This is the 10th post in my intro series to travel hacking. For a list of other posts, check out my post on how to travel hack your way around the world.
While not a bank card, the Starwood Preferred Guest card offers a great alternative to some of the aforementioned programs.
SPG points transfer at a 1:1.25 rate when converted into bundles of 20,000 points. Unlike Chase and American Express, partner transfers typically run 1-2 weeks. On the other hand, while Chase has only 9 transfer partners, and American Express has 15, Starwood has a staggering array of transfer partners: 31 airlines:
- Airline Partners
Aeroplan (Air Canada) – 1:1
Air Berlin – 1:1
Air China – 1:1
Air New Zealand – 65:1
Alaska Airlines – 1:1
Alitalia MilleMiglia – 1:1
All Nippon Airlines – 1:1
American Airlines – 1:1
Asia Miles (transfers to Cathay Pacific) – 1:1
Asiana Airlines – 1:1
British Airways (Avios) – 1:1
China Eastern Airlines – 1:1
China Southern SkyPearl Club – 1:1
Delta Airlines – 1:1
Emirates – 1:1
Etihad Airways – 1:1
Flying Blue (Air France/KLM) – 1:1
Hawaiian Airlines – 1:1
Japan Airlines – 1:1
King Club Miles – 1:1
LAN LANPASS – 1:2
Mexicana Frecuenta – 1:1
Miles and More – 1:1
Qatar Airways – 1:1
Saudi Arabian Airlines Alfursan – 1:1
Singapore Airlines – 1:1
Thai Airways – 1:1
US Airways – 1:1
United Mileage Plus – 2:1
VARIG Smiles – 2:1
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club – 1:1
Best Use of Points
Starwood Preferred Guest points are extremely valuable in their own right, not just because of their transfer flexibility, but because of their primary use: booking Starwood hotels.
Whereas Chase Ultimate Reward points and American Express Membership Rewards points are usually valued at $.01 per point, many people value SPG points at upwards of $.022 each!
While Mrs. Selfish and I have transferred a few points to top off an airline account or two, we’ve used SPG points mostly to book mid-range Starwood properties.
For Oktoberfest last year we booked the Westin Munich’s deluxe king room for 11,000 points a night, which was going for roughly $580 at the time. After three nights we ended up spending 33,000 points instead for $1740 worth of a hotel – bringing each SPG point to $.0527 each!
The Westin also serves free hot pretzels in their lobby.
Starwood recently updated their C&P cost, unfortunately.
For 2800 points a night + $45 we enjoyed the Westin Bangkok. Since the room normally retails for $120 a night, which saved us $225 for 3 nights, meaning we redeemed our SPG points for a value of $.0267 each. In addition to being a nice property with a great gym, it was also in a prime location – just a few minutes walk from both the Skytrain and the metro system.
A prime location in Bangkok, right next to our favorite mall in the world!
On straight award redemptions, Starwood also has one other advantage, currently shared only by Marriott. When booking 4 award nights you get the 5th one for free!
Currently we have 5 award nights at the Westin Chosun in Seoul for a cool 48,000 points. The room normally costs $229 a night, so we’re saving upwards of $1145 and getting a return of $.02385 per point in one of the more expensive cities in Asia.
Unlike other programs, SPG points can be transferred in non-1000 increments, as long as the total is over 1500 points. Transfers typically take 1-2 weeks.
You can transfer SPG points free of charge to another member, as long as you both share the same address. Starwood is cagier than some when it comes to address changes. Should you change your address then immediately perform a member point transfer they’ll ask you to prove your address change with a bill or other method.
Starwood Preferred Guest Cards
Currently there are only two cards with decent sign up bonuses, but if you can wait until August, the sign up bonus typically increases to 30,000 SPG points:
American Express Starwood Preferred Guest Card – 10,000 SPG points on 1st spend. An additional 15,000 SPG points after spending $5000 in 4 months. $65 annual fee waived for the first year.
American Express Starwood Preferred Guest Business Card – 10,000 SPG points on 1st spend. An additional 15,000 SPG points after spending $5000 in 4 months. $65 annual fee waived for the first year.
That’s it for credit cards! Next up we’ll be tackling other ways to earn miles and points, including banks, brokerage accounts, shopping portals, and third party promotions!