I would like to consider myself something of an expert when it comes to redeeming points and getting the most “bang for your buck”. My wife and I have traveled the world several times now, each time spending less money out of pocket than the last. What is the trick? We use credit card points to book our vacation.
Few companies offer better value for your points than the AMEX Starwood Preferred card. I might even go as far as to say that Starwood Preferred Guest Points are the single best points system out there right now as far as value goes. Before you can get started booking your next five-star vacation, however, you must understand both how to earn points and how to redeem them.
Fortunately for you, we’ve mapped out all you need to know about SPG points and how you, too, can redeem them for free flights and hotel stays.
How Can I Earn Starpoints?
The best thing about this card is that you earn the most points simply by going on vacation. Yes, you heard that correctly. Go on vacation and rack up points towards your next vacation. Think of it almost as some kind of “buy one, get one free” promotion.
Here’s how it works: When members use their card at a participating Starwood hotel, they can earn up to 5 Starpoints per dollar spent. That equates to 2 points as a card member per dollar spent, plus the 2 or 3 points you earn as an SPG member, depending on your status. Members can also earn 2 Starpoints for every dollar spent at a participating Mariott Rewards hotel, and 1 Starpoint for every dollar spent on any other purchase.
Members also earn 25,000 points after spending $3,000 within the first 3 months of having the card.
How Can I Redeem Starpoints?
This is the part you’ve all been waiting for. You have spent the last several months meticulously compiling points and now it’s time to finally put that hard work (shopping and vacationing?) to the test. It’s time to plan your vacation.
We’re going to go through the best redemption options so you can ensure you get the best payoff for all of your hard work.
Free Nights at Starwood Hotels
Card members can easily use their points to put towards free nights at any of Starwood’s 11 distinct brands, such as St. Regis, The Luxury Collection, W Hotels, Le Méridien, Westin, Sheraton, Aloft, Element Hotels, Four Points by Sheraton, Tribute Portfolio and Design Hotels.
The redemption process is pretty straight-forward, too. Starwood breaks their properties up into 7 “categories”, each being a higher tier than the last.
- Category 1: 3,000 points per night.
- Category 2: 4,000 points per night.
- Category 3: 7,000 points per night.
- Category 4: 10,000 points per night.
- Category 5: 12,000-16,000 points per night.
- Category 6: 20,000-25,000 points per night.
- Category 7: 30,000-35,000 points per night.
If you want my opinion, category 3 and 4 hotels are the best options for point redemption. Not only do you get a 5th night free, but you typically get more cents-per-point redemption, too.
Best Hotel Options for your Points
To say that this Category 7 hotel is five-star would be an understatement. With a 100% rating among previous guests and 5/5 stars on the Starwood website, the St. Regis is every bit of luxury that you would expect from the name. At nearly $2,000 per night, this hotel is typically reserved for the rich and famous — at least until now. Using Starwood points, members can now book one night at this hotel for just 27,000 points.
This Category 6 hotel and spa is a place that you must see to believe. Located in Greece, this is one of the single most beautiful hotels I have ever had the pleasure of staying at — and this is not something that I say lightly. Blue waters and stunning beaches are just the beginning, but few things make this hotel quite like the price. Starwood members can book a night here at the Blue Palace for just 20,000 Starpoints.
Located in Cusco, this stunning Category 4 hotel typically ranges for around $300 per night. Starwood members, however, can stay at this collection hotel for just 10,000 per night. Not only is it located in the heart of Cusco, but it truly is exemplary in all facets, from food to views.
This Category 5 hotel typically costs around $359 per night, but can be redeemed by Starwood members for just 12,000 points.
It has 157 rooms, 30 of which are suites, and includes a pool, spa, and fitness center.
If you are looking for stunning beaches, breathtaking views, and a relaxing and tranquil environment, look no further than the W Retreat & Spa in Puerto Rico. One night at this Category 6 hotel can usually cost travelers anywhere from $530-$600, but Starwood members can redeem this offer for just 20,000 Starpoints.
This is a truly exceptional hotel at a Category 3 redemption price. For only 7,000 points per night, guests always marvel at the low redemption rate for this beautiful hotel, which is located in the heart of Bangkok.
While staying on premises, guests also receive 60 minutes of free WiFi and complimentary bottled water.
When you hear the name “St. Regis”, you think luxury. This hotel is no exception. As a Category 7 hotel, visitors are getting everything the name stands for and then some. Truly one of the most beautiful hotels I have ever visited, the St. Regis in Puerto Rico has everything you could ever ask for. Great food, great views, and truly great Starwood redemption points. One night at this hotel, which normally costs around $1,000, will only cost you 30,000 points.
Redeem Your Points For Free Flights
In using your Starwood points to fly for free, members have two options: To use them directly through Starwood or to transfer them to another airline. If you wish to use your points directly through Starwood, the following chart applies to price per ticket versus points:
|Up to $150||10,000|
If you would rather transfer your Starwood points to use in combination with another airline, you can also do that with ease. The Starwood program is aligned with over 30 different airlines, which means that there is a little something for everyone. It can be a bit overwhelming to get started — there are a lot of options to choose from.
Most airlines, however, have a solid 1:1 redemption rate, so you don’t need to worry too much about getting a bad deal. Starwood also has a unique promotion where, if users transfer 20,000 points to another airline partner, they will receive 5,000 bonus points. Here is an extensive list of all of Starwood’s airline transfer partners and the point redemption rate for each unique airline:
|FREQUENT FLYER PROGRAM||EXCHANGE RATIO (STARPOINTS:MILES)|
|Aeromexico Club Premier||1:1|
|Air China Companion||1:1|
|Air New Zealand Airpoints||65:1|
|Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan||1:1|
|All Nippon Airways (ANA) Mileage Club||1:1|
|American Airlines AAdvantage||1:1|
|British Airways Executive Club||1:1|
|China Eastern Airlines||1:1|
|China Southern Airlines Sky Pearl Club||1:1|
|Delta Air Lines SkyMiles||1:1|
|Japan Airlines (JAL) Mileage Bank||1:1|
|LATAM Airlines LATAM Pass||1:1.5|
|LifeMiles® of Avianca||1:1|
|Miles and More||1:1|
|Saudi Arabian Airlines||1:1|
|Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer||1:1|
|Thai Airways International Royal Orchid Plus||1:1|
|United Mileage Plus||2:1|
|Virgin Atlantic Flying Club||1:1|
To help you along, we’ve compiled a short list of some of our favorite redemption options based solely on value.
Best Flight Redemptions for SPG Points
JFK to Milan using Emirates
This flight route typically costs travelers over $3,000 round trip for a business class ticket. Starwood members, however, can transfer their points over to Emirates and pay just 63,000 points for that same business class ticket.
JFK to Abu Dhabi using Etihad
One of the single most luxury ways to fly in the world, The Apartments, by Etihad, are an experience all on their own. Tickets cost Starwood members only 115,000 miles, which is an absolute steal if you realize all you are getting with it.
Booking for this particular flight is a bit of a job, however. Interested parties must first visit Etihad’s website and find “Guest First” space. Once that is taken care of, you must get in contact with the Australian call center for American Airlines. This will place a hold on the ticket you want. Only after your ticket is held can you call the United States call center and complete your booking process.