Why are Starwood Points the Most Valuable Type of Point?

Please note this site has financial relationships with American Express and this post may contain affiliate links. Read my Advertiser Disclosure policy here to learn more about my partners.

What’s a point worth is a popular question to ask or ponder in the miles and points community.  In many cases it is a question that doesn’t have an exact answer, but rather an accepted range of answers.  Basically a point (or mile for that matter) is only worth what you redeem it for, and then even in that case it isn’t necessarily worth what you redeemed it for if you wouldn’t have ever paid for that redemption with cash in the first place.

For example, if I get 10 cents in value for my international first class airline mile redemption that would have cost $10,000+ in cash I probably didn’t really get 10 cents in value because I would have never bought that ticket.  Or at least what I would have paid is something I take into account when determining what my points are worth.

There are lots of ways to calculate the value of a mile or point, but today the question I want to drill down on today is why are Starwood Preferred Guest points considered by many to be the most valuable type of point out there.  This question often comes up when I talk about the Starwood Preferred Guest Personal Amex or Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Amex cards as being some of my favorites even though they only pay out 1x on most purchases.

As a point of reference, many traditional US airline program miles are generally considered to be worth somewhere between 1.4 – 2.0 cents each.  In other words, a 25,000 mile round trip saver redemption is often worth $350 – $500, though of course that amount could be higher or lower based on how much tickets are selling for on the route you want.  If you are redeeming for much less than that then I would consider focusing on fixed value points like those from the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®

What is an SPG Point Worth?

Unlike most airline miles, Starwood Preferred Guest points are often considered to be worth more than 2 cents each by almost every miles and points guru (see examples here and here).  Personally I would peg their value conservatively at 2.3 cents each, but truthfully I think a good SPG redemption should be closer to a minimum of 3 cents in value.

SPG has very beautiful hotels and resorts

SPG has very beautiful hotels and resorts

Why are SPG Points Valued So Highly?

Their are a couple different reasons why SPG points are valued so highly and it has to do both with both their hotel and airline redemption options.  First, SPG hotel redemptions start at just 2,000 points per night for Category 1 hotels on the weekend which by itself shows you it is easy to get big value.  Rarely is a hotel room anywhere lower than $60 a night, so it is easy to see how 2,000 points can quickly return more than $60 in value (which is a minimum redemption value of 3 cents per SPG point)  Their award chart is also pretty reasonable even for some nice middle tier hotels.

For example, the The Westin Resort & Spa, Los Cabos, Westin Swan at Disney World, and Sheraton Mountain Vista Villas, Avon / Vail Valley are Category 4 hotels that go for just 10,000 points per night.  The Westin Maui Resort & Spa, Ka’anapali and The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa at Beaver Creek Mountain are Category 5 hotels that go for as low as 12,000 points per night.  That is pretty great considering that during peak season those Category 4 hotels can be $250 – $350 a night and the Category 5 hotels can be $400 – $500 per night.  At $400 per night, 12,000 points is 3.33 cents in value per point.  Remember that the fifth award night is free at Category 3 – 7 SPG hotels, which can drive the redemption value up even more.

Another reason SPG points are so highly valued is that they transfer to many different airlines at a rate of 20,000 SPG points = 25,000 airline miles.  Some airlines that transfer at that rate include Alaska, American, Delta, Etihad, Singapore, and many more.

If you don’t want to decide between hotel nights or airline miles, you can also use your SPG points for the best of both worlds via “Nights and Flights”.  With this redemption you get 5 nights in a Category 3 or 4 hotel plus 50,000 airline miles for 60,000 points for Category 3 and 70,000 points for Category 4 hotel redemptions.  That is a tremendous value for five night hotel stays in those categories!

Great to Use, but Hard to Earn

The downside to all this huge value is simply that SPG points are hard to earn.  There is no online shopping portal and the co-branded credit card doesn’t have any bonus categories other than 2x at SPG properties.  They only real way to earn points is through actual SPG hotel stays, the sign-up bonus of up to 25,000 points on the Starwood Preferred Guest Personal Amex or Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Amex, and everyday use of the cards.

Aside from perhaps the sign-up bonus, none of those are “quick fix” ways to rack up lots of SPG points, but that is why the SPG credit card is such a staple in my wallet on spending that is otherwise not getting a bonus payout anywhere (like daycare, insurance, dry cleaners, doctor’s appointments, etc).

Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.

Comments

  1. SPG points being the most valuable hinges on one very important condition : whether you stay in SPG hotels or not. My gf and I typically do not stay at these properties (we stay at smaller scale boutique-type hotels, not the high end hotels that most of the hotel reward programs cover) so their value is limited in my eyes. I got the card basically for the chance to get the 25K bonus miles and 5K bonus when transferring 20K miles. They still are the only flexible currency with AA as a transfer partner. The no portal and no category spend bonus situation is annoying as well…

  2. There are hotels programs and hotel programs. While SPG is so valuable and you can stay in a St Regis for 30,000 SPG points, Hilton just asked me 209,000 Hilton points for 1 night at the Grand Wailea in Maui. That is what I call a “great” value. 🙁 Cannot wait to find a good way to dump 1/2 million of Hilton points from my account since I never stay at any Hilton if I have to pay for a stay. I do not trust them.

  3. I would vote Hyatt Gold Passport as most valuable hotel points. HGP has slightly higher thresholds for award bookings but their points are much easier to earn.

  4. Thanks for the article…. this cleared up a little confusion that I have. I have never stayed at a higher end SPG property so I am not sure what the hype is all about, but seeing that it takes so little points to book nights, or even the nights and flights option is great.
    Considering that the ways to earn them makes them so limited, increases the value of them. The opposite of what happens when the government prints more currency, driving down the value. Thanks again for the post.

  5. I never used them for hotels either, until this month when I noticed the Category 2 Four Points in Vegas was available for Memorial Day weekend. Can’t beat 10k points for Fri-Mon on a long weekend a few blocks from the strip.

  6. Mike, true!
    Dan, well this wasn’t exactly about best, but rather most valuable. Personally I do really like my UR points, but I think 1 SPG point is worth more than 1 UR point.
    Kenny, agree that best type depends on your travel style. I would still argue these have the most value per point though.
    Santastico, ha ha. So true.
    Stephen, I think Hyatt has some real pluses over SPG, but even though I love my Hyatt points I think one SPG point is worth more than one Hyatt point. I’d value my Hyatt points closer to 1.6 cents each though I usually get at least 2.0 – 2.5 cents in value from them when I redeem. No doubt Hyatt points are easier to earn though!
    Antonio, exactly.
    Stannis, well done!

    • I see the point about value, as long as staying in SPG properties is a real possibility. SPG and the other hotel programs don’t appeal to us all that much, as they come off as cookie-cutterish (technical term) and isolated from the surrounding local community, definitely not our style. I did get my SPG bonus, but will be moving spend to other cards.

  7. Great post. When I was a “newbie” I had a hard time understanding why everyone loved SPG points so much, and why people never talked about Marriott. It was only after I started redeeming that I really understood. My family has used SPG points to stay at Beaver Creek and Mt. Tremblant, and the amount of points needed was so incredibly low compared to other programs. I would never give up valuable SPG points to convert to air miles, though, there are so many other ways to earn air miles!
    Santastico: My family of 5 just came back from spring break at the Grand Wailea. We redeemed 950,000 points (earned largely from purchasing VR cards at CVS back in the day using a 6x point card and sign up bonuses) for 2 rooms for 6 nights. I worked for those points for years specifically for this redemption, and it was totally worth it (that place was awesome!), but I am done with Hilton and no longer collect them. It is entirely too ridiculous the amount of points you need for anything with Hilton.

  8. Haa the signup bonus ever increased above 25,000? I’d like to get the card, but with the once-per-lifetime bonus, I am hesitant.

    Maybe I’ll just get the business version, although I’ve heard those are harder to get from Amex for borderline businesses – like struggling Etsy shops.

  9. I have to disagree that Starwood points are the most valuable. They are difficult to earn (no category multipliers), don’t transfer instantly, and you can only get the measley 25K bonus once for the biz card and once for the personal card. You can’t even earn them at a rate that makes it worthwhile to use your Starwood card overseas while staying at one of their properties as the card has foreign transaction fees. I’d rather use my Sapphire card with no FOREX fees.

    You can’t even transfer points to your spouse without it taking a week. When award space is available, I don’t want to have to wait a week for the points to transfer to book it.

    That’s not to say that I don’t like Starwood. I am a Starwood Platinum this year on nights, not stays. All those nights were at high end international properties. All leasure, almost all on points. All thanks to business spending on my Starwood card.

    BUT, to say they are the most valuable, I disagree. I think Ultimate Reward points are more versatile as they usually transfer instantly and are way, way, way easier to earn.

    My two cents.

    • I agree on the slow transfer being a drag, but many of your other points truly point to how valuable they are. I think the fact that they are harder to earn has kept their award chart stable and the points valuable.

      • Great post! I had been wondering about why everyone claims so much value–but, it is annoying that they are so hard to earn. However, from a redemption standard, you can see the value and I agree that stability in the program probably comes from how hard it is to redeem them.

        Can you explain how “nights and flights” work? I don’t really understand it. To you redeem your points for nights and get airline miles, with the idea that you would use those miles to book a flight? Do you book the flight separately?

  10. Another way to get a good chunk of SPG points – book a stay at one of their timeshare properties (or one of their hotels that is near a timeshare like the Westin Maui Resort & Spa) and inevitably they will offer you 5000 or more SPG points for attending a 90-120 minute timeshare presentation. Sometimes you can get more stuff on top of that, like luau dinner show tickets in Maui (but you won’t know unless you ask). Obviously don’t buy the timeshare. The presentations are fairly low-key and they won’t badger you Cancun-style if you clearly indicate a few times that you are not interested. You can book fairly reasonable rates at their Sheraton timeshare properties in Orlando during less busy times of the year (like now thru May) if you use MouseSavers.com or AllEars.net special rates – why not get a 1BDR villa for the same price as a normal hotel room?

  11. Your two points are not unrelated. Starpoints remain valuable BECAUSE they are hard to get. While all the other idiot cards have flooded the loyalty programs and forced Southwest, United, Delta, Hilton, Marriott and all the other reward programs into major devaluations, Starwood has (mostly, not completely) held the line.

    Earning points in any of the other programs is like earning Marks in Weimar Germany: you have to plan to spend them as soon as you get them, because they are being endlessly devalued w/o warning. Just look at the gigantic devaluations among the Chase UR transfer partners. What, am I supposed to believe there aren’t a bunch more devaluations coming? I didn’t fall off the turnip truck.

    A plane ticket plus 5 hotel nights for 60,000 points? Yeah, Starwood, that’s a good program.

  12. How do you use a credit card to pay daycare? Does your daycare just accept credit cards? I wish my daycare did that. Daycare is expensive!

      • I’ll often pay ahead to meet a credit card minimum spend. As I’m leaving later in the week, I’ll typically get stopped by the reception/financial staff member and asked about the points I’m chasing. He’s a fellow card churner. 🙂

  13. I agree 100% with you. It is an offer and demand question. Because there are not many SPG points accumulated (because they are so hard to get), then the become the most valuable and the least devaluated.
    I have been traveling the world for more than 10 years using SPG points. I have the luxury as a business owner, of placing all my business expenses on my SPG card, and I have even told vendors that if they do not my accept my Amex Spg I will find somebody else to do business with. They end up accepting my card.
    The real value comes from the magnificent upgrades when you reach platinum status, usually on suites and rooms that are $600 + and that I would have ever dreamed of staying or paying to stay there.
    For some reason it is outside the USA where Platinum members are treated the best. I have scored the most beautiful rooms in Europe, 2 bedroom suites in Ski resorts, etc.

    If you want to chek amazing properties, check Hotel Marques de Riscal in Spain (designed by Frank Ghery), Convento de Espinhero in Portugal, Tambo del Inka in Peru, etc. I have been to all these hotels and cannot wait to go back.

  14. Used to churn the SPG cards for Swan/Dolphin alone. Too bad that game is gone. I’ve got just enough left for one more 5 night stay just off the Epcot International Gateway….

  15. While I agree that Starwood points are not as fast as some others to earn there are other advantages to the card that many people forget to take advantage of like returns for 90 days. If you purchase something and the seller will not give you a full refund within the 90 day window and it is unused Amex will refund your money. If you break a purchase within the 90 day period they will refund your purchase. Amex also has offers you can add to your card that trigger rebates upon purchase. In the last 2 years I have saved over $100.00 each year. The most well know rebate is their Small Business Saturday the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *