Top 10 Starwood Preferred Guest Program Questions

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This is post #7 of a series regarding the Starwood Preferred Guest hotel program.
  1. Perks of the Starwood Preferred Guest credit card
  2. Understanding Starwoods Cash & Points Redemption
  3. Getting your 5th Night Free with Starwood Points
  4. Redeeming your Points for Hotels & Flights
  5. Transferring your SPG Points to Airline Miles
  6. Getting Starwood Status and the Perks
  7. Top 10 Starwood Preferred Guest Program Questions
Over the past month or so, I’ve gone through an entire series on the Starwood Preferred Guest hotel program. With these posts, I’ve received MANY comments and questions that I think would be great to broadcast for all my readers. This is a great hotel program and is one of my top two (Hyatt is my other). Overall, redeeming points can be a great value (especially with Cash & Points), they typically take care of their Platinum elite members, and they have some top notch properties worldwide. So here you go with the Q&A session!
Question 1: If I use points (either all points or Cash & Points), do I still get the benefits of being an elite member (Gold or Platinum)?
Answer 1: Yes! It does not matter how you pay for your room your elite benefits for being a Gold or Platinum member still apply. I believe the only exception to that is if you are using a Friends & Family rate, although I have yet to try, so any feedback on that would be great. You can learn more about earning elite status and the benefits here.
Question 2: Am I able to get the 5th night free using any rate?
Answer 2: No. The 5th night free option is only available when using points, not for paid rates regardless of the paid rate. Additionally, the 5th night free option can only be used when using all points, not cash and points. You can learn more about the 5th night free redemption opportunity here.
Question 3: Am I able to apply for both the personal and business version of the Starwood credit card?
Answer 3: Absolutely, although you must meet the minimum spend requirements on both cards to earn the bonus points.
Question 4: Am I able to transfer points to a friend or family member?
Answer 4: It depends. Starwood allows you to freely transfer points to/from friends/family members (for free!) that have the same address as you. You must have the same address on your account for 30 days before they allow you to transfer points. I would not suggest, however, continuously changing your address so you can transfer points as this could be flagged and they reserve the right to close your account. You can transfer any amount of points in this online form. Points can also take up to 5 business days to transfer. *If you are an SVO Owner, you may transfer to other SVO Owners even if not at the same address.
Question 5: For the Nights & Flights redemption option, do you have to use the 5 nights consecutively, or can it be broken up into multiple stays?
Answer 5: For the Nights & Flights redemption option, you have two redemption options: 1) Redeem 60,000 Starpoints for 50,000 airline miles and five free nights at a category 3 hotel, or 2) Redeem 70,000 Starpoints for 50,000 airline miles and five free nights at a category 4 hotel. For both options, the nights option is only valid for a consecutive five night stay. You are not able to break up the nights into multiple hotel stays, unfortunately.
Question 6: Aside from staying at Starwood properties, is there any other way to earn Gold or Platinum status?
Answer 6: Yes! There are two ways to earn Starwood status outright without ever stepping foot in a Starwood property. You can earn Gold status one of two ways: Having the American Express Platinum credit card; or 2) Spending $30,000 yearly on your Starwood American Express credit card.
Question 7: Does Starwood status match to other chain hotels? For example, if I have Platinum status with Marriott, can I get a one time match to Starwood Platinum status?
Answer 7: Unfortunately not anymore. It seems as the good old days of easy status matches are over. Starwood stopped matching status in April of 2011. Now they allow members to go through a challenge to obtain status. This program has changed once since they implemented it, but right now (as of September 2012), you can earn Platinum status by having 18 paid nights within a 3 month time frame beginning on the first day of the month enrolled. You must enroll in the challenge by calling Starwood directly. And remember, only paid nights count towards the challenge, not free nights paid for by points. You can learn more about the Platinum Challenge here.
Question 8: What do you typically value a Starwood point worth?
Answer 8: This really all depends on the person, but I personally like to get about 4 cents per point when I redeem. However, most people will give SPG points a value of about 2 cents per point on average. I am actually going to get 13 cents per point on a stay later this year!
Question 9: If I am staying at a Starwood hotel internationally, should I still use the SPG credit card to pay for my stay since I’ll incur a foreign transaction fee.?
Answer 9: The one huge downfall with the Starwood credit card is that they still charge foreign transaction fees when using the card outside of the US. I personally do not think it is worth paying a 3% fee for using a credit card ever! So I would say no. If you are shy on SPG points and trying to earn more to hit a specific award, there are other ways to earn more SPG points without having to pay the foreign transaction fee.  Personally, I use my Chase Sapphire Preferred or Ink Bold card over my SPG credit card for international Starwood hotels. With both cards I get 2 points to the dollar, but no foreign transaction fees with Chase.
Question 10: Will I earn points on the “cash” portion of my free night redemption?
Answer 10: With the Cash & Points option, you are able to redeem a fixed number of points and cash for a “free” night stay. Unfortunately, you will NOT earn points on the amount spent for that “free” night. Additionally, Cash & Point redemption nights do not count towards any quarterly promotions. You can learn more about the Cash & Points redemption option here.

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    • @Eugene – Yes, even if you are a secondary card holder you are still able to get SPG gold status. The only thing is for primarily and secondary card holders you must call Amex to get the gold status activated, it will not be applied automatically.

  1. I have Amex Personal Gold & Business Gold cards, and recently signed up for SPG Personal & Business as well. Gold cards are coming up for renewal shortly and wanted to cancel one of the gold cards as they provide almost the same bonuses apart from the Open Savings on Business Card.

    Now as SPG Business also comes with Open Savings benefits, planning on closing Business Gold – what do you recommend? One of the primary reasons to have open savings is for hertz rentals and Marriott stays – I travel a lot for work and 10% on car rentals, 5% on hotel stays are good add-ons.

    TIA

  2. Could you please provide a link to your valuation calculations for SPG points? And especially to how you’re getting $.13/point in value!

    • @Scott – The Le Meridien Dead Sea goes for around $250/night. That is a pretty average rate for the hotel (although I was able to find AAA rate for $232 some nights). Since this is a category 1 hotel, it only requires 2,000 points a night for a free night. Depending on the best rate you can get and what the taxes are (is isn’t giving me the exact price after tax), you can get anywhere between 11-14 cents per point for this particular hotel. This is more of an extreme example, but a great usage of points!

  3. Can I signup for the card, earn the bonus, and cancel one year from now to avoid the annual fee? I already have the Business card so I’m just applying for the personal version to earn the points. Is this OK from a credit report perspective too?

    • @John – Yes, you can also cancel your credit card prior to avoiding the annual fee. From a credit report perspective, all activity will affect it. Opening a new card and closing a card does hit your credit report, anywhere between 2-5 points typically. Although typically after putting some spend on the card and paying off a few bills it will then go up.

  4. I applied for a personal card yesterday and got approved – but I am worried that I may not be able to meet the $5000 spending requirement within 6 months. If I get a secondary card for a family member, will their spending on that card count towards my minimum spending?

    • @Kathy – I will look into that and get back to you. However, there are many other ways to meet the minimum spend requirements, and the best one is amazon payments. You can do up to $1,000 a month for no fee.

  5. Does having SPG Gold status through either 30k spend on the Starwood Amex or via the Platinum card shorten the requirements for SPG Platinum Status, i.e. Amex Platinum or 30k spend gives you 25 nights towards the 50 night total necessary for Platinum Status?

    • @Trey – Unfortunately it does not. If you have the SPG Amex card though you get 2 stays/5 nights towards status (Gold and Platinum).

  6. Would I be able to use just points to pay for 3 nights at a category 5 hotel (3 nights = ~48,000 points) and pay for the last 2 nights with the cash & points option (2 nights = 9600 points + $180) – total of 57,600 points and $180.
    Or would it be better to pay for 4 nights using only points (64,000 points) and get the 5th night free?

    • @Stephen – It looks like the hotel you are looking at is requiring a peak number of points to be used during your stay, 16,000 points per night vs. 12,000 points per night, is that correct? Personally, since it looks like cash & points is available, I’d use the C&P option for your entire stay, or maybe it is only available the last two nights? Assuming it is only available the last two nights, you’d be spending an additional 6,400 points to save $180. If this is an international property, remember that sometimes you need to pay taxes on the cash portion. So using points would value each point at 2.8 cents per point. I do not know how you typically redeem your points, but 2.8 cents per point is a good value. I like to get a minimum of 2 cents per point, but typically really go for the 3 cents per point minimum value.

  7. Sorry I should have included that information in my original post! I’m new to “points” world and am trying to book a honeymoon next year based solely on points, if possible. We were planning on spending 10 days in Hawaii: 5 days in Maui and 5 days in Kauai. I plan on staying at the Hyatt Andaz, which seems to be a Category 6, so that will be 22,000 UR points/night.

    I already have some UR points accumulated from my Chase freedom, but my fiance and I are planning on signing up for:

    -2 Chase CSP – 40,000 sign up bonus + 3000 points (to meet minimum spend)
    -1 Chase Ink Bold – 50,000 sign up bonus + 5000 points (to meet minimum spend)
    -Currently have ~16,000 points on Chase Freedom
    Total UR Points = 157,000 points

    156,000 points can get me 5 free nights with 47,000 points leftover to be applied to United Airline for the tickets (I think I read somewhere that it was 80,000 UR points for 2 round trip tickets to HI from NY?).

    We will also be applying for the Amex SPG each:

    -2 Amex SPG – 25,000 sign up bonus + 5000 (to meet minimum spend)
    Total Starwood Points = 60,000 points

    I assumed that 60,000 points (for the Category 5 hotel – Westin Princeville Villas) are good 3 nights (16,000/night) or 12 nights + $1080 (using the Cash & Points option). I don’t have the SPG currently so I am not certain if the Westin does charge 16,000/night? I also wasn’t sure if it was possible to pay for the first 3 nights with just points (3 nights = 48,000 points) and then for the last 2 nights use the C&P option (2 nights = 9600 points + $180)? This option would leave me with 2,400 Starwood points leftover. Let me know if my plan seems feasible and if you could offer any suggestions/clarification – thanks!

  8. On question #6 you answered for gold but what about platinum….I make gold by 30,000 spend and could spend more but I don’t see any way to do it for platium

    #6 “Aside from staying at Starwood properties, is there any other way to earn Platinum status?”

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