How to Get Big Value from the Starwood Amex Sign-Up Bonuses

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The longer-term future for the SPG program and the SPG co-branded Amex credit cards is not yet clear given the acquisition of Starwood by Marriott, but in the here and now, I believe SPG points to be the most valuable type of mile or point out there. The SPG program is one of my favorites as high-quality stays can be had for a reasonable number of points. In fact, I’m 95% sure I will be mattress running for Platinum SPG status this year as I have so many planned SPG award stays in 2018 that the payoff should be worth it. While I am sure it contributes greatly to the sustainability and stability of the program, outside of paid stays at SPG hotels, SPG points can be relatively hard to earn. In fact, the primary way to earn SPG points for most of us is through the co-branded SPG Amex credit cards.

SPG BUSINESS OFFER REFERENCED BELOW IS NO LONGER AVAILABLE

There are two different SPG Amex credit cards you can obtain and use to earn SPG points, one is a personal card and one is a small business card. Right now for a limited time, the small business version of the card has increased its sign-up bonus from 25,000 total points to 35,000 total points after hitting the spending requirements as long as you obtain the card by 11/1/2017.

Limited Time Increased Bonus for the SPG Business Amex Offer Has Expired

I know that 10,000 additional SPG points may not sound earth-shattering, but given how valuable they are, it is actually a substantial increase and is the highest mark we have seen this bonus reach.

Splurge SPG points at the St. Regis Princeville in Kauai

SPG BUSINESS OFFER REFERENCED BELOW IS NO LONGER AVAILABLE

Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card: Earn 25,000 bonus SPG points after you make $6,000 in purchases within the first 3 months, and earn an extra 10,000 bonus SPG points after you make an additional $4,000 in purchases within the first 6 months. Offer ends 11/1/2017. $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95. Terms Apply.

 

Unfortunately, the personal Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express did not increase its bonus at this time, though it is offering 25,000 SPG points after you make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. The personal card has a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95. Terms Apply.

How to Stretch Your SPG Points for Maximum Value

I keep saying that SPG 10,000 additional SPG bonus points are something to get excited about and that SPG points are some of the most valuable out there, but let me now walk you through a little bit of why that is the case.

Get Free SPG Award Nights Starting at 2,000 Points Per Night

There are many reasons that SPG points are valued so highly in my household, but one reason is that free award nights start at just 2,000 points per night. Many other programs require 5,000 – 10,000 points for an entry level award night, but with SPG a Category 1 property on the weekend is just 2,000 points. That means that the 35,000 bonus points can score you up to 17 award nights in a Category 1 hotel on the weekends.

There are 100+ SPG category 1 properties, and they go for 3,000 points per night on weekdays and 2,000 points per night on weekends.

There are 200+ SPG category 2 properties, and they go for 4,000 points per night on weekdays and 3,000 points per night on weekends.

During the recent solar eclipse, my parents and daughter spent just 3,000 SPG points per night at the Category 1 Four Points by Sheraton Kansas City Airport. Paid rates were well over $200+ per night for those two nights, but thanks to the no blackout dates policy, we got huge value from SPG points at a Category 1 property during a very peak date.

You can also decide to use cash and points to book Category 1 and 2 properties for 1,500 points + $30 or 2,000 points + $35 per night, respectively. You can see the full cash and points award chart below, but for families, it is worth highlighting that suites start at just 3,000 points + $75 per night for Category 1 properties. This can be a great way to get more space for a relatively low price.

spg1

There are currently only two Category 1 SPG properties in the United States, both of which are airport properties. However, there are some more unique looking Category 1 properties around the world in places like Africa, China, Mexico, Costa Rica, India, Malaysia, Turkey, and more.

One example of where you can go for as low as 2,000 SPG points per night, is the Le Méridien N’Fis in Morocco.

Morocco SPG

If you look at the list of Category 2 properties you will find many more options both in the United States and beyond. One of the Category 2 properties we got huge value out of in recent years was the Four Points Kansas City Sports Complex that is walking distance to the stadiums for both the Kansas City Chiefs and the Kansas City Royals. We used points there during the World Series a few years ago and got a room selling for hundreds of dollars per night for just 4,000 points!

If family-friendly fun is more your goal, you can spend 3,000 – 4,000 points per night at the Sheraton Lake Buena Vista Resort located just a mile from Walt Disney World in Orlando.

Sheraton Lake Buena Vista Resort - 27 Palms Courtyard Pools

Sheraton Lake Buena Vista Resort

Outside of the United States, you will find SPG Category 2 properties in places like Cancun, Niagara Falls, Liverpool, Puntacana, Abu Dhabi, and much more.

Aloft Cancun – roof garden

Remember you can also transfer your SPG points to Marriott at a 1:3 ratio as we did here, so you also have the lower level Marriott properties to pick from for just a few thousand SPG points per night. Marriott properties start at 7,500 points per night, which is the equivalent of just 2,500 SPG points at the 1:3 ratio.

Get the Fifth Night Free on Five Night Award Stays

If you have your eye on a Category 3 – 7 SPG properties that start at 7,000 points per night, you can stretch your SPG points a little further if you take advantage of getting the fifth award night free for a 5-night stay at one property.

We have plans to make use of this perk in the next few months at both the Westin Whistler and the Westin Grand Cayman during school breaks. We booked five-night award stays, and instead of paying the regular 12,000 points per night award rate for those dates, we will instead pay an average of just 9,600 SPG points per night with the fifth night free. That is a great deal considering paid rates are $500 – $1,000 per night at those peak times of the year!

Can't wait to use our SPG points to go to Grand Cayman!

Stretch your points with the 5th award night free

Get Airline Miles and Hotel Stays at Category 3 and 4 SPG Properties

If you have your eye on a five night stay at a SPG category 3 or 4 hotel you can really stretch your points for tremendous value via the Nights and Flights packages that award not only five award nights, but also 50,000 airline miles in one of many programs like American, Delta, Alaska, Hawaiian, etc. You can use those airline miles however you wish once they are deposited in your frequent flyer account.

Nights and Flights packages at Category 3 properties like the Westin Cancun run 60,000 SPG points for five award nights + 50,000 airline miles.

Westin Cancun

Westin Cancun

Category 4 SPG Nights and Flights packages such as the one you could book for the Walt Disney Dolphin run 70,000 points for five award nights and 50,000 airline miles.

Category 4 Walt Disney World Dolphin

Category 4 Walt Disney World Dolphin

Splurging SPG Points is Fun, Too

Those are all great strategic uses of SPG points for maximum value, but I’ve had fun splurging them, too. The top-end St. Regis style properties that are often in the 30,000+ points per night range can be fun to enjoy for a night or two. We have thoroughly enjoyed the St. Regis Aspen during ski season, St. Regis New York the day of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the St. Regis Princeville on Kauai, and swimming in over-the-top luxury at the St. Regis Punta Mita in Mexico. A 35,000 point sign-up bonus won’t get you too far at those properties, but it will get you in the door.

St. Regis Punta Mita

SPG points can also be fun to spend on experiences. While some SPG Moments packages can go for pretty pricey numbers of SPG points, you were recently able to score really solid MLB playoff tickets from just 5,000 SPG points per night!

 

 

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. How are the Nights and Flights packages tremendous value? Taking your example of 60,000 SPG points for 5 Category 3 nights and 50,000 airline miles

    But 5 Category 3 nights cost 28k points (via 5th night free), so you are paying the additional 32k SPG points (valued at 2.7 cents each by The Points Guy = $864) for 50k airline miles. That’s a cost of 1.73 cents per mile which is very expensive. Pretty much all airline miles are valued less, if not much less than that

    • SPG points are valued that high because of how flexible they are. Can transfer to many airlines 20k:25k. So to get 50k miles in the program of your choice, you’d normally need to transfer 40k SPG points. So here, you’re saving 8k points and getting the fifth night free. TPG values the actual airline miles lower because they are less flexibile and saver availability is hard to find. With miles, your locked into one currency. With SPG, you have options. Look at the programs SPG transfers to, and see how TPG values them. None will get you to the value he gives SPG when you apply the transfer ratio. In MP’s example, 60k star points gets you two round trip tickets to Cancun and 5 nights at a hotel on the beach. How is that not a tremendous value? Also, TPG is tired.

      • I understand how the points are valued. My point is that by specifically using the Nights and Flights package you are buying airline miles at 1.73 cents per mile. That’s a very poor value. You’d be much better off keeping those extra SPG points and just paying cash for the flights.

        • Keeping the SPG points for what? A hotel redemption where you are going to get that value? Better off finding an airline redemption worth 3-8 cob. The value of the point is artificial.

          • Keep the SPG points to redeem for a hotel stay. The 32k points saved are worth $864. What does 3-8 cob mean?

          • Autocorrect. Should have been cpp (cents per point). The 32k points saved aren’t really “worth” $864. They are worth whatever you save by redeeming them instead of paying cash. For a SPG or Marriott hotel, you can find some good values. Typically 2-3 cpp, maybe a little more. If you convert them to airlines miles, you have the potential to get a better value, 5+ cpp, 8+, sometimes more. Don’t want to transfer speculatively, but if you need 5 nights at a Category 3, and would otherwise also transfer some SPG point to an airline, through this package you save 8k SPG points. That, I believe, is the point of the post. SPG points are valuable because you can use them for both hotel stays and transfer them to airlines. And if you want to use them for both (which most of us in this game do), one way to get “tremendous” value is through the Nights and Flights packages.

  2. Summer, nice write up. I’ve held off on getting either of the Starwood AMEX products, but next year I’ll be a WOH refugee and I think I’m ready to explore the Starwood program. I’ll take your advice and pick up the small business version while the bonus is good.

    • Thanks and great choice. You can’t go wrong with picking up that increased bonus! Sorry to hear you are a WOH refugee. SPG with 25 stays may not be a terrible place to take refuge…at least for now.

  3. We’ve already booked a few nights in Niagara Falls for a March birthday trip using SPG points! I believe it’s Category 2….so great value.

  4. @ Hepworth October 21, 2017 at 3:05 pm

    You are regularly getting more than 8 cpp on airline miles? Where is that?! If you do, do you want to buy all of my airline miles for 7 cpp? It’ll save you thousands of dollars

    And if you really are getting that much on airline miles, it’s a terrible deal to get this SPG card and have to put $10,000 spending to get SPG points worth just 2-3 cpp each. You should get any Chase Ultimate Rewards or Amex Membership Rewards card since apparently those points are worth over 8 cpp each!

    • I regularly get more value out of airline redemptions than I do for hotel redemptions, typically 4-5 cpp, for aspirational redemptions like international business or first class. I’ve gotten well over that (EY F MEL-MLE for using AA miles, for example).

      I don’t want to buy your miles, thanks. And I do have Amex cards, as well as Citi cards, and UR points. 6 figure balances in all of those (in addition to SPG, Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt, IHG, UA, DL, and AA). And I have the vast majority of those from sign up bonuses.

      That’s how this game works. Taking advantage of huge sign up bonuses to accumulate points. Summer, Gary, Lucky, and others get compensated by the credit card companies for getting us to sign up. And, in exchange, they help us figure out how to get the most value out of our points.

      • Well I hate to break it to you but First/Business class is a luxury good where the listed price has very little basis in reality. There’s a reason airlines make almost all of their profits in these classes.

        You mention Etihad – but they sell their own miles for 2 cpp directly on their website! If they are really worth 8+ cpp they would be out of business in weeks!!!

        If I offered you $7,000 for 100,000 Etihad miles, would you refuse because they are worth 8+ cpp ($8,000+). Somehow I don’t think so…

      • How many Etihad miles does it take to book that flight? I’m not going to argue with you over the value of something that has no fixed value. Accumulate as many points as you can, for as cheaply as you can. If you don’t want the sign up bonus, don’t get the card. If you don’t want to do a Nights and Flights package, don’t.

        Spend your points however you want.

  5. Sorry I was offline cheering for the Astros for the last day or so, but sounds like you guys have had great discussion on your own. Well done! Nights and Flights, like all redemptions, aren’t for everyone, but they can be a tremendous value if you need/want airline miles and a five night stay in a Cat 3 or 4 property. If I wanted to book a Cat 4 hotel it would normally be 10,000 SPG points per night. However, with nights and flights you can get five award nights + 50,000 miles for just 70,000 points. That is enough for families to make a ton of progress towards an affordable vacation and it is a number of points that is within reach by getting the SPG Amex credit cards.

    It’s a great deal if you need the airline miles to fly coach or want to use them to buy a premium cabin seat you could never afford with cash. A beautiful part of it is you have your pick of lots of airlines and you don’t have to worry about buying those 50k miles for close to $1,000 or more…you just have them to use.

    Thanks again for a great discussion!

  6. MP, you seem to have left out one of the T&C’s of the SPG offer:

    “Welcome bonus offer not available to applicants who have or have had this product.”

    This leaves a lot of us out in the cold ——-

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