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In my last post, I talked about the 30,000 Starwood Preferred Guest points you can get for signing up for the SPG Amex. This deal was just released today and is set to run until August 22nd (note: it says you must be approved by 8/22, so I would apply a week or so before that). You get 10,000 SPG points upon first use of the card and the additional 20,000 once you spend $4500 in three months. Their normal deal only ends up to be 25,000 SPG points and you have to spend $15,000 over 6 months to get it. Only one previous time did they offer 30,000 points for sign-up and that was for a short period of time last summer. Historically, this is not an offer that they keep around for long or bring around often. If you are on the fence about it, now is the time! Currently you need a referral to apply. This is great because not only do you get the deal, but the person who refers you receives 5,000 SPG points. It’s great for karma, community building, etc… I can’t refer you, but there are oodles of people who can on Milepoint, Flyertalk, or the Frugal Travel Guy.
Here is why you should strongly consider this card……….
Free or cheap hotel nights in pimptastic hotels. I love Starwood hotels. Specifically, I have found Westins to really feel like home. W hotels, Aloft, Four Points, Sheratons, and others are also in the SPG family. Free nights start at 2,000 points for a Category 1 hotel on a weekend.
As with most hotel chains, the hotels are divided into Categories. Category 1 hotels go for 2,000 SPG points on the weekend on 3,000 points during the week for a free night. Some examples of Category 1 hotels are: Four Points by Sheraton in Charlotte, North Carolina and Four Points by Sheraton Kansas City airport. Not the fanciest hotels in the world, but totally acceptable and at a great points bargain. 30,000 points would get you 15 nights in those hotels! When you get to Category 2 hotels, the number of options gets much greater. Category 2’s go for 3,000 points on the weekend and 4,000 during the week. You have choices such as: The Aloft Dulles Airport North in Washington DC and The Westin Atlanta Airport in Georgia. Many of the Westin Hotels that I like happen to be in Category 4. This includes the Westin Domain Austin, the Westin Swan at Disney World, and the W Montreal. I haven’t actually stayed at that W yet, but I hope to next year. Category 4 hotels go for 10,000 points per night. The Categories go all the way up to 7 which can run you up to 35,000 points per night. Don’t despair though, many properties are available at 10,000 points per night or less and there is always the cash and points option.
Cash and points is the true beauty of the SPG program for families that want to make their points and dollars go as far as possible. With cash and points you pay (as the name indicates) a pre-set combination of cash and points to secure the room. This option is not always available, and in my limited experience is available far less than just reserving the room solely with points, but if it is available it is usually the best deal. For example, a Category 4 hotel will cost you 10,000 points or 4,000 points plus $60. I won’t go too far into the debate about how much a point is worth, but I can tell you that the 6,000 point difference is surely worth more than $60. If you are getting 1 cent or less for your SPG points, then just book with cash and save the points for another day! Often Category 4 hotels run from roughly $200+ per night, so securing them for just $60 plus points is usually a great deal.
Here is the official breakdown of the different options I found:
Category 1: 2000/3000 points (weekend/weekday) or 1200 points = 25 USD
Category 2: 3000/4000 points (weekend/weekday) or 1600 points + 30 USD
Category 3: 7000 points or 2800 points + 45 USD
Category 4: 10000 points or 4000 points + 60 USD
Category 5: 12000 points or 4800 points + 90 USD
Category 6: 20000 or 25000 points (low season/high season) or 8000 points + 150 USD
Category 7: 30000 or 35000 points (low season/high season) (no cash and point option)
Another great thing about SPG points (and all pretty much all points) is that they don’t have a conversion rate. So, if you are traveling abroad, the fluctuation of the US Dollar doesn’t sting as much if you are staying on points. For example, on February 2, 2012 the Westin Paris Vendome is going for 450 Euros per night. That currently comes to about $635 USD. However, you could book that hotel for just 20,000 points or 8000 points plus $150 USD. That is a WAY better deal than paying outright with Euros. I really don’t want to get bogged down in the math, but if you take the $635 USD rate equivalent for one night and subtract the 150 USD you would pay for a cash and points redemption, then the 8000 SPG points that would get you the rest of the way there account for about $485 USD in value. That makes them worth about 6 cents a piece. If you redeemed all 30,000 with this sign-up bonus that way, it would make this sign-up worth about $1800. Now your individual usage and “value” can and will vary, but that is just one example of how valuable these points can be! There are countless examples like that all over the world!
There are only a few reasons not to get the card: You and your partner already have it; You have too many recent credit card inquiries or otherwise have credit that isn’t up-to-snuff; You can’t meet the minimum spend requirement (and I have a post coming later this week with tips to help you do that); or you don’t ever want to go to a SPG hotel. If it is the latter category, I think you are a bit crazy. I am probably not going to apply for this card mainly because of recent credit inquiries, however I could get crazy enough and try. We’ll see what other deals come out between now and the 8/22 expiration date on this one before I decide for sure. It really is a great deal!