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This is post #2 of a series regarding the Starwood Preferred Guest hotel program.
- Perks of the Starwood Preferred Guest credit card
- Understanding Starwoods Cash & Points Redemption
- Getting your 5th Night Free with Starwood Points
- Redeeming your Points for Hotels & Flights
- Redeeming your Points for Upgraded Rooms and Suites
- Transferring your SPG Points to Airline Miles
- Transferring SPG Points Between Accounts
- Getting Starwood Status and the Perks
- How the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card Annual Fee Pays for Itself
One of my favorite things about the Starwood program is their Cash & Points redemption option. Many times I get the question “when should I use Cash & Points vs. full points?” Typically, Cash & Points is a better option, but not always. So let me help you figure this out!
With Starwood, Cash & Points has a fixed redemption rate and it all depends on the category hotel you are staying at.
A few times a year you can purchase 1,000 Starwood points for $28 (2.8 cents per point). This promotion is not currently going on, but I am going to use this as my basis as whether the Cash & Points is an 1) Excellent option; 2) Good option; 3) Just okay option; or 4) Bad option. Also, one last thing, with Cash & Points redemption you are charged tax on the cash portion of your hotel, so that will change the amount paid slightly. This depends on the hotel location you are staying at and for the purpose of this analysis, I did not factor it in as it differs per hotel.
Category 1: 1,500 points + $30
- Full point option during the weekday requires 3,000 points. This is like buying 1,500 points for $30 (or 2 cents per point) — JUST OKAY VALUE
- Full point option during the weekend requires 2,000 points. This is like buying 500 points for $30. (or 6 cents per point) — BAD VALUE (if you have enough points always redeem for the full point amount instead of Cash & Points).
Category 2: 2,000 points + $35
- Full point option during the weekday requires 4,000 points. This is like buying 2,000 points for $35 (or 1.75 cents per point) — GOOD VALUE
- Full point option during the weekend requires 3,000 points. This is like buying 1,000 points for $35 (or 3.5 cents per point) — BAD VALUE (but keep in mind if there is no promotion then it will cost the same 3.5 cents per point to purchase points and you are still capped at purchasing 20,000 points a year, so you could find value here depending on how you typically redeem)
Category 3: 3,500 points + $55
- Full point option anytime requires 7,000 points. This is like buying 3,500 points for $55 (or 1.57 cents per point) — GOOD VALUE/EXCELLENT VALUE
Category 4: 5,000 points + $75
- Full point option anytime requires 10,000 points. This is like buying 5,000 points for $75 (or 1.5 cents per point) — GOOD VALUE/EXCELLENT VALUE
Category 5: 6,000 points + $110
- Full point option during non-peak dates requires 12,000 points. This is like buying 6,000 points for $110 (or 1.83 cents per point) — GOOD VALUE
- Full point option during peak dates requires 16,000 points. This is like buying 10,000 points for $110 (or 1.1 cents per point) — EXCELLENT VALUE
Category 6: 10,000 points + $180
- Full point option during non-peak dates requires 20,000 points. This is like buying 10,000 points for $180 (or 1.8 cents per point) — GOOD VALUE
- Full point option during peak dates requires 25,000 points. This is like buying 15,000 points for $180 (or 1.2 cents per point) — EXCELLENT VALUE
Category 7: 15,000 points + $275 — This is limited to select cat 7 hotels (not available at W Retreat & Spa – Maldives, The St. Regis Bora Bora Resort, Sunset Key Guest Cottages, A Westin Resort)
- Full point option during non-peak dates requires 30,000 points, so you are saving 15,000 points for $275 (or 1.83 cents per point) — JUST OKAY VALUE/GOOD VALUE
- Full point option during peak dates requires 35,000 points, so you are saving 20,000 points for $275 (or 1.37 cents per point) — GOOD VALUE
Ultimately, it comes down to a few factors:
- Are Cash & Points even available? For the peak date point requirement, chances are C&P probably won’t even be allowed as a redemption value.
- How many points do you have? If you have a million points, you might prefer to burn through those points faster and not lay out the cash so quickly. For those with not too many points in their account, you might want to savor your points more to be able to redeem more C&P nights.
- How much cash are you will to lay out? Still laying out $150/night for a category 6 hotel can add up.
- At what value do you typically redeem your points at? This can determine whether or not “buying” points at these values are worth it or not.
Let’s say you currently have no Starwood points (gasp!) just from the bonus points from the personal or business Starwood American Express credit card, plus meeting the minimum spend requirements (and then putting a few extra dollars on the card), you could go on an amazing vacation in Thailand, for example, get the following number of free nights at the following category hotels using Cash & Points:
- W Bangkok (category 4 hotel): A 2 night stay will utilize 10,000 points and cost you $150.
- Le Meridien Chiang Mai (category 2 hotel): A 3 night stay will utilize 6,000 points and cost you $105.
- Sheraton Krabi (category 3 hotel): A 4 night stay will utilize 10,500 points and cost you $165
So, for a 13 night stay in Thailand, your total cost could be $525 or $40/night! The total number of points required would be 32,500 points which you can get off the bat with the credit card sign up bonus and meeting the minimum spend requirements. This is an example, and definitely an extreme one since hotels in South East Asia have some great properties for low level awards. However, there are many other options like that as well around the country. For your luxury hotels and resorts in Europe, NYC, Maldives, etc. you will not nearly get as many free nights, but again you’ll still see the same amount of savings since the hotels cost so much to begin with!
Also, for those that are not aware, you DO NOT earn points on the cash portion of the redemption!
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. My goal is for you to travel on a deal! As always, thanks for your support!