One of the best aspects of the Starwood Preferred Guest program is that there are many great uses for SPG Starpoints. Even if you just want to book a Starwood property, there are many options to choose from. In this section I’ll describe the various options for booking hotel stays and in other sections I have covered the best ways to earn SPG points and other ways to use them.
Free Night Awards
The simplest use of SPG points is their Free Night Awards. SPG has very reasonable redemption rates that vary from 2,000 points per night for a category 1 hotel to 35,000 points per night for a category 7 hotel (some resorts charge even more, however). There are no blackout dates. If a standard room is available for sale for a particular night, then it is also available for points. In my experience, many terrific hotels charge only 10,000 to 12,000 points per night for stays that would otherwise cost well over $250 per night once taxes and fees are accounted for.
To book an award night, log into to SPG.com and search for hotels for the dates and location you need. The search results will automatically show both the lowest standard room rate (in dollars) and the number of Starpoints (SPG points) needed to book a free night. If you have enough SPG points, simply click “reserve” to book your room. Points will be automatically deducted from your account once you complete the booking. If you cancel your award before the cancellation deadline, all points will be refunded.
Cash & Points
Whereas Free Night awards are guaranteed to be available any time a standard room is available, Cash & Points awards are capacity controlled and so are not always available. When Cash & Points awards are available they can be a fantastic option. Here’s an example: I searched for a night in Philadelphia and found the hotel Le Meridien going for $283 per night after taxes. I was given the choice to book a Free Night award for 10,000 points or a Cash & Points award for 5,000 points + $75 per night. With the Free Night award my 10,000 points would be worth 2.83 cents each, but with the Cash & Points award my 5,000 points would be worth 4.2 cents each!
In other words, by using the Cash & Points option you can often get much more value from your points than with a straight up Free Night award. Plus, it’s a great option when you don’t have enough points for Free Night awards. Make sure to do the math though because some Cash & Points awards are not a great deal at the high end category 6 & 7 hotels.
5th Night Free
If you plan to stay at any Starwood category 3 or higher property for 5 nights or more, you can save points by taking advantage of their “5th Night Free” awards. There’s nothing special you need to do to get these awards: simply book a Free Night award for 5 or more nights and you’ll find that SPG automatically takes away the cost of the fifth night. You can think of this as a 20% points discount for 5 night stays.
Nights & Flights
Nights & Flights is a somewhat strange option that could be a great value if it fits your needs. With this award you get 5 nights at a category 3 property plus 50,000 airline miles for a cost of 60,000 SPG points; or you can get 5 nights at a category 4 property plus 50,000 airline miles for a cost of 70,000 SPG points. Is this a good deal? Normally a category 4 hotel would cost 40,000 points for 5 nights under the 5th Night Free option. By spending an additional 30,000 SPG points for Nights & Flights, you get 50,000 airline miles in addition to the 5 nights. Normally you would need to trade in 40,000 SPG points to get 50,000 airline miles, so this is a savings of 10,000 SPG points.
- Free Night Awards: Use these when staying 4 or fewer nights and when Cash & Points awards are not available.
- Cash & Points Awards: These are usually your best value when they’re available. Use fewer points and a small copay to book your room.
- 5th Night Free: If you’re staying 5 or more nights and Cash & Points awards are not available, then this is a great way to save 20% off the points needed for a 5 night stay.
- Nights & Flights: This option gives you 5 nights + 50,000 airline miles. This is a great option, but only if you have lots of SPG points, you plan to stay 5 nights at a category 3 or 4 hotel, Cash & Points awards are not available, and you need the airline miles.
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