel room and fortunately was upgraded to a suite based on my SPG Gold status.

When I entered my room, I quickly grab my Make a Green Choice placard and placed it on my door. With “going green” I would be netting an additional 250 points per night (except for the final night) in lieu of getting housekeeping.

Once I complete my 18 nights, I will be a Starwood Platinum Member for approximately $500. Moreover, when you check the points that I accumulate, even more value is accumulated.

 

 

 

 

Results

Stay 1

Stay 2

Dates

01/01-01/15

01/17-01/21

Totals

Nights

14

4

18

Checkin Points

250

250

500

Going Green Points

3,250

750

4,000

$ Points (Gold, SPG AMEX)

1,820

520

2,340

SPG Powerup Points Earned

0

2,000

2,000

Room Cost

$364.00

$104.00

$468

Taxes

$50.96

$14.56

$66

Total Cost

$414.96

$118.56

$533.52

Total Points

5,320

3,520

8,840

Cost Per Point

$0.08

$0.03

$0.06

 

*Additional Note: These points are going to be extremely valuable when I go to Thailand. I had already planned to stay at the Royal Orchid Sheraton where rooms go for $149 a night (plus taxes) on the two nights I plan to stay. At this property, I can get two weekend nights for 6,000 points. This is great value at $.05 cost per point. Also, this property is known for treating SPG Platinum Members quite well and many have been upgraded to Executive Suites which run $265 a night. If upgraded with my new status, this would result in an amazing $.083 cost per point.

 

 

Takeaways

1. Before selecting your challenge period, scour every possible hotel in your area over a wide variety of days. This little bit of work on Starwood’s website can lead to amazing value. A little bit of my time allowed me to get status for about $500. With the perks I expect on my trip, my new status will more than offset this expense (especially in Thailand).

2. Your main target should be Category 1 and Category 2 properties because they are usually the lowest cost properties in the Starwood system. However, you might make the occasional increase to check Category 3 properties as I have seen some value in this segment.

3. The cost is further reduced if you include the two nights I will get at the Royal Orchid Sheraton in Bangkok. These two nights would cost me $298 to purchase. If you offset this value, I effectively have obtained Platinum status for a mere $235.52.

 

How It Could Have Been Better

You may have noticed the SPG Powerup Points in my above chart. Unfortunately, only my second stay qualified for this promotion.

Had the rates been available for all of my dates (had I been able to change them into the promotion period), I would have been able to obtain 16,000 additional Starwood Points. Sadly, this was not an option. But, I’ve got nothing to complain about because I just earned Platinum status for $500.