Understanding Starwood’s Cash and Points Redemption

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This is post #2 of a series regarding the Starwood Preferred Guest hotel program. 

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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.

Also, for those that are not aware, you DO NOT earn points on the cash portion of the redemption!

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    • @Egor and Bruce W – Thank’s for pointing that out. For some silly reason I wrote that it would cost $50, not $60. This has been updated.

  1. This is one way to value *wood points, I personally value my points under the C&P option based on the cheapest available rate possible for a hotel and then subtract the cash value of the C&P portion to arrive at the value of each *wood point, given the cost otherwise incurred. For example the Westin Ft. Lauderdale (Category 2) avg BR price is approximately $105 inclusive of taxes. the C&P portion would be $30 plus 4.50 (assuming 15% tax rate) $105 less the $34.50 is approximately $70.50. If we divide this by the 1600 points required under the C&P option for this category 2 hotel, we arrive at a value of around $0.045/point.

    Obviously if the BR rate is higher then you extract more value of each *wood point used under the C&P option (again assuming its available).

  2. One good technique with Cash and Points comes from the fact that availability is not always very good. Often C&P rooms are released a few nights in advance based on capacity. You can book a free night or a refundable paid night and monitor for C&P to be released. Using their booking calender you can see ahead of time roughly when each hotel releases its inventory.

  3. The “value” here really needs to be tied to the lowest available room rate at the time of booking to have any meaning. It’s absurd to say you’re getting a good deal on a Category 7 hotel when the lowest available rate is ~$350 and you’re paying 15,000 points and $275. It simply cannot be that you’re “buying” the points for ~1.3 cents in that scenario. The rate has to be at least $510 for that to hold true.

  4. Like Matt said this post is worthless, sometimes the lowest rate to pay for the hotel room will be close to the price you pay with cash and points.

  5. I’ve had this card for the better part of three years now, and I’ve been all over the world, and the one conclusion that I’ve made is that C&P is not a selling point of the Starwood card. It’s near impossible to find any C&P nights in some of the nicest places, say Paris, Hawaii, etc. Just go to the Starwood site and try to book a hotel room yourself, and see how many months in advance you’ll have to book it just to get a C&P room.

    Now say you do find one, how long are you staying in said room, 4 days, 5 (if you book for 4, just get the fifth night free)? Well then, it just became much much harder to find a number of consecutive C&P nights. C&P may sound great, but its not all that.

  6. Thanks for that breakdown of starwood cash and points redemption! I’m going to use it for a category 3 in china – seems like a decent deal. (Already booked a 5th night free in Toronto for next month.)

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