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Yesterday the miles and points community collectively threw virtual tomatoes at the Starwood Preferred Guest cash and points award chart changes. Some believe they are bad, but potentially not terrible due to alleged increased availability of cash and points redemptions from hotels. And some think they are bad enough to warrant leaving the SPG program, cancelling SPG co-branded credit cards, and emptying out all SPG points immediately and permanently. I do not like seeing awards get more expensive, but while this change makes cash and points redemptions about 20-25% less valuable (factoring in the increases in both points and cash components), I think some miles and points junkies are missing one of the main points of cash and points redemptions in general.
One of the big benefits of cash and points redemptions for the average points collector is that it stretches out how far your SPG points can go. Some lucky travelers/heavy SPG credit card users have hundreds of thousands of SPG points and they can pay for lengthy trips either at the standard award rate, or via cash and points. However, most of us have substantially fewer points, and don’t always have the luxury to pick and choose between all the various reward options. For those of us with less impressive SPG point balances, cash and points reservations not only give us a good value for our points, but they also allow us to stretch our points much further over a greater number of nights.
While I have still find some cash and point options at certain properties, I have found decreased availability over the last 12 months in general. I am clearly a very small sample size, but I have heard similar reports from others. So, if many of us were unable to make cash and points reservations when/where we wanted, then it didn’t matter how good of a deal they were – we couldn’t regularly use them.
According to SPG Insider, “Our intent with these changes is simply to make more Cash & Points rooms available. We’ve worked very closely with our hotels, and between the pricing changes and additional options (room types and hotel categories), our goal is more Cash & Points availability for you. We’ll look forward to your feedback again after the changes are live.”
I may be naive, but given the relatively low availability of cash and point in recent months, and the reality that the rates had not changed since they were introduced, I believe this may be true. The hotels must not have believed their return from the SPG program was worth renting out a room at the cash and points rate in most cases. Of course this is a crummy change if you were still having luck getting the cash points reservations you wanted, but if you weren’t getting them anyway then this change isn’t life altering. I would say the change is no worse than neutral if availability actually increases, but of course we won’t know that until after March 5th. I’m also quite curious to see how the cash and points suite redemptions play out.
I am going to see if there is any cash and points availability for destinations I am interested in before the March 5th change-over, but if not then I will see what happens after that date before making a final judgement.