In case you missed my post from yesterday, the new Starwood Preferred Guest cash and points chart has arrived. The bad news is that across the board cash and points reservations now cost more than they did before March 5th. The good news is that SPG’s stated motivating factor for the increase – to increase availability – so far seems to be more true than false. This does not mean that every hotel is available for cash and points every single day, but there absolutely are more hotels, which in turn are available for more days, than there were before the increase. I hope to see this trend continue to grow, and that we don’t just see an initial increase and/or stall on availability.

Either way, I locked in several nights at the Westin Resort at the base of Whistler for ski season 2014 at the new cash and points rate. I could not have done this before the change without a legitimate Vatican-certified miracle due to low availability. The going points rate for a base room during ski season varies between 12,000 and 16,000 points per night. The cash rate is often $400 – $500 and up per night. For the math challenged, at those rates a four night stay would cost 48,000 – 64,000 SPG points, or easily close to $2000. However, with cash and points it comes to $440 + 24,000 points (of course exclusive of taxes and fees that can add up at ski resorts).

That isn’t “cheap”, but it brings it much closer to the realm of possible for many families. In this case, you can get more than the necessary 24,000 points for the points component of a four night cash and points stay just by meeting the spending requirement, and getting the sign-up bonus from the personal SPG American Express or SPG Business Card. However, just getting one of those cards doesn’t even  get you close to the straight points requirement of 48K-64K for four nights at that hotel. That’s the main reason I love cash and points – it makes getting award nights more attainable for many of us who aren’t flush with SPG points (or cash for that matter).

So, if you are in need of a cash and points reservation at a SPG hotel that previously was unavailable at that rate, it is worth checking again now to see if that situation has changed. They aren’t as good of a deal as they were before the chart increased, but they are now more available in many situations.

Along with better availability, the other key feature for the new cash and points award chart is the ability to reserve suites with cash and points. For families this can be a very big deal as we actually need the extra space. I was optimistically hopeful that the ability to book suites with cash and points would be available online just as regular cash and points reservations are, or the way you can reserve most suites with cash, but unfortunately that is not the way it works.

To reserve a suite on cash and points, it is going to have to be checked and reserved manually by SPG. The easiest way to do this is to use the chat feature under the “Help” section. I have had very good success with SPG agents being able to do all sorts of things for me via chat. It is not as convenient as being able to do it myself, but it isn’t nearly as bad as if I had to call in.

Out of curiosity, I had the agent check availability for a suite on cash and points at the Westin Whistler Resort for next ski season. The one-bedroom suite was indeed available for the dates I checked at the stated price according to the chart. Since this is a Category 5 hotel, that means that a suite goes for 12,000 SPG points per night + $275. Keep in mind that a basic room for a Category 5 hotel is 12,000 points (though sometimes 16K during peak season), so that is in essence a $275 charge per night to upgrade to a suite. I’m not shy about paying a little extra on top of a points reservation to secure a suite, but $275 extra per night on top of what a straight points reservation would cost is steep, and is not something I would do in this situation.

Below is a photo of a one-bedroom suite from the Westin Beaver Creek that I paid about a $100 surcharge for in 2012 on top of our points reservation for a base room.  In 2013 that up-charge had gone up a bit, but it is still an example of a good value for a suite for our family.

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The cost for suites at lower category hotels is much more palatable for my tastes. Depending on the exact suite involved, and how badly I needed it, I would be more likely to pay the cash and points premium that the Category 1-3, and possibly even Category 4 hotels charge. In those cases, it is basically a $75, $95, $125, and $175 charge respectively for the suite above the standard straight points rate for the room each night. A charge of around $100 extra per night for a true suite is reasonable in my book. Once you get closer to $200 and $300 and up per night, that is where things get crazy unless the suite is so large that you can now split it with another set of adults, thus bringing the price down.

In summary, the online chat feature is your friend if you want to find out about suite availability or premium room availability on cash and points.  Based on my sample size of one, the process was straight-forward and the availability was there….just at a premium that I’m not willing to pay.  I guess more options are better than fewer options though.

I’d love to hear your experiences if you have tried out this new option yet!

 

Disclosure:  I do receive a commission if you are approved for a credit card using one of my affiliate links.  As always, thanks for your support. 

Posted by Mommy Points | 14 Comments

14 Responses to “How to Book a SPG Cash and Points Suite Award”

  1. Cody says:

    2nd paragraph – with 5th night free, your C&P outlay would $550+30,000 points to equal the same 48-60k for 5 nights.

    • mommypoints says:

      Cody, the fifth night free is a great benefit if you have a trip of that length on straight points reservations. Of course, you have to have a trip that long, and enough points to cover the cost, but I do love that benefit!

  2. apple says:

    Maybe I will run into your family since we will be there in Jan 2014. We, however, are staying at the Hilton which IMO has a much better location to the gondolas and the Village. 4 days seems like a short time with all of the travel time that it takes to get there. There are so many activities other than skiing to keep all age levels entertained. But I’m sure you will have fun.

  3. We just had our second trip to Whistler two weeks ago. It was as amazing as we had remembered. I couldn’t leverage any points though, as we had 12 people in our group. We got a ski in ski out house on the Lower Dave Murray!

  4. mommypoints says:

    Apple, the Hilton does look very nice. I wish we had longer, but with my husband’s 10 vacation days per year and my desire to see/do lots of different things, four days is about the max we can devote to this trip. Thankfully there is a direct from Houston, so just a 4 hour flight on either end….well and then the trek to Whistler. ;) Hope you have a great trip as well!
    Mike, sounds awesome and I hear nothing but good things about Whistler, so I’m pretty excited for our first trip next year!

  5. oneeyejack says:

    IMO, I hate chatting with ANY company that offers this feature. I want an answer instantly and sometimes it can take 5+ minutes to answer a simple question because they are chatting with 5 other people at the same time.

  6. Eager Traveler says:

    Great idea for the Whistler resort… the normal rooms are the smallest I have ever been in.

  7. apple says:

    There is only one direct flight from iah to yvr. Do you know that Whistler is 75 miles from Vancouver and not much is happening transportation wise at 11:45pm at night or later if your flight is delayed?

  8. mommypoints says:

    oneeyejack, that’s why you also do 5 other things at the same time! ;)
    Eager, I have heard the standard rooms are a bit small.
    apple, yeah. That is why I said…and then the trek to Whistler. ;) Prob stay in YVR the first night.

    • Fairmont YVR is nice and SO convenient… literally inside the terminal. So easy to get to. I was tempted to book that since we did JFK-YVR that arrived at 1am, but decided to go cheaper to Four Points YVR (in neighboring, nearby Richmond). They provide a free shuttle as well. I think there’s a Club Carlson property in the same area too. Right smack in Chinatown… so much good food.

  9. jer says:

    Do cash+points bookings qualify for the 5th night free?

  10. Travel says:

    I still see the same lack of availability in the European hotel I’ve been checking in France.

  11. Holly says:

    For ski peeps–we LOVE the Sheraton mountain vista at beaver creek. Though not quite as swanky as the westin, there are no parking or resort fees, you can walk the 1 block to the westin gondola, and last year, we even got the westin ski shop to valet our skis since we were staying at the Sheraton ! This year my husband stayed both places for a couple of nights, just due to availability and last minute booking, and he said aside from the view of the gondola out the window he’d pick the Sheraton anyway. Also, the regular room at the Sheraton is a suite with separate rooms which is not the case at the westin! Maybe they will build more of these properties!

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