Home > Credit Cards, Starwood (SPG) > Pointers on Starwood Preferred Guest

Pointers on Starwood Preferred Guest

Huh? Isn’t this a hotel program? You’re darn right it is, but Starwood has a load of airline partners that you can transfer to. The key here is in their flexibility. SPG has 1:1 transfer ratios with almost 30 airlines, including American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Emirates, Hawaiian Airlines, and US Airways, none of which participate in Chase or AmEx’s programs. In addition,for every 20,000 SPG points you transfer, you get a 5,000 point bonus. This effectively makes every SPG point worth 1.25 airline miles! Well … almost every airline mile.

What you can do with these points:

1) Cash and Points

These redemptions can really maximize the value of your points. For an example, I’m currently looking at a hotel in Hanoi, Vietnam, a place I’ll be visiting next month with two others. The Sheraton Hanoi goes for $130/night, but with cash and points, it goes for 1600 SPG points + $30. That means that 1600 points saves me $100, with a point value of 6.25 cents per point. If I were to redeem a night with just points, it would be 4000 SPG points, so paying $30 for saves 2400 points, which can go towards another redemption. Think of it as a very worthy co-pay!

2) 5th Night Free

If you redeem 4 nights at a Category 3 through 7 hotels (full price, not cash + points), you get a 5th night for free. This can be useful on a longer vacation.

3) Airline Transfer

This should really only be used if you really need the miles for a redemption and can’t acquire them easily through another method. Also, you should try to stick to multiples of 20,000 SPG points to maximize the 5,000 mile bonus.

4) Nights and Flights

You can use these for category 3 and 4 hotels only. For category 3 hotels, 60,000 SPG points will get you 50,000 airline miles (normally 40K SPG points for 1:1 transfer partners)and 5 nights at a category 3 hotel/resort (normally 35K points). For category 4 hotels, 70K SPG points will get you 50K airline miles + 5 nights at a category 4 hotel/resort (normally 50K SPG points).

That means that if you are already considering redeeming points for a 5-night stay, 50K airline miles will cost you either 25K SPG points (category 3) or 20K SPG points (category 4). This is a great deal if you have the points.

How to get these points:

SPG  offers a branded American Express, which I have never had but many frequent flyers swear by. The SPG American Express ($65 per year, first year free) offers 1 point/$ on general spending. There have been offers of 30K Starwood points for $4500 of spend in 3 months, and I would personally wait for that before getting this card.

However, one great reason to use the SPG card is if you want to earn miles that are not transferable from Chase Ultimate Rewards or American Express Membership Rewards. The biggie program missing is American Airlines AAdvantage. If you spend $20,000 on an $85/year AA Citi card, you’ll get 20,000 AA miles. If you spend the same amount on a $65/year SPG Amex, you’ll 25,000 miles (possibly more if you use the card at Starwood properties).

Personally, I like SPG’s program, but haven’t gotten around to this card because I earn more points with other cards. They do offer 5 points/$ at SPG properties, but also have a foreign transaction fee, so I would use my Chase Sapphire Preferred at a SPG property overseas. They do offer an easier route to elite status with the hotel program by getting the card, but I don’t stay at hotels enough to take advantage of that, let alone Starwood hotels. Still, the card might become very useful in the future.

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